2011 Ford Taurus First Look

Full-Size Sedan is Decent Choice for Right Buyer

2011 Ford Taurus Front Three Quarters 3

Ford's 2011 Taurus is not a midsize sedan. The idea that a sedan with the Taurus nameplate competes with midsized four-doors like the Toyota Camry and Chevrolet Malibu is actually outdated. Once the fourth-generation Taurus ended production -- serving rental fleets as much as individual consumers -- Ford discontinued the Taurus, replacing it with the Fusion. While the Fusion went on to become the 2010 Motor Trend Car of the Year, the Taurus morphed into a full-size sedan.

With sales of the Ford Five Hundred sedan not as high as expected, the refreshed model was renamed the Taurus to cash in on widespread consumer recognition of that name. For the 2010 model year, the Ford Taurus was the subject of a redesign that, at last, restores the Taurus to a position beyond its former negligible market significance. The 2011 Ford Taurus may not be class-leading, but the full-size sedan is a decent choice for the right type of buyer.

For 2011, the Ford Taurus retains its two engine options. A 263-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6 engine with 249 pound-feet of torque is placed under the hood of most Taurus sedans, using regular gas. A six-speed automatic is the only available transmission. Looking for more oomph? The 2011 Taurus lineup is ready to match your lead foot with the return of the SHO model, which recommends the use of premium gas and has standard all-wheel drive.

The Ford Taurus SHO is not exactly a true sports sedan, but it's hard to argue with the 365 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque coming from the EcoBoost V-6 engine. EcoBoost V-6 is basically Ford-speak for its direct-injection, twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V-6. The engine has also been employed in the 2011 Lincoln MKS -- the luxurious version of the Taurus -- and serves as one of four engines in the 2011 Ford F-150 truck.

There's no Super Fuel Economy package on the Taurus as there is on the smaller Fiesta and Focus sedans. Even so, fuel economy on the 2011 Taurus is competitive but not at the top of its class. A base Taurus in front-wheel-drive form is rated 18/28 mpg city/highway and 22 mpg combined. The all-wheel-drive Taurus and the Taurus SHO are rated 17/25 mpg and 20 mpg combined.

Where the Taurus excels is trunk capacity. Few four-doors on the market today offer more cargo capacity in the trunk than the Taurus and its 20.1 cubic feet. The Taurus is also quiet inside and, compared to the pre-2010 model, interior ergonomics have improved. The interior might not be as big inside as you'd expect, though the upright driving position might be comfortable to those who are trading in midsize or large SUVs.

Ford's 2011 Taurus will surprise some with the wide variety of options that, until recently, were only available on high-end luxury cars. We're not talking about the navigation system with 10 gigabytes set aside for storing songs, the HID headlights, blind spot monitoring system, the rear view camera, or the keyless entry system with push-button start. Believe it or not, the Taurus also makes available an adaptive cruise control that will slow and accelerate the car if traffic becomes congested or clears. A heads-up display with red lights will flash on the windshield in front of the driver if the car senses a potential collision. If the driver doesn't react in time, the brakes increase sensitivity so that they're as responsive as possible when the brakes are used.

Then there are the available multi-contour front seats available on the Taurus SEL, Limited, and SHO trims. Six-way lumbar support is welcome, but we especially like the idea of the seats' "subtle rolling-pattern massage" A lower back and upper leg massage seems worth the $595 option price. Other vehicles that offer massaging seats include the Jaguar XJ flagship sedan (front seats) and the Lexus LS flagship sedan (rear seats).

Ford's 2011 Taurus is highly rated from a safety standpoint. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the 2011 Taurus four stars overall. The 2011 model year marks the first year of the NHTSA's more stringent crash test scores. At the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Taurus is a Top Safety Pick like the Toyota Avalon, Dodge Charger, Chrysler 300, Hyundai Genesis, and Buick LaCrosse. We look forward to seeing how Ford handles the Taurus through the rest of its production life. Though not without its share of faults, the Taurus is a good car for someone who wants a modern full-size sedan from a domestic automaker.

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