2004 Ford Taurus SEL
Click image to enlarge


Review and photos by Jil McIntosh

Ford is keeping the Taurus, and that’s no bull.

What with the company’s new policy of model names all starting with F, and the upcoming introduction of the Five Hundred, my guess was that the Taurus, introduced in 1985, would be biting the bullet. But Ford confirms that, like the Mustang, the Taurus will bypass the name game and remain in the line-up for some time to come.

It deserves a place, and while it’s pricier than similarly-powered domestic rivals Chevrolet Malibu and Chrysler Sebring, it offers the same big-car feel in a mid-size package. It’s also the only one of the three available as a true station wagon (and to its credit, that’s exactly what Ford calls it – no newfangled crossover name here).

The Taurus sedan is available in three trim levels; the base, at $24,995, comes with a bench seat for six-passenger seating. All models have 3-litre, six-cylinder power; the base Vulcan engine is 155 horsepower, the 24-valve Duratec is 200 horsepower.

Those engines can be interchanged in all but the base LX. The mid-range SE is $26,715 at 155 horsepower, $28,190 at 200 horsepower. Even the top-line SEL offers an engine choice ($28,440 and $30,055), although the SEL Premium, at $32,740, is strictly Duratec. (Station wagons start at $28,355.)

That’s a nice touch, allowing a buyer to get more power without buying more accessories. Even so, the list of standard features on the mid-range is a long one: ABS, power heated mirrors with puddle lights, power locks with keyless entry (and an incredibly long remote range), variable wipers, air, AM/FM/CD, cruise, leather-wrapped wheel, power windows and my favourite, power-adjustable pedals.

2004 Ford Taurus SEL

2004 Ford Taurus SEL
Click images to enlarge

The 200 horsepower Duratec is a sweet engine, accelerating smoothly and leaving plenty of pedal when you need it for highway merging. It hooks to an improved-for-2004 4-speed automatic transmission that provides exceptionally smooth shifts. In combined driving, I averaged 10.2 litres/100 km.

Although it’s front-wheel-drive, there’s no torque steer; like Malibu, it gives the comfortable but responsive impression of rear-wheel-drive. This is a sedan in the tradition of bigger, luxurious highway cars of bygone days – except that they seldom handled or performed this well.

On the plus side, engine noise is minimal; on the minus, the suspension transmits a lot of road noise.

Inside, the Taurus is roomy both front and back; my SEL’s bucket seats provided enough support for longer drives. The inside door handles override the locks – always a plus when you’re running numerous errands – and the controls are backlit.

What I really liked was the straightforwardness of it all. When you’re doing 100 km/hr, you should not be trying to adjust things through computer screens or multi-use controls. With the Taurus, if you want to tweak something, you push its button. There’s one for each of the stereo’s bass, treble and balance controls. There’s a simple, effective heater. The lock button is easy, with pictures of closed and open padlocks. Even changing the clock is simplicity itself.

2004 Ford Taurus SEL

2004 Ford Taurus SEL
Photos: Ford. Click images to enlarge

Unfortunately, fit and finish on my car weren’t quite as impressive. An intermittent rattle chased around the dash all week, the shifter bezel was loose, and orange-peel texture was very noticeable on the trunk lid’s paint.

Design-wise, the latches for the console cubby and rear coffee cup tray are difficult to open, and the rear armrest needs the straps used for the pull-down seats; you have to wedge your fingers under it to force it open.

The massive trunk is 120 cm long, opening to 160 cm long with the rear seats folded. Lift-over is low, and loading is very easy. This would be a great car for long trips.

Price is going to be a factor in many purchases, and Taurus could benefit from a few bucks knocked off its bottom line. But if you’re comparison-shopping, don’t forget to put it on the list. It isn’t gone, and shouldn’t be forgotten.

 

Technical Data:

Base price $28,440
Options $1,615 (Duratec engine)
Freight $995
A/C tax $100
Price as tested $31,150
Type 4-door, 5 passenger mid-size sedan
Layout transverse front engine/front-wheel-drive
Engine 3.0 litre V6, DOHC, 24 valves
Horsepower 201 @ 5500 rpm
Torque 207 lb-ft @ 4500 rpm
Transmission 4-speed automatic
Tires 215/60R-16 all-season
Curb weight 1500 kg (3306 lb.)
Wheelbase (108.5 in.)
Length 5019 mm (197.6 in.)
Width 1854 mm (73.0 in.)
Height 1410 mm (55.5 in.)
Cargo area 453 litres (16.0 cu. ft.)
Fuel consumption City: 11.8 l/100 km (24 mpg)
  Hwy: 7.7 l/100 km (37 mpg)
Warranty 3 yrs/60,000 km

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