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Monday, January 12, 2009

2009 Detroit Auto Show: 2010 Ford Taurus

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What is it?
2010 Ford Taurus

What's special about it?
In the coming months you will no doubt hear much about Ford returning its Taurus to the place of prominence it once held back in the 1980s. You might be skeptical, given the way the Taurus nameplate has been so badly tarnished by mismanagement over the last decade or more.

The 2010 Ford Taurus revealed at the 2009 Detroit Auto Show undeniably has a compelling look, something it has in common with the first-generation 1986 Taurus. This makes the new car the antithesis of the current Taurus, a bloodless chunk of metal that was boring and derivative even in the first sketch we saw of it way back in 2002.

Ford believes that full-size sedans are no longer the family car of choice in America. This role was taken over by the minivan in the 1990s, and now the crossover is the designated people mover. As a result, Ford designer Moray Callum says, "The Taurus is more of a 'me' car than a family car."

This is supposed to mean that the Taurus should be an aspirational vehicle. It should be the flagship for the Ford brand. It should be athletic and premium. With design cues stolen from its brethren at Ford of Europe as well as the Ford Interceptor concept vehicle from the 2007 Detroit show, the Taurus certainly looks more athletic than the dowdy offering currently in showrooms.

And would a white-bread-and-unsalted-butter family sedan have a dual-cockpit interior design? Nay, says Ford. Indeed, a tall center console and laid-back instrument panel make the front quarters of the new sedan vaguely coupelike. Further, do family sedans have shift paddles to control their six-speed automatic transmissions with rev-matching, throttle-blipping downshifts? Methinks not.

The 2010 Taurus is to the 2009 Taurus as the Ford Flex is to the Ford Freestyle. It's a stylish new body on top of substantially updated — although not entirely new — mechanicals. The new Taurus is powered by the 263-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 that's familiar from the current car. Also as with the current car, a six-speed automatic is the only available transmission. The front-wheel-drive 2010 Taurus should deliver the same fuel economy as the current car: 18 mpg city/28 mpg highway. All-wheel drive continues as an option. But the design of the multilink rear suspension is more closely related to the Lincoln MKS, and Ford also says it has retuned the rear suspension and front strut suspension along with the steering system to deliver "surprisingly nimble handling."

If the relative sportiness of the new Taurus is impossible to verify without a drive, it's not so difficult to see evidence of the 2010 model's more upscale accoutrements. Ford has added laminated glass for the windshield and side glass to reduce wind noise. It has "filled in all the holes" with acoustic insulation to reduce engine and road noise in the cabin. The company has done an admirable job with NVH control on its recent introductions.

And the 2010 Taurus is offered with a bewildering array of convenience and luxury doo-dads. A partial list includes: push-button start, auto high-beam headlights, rain-sensing wipers, adaptive cruise control with collision warning and, be still our hearts, multicontour seats that are said to give you a massage with a "gentle pinch and roll motion." Yow.

Naturally, the Taurus is also available with all of the stuff available on lesser Ford models, such as Sync, a navigation system with optional real-time traffic and weather information, and a blind-spot detection system.

And, if rumors are correct and all goes according to plan, we might just see the return of the SHO high-performance model in the next year or so. It would be powered by the twin-turbo direct-injection V6 that is to be offered in the Lincoln MKS sedan and MKT crossover. The 2010 Ford Taurus goes on sale in June.

Inside Line says: An attractive Taurus with a nice interior seems like a pretty decent idea. —

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