2002 Ford Taurus
2002 Ford Taurus. Click image to enlarge

By Jeremy Cato

For the 2000 model year, Ford looked closely at the best-selling Toyota Camry and then created Ford’s version of it. But with a slight twist in that there was also a huge, huge emphasis on safety features.

And Ford changed the design, too. Oval was out, wedge was in. That was only one of the changes Ford made to the 2000 Taurus when this mainstream sedan and station wagon received its first makeover since a complete overhaul in 1996.

The 2000 changes made two major statements: First, the daring oval theme of the 1996-99 car didn’t have the mainstream appeal Ford expected. Indeed, the Toyota Camry took away the Taurus’s crown as best-selling car in North America. And second, the kind of family buyers Ford covets for the Taurus value safety and a soft ride over racy looks and somewhat sporty handling.

Most obvious for 2000, oval shape of the 1996-99 Taurus was scrapped in favour of a more conventional wedge-like design that added 5 cm (1.9 in.) of rear headroom, 2 cm (.8 in.) of front head room and about a golf bag’s worth of extra space in the trunk. The trunk was given plastic clips off which groceries can be hung-an idea borrowed from the current Windstar minivan.

The oval palette with round buttons that housed radio and climate controls in the Taurus was also scrapped, replaced by a more functional rectangular panel with square buttons. Ford also added map pockets to the doors, a second power point, adjustable cupholders and more storage space all around.

Used car buyers will also notice that a 2000 Taurus is much quieter than a 1999. To reduce noise, the engineers packed in a load of extra insulating material and raised the hood to reduce wind noise and channel water up and over the roof, instead of to the sides where it can impede visibility.

On the power front, the base 3.0-litre pushrod engine got a boost of eight horsepower (to 153 hp.), while the 3.0-litre overhead cam engine was made lighter by 13.6 kg (30 lbs.) yet was made to deliver 15 more horses (to 200 hp.). (For 2004 the Taurus’s pushrod engine is rated at 155 hp, while the overhead cam engine is at 201 hp.)

The 2000 Taurus certainly has a more “plush” ride than the version it replaced. Why? Among other things springs rates front and rear were reduced (22 per cent front/12 per cent rear).

For the 2000 re-do Ford also put much effort in the Taurus’s safety features. For instance, the new model came with dual-stage air bags with built-in sensors that can a) tell the computer brain the severity of a crash, b) if anyone is sitting in either of the front seats, and c) whether or not either or both are wearing seat belts.

Ford, in fact, introduced the 2000 Taurus with what it then called its Advanced Restraints System. The system represented a total of 12 technologies working together to determine which airbags go off, if at all, and with what degree of severity.

For instance, integrated seat belt pretensioners tighten the front safety belts to help prevent occupants from sliding around in a crash, then release them slightly to reduce the chance of chest injury. A driver’s seat position sensor adjusts air bag force to accommodate different sized drivers (small drivers get less). The system can also tell the air bags not to deploy at all if crash severity does not reach a certain threshold. The front air bags in 2000-and-newer cars also deploy independently, as necessary.

Ford also began offering a power-operated pedal adjustment system in 2000, but it wasn’t without problems (see Buyer’s Alerts). The system allows shorter drivers to move brake and accelerator pedals up closer – as much as 7.6 cm (3 in.). Ford packaged power seats and pedals together as an option.

Also new for 2000 were optional side airbags built into the front seats. Meanwhile, all Taurus sedans have since 2000 come with a child-friendly trunk release system that consists of a neon T-shaped handle that glows in the dark. When pulled from inside, it pops open the rear lid. General Motors has already shown a similar system.

In addition, new headlamps for 2000 were made 20 per cent brighter; they were also designed to last longer, too. The 2000 Taurus retained its five star government crash test rating.

So for 2000, Ford devoted some engineering time to comfort and convenience features, as well as technologies that protect people and keep them out of accidents in the first place.

A nearly-new Taurus is a pretty good used car. True, there have been several recalls, but three of the seven related to those adjustable pedals. Buyer beware. On the whole, the Taurus offers good value in a large and relatively reliable family car.

Connect with Autos.ca