Ford Taurus — Luxury credentials

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Ford doesn't call it a luxury car, but the freshened 2013 Ford Taurus can be loaded up with a long list of automotive goodies to compliment an incredibly quiet interior, a comfortable ride that soaks up even the meanest of road imperfections, and decent performance from a couple of engines including a new EcoBoost 4-cylinder. Those are luxury credentials.

But Ford wants to keep its luxury moniker exclusively for Lincoln even though a dressed up full-sized Taurus sedan that can run north of 40 grand will rival many nameplates that wear a luxury badge. The thing is that enough of the good stuff can be purchased for just over $27,000 to give a Taurus owner a true sense of affordable luxury.

Although the 2013 model is not referred to as “all-new” it has so many refinements and upgrades it might as well be. It has better fuel economy, more technology, enhanced design, improved craftsmanship and sharpened driving dynamics.

The revisions start with the engines. The standard motor for the Taurus SE, SEL and Limited series models is the 3.5-liter V-6 that contains twin independent variable camshaft timing (Ti-VCT) rated at 288 horsepower and 254 pound-feet of torque. All this engine technology helps Taurus achieve better fuel economy and more horsepower compared to the previous Taurus V-6.

A new engine choice is the 2.0-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder that provides maximum fuel efficiency without robbing it of performance. It delivers 240 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque.

The EcoBoost actually boasts the same performance numbers as the V-6 (both at 7 seconds 0-to-60), but with better fuel economy than the V-6. The V-6 is rated at a very good 19 city, 29 highway and 23 mpg combined. The four-cylinder is even better, at 22/32/26. A caveat — the EcoBoost is priced $995 higher.

Also available in the SHO performance package is Ford's twin-turbo EcoBoost version of the 3.5-liter V-6 making 365 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque.

The engines are mated to an exceptionally smooth six-speed automatic transmission. Through a lengthy series of hilly, twisty, long and straight terrain it was next to impossible to hear or even feel the transmission performing its duties.

The 2013 Taurus is like sitting in a well-appointed cone of silence. Ford engineers have worked tirelessly on eliminating interior noise that was well controlled to begin with. All pillars have been cloth-wrapped, trunk space (20.1 cubic-feet) is fully trimmed and cowl baffles, acoustic wheel well liners, shock tower wraps and upgraded hood and dash insulators have been added to further quiet the noise.

Driving the new Taurus is an effortless treat, further aided by the standard electric power-assisted steering. The system allows for a high degree of tuning to optimize steering feel while saving fuel and providing drivers with enhanced feedback.

As much fun as it is to drive it’s equally comforting in knowing how much built-in safety equipment the new Taurus contains. Things like side protection and cabin enhancement, enhanced airbags, safety canopy with rollover sensor, and AdvanceTrac with Electronic Stability Control. Furthermore, Taurus offers other technologies like adaptive cruise control, collision warning with brake support, blind spot information system and cross-traffic alert.

The new Taurus has been endowed with exterior styling tweaks including a more muscular hood, a unique decklid spoiler, rear quarter panels that house larger, full LED taillamps, a new, wider grille, wider wheels and tires to fill out the wheel well openings and projector headlamps. It has a solid stance, and depending on the trim level, sits on 17-inch, 18-inch or 19-inch tires and wheels (with 20-inchers as a further option).

Technology-wise you’ll be in a Star Wars environment sans Darth Vader. Such class-leading innovations as Ford’s heralded SYNC with MyFord Touch replaces many traditional buttons, knobs and gauges with clear, colorful LCD screens and steering wheel-mounted five-way toggles. Ford has simplified the system, and we found it easier to access information than in the earlier iteration. But compared to many other vehicles, it still ranks near the top of our list in difficulty of use.

Available comfort and convenience technologies are a heated steering wheel, multi-contour seats with Active Motion, Intelligent Access with push-button start, auto high beams, rain-sensing wipers, rear view camera and rear window power sunshade. The new Taurus also adds Ford's intuitive active park assist technology. This device will make a parking dunce look like a professional driving instructor.

Not including the SHO high performance model the Taurus as noted comes in three trim levels — SE, SEL, and Limited — starting at $27,295. The SEL begins at $29,595 and the Limited at $33,795. Our well-equipped Limited test car with all-wheel drive ($1800) carried a bottom line of $41,135.

Base price: $27,395; as driven, $41,135
Engine: 3.6-liter V-6
Horsepower: 288 @ 6,500
Torque: 254 foot-pounds @ 4,000 rpm
Drive: all-wheel
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 112.9 inches
Length: 202.9 inches
Curb weight: 3,969 pounds
Turning circle: 39.7 feet
Luggage capacity: 20.1 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 19 gallons (regular/E85)
EPA rating: 29 highway, 19 city
0-60: 7 seconds(Car and Driver)
Also consider: Toyota Avalon, Buick LaCrosse, Chrysler 300

The good
• Quiet, well-appointed cabin
• Available all-wheel drive
• Huge trunk
• Fuel-efficient turbocharged 4-cylinder available

The Bad
• Price escalates quickly with packages

The Ugly
• MyFordTouch remains frustrating