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2008 Ford Taurus

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New Car Review: The Taurus, once the shining gem in Fordís crown, was quietly put out to pasture a couple of years ago. Ford brought in the Five Hundred in its place.

The Five Hundred itself was not a bad car. Ford made it taller, a little like an SUV, for that command of the road feel. They also went stark conservative in the styling department. Whether this was because of the shared Volvo platform or the nightmare of the all-ovals 1996 Taurus is uncertain.

In a surprisingly candid moment in mid 2007, Ford management announced the rebadging of the Five Hundred as a Taurus, which is what it was likely destined to be called in the first place. The marketing folks believed that a familiar name would help sell more cars.

The verdict? So far, sales have not changed with the new name, but the car is, luckily, heavily revised, with more than 500 improvements - some substantial.

More significant than simply attaching the Ford three-bar chrome grille to the nose and tweaking the hood and taillamps, Ford upgraded engine power. They replaced the Five Hundredís anemic 3.0-liter V6 with the 3.5 liter Duratec, which boosts horsepower to 263, up nearly 30 percent. You really feel the welcome difference out on the road. The Duratec engine is not the quietest in the industry, but through its six-speed automatic transmission it is smooth and effective.

The Taurus is available with front-wheel drive or optional all-wheel drive. All- wheel drive enhances safety when driving conditions deteriorate because of rain, snow, or gravel. Combined with the AdvanceTrac electronic stability control system, the Taurus earns bragging rights as the safest large car in America. It nailed all four of the U.S. governmentís crash tests with a report card full of five-star ratings.

Despite the bigger engine, the new Taurus beats the previous Five Hundred in fuel economy, now rated at 17 City, 24 Highway with all-wheel drive, 18 and 28 with front-wheel drive. I averaged about 16.5 mpg in mixed driving. The EPA Green Vehicle numbers are a remarkably clean 9.5 for the Air Pollution Score and a middling 5 or 6 for the Greenhouse Gas score. The 6 rating is for the front-wheel-drive version.

Nothing does more to make a car feel cheap than noise, and the new Taurus has obliterated it. This was no simple process. They added various kinds of insulation, including a high-tech substance called Sonosorb, in places like the doors, headliner, and window pillars. They made the air conditioning run more quietly. They revised the way the engine and transmission are attached to the body and used hydraulic mounts to minimize transferred vibration.

This change of engine mounting allowed the engineers to tweak the suspension. They increased front suspension travel by 10 percent, added new dampers and springs front and rear, and retuned the rear suspension. The result is a quiet, yet firm ride.

Stepping inside, youíll appreciate the attempts at making the Taurus read upscale. Besides a refreshingly careful fit and finish, the dash and armrests wear some very real-looking woodgraining. The gauges are especially attractive. The dash itself is a geometry lesson, mixing circles for the major gauges, trapezoids for the minor ones, an oval clock, and rectangular air vents. Despite this fascinating mixture of shapes and textures, it all works fine in daily driving.

The Taurus is a large car, weighing just under two tons with all-wheel-drive, but doesnít really manifest that way when you walk up to it. The greater height makes it easy to slide in without bending your knees and headroom is airy. Maybe the customers for the ancient Crown Victoria will finally move on to something modern.

Speaking of modern, what could be more up-to-date than the Microsoft Sync program? Sync enables voice-activated, hands-free control of the audio system and communications. Just plug in your iPod or use Bluetooth with your cell phone and youíre connected. You can only get this new technology in Ford products, at least for now.

Built in Chicago, the all-American Taurus comes only as a sedan, in SEL and Limited trims. My Alloy Clearcoat Metallic (gray) tester was a Limited and featured a handsome black leather interior.  It also included several options, including the Limited Convenience Package ($475) with a garage door opener, cargo net, adjustable pedals (with memory) and, most important, the reverse sensing system (should be standard in all cars). Throw in a power moonroof ($895), navigation system ($1,995), Sirius satellite radio ($195), and destination charges and youíre looking at a sticker price of $33,500. Wow! You can pick up a well-equipped SEL with nothing extra for $24,000.

The 2008 reborn Taurus is a worthy successor to the car that had Ford sitting pretty in the 1980s. With its remarkably clean engine, itís a responsible choice as well, if you need a roomy sedan.

By Steve Schaefer © AutoWire.Net - San Francisco

Ford Home Page

Byline:  New Car Review provided by Tony Leopardo © AutoWire.Net

Column Name:  The all-American Taurus is back!

Topic: The 2008 Ford Taurus

Word Count:  874

Photo Caption:  The 2008 Ford Taurus

Photo Credits:  Ford Taurus Internet Media

Series #:  2008 - 22


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