Though I rarely watch it anymore, I’m a fan of The Simpsons. Fox’s long-running animated sitcom about a “typical” American family is currently in its 24th season, so for 24 seasons, the show’s protagonist, Homer Simpson, never been respected. For instance, in April 2008, Ford’s then-head of product development, Derrick Kuzak, said that the Taurus would be shedding its “Homer Simpson” looks for “Superman” looks. Though the 2010 Taurus looked a lot more interesting than the car it replaced, I’m not sure which of the three should have felt more slighted – the Taurus (nee Five Hundred), Homer Simpson, or Superman (and lest I remind you, the man most famous for playing Superman on the silver screen during the 70s and 80s was a quadriplegic for nine years following a horse-riding accident).
The 2013 Taurus is not Superman, and probably not the kind of car he’d drive, unless it was Superman’s alter ego Clark Kent doing the driving. It’s not faster than a speeding bullet. It’s not more powerful than a locomotive. And it’s certainly not able to leap tall buildings in a single bound., unless there’s a giant ramp, or perhaps an idiot driver backs their Taurus over the retaining wall on the upper floors of a tall parking garage.
What the 2013 Taurus is, is a competent large car that performs reasonably well in a straight line and offers the latest in-car technology, but suffers from a big-on-the-outside/small-on-the-inside problem. It’s not a consciously bland car anymore as it was during the end of the fourth generation (2000-2007) car’s rental car-heavy existence but it’s also not really breaking any new ground from a design perspective. Per the current trend, there’s a new, larger grille opening vs. the 2012 model, the taillight design is new (but fits into the identical cutouts that the 2010-2012 Taurus used) and it gets MyFord Touch.
Skip the next paragraph if you don’t want to hear the rant about MFT. I promise it will be brief this time.
MyFord Touch attempts to replace traditional buttons and knobs for things like radio volume and tuning and temperature adjustments with capacitive touch buttons. While the MyFord Touch-equipped center stack does have a cleaner, more streamlined look compared to the old Taurus’ design, it also requires an inappropriate diversion of the driver’s attention to find the right button. Too, it has slower-than-acceptable responses to many inputs, which result in double presses of many buttons. It’s an idea that should never have left the drawing board, but Ford steadfastly refuses to back down from rolling it out across the lineup, even pushing a modified version (with buttons) into its F-Series trucks.
Other than the oddball trying-too-hard center stack, the rest of the Taurus’ interior is decent. Soft-touch surfaces abound on door panels, the upper dash, and armrests. The speedometer is easy to read, and the ancillary small color TFT screens that flank the speedometer, for better or worse, put a lot of information at the driver’s fingertips.
I often find it difficult to find a comfortable seating position in the Taurus; it’s a big car, but somehow as a tall driver, I often default to a driving position that leaves too-little room in the seat behind me, or with the sensation that the car is smaller inside than it should be (I’m usually at one of two extremes – either too close to the dash, cutting into knee room, or sitting too low, giving me the sensation of looking out of a large bathtub.) This may not even be an issue with an owner, because once he or she sets the seat and steering wheel to the perfect spot, memory seats can handle the rest of the heavy lifting.
Now that the Crown Victoria, beloved by police departments and taxi companies, is out of production, Ford wants police buyers to buy the Taurus as its new Police Interceptor offering. Even with the low-end V6 powertrain, the Taurus will “intercept” far better than the old Crown Vic could, and the all wheel drive, EcoBoost Police Interceptor is a hot-rod Taurus SHO without the Superman costume. The Taurus SEL that we tested can also out-handle its Panther-platform predecessors, but (with apologies to the many fans of the Panther cars) those cars handled more like body-on-frame SUVs than like sport sedans.
Yet it’s not hard to feel like, without a police-band Motorola, the bad guys could get away from you in many cars, particularly if the road on which the pursuit is occurring happens to be anything but a straight line. Hustling the Taurus SEL around tight corners on our handling loop, it’s hard to feel like you’re really in charge of the car’s movement. The suspension is a little too soft, the steering a little too slow, and the brakes just aren’t particularly confidence-inspiring. The body rolls a little too much, too, then there’s the relative lack of lateral visibility thanks to the turret-like greenhouse.
This may all sound negative, and maybe it is, but the Taurus really isn’t a bad car at all. I observed excellent (for the car’s size/power/weight) fuel economy of 25 MPG combined city/highway during my week with the car, and that’s actually slightly better than the EPA’s 23 MPG combined rating (the EPA also says 19 MPG city/29 MPG highway).
Americans like to buy their cars by the pound, and until very recently, it’s been very difficult to convince an American to spend money on a small car, regardless of how premium of a product that car may be. Cars like the Ford Focus Titanium show that “truth” may no longer be true. But the Taurus delivers a lot of tonnage for your $33,390 as delivered (MSRP including destination). For that kind of scratch, you get the FWD Taurus SEL with 3.5 liter Ti-VCT engine, 6-speed automatic, leather seats (a $1,495 option), 19 inch wheels, MyFord Touch/SYNC, reverse sensing system, remote start, and rearview camera. Comparing a Taurus SEL to a Charger SXT using TrueDelta.com’s price-comparison tool shows that when accounting for feature differences, the Taurus is about $1,000 more expensive than the Dodge, but the Dodge offers some niceties such as an 8-speed automatic and rear wheel drive architecture that aren’t available on the Taurus at any price. Plus, the Dodge gets a superior 31 MPG highway rating thanks to a super tall overdrive in 8th gear.
Frankly, I’d go for the Charger over the Taurus, but either way, you probably can’t go wrong.