2008 Ford Taurus Limited AWD
2008 Ford Taurus Limited AWD. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Chris Chase

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Ottawa, Ontario – Ford did one heck of an about-face when it announced it was bringing the Taurus back. Kind of embarrassing for the automaker, I’m sure, but I think most would agree it was a good idea. The Taurus name is one of the most recognizable on the road, and sticking it on the former Five Hundred sedan and Freestyle crossover was a good way to attract more attention to that under-appreciated platform.

The biggest improvement, mechanically, is the substitution of Ford’s excellent 3.5-litre V6 and six-speed automatic powertrain for the weak-in-the-knees and long-in-the-tooth 3.0-litre Duratech V6, which was most recently offered with an uninspiring continuously variable transmission (CVT).

While the mildly-revised (from this car’s Five Hundred days) sheetmetal is hardly the most distinctive look on the road, I think it’s far more attractive than the old Taurus, which spent the last 10 years or so of its life being ugly, dull or both, depending on your point of view.

2008 Ford Taurus Limited AWD
2008 Ford Taurus Limited AWD
2008 Ford Taurus Limited AWD. Click image to enlarge

Aesthetically, my only whine is that, in the absence of a convenient restaurant washroom, groups of young women could check their reflections in all the mirror-like chrome that adorns this top-end model. There’s brightwork on the side mirrors, wheels, door handles, fog light surrounds, license plate garnish and rocker panel vents, plus a thin strip that defines the shape of the side windows. And that’s not counting Ford’s new corporate grille, the three-bar centrepiece used on most new Ford models. On its own, I like the grille, and the side window treatment is a nice touch too, but the rest is serious overkill in my opinion.

The interior designers were more restrained in their use of shiny metal bits (or maybe there was none left to use): my tester’s interior was dressed up in contrasting dark grey dash and light tan leather seats, which looked good next to the woodgrain trim used on the dash and door panels. Ford’s interiors tend toward functional over flashy, but at least basic stuff works well. All of the controls fall easily within the driver’s reach, and everything’s easy to figure out.

2008 Ford Taurus Limited AWD
2008 Ford Taurus Limited AWD
2008 Ford Taurus Limited AWD
2008 Ford Taurus Limited AWD
2008 Ford Taurus Limited AWD. Click image to enlarge

Generous interior space has been a hallmark of this car since its Five Hundred days. Even taller drivers will probably find the front seat offers more space than they’ll need, and the seats themselves are large and comfortable. I was disappointed to find that the seats here aren’t the same ones used in the Edge, which were also comfortable and offered great lateral support. Given the Taurus’ target buyer (I suspect that this Taurus might appeal to many older drivers), flatter seats make for easier in-and-out, even if you’re left sliding around on them in turns. No complaints about the adjustable pedals (standard in the Limited, optional in the less-expensive SEL), which made it easy to find a comfortable driving position.

The rear seat should accommodate three people without much complaint; for sure, there’s lots of legroom, and the centre hump that makes way for the driveshaft (like the old Five Hundred, the Taurus is available with all-wheel drive, which my tester had) doesn’t interfere too much with the feet of the third rear-seat passenger. And check out the massive 600-litre trunk – just 80 litres shy of what a Mini Cooper will carry with its rear seats folded. Heck, the Mini might fit in the Taurus (okay, maybe not, but trying it out would make for a good party trick).

The drive generated positive impressions, too. The Taurus’ powertrain is the same one that powers the Edge crossover, and it’s as effective here as it is in that vehicle. There are 260 (apparently very eager) horses bottled up inside the 3.5-litre V6, and they make this big sedan feel very athletic. The transmission – a six-speed automatic developed jointly with General Motors – operates smoothly; my only gripe is that it felt a little slow to downshift when I asked for more go. But maybe that’s okay: the big six has enough power down low to provide smart acceleration, even in higher gears.

2008 Ford Taurus Limited AWD
2008 Ford Taurus Limited AWD. Click image to enlarge

According to Natural Resources Canada, the all-wheel drive Taurus’ fuel consumption is rated at 12.7 L/100 km in the city and 8.3 L/100 km on the highway. I managed about 14 L/100 km over my week in the car – not disappointing for a sedan that weighs in at about 1,800 kg (4,000 pounds); at least the 3.5-litre is designed to run on more wallet-friendly regular unleaded.

One thing Ford has stayed away from is the “manumatic” function that so many other automakers incorporated into their automatic transmissions. While I think few will miss it (not only in the Taurus, but in other newer Fords like the Edge and Fusion), I’d at least like more gear selection options; as in those other models, the Taurus offers D-for-Drive and L-for-Low, but choosing low keeps the transmission in the lowest gear possible. I prefer having at least an overdrive lockout, which can be handy for providing more engine braking for hilly stretches, or even crowded city streets.

2008 Ford Taurus Limited AWD
2008 Ford Taurus Limited AWD. Click image to enlarge

If the drivetrain’s competence wasn’t a surprise, the (relatively) agile handling was. Certainly, the Taurus is no sports sedan, but for the big car that it is, it feels pretty lively. It’s not as much fun as, say, the Fusion (which I found surprisingly sporty), but the car won’t complain about taking the odd highway on-ramp or curvy back road at the quick end of reasonable. The high centre of gravity (for a car) means there’s noticeable body roll, and mid-corner bumps can create some wallowing motions in the suspension.

My tester carried an as-tested price of $45,129, including a $39,199 base price for a Taurus Limited AWD; extras included navigation ($2,695); moonroof ($1,020); chrome wheels ($790) and a ($75) engine block heater. A $1,250 freight charge and $100 for the air conditioning excise tax made up the balance.

A front-wheel drive Taurus SEL – the least expensive model – starts at $30,899. Add the all-weather package (heated leather seats, power operated driver’s seat, heated exterior mirrors with puddle lamps and a block heater, all for $1,500) and adjustable pedals ($200) and the total comes to $33,949.

2008 Ford Taurus Limited AWD
2008 Ford Taurus Limited AWD. Click image to enlarge

Regardless of the equipment levels, the Taurus looks like a pretty good deal. A solid powertrain means performance handily beats that of the old Five Hundred, and if the styling isn’t exactly art on wheels, the car at least has presence on the road, something the old Taurus only wished it had.

Despite having been attached to a rather bland car for the last 10 years, the Taurus name still gets a lot of respect from those who appreciate how revolutionary the original version was. This new Taurus doesn’t redefine family sedans like that one did, but putting such a recognizable nameplate on a car so vastly improved over its predecessors (both the old Taurus and the Five Hundred) was a good idea, even if it comes a couple years too late.


Pricing: 2008 Ford Taurus Limited AWD


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