The Ford Taurus: new versus old

I had the oppertunity to test the new Ford Taurus quite extensively this weekend, by driving a rental example from Toronto to Kimberly, Ontario and back – about 150km each way.


It’s interesting to compare this new car to my parents 1988 Ford Taurus – in some ways they are different, but in some very similar. Things that were similar included teh faux-expensive looking interior plastics, the faux wood trim that wouldn’t fool anyone, and the disconnected road feel.

Differences amount mostly to the size (it’s bigger – really more of a Crown Victoria replacement than anything), and the engine. Although the Duratec V6 was available in 2nd and 3rd generation Tauruses, for me the early Taurus is defined by the Vulcan engine. This engine, a 3.0 OHV unit in my parents car, made small power, but decent torque – but most importantly, the torque was produced starting at a low RPM (i.e. below 2000rpm). The Duratec makes far more power (250hp compared to 140hp in the vulcan), but it hardly does anything below 2500rpm, and really it needs to be over 3500 to get any serious power – exactly where the torque band of the Vulcan engine starts to fall off.

The unfortunate thing about the Duratec engine in the modern Taurus is the way it makes it feel like a smaller car – it’s powerband really resembles a 4 cylinder in a smaller car. So, it’s difficult to cruise along in top gear – to do any sort of passing or climbing of hills, or even increasing your speed, you need to punch it and bring the revs up over 3000. This makes the car feel active, sporty – but not easy, lazy – and that really should be the point of a car like this. On balance, the old 88 model was actually more relaxing to drive.

The ride was competent, but again, not as comfortable as an American car should be. It reminded me of my parents Audi – you feel disconnected, but in control. You feel all the bumps, but they don’t hurt, and the car remains level under cornering. This is what you need to drive high speeds around fast corners on rough roads, but it doesn’t encourage you to take low speed corners quickly (there is absolutely no steering feel – you don’t know what the front wheels are done), and the ride is just not comfortable enough on Ontario’s long straight but sometimes rough roads.

You can tell in the styling of this car that it’s trying to resemble the Gangster look of cars like the 300C. Unfortunately, the feel of the car totally fails to live up to that image.


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