We expected the 2009 Ford Taurus to be a pleasant, practical sedan. What we didn't expect was to enjoy its ride and handling.
After all, when you think performance driving, you don't necessarily think about many products in the Ford lineup, save for maybe the Mustang.
But the Taurus actually knows how to have a little fun.
On the road, the Taurus provided engaging feedback to the wheel, informing the driver about what was going on with the tires. The Taurus's compliant suspension aided its ability to allow spirited driving, yet wasn't plagued by harshness that can make long trips unpleasant.
Drive the Taurus into a turn, give some throttle, and the car responds with a little bit of gusto, even if you might not normally put a Taurus through such performance paces.
On the highway, passengers are treated to a comfortably smooth ride.
The engine and transmission in the Taurus are a great pair. The engine is a 3.5-liter V-6, and the tranny is six-speed automatic. The engine is extremely quiet and smooth at idle, and Ford says it uses a pendulum mounting system that effectively separates its motions and vibrations from the rest of the car.
The 2009 Ford Taurus sounds healthy, powerful and smooth at full throttle, making the car plenty quick in acceleration and passing situations, and settling into a nice background hum in sixth gear, as you might expect. At highway speeds, the Taurus is amazingly quiet inside. We were very impressed with the way this car accelerates from rest and brakes from high speeds.
With traction control and optional AdvanceTrac electronic stability control, the computers take over whenever you get a little crazy, keeping the car flat and stable. The ride is soft and compliant, with some body roll in the fast corners and a noticeable upward pitch of the front end on hard acceleration.
As for practicality, the Taurus has nearly as much usable space in it, if you include the trunk, as many crossovers. Its interior and exterior size are notable, as is the height. But that can be a good thing, because it adds to the comfort factor.
Styling for the 2009 Taurus hasn't changed from the 2008 edition, but a new trim level has been added. The Taurus is available in base SE, SEL and Limited trim levels, with the SE being the new level.
The exterior styling boasts such features as attractive head and taillights and a sporty grille. The front fender chrome side vents also are appealing. On the dash, the Taurus has simple, clear gauges, and its climate and audio control buttons aren't too hard to figure out.
But the electronic displays don't exactly jump out at you, and taller drivers especially might find themselves straining to look down to see them. The Limited model we drove had wood trim that gave the interior a bit more classiness.
Ford recently unveiled a Super High Output (SHO) edition of the Taurus for model year 2010. The 2010 Taurus SHO will have a 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6, which will deliver an estimated 365 horsepower.
The 2010 Ford Taurus SHO will feature an enhanced SelectShift six-speed automatic transmission with control paddles mounted on the steering wheel, all-wheel drive system, a sportier interior and subtle exterior design cues. Ford says the Taurus SHO will be available this summer, starting at $37,995.
While we enjoyed the Honda Accord a bit more in a recent test drive, the Taurus is still an excellent value, and we wouldn't hesitate recommending one to a buyer in this category.
My test drive 2009 Ford Taurus Limited edition had a sticker price of $32,520.