2008 Ford Taurus
By Larry Edsall
On Sale: Summer 2007
Expected Pricing: $24,000 to $30,000
Ford is bringing back the Taurus, but don't expect to see any of those familiar oval shapes in this new version of what not that long ago was the best-selling car in the United States. While the badges may say Taurus, this new version is really just the Ford Five Hundred with some visual and mechanical updating.
As if that's not confusing enough, consider that at the same time Ford will rechristen the Freestyle crossover utility wagon as the Taurus X and will rename the Mercury Montego as the Mercury Sable.
Ford all but abandoned the Taurus when it launched the Five Hundred, a larger vehicle based on the same platform as the Volvo S80 luxury sedan, and the Fusion, a slightly more compact mid-size sedan built on Mazda underpinnings. The plan was to replace the mid-size Taurus with a pair of vehicles that Ford thought would be more competitive in an automotive marketplace that was fracturing into smaller and smaller niches.
That wasn't the case when Ford launched the Taurus back in 1985. With its oval-shaped rear window and other oval-shaped interior components, the Taurus became America's best-selling car. But the second generation didn't have the same sizzle and Ford chose to try a two-pronged attack to compete with the popularity of the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord.
Meanwhile, the Taurus remained in production until last year, but was sold primarily into rental car and other fleets.
Still, of the 7 million Taurus models built, nearly half remain on the road, and the Taurus brand ranked third behind only the F series pickup truck and the Mustang in a survey of Ford nameplate familiarity, so the new regime running Ford decided that instead of trying to create awareness for the Five Hundred and Freestyle, it made more sense to try to cut through the clutter by updating and renaming those vehicles as Tauruses.
The update includes a new 3.5-liter V6 engine with 260 horsepower, a much-needed increase over the 203-hp, 3.0-liter V6 that powered the Five Hundred when it was launched as a 2006 model.
The car also gets a new grille, new tail lamps and rear fascia, new chrome exterior accents, new mirrors, better sound insulation, revisions in the suspension system, and will be available with Ford Sync, a Ford/Microsoft joint project for connecting and controlling cell phones, music players, even providing text messages that can be heard rather than read while driving.
Seat-mounted side airbags for the front seats and two-row side-curtain airbags will be standard equipment. Electronic stability control and all-wheel drive will be available.
The Taurus X (formerly called the Freestyle) crossover utility wagon gets similar updating; its side-curtain airbags will cover all three rows of seats.