By on September 1, 2006

gallery_c450020a.JPGIn his own ew-inducing sort of way, Oedipus defined the Tragic Hero. His story teaches us that character is fate; the arrogant King can no more escape his destiny than a bad guy on a cop show. And so it is with the Ford Taurus, a vehicle named for either the constellation of the same name (minus the Ford) or the Zodiac sign ascribed to it. According to pseudo- science, Taureans are practical, reliable, patient, affectionate, competent, ambitious, determined, lazy, jealous, inflexible, greedy and stubborn. And some people wonder why the model took twenty years to die an ignominious death…

Judging by the sheetmetal, its death couldn't come soon enough. Wearing a decade-old silhouette, the Taurus blends into the scenery like tomatoes in salsa. Its once unique coke-bottle profile now proclaims mundane, offering proto-flame surfacing that couldn’t light a stack of dry kindling. The Taurus’ generic lighting pods, low beltline and lack of chrome accents hearken back to the days before platinum was the new gold. A modest front-end redesign tries to spizzarkle-up the package, but it’s no use: the Taurus is nothing but rental-car vanilla.  Oh how the mighty have fallen.

06taurus_03-1.jpg The Taurus’ interior pleases like an Oscar speech on animal rights. The cabin features more plastic flash casting than you'll find in a truckload of milk cartons. In a sad attempt at budget-minded dress up, the dash's Northern Hemisphere gets darker paint with a healthy dose of overspray. Worst of all, the once-proud Taurus sports more inconsistent panel gaps and textures than a found-object exhibit.

But within these egregious aesthetic failings lies a silver lining: the switches, buttons and levers move with all the oil-dampened grace and precision normally associated with Japanese offerings. The power window switches' unique tactile surfacing, the handy trip computer and trick flip-up center console continue to impress. Seat comfort is excellent with plenty of long-distance thigh support. Luxurious and understated cloth trimmings eagerly await a family of six, albeit a trim, close-knit genetic grouping. The trunk is suitably voluminous, and the greenhouse provides excellent visibility and plenty of natural light.

Set the time machine for 2006, drop the Taurus' column shift into drive and leave the rental car lot behind. Forget local radio stations, pop in a Flock of Seagulls CD and experience the standard audio system's competent bass and treble reproduction, with better-than-expected sound imaging.

robocop22.jpg Looking to SHO-off in a Q-ship? Well, look elsewhere. That said, Ford's venerable powerplant offers plenty of grunt—a class-leading 186lb-ft of torque at 3250rpm– from idle to redline. Variable cams be damned; the Vulcan's overhead-valve'd, 60-degree'd engine architecture puts the power down with a swagger that no buzzy bargain basement four-banger can match– the Vulcan provides the best of old and new, though peak performance suffers with the ancient four-speed automatic's grandma gearing and “catch you later” shift behavior.

Run the Bull down an airport exit-ramp at speed and only a distant glimmer of its original greatness remains. Somewhat wonderful steering feel, predictably progressive understeer and moderate body roll won't set your soul afire, but safety is the name of the game here. When it comes to the mission critical part of that program– braking– it’s best to plan early and often. The standard stoppers combine uninspiring 16” rubber with rear drum brakes and no ABS intervention.

Cushy suspension tuning nets a velvety smooth ride. But the real surprise is a rigid chassis that feels better than its carbon-dated design implies. With better tires and more roll control, the Taurus could offer the best of both worlds: spirited handling and magic carpet plushness. But, of course, it doesn’t. Somehow, lying on its deathbed, the Taurus performed yet another magic act: the standard 3.0-liter Vulcan V6 (from the original Taurus) offers a choice of either low-octane gasoline or trendy E85 ethanol for thermodynamic propulsion.

ford_taurus_2003_bkgd.JPGLove it or hate it, the dearly departed Ford Taurus still has the heart and soul of an American hero. Ford's perennial four-portal breadwinner still provides the timeless American blend of immensity, comfort and torque. But what was once a sight for sore eyes now makes you want to tear them out. So what has Ford done for America lately? They designed a front wheel-drive Taurus replacement from a Japanese template and screwed it together down in old Mexico. Sure the Fusion is a competent machine, but a homegrown champion it ain’t.

In the end, the Taurus was engineered, assembled and neglected in America. Like Henry Ford lamenting the loss of his beloved Model T, the departure of the hopelessly out-of-date Taurus signals another FoMoCo turning point. Payback’s a bitch. Ford's failure to breed from the Bull forced karmic retribution, embodied in near-bankruptcy Bold Moves. Could this tragedy have been avoided? Can any?

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74 Comments on “Ford Taurus: Oedipus Wrecks...”


  • avatar

    >>Wearing a decade-old silhouette, the Taurus blends into the scenery like tomatoes in salsa. Its once unique coke-bottle profile now proclaims mundane

    It was always a poor piece of styling (unlike the first gen, which was a (then) modern rendition of the style of the Panhard and the Tatra). Except for the front and side windows, it has no artistic integrity.

    One thing I hated about the Taurus is that it was the first non-luxury car to fail to offer a manual (except for the SHO).

    Very interesting review. So close, yet so far away.

  • avatar
    4runner

    Sajeev,

    The exterior pictures of the Taurus posted are not of the most recent generation. They were of the previous (1996 to 2000) Taurus. However, it appears that your interior picture of the Taurus is of the most recent generation.

    Why the inconsistancy?

    For sure, the 1996 to 2000 Taurus was hideous and is a good example of what not to do with a car, however, the 2001 refresh was actually not bad (it wasn’t good either).

  • avatar

    The Taurus, that is.

  • avatar
    nichjs

    I liked this article. At last a review (albeit a retrospective and post mortem) that focuses not only on whether the car handled like an Elise, but also, that it did it’s job, and ticked a lot of boxes that the everyday American Driver want ticking. Many of the points made here apply almost perfectly to the Chrysler Sebring / Dodge Stratus which I fought traffic in through Motown for 6 months last winter. At the end of the day (literally and figuratively) you can only drive as fast as the car infront. Thanks TTAC for finally showing the other side of the coin.

  • avatar
    phattie

    4runner: I think that particular gen. is what most people will think about when you mention Taurus to them; and the article is about Taurus in general.

  • avatar
    Sid Vicious

    Take it easy on the those lighting pods – there’s 3 years of my life in those. (Pathetic, I know.)

  • avatar
    jerry weber

    I owned a 2000 taurus with the 200 hp engine. I found it crude and the engine always wanted to screw off the front wheels on the pavement. A disconnect always seemed there. It had an average ride, but the space inside was tight as was getting in and out. I had friends who racked up 150,000 miles in the thing, but the taurus had no soul. It’s oval everything became sterile, as the car aged quickly. It was a case of ford doing everyting just good enough, but go the extra mile, no. The taurus is not missed and it never improved over it’s 1980′s rendition which was at that time a revolution. Is there some theme here.

  • avatar
    Lemmy-powered

    Mr. Holzman,

    The Taurus WAS available, non-SHO, with a 5-speed manual. I’m dead certain I can remember seeing it in the brochure when my dad was looking at an ’89.

  • avatar
    noley

    Good piece on an under-appreciated car.

    I have always liked the Taurus and probably put at least 10K on them over the years as rentals. Being so common they blend into traffic like a guardrail, which is nice when one tends to be careless with the speed limit. I liked the seats, the way most of the controls worked and the handling was OK for a mainstream car meant to appeal to the masses. In a blizzard between NYC and NH I found the Taurus to be a terrific snow car, even on all season tires.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    Lemmy-powered & David Holzman,

    The car you’re trying to remember was the Taurus MT-5. It was on the first gen Taurus platform, it had a 2.3 or 2.5 (I don’t remember which) 4 cyl with a 5 speed manual trans behind it.

    It didn’t survive past the first freshening of the body in 1990(?)

  • avatar
    socsndaisy

    Sajeev,
    Spizzarkle, I know its not the first usage here, but I declare it hereby nominated for TTAC word of the year 2006.

    Is it just me or do any other TTAC readers have Dennis Miller deja vu when reading Sajeev’s stuff. (Thats a compliment by the way Sajeev). Oedipus/hero, Oscar speech on animal rights, and payback’s a bitch reminded me of DM’s bit on the community potty-ahem-pool of childhood, “You Ironsides…Im WAILIN’ on you over here!”

    Another excellent read sir!

    The one thing the Taurus excels at is making the owners of said car feel justified in not having spent a single dime washing it EVER. There has never been a car that consistently reached the pinnacle of indifference. That wouldnt be a huge crime until you realize that indifference is the single worst reaction for an enthusiast. Anyone who has seen Clarkson’s reviews of any car he hated knows that it is far worse if he just plain doesnt care at all after driving the test mule.

  • avatar

    Noley has a fine point about uninspiring shapes and blending in. I can roll along I-5 at near triple digit speeds in my VW Jettaneric and draw nary a glance from the Washington State Patrol Revenue Collectors. Drive down the same road in my weekend sports car at a mere 10 MPH over the limit and I draw constabulatory consideration of the highest order. =

    –chuck

  • avatar
    tom

    It really seems to be a love/hate thing. Personally, I love the styling of the 1996-2000 model. But I guess you shouldn’t pay attention to me, since one of my favourite designs of the late 1990s is the Chrysler Concorde.

  • avatar
    Rakinyo1

    ROBOCOP and the ’85 Ford Taurus, two iconic wonders that came out of the Reagan years.

    Im going to need a moment and some kleenex.

    STELLA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • avatar
    mdanda

    I talked to a tow truck driver recently, he said that he pulls a different Ford Taurus somewhere nearly every day. Keeps him in business!!!

  • avatar
    JSForbes

    I don’t agree with many of your conclusions. My father has a Taurus (2003?) and I wouldn’t wish that car on anyone. In the front seats my legs fall asleep in under an hour and the rear seats have no headrest. The dash is very high compared to seating position. I am about 6 feet tall and I feel like I an sitting down in a well relative to the rest of the car. He has a bad back and it makes getting in an out difficult for him. When sitting in the passenger seat, the glovebox area extends into knee range, so you must always keep the seat back. The throttle is strange; nothing happens and the BAM your jerking forward.

    It was cheap though…

  • avatar
    Nels Nelson

    The Taurus is the fleet car for the company I work for and as such drive them regularly. The review of the Taurus generally captures the feelings I have about the car which is one of good overall competence.

    In pondering the demise of the Taurus, I’ve thought, what if Ford continued to sell the Taurus in one trim level with no options in any color you want as long as it’s white for $9995?

    It could be the contemporary Model T.

  • avatar
    Ashy Larry

    JSForbes, you got it exactly right. A recent 2006 Taurus rental car experience confirms that the seats, as most seats in the Ford and GM mainstream car offerings, are just abominable — leg and thigh support is nonexistent, and in the Taurus, the seatbacks felt as if they bulged out in the middle, as if they were designed to push you to the edge of the seat during cornering instead of holding you in. Bizarre. The interior was freshened and spruced up from earlier Taurii but still revealed many design flaws. Non-recessed trunk hinges made loading up the trunk difficult, headroom in the back was challeneged by the sloping design. Its sad — an icon of American motoring reduced to being a scorned rental car, thanks to an ill-advised over-redesign and general parental neglect.

  • avatar
    doctorv8

    As a teenager coming of learning permit age when the original Taurus debuted to such critical acclaim, the systematic withering away of the current car saddens me greatly.

    Just a few recollections:

    I remember going into a Ford dealership in 1987 and having to wait while the salesman searched for the two remaining units on the lot…for sale at sticker price, no less.

    I remember the first 1986 Taurus wagon I saw parked in front of a shopping mall…the shape and style made this car crazy teen do a double take….over a friggin’ wagon!

    I remember the shock and awe I felt when the road inhaling 220 HP SHO hit the streets, and even the pleasant sheetmetal differentiation it got in 1992 vs the base car. Getting to drive them during a summer stint as a Ford salesman in college. I wanted to own one so badly!

    The Car and Driver project SHO-Wagon that made the magazine cover. The crazy ovoid HVAC/ICE control and wild balance shafted V8 of the 1996 SHO, and its great feeling ZF steering box. Memories!

    It’s sad to think of what might have been if Ford spent the $$ to maintain the momentum of that car…that it could have been a modern day Acura TL or Toyota Camry….

    Now that I’m actually old enough to fit the cars demographic….I couldn’t want one less.

    Oh well, at least Sajeev’s story was a fitting tribute to the last of a generation..what a great read! But come on Farago….get the pic right….some of us Taurophiles know the difference between a 96-99 and an 05-06. ;-)

  • avatar
    Zarba

    The Taurus is an example of why consumers abandoned American cars.

    The Vulcan V-6 was a hoary, thrashy powerplant that wasn’t put out to pasture. A 10 year old design (at least). Slow, noisy, and agricultural.

    They let the handling get softer and softer.

    The Taurus also had some design flaws (the ECM getting baked, resulting in a delayed recall, I believe), and the infamous A/C system that died in 3 years. I had a first-gen Taurus, and when the A/C died, I called numerous shops: “Taurus? 3.0 V-6, right? That’ll cost you $1,000 to fix. They ALL DO THAT. Keeps us in business. Ford knows, and doesn’t care. The hose clamps are cheap, and they ALL fail. Ford could have used a better clamp, but they cheaped out.”

    At 75K miles, the A/C was dead, the power steering pump leaked, the brake master cylinder leaked, the tranny leaked, you get the picture. The car was used up.

    Ford saw the Taurus as a fleet special, and if consumers bought them, more the better. But I think they just decided that they’d stack ‘em deep and sell ‘em cheap, and take the easy profits versus competing with the Camry and Accord. It was in every way a disposable car.

    They took what had been a groundbreaking design and performance leader and let it die on the vine, killing their reputation and that of the car through benign neglect. Rmember that when the Taurus came out, it was hailed universally as the first American car that had world class design, handling, and appointments. That 1988 Taurus I had, with all its problems, was still a great-driving car.

    Even the SHO became a joke. The first-gen SHO was a beast, and created tremendous owner loyalty. That car had SOUL. Then the 2nd-gen came out with a V-8, but no manual tranny, and the performance was frankly underwhelming. They lost all the equity in the SHO brand with that car.

    The list of neglected names goes on and on. Escort, Focus, Taurus, Crown Vic, Town Car, Continental, Thunderbird…. I see a pattern here.

    Meanwhile, Ford pours its resources in to trucks and SUV’s, resulting in a pile of gas suckers just when the market for them dies. How much went into the redesign of the Explorer? Think those are bringing sticker? How ’bout the F-150? Freestyle? Escape? Expedition? And here come the Edge, to really confuse the issue. Talk about diluting your market.

    Somehow, Honda makes due with Fit, Civic, Accord, CR-V, Odyssey, and Pilot. All class leaders, all selling for sticker all day long. Maybe they’re on to something here?

    As to anonymous shapes, my Acura TL certainly draws far less enforcement attention than my Alfa 164Q. (It also doesn’t cost me a fortune to maintain).

    And Tom, I also like the last-gen Concorde. They can be had cheap, cheap, cheap right now.

  • avatar
    gearhead455

    Zarba

    Are you OK?

    Do you need a glass of water or something?

  • avatar
    starlightmica

    Recommended reading – Car: A Drama of the American Workplace, the story of the misguided 2nd gen (ovoid) Taurus.

    http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0393318613?v=glance

    My favorite passage was when they changed the team motto from “Beat Camry” to “Beat Lumina” – talk about setting your sights low.

  • avatar
    SloStang

    We used to have a ’96 Taurus wagon. I really wanted to like the car, since it was comfortable, held almost as much as a pickup, and was easy to drive long distances. Just ignore the awful “obese Neon” styling and oval everything interior.

    But, it was truly amazing how much stuff would break on this car, and how hard ($$$) some of it was to fix. It ended up turning into a never-ending series of frustrations and repair bills until we ended up donating the car to charity because it had zero trade in value.

    Here’s how bad our Taurus was: My next car was a Chevy Cavalier (widely regarded as the poster child for crappy cars), and it’s been a huge step up in ownership experience.

    And do I need to mention head gaskets on the 3.8 or the transmissions?

  • avatar
    bascho

    Ford does build a better Taurus people!!!! It’s called the Five Hundred. Ford had to get away from the Taurus name plate which had become synonymous with ‘rental car’. The resale values are horrific and that hurts the brand. It’s impossible to change public perception with a new design….in today’s market you need a whole new nameplate too.

    I am also a big fan of the 1996-1999 Taurus SHO and think that design is timeless. Back in 1997 I owned a brand new SHO and that has been one of my favorite cars to own.

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    Thank you everyone for reading. If you want to read more on the Taurus (a la Reading Rainbow) I recommend:

    Car: A Drama of the American Workplace
    Taurus: The Making of the Car that Saved Ford
    Comeback: The Rise and Fall of the American Automobile Industry
    Reinventing The Wheels: Ford’s Spectacular Comeback
    Turn Around: The New Ford Motor Company

    All of these books make for great term papers for Business majors. I owe some of my strong undergrad GPA to the Taurus.

    Zarba: that was wonderfully put.

    Nels Nelson: In many ways the Taurus is the Model T, and the problem is that the replacement “Model A” faces stiff competition just like it did before.

    JSForbes: Really? I find the lower seat comfort pretty good. Better than my Lexus ES test car. Speaking of, the dash on that car (and its Camry counterpart) is much more “well” like than the Taurus.

    socsndaisy: I think it should be word of the decade. LOL

    Lemmy-powered: You’re thinking about the MT-5 Sedan/Wagon: four banger with a 5-speed. Unless gas hits $5 a gallon, let’s forget that car existed and stick with the SHO.

    nichjs: the Taurus’ legacy deserved the “other side of the coin” analysis as you said. Thank you.

  • avatar
    doctorv8

    bascho,

    While the 500 is an entirely adequate car, its bland derivative styling and bottom rung power to weight ratio will never resonate like the original Taurus. When I see pics of the gorgeous 2003 Ford “427″ concept, it makes me even more mad at Ford….THAT’S what the 500 should have been. Instead, Ford let DCX own the hip domestic sedan market with the inferior 300/Charger/Magnum.

  • avatar
    maxo

    Some people who commented on the car actually had the 3rd? gen version that came after 2001. I thought this was a major update with all new interior and mostly new exterior? Or was this just a little freshening up? Maybe it had the same powertrain and platform.

    The Car book was good but also kind of bad, wandering writing that bored me even though I am definitely interested in the subject. I can’t totally recommend it unless you were on the Taurus team or something.

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    Some people who commented on the car actually had the 3rd? gen version that came after 2001. I thought this was a major update with all new interior and mostly new exterior?

    maxo, they re-did the majority of the interior and the front/rear ends in 2000…but its still the same basic car from 1996. That’s fine, it was a more palatable design (bigger trunk too) for the masses, but the Nassar-era cost cutting was evident, especially in fit/finish of the interior materials.

    And yeah, I felt the “Car” book wasn’t as good as the original Taurus book. (the second one I recommended)

  • avatar
    Caffiend

    Brings me right back to the year 2000. My accross the street neighbor bought one new in 2000. He washed that thing like it was an Enzo. Twice a week. He loved the car. We called him washing the car guy.

    Nice enough guy. Had twin daughters who were both HS cheerleaders. Nope, I didn’t mind that a bit!

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    Wow. I’m sure everyone’s got one, but that Taurus story is hard to follow.

  • avatar

    Excuse the shots folks. Ford’s Taurus PR pics are a bit… limited. I’ll see what else I can find.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    Put another way….

    Robocop drove the original Taurus. and looked good doing so.

  • avatar


    I hereby declare a blanket ban on any comments that attempt to impugn this site's authors or its commentators for an anti-domestic car bias.

    Suffice to say, TTAC lauds and criticizes all cars, regardless of make, model or manufacturer. You are free to think otherwise and email me personally on the topic, but the commentary section is a no-go zone for that debate. Period.

     Anyone who violates this ban will themselves be banned. If you wish to protest, do so at robertfarago@thetruthaboutcars.com

  • avatar
    taxman100

    I had a 92 Taurus GL that I loved. Even in midlevel trim, it had really nice velour fabric, good switches and plastic, and the lamented 3.8 l V-6 that gave it great off the line grunt.

    I got rid of it at 100,000 miles due to needing a new engine mount and CV joints, and didn’t want to invest money in a car that was known to blow trannies and headgaskets. Oh yeah, warped brake rotors.

    Loved the car, other than that. Too bad they tried to Japan-ize it. I had an 06 rental Taurus – cheap, cheap, cheap inside.

    Once the Grand Marquis goes, what will Ford have left for a guy like me? I’ll tell you – absolutely nothing, but it’s no better at GM or DCX – not much difference than owning a Toyota or Honda anymore.

  • avatar
    Martin Albright

    Put another way….

    Robocop drove the original Taurus. and looked good doing so.

    So, it seems like what Sajeev is saying is that the current Taurus now warrants its Robocop name: The SUX 9000?

  • avatar
    jacob

    I still drive a 99 Taurus with a 200HP Duratec engine and 50K miles on it. I am very pleased with this car. Everything still works. I love the oval design theme. It aged well and still looks very smooth, elegant, and modern. The suspension is fairly stiff and informative of the road feel. Driving this car feels more like driving a Japanese sedan than an American family car. The interior is simple but everything in the design of controls makes sense and the seats are comfortable. The standard audio system is pretty good but the lacks the in-dash CD player, so I replaced the head unit with an mp3/ipod compatible CD unit.

    This car also has some cons. The engine is a little too noisy for a large sedan. Or more precisely, Ford hasn’t done a very good job at protecting the cabin from engine noise during hard accelleration. The rear brakes are drums, but my car still has ABS. The brake pedal is a little too soft although it never felt like the car didn’t stop fast enough during very sudden braking.

    I heard that replacing the rear drums with disk brakes is pretty easy. Just get the parts from the pre-99 Taurus, so I intend to do it sometime soon.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    Martin,

    It is actually the 6000 SUX.

    Which is either an H2 or an Escalade, as the tagline read, “An American Tradition: 8.2 MPG”

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    New pics up. It was worth it, since RoboCop is a must…we gotta Represent!

  • avatar
    PandaBear

    Owner of an 01 Taurus SES here (well, my dad actually, but I drive and maintain it all the time).

    The torque is there, the plushy ride is there, lots of feature (power everything), look is decent (good enough), but the quality and workmanship wasn’t there.

    There is no brake, at least until you either jury rig a rear disk conversion from the 3rd gen wagon from a junk yard near you and lose the parking brake, or upgrade to high performance street pad. The seat is very uncomfortable (no suspension) that you get tired easily on it, my 95 Corolla has better seat at $12888 new, after 10 years. The plastic is ok, you get what you pay for in this class of vehicles. The carpet and interior is well designed, I like that dual visors and tinted strip on the top of the windshield, but low quality materials. Fit and finish is passable but not even matching my corolla that is 6 years older. Reliability is ok, had a few recalls that I have to bring to the dealer and they can never reproduce one of the clunk in steering (but no biggie), the battery die a sudden death in a parking lot, but other than that, never leave me stranded on the road.

    Got it for a good deal, $13.5k for a car from Hertz at 12.5k miles within the same year. I would buy it for the deal, but will never pay the same price as a Camry V6. They build a disposible car, and I will only pay a sub-disposible price for it.

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    PandaBear: can you clear something up for me? I never understood the point of the SES…it wasn’t any sportier (SHO-ish) than the SE or SEL, so what made that trim level?

  • avatar
    PandaBear

    I think the “sport” they mentioned is just refering to larger rim and tire size, other than that the sway bar, springs, shocks are all the same, and like you said, there is nothing sporty about it.

    We bought it as a plain vanilla Taurus, and I think the dealer is selling it to us for that price too. The only things you can customize is the bench seat vs non-bench, how many way you can adjust the front seats, the engine (pushrod vs DOHC), and the style and size of wheels/tires.

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    Sassy, Extra Sassy

  • avatar
    pb35

    I flew to Long Island last month to attend a friends wedding. A few weeks earlier, I reserved Budget’s finest Mid-size offering. My online reservation said that I would be driving a Hyundai Sonata (or equivalent). I was disappointed to see that and ready to protest at the counter upon arrival at Islip. When the agent said “we have a Ford Taurus for you” I breathed a sigh of relief. It was actually the same exact car in the (new) picture which I promptly named “the turd.” Check the odometer, only 10k. CD player, check, sunroof, check. Leather, check. It was going to be a good 4 days. Until I turned the key, that is. Well, it was actually acceptable but everytime I saw one on the road I thought to myself, “who would actually buy one of these things?” The seats were like a leather park bench. The brake pedal went down what seemed like 3″ before the pads actually engaged. My in-laws said it looked like a company car. Needless to say, I was very happy to drop those keys down the chute on Sunday morning.

  • avatar
    maxo

    Hmm a topic I can finally speak on:

    In robocop the cops drove Tauruses. The 6000 SUX wasn’t an SUV, it was a large car that looked like it was made out of a 1987 Thunderbird. The bad guy Clarence Boddicker bought one with the money Dick Jones at OCP was sending him.

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    The 6000SUX was a rebodied mid-70s Olds Cutlass Supreme four door, or GM equivalent like the Malibu Classic or Century.

    http://www.robocoparchive.com/info/thecars.htm

  • avatar
    jerry weber

    In reading the mostly cons and some plusses on the taurus, you get the idea that some people are far more picky an demanding of their cars. It is not wrong to appeal to people who just want to get from A to B, however, these people have a penchant of not wanting to pay for what they don’t need ie luxury and quality. If Ford attempted to be their car company, they have apparently lost. You can’t make money on people who only want a “horseless carriage” and of course want it to be cheap.

  • avatar

    “I hereby declare a blanket ban on any comments that attempt to impugn this site’s authors or its commentators for an anti-domestic car bias.”

    Thank god. I’ve started bypassing the comment section of several other auto blogs because of the import vs. domestic flame wars. It’s like mentioning Toyota or GM is the same as giving the greenlight for an ignorant rant these days.

    Actually… this might be something worth researching and reporting on.

  • avatar
    jacob

    jerry weber, of course you can make money on such people. See Toyota, the ultimate transportation appliance company.

  • avatar
    Joe ShpoilShport

    It occurs to me that every car manufacturer has it’s achilles (sp?) heel. The successful ones disquise it better. I think that Ford and Toyota are a lot alike. How could they not be? Ford was at least the # 2 target once upon a time. They both make appliance type vehicles. But Toyota has been able to disquise it with getting people to look at the quality of the vehicle. Lets face it, all most of want (need?) first and foremost is being able to drive the vehicle well beyond the length of the loan to buy it. The perception that you will with a Toyota and might not with a Ford is what will sway anyone on the fence.

    Ford doesn’t have to necessarily make “better” cars than they do now. But they must do something to get buyers to look at something else. IMHO what Ford needs to do is to get us to lust after their cars again. For whatever reason. I was born and raised quite close to Ford World Headquarters It’s been there in the past. It needs to be there again.

  • avatar
    Rodney M.

    I owned a 93 Taurus GL, bought it used in 95. My wife had just graduated from nursing school so we thought we needed to update our family (such as it was) vehicle. We were delighted to be able to “steal” a car that had low miles, ABS, air bags and power accessories at such a low price ($11.9K I think it was). The first time I drove it at night I nearly peed my pants because the power window buttons lit up. It felt like luxury. I honestly thought (and still do to this day) that it was a good looking car. And the 3.8L V6 could put down the power when it was asked. Evidently I asked alot, because it needed new motor mounts a couple of times. It was a very good car for a couple of years. Then the brakes started making funny noises that continued for a number of years even though we visited the dealer many times. Also the various and numerous electrical problems began to arise and by the year 2000 (and two kids later) it was falling apart. I happily traded it away for the new zenith of parental motoring, the Dodge Grand Caravan (which is a whole other story). I loved that Taurus briefly, very briefly. But oh what a torrid affair it was. It’s just like that high school sweetheart that you remember so fondly. How beautiful she was and how you felt being around her. Fast forward 20 years and you run into her on the street. She weighs 70lbs more (5 of those in chins), looks nothing like you remember and has three bratty kids. And you stop to think, my how things have changed…

  • avatar
    jerry weber

    Jacob what I meant was that the discriminating buyers of event the smallest most fuel efficient lower price cars have left for toyota and others (who do make money on selling their cars) However, there is still after these people a bottom fisher of price cars who will wait for the annual fire sale of the big three and pick one up. He will argue the point a to b thing and money out of pocket. Toyota and their minions can’t get this guy because he won’t pay for any quality or sophistication. Further since the Japanese don’t overbuild like Detroit they don’t have to do the annual fire sale. (they will have sales, but you won’t get the deal that Detroit will give, they don’t have to). What is left from not overbuilding and heavy discounting the Japanese call profits.

  • avatar

    I enjoyed this article and the comments. Thanks Sajeev et al.
    My take on it is that bad trannies and bad engines (3.8) do not a good car make. I wonder how many people swore off Ford forever who were hit with the all-too-common double whammy failure(s).
    The Duratech was a good replacement and survives to this day across the model range. IIRC it had some Porsche input as its outset.
    Edmunds has a pretty good rundown of the model throught the years.
    http://www.edmunds.com/insideline/do/Features/articleId=46007

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    Rodney M.: that was a great story, brought a big smile to my face.

    Kurt: funny you mention it, but I once fixed up a friend’s Duratec Sable that had a rather hard 165,000 miles on it. The transmission started acting up, but I put some Lucas in, tuned-up the motor (the plugs wore down to nothing) and cleared a few engine codes. Engine is strong (thanks to me, right?) and the tranny is still limping along with a lot more Lucas in it. The older 3.8Ls (lousy gaskets) and their transaxles (lousy internals) wish they where this durable.

  • avatar
    chanman

    Depending on the model, the higher asking price for a new car is offset by the higher trade-in value – important if you’re looking at cost of ownership (as a shrewd new car buyer should).

    However, if you need a car NOW, and you don’t have a lot in your pocket at the moment, then J-bodies (Cavalier/Sunfire) start to look more and more attractive.

  • avatar
    jerry weber

    I was thinking of how to eulogize the once mighty taurus. In the end, it was Ford who said the thing is hopelessly obsolete, the badge is tarnished beyond salvation, and we don’t think we can or want to save it. Ford, not the customers made this decision. The cart is not in front of the horse, if the public stopped buying it, it was only after ford abandoned improving it. Whenever something dies, someone has to call the undertaker, in this case it was Ford.

  • avatar
    CSJohnston

    Sajeev,

    Again, a very nice article. It takes a truly open-minded guy to see the good in a Taurus!

    When I finished reading my first thought was that Ford should have kept the Taurus nameplate instead of spending a whole bunch of time and money introducing Fusion into the consumer brandscape. I think if the Taurus were owned by a Japanese manufacturer, that is what would have happened and consumers could see a much better Taurus had replaced the old one.

    On another note, Ford should keep making this Taurus and call it the Taurus F and keep it as their rental queen. The Taurus is a great used car and Ford could sell them back to dealers, who in turn would have a great piece to put used buyers into at a low price.

    I look forward to reading your reviews on the Chevy Malibu, Pontiac Grand Prix, Chrysler Sebring (current model) and Nissan Altima as they are other cars that seem built with the fleet customer in mind!

  • avatar
    dl_caldwell

    We own three cars. My car is a 98 Subaru Outback – a competent, stable, secure, reliable car with all the bells and whistles. My wife owns a 2002 Honda Accord, which is the picture of Honda perfection. However, when we have to go somewhere that takes more than a few hours or we have to pack people AND their luggage – they both sit home. In those situations we pull out our 98 Mercury Sable. It swallows luggage that chokes the other two. It’s quiet, efficient and composed on long journeys. My 8 year-old daughter complains loudly if we plan to go any distance in the other two – especially the Outback. The Sable is a veteran of three 20 hour plus drives to Florida getting 30mpg along the way. It will never score as well on any driving test as the other two. But when a long trip beckons and there is luggage to carry – the Outback and the Accord are simply not up to the job.

    It’s sad Ford canned this car. Even with the plant being shuttered and the Taurus/Sable going away they have sold 125,000 of then so far this year. Given Fords inability to move merchandise you would think they would build them as long as they could sell them. Oh well…

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    I look forward to reading your reviews on the Chevy Malibu, Pontiac Grand Prix, Chrysler Sebring (current model) and Nissan Altima as they are other cars that seem built with the fleet customer in mind!

    Sounds like I got my work cut out for me. :)

    You’re on to something: rename the Taurus the Ford TS, and sell it for $15,999 with ABS, the E85 Vulcan and no other options. Paint them all black, even the hubcaps. That’s a fleet proposition everyone can appreciate, maybe even good enough to bring back RoboCop.

  • avatar
    CSJohnston

    Sajeev,

    I think you’ve arrived at the business proposition that Henry had in mind in the first place. A car for the common man. You even remembered they should all be black. Are you seeing dead people? :)

    At $15K, the Taurus goes from a sad sack to an unbeatable value!

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    What can I say? The ruse was most transparent. :)

  • avatar
    PandaBear

    You know, I have the same worry of people who buy Hyundai Sonata. There are lots of rental out there and by the time they sell them used, it is going to drop in value in rock. Sure, it is a great car, but if you are buying it new, you will lose out a lot of you don’t keep them for 10+ years.

    Hm.. Maybe I should buy one used 2 years from now.

  • avatar
    rushmore9

    http://media.putfile.com/Conan-SHO

    A great daily driver!

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    “I call it the Ranch because this is where my 220 horses live.”

    I always thought Conan was the funniest guy on TV, but the 1992 SHO takes him over the top.

    Leno’s SHO-gun doesn’t stand a chance. LMAO

  • avatar
    TecNickal

    I’ve driven Tauruses as rental cars on and off for the past 4 years. Granted they were rentals, but everyone of them did the job it was asked (usually interstate driving). About a year ago, a 2005 SEL with leather and a moonroof from Hertz moved me to college …we couldn’t fit everything in the Accord+3 passengers. Took the trip with grace @ 29MPG and never had an issue during 400 mile trip. Much more comfortable over the uneven roads of SC and had enough pep for passing, just had to plan ahead.

    Yet, the car has changed from what Ford originally intended: To strive away from the “pack” and define the “new” American sedan, something that stood out from the crowd. Looking at it today, its the basic definition at Hertz as a “large sedan”. Still, after driving a Taurus for 6-8 hours I can understand why some people stand behind the car as one of the best sedans they have owned. Sure it may have the weaknesses as mentioned by the author, but the car was built for the highway…carrying passengers and their cargo for miles upon miles across the greater United States and Canada.

    I’m looking forward to touring the Atlanta factory actually next week… thought I’d work in a visit before they close.

    On a final note, there is actually a club of people out on the internet that have an interest in modifying, discussing, and repairing the Taurus (Sable and SHO as well). The Taurus Car Club of America http://www.taurusclub.com . Great group of folks over there as well a wealth of information

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    I’ll vouch for that club. While researching, I found their Taurus encyclopedia puts fansites of more expensive/exclusive/snobby cars to shame.

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    You are not gonna believe this tribute video I found on YouTube:Taurus tribute

    Taurus/Sable fans are pretty damn hardcore.

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus

    Well, for a website who’s name implies that few, if any, mistakes are contained within, you guys sure are full of ‘em. First of all, the Taurus was not introduced as an ’85, but as a 1986 model, therefor RoboCop didnt drive an ” ’85 Taurus”. He might have driven one built in the calender year of 1985, but if I have to explain to you guys how all cars labled one model year cannot possibly be built in that calender year, well that’ll take more time than I’m willing to invest.

    Second of all, the oval design most of you speak of was in model years 1996-1999. The 2000 model was the redesign, and although a remarkable improvement, I cant help but call it “the year of the rental” because thats the year I feel that Ford (and the Taurus in effect) stopped trying to be different and just tried to fit in (or behind) everybody else. Accord and Camry have the blandmobile market covered, so sales of the Taurus slowly trickled off.

    Lastly, yes Ford did offer a manual transmission before the SHO model, it was a 4cyl car (2.5L based off the 2.3L Tempo engine, itself based off the old 1960s I6). The MT-5 was avalable as a sedan or wagon, and had some performance options standard (center console, nicer bucket seats, tachometer, etc). Know why you dont remember it? Because no body bought it! Well, comparitivly speaking of course. It was clear that when most people signed on the dotted line for their new Taurus, they wanted a V6 and autoshifter under the hood.

    To complain about the Taurus’ handeling clearly reveals that its been quite some time since any of you have driven a Dodge Dynasty, Chevy Lumina, or even a Chevy Impala. These are the cars from the Taurus’ era. Just because Taurus out-lasted most of them in the market place doesnt mean they should be discounted. They were the “benchmark” until Taurus came along. I had a 1996 Chrysler Concorde LXi which was probably the closest thing this side of a Contour that matched the Taurus for its rigid chasis and controlled body motions. The Taurus is not a sports car (at least not after the SHO died…its your fault, buying public, you wanted slow, ill-handeling versions and spoke with your pocket books).

    Now to the personal testimonials. That ’96 Concorde? I spent over $3,000 in less than one year in repairs. The return on my investment? A thrown rod and a slipping tranny. I also have a 1993 Ford Taurus (the Concorde was supposed to replace it) with the 3.0L Vulcan. It is now closing in on 270,000 miles. The word “reliable” does not even begin to describe this car. Taurus does not have a soul? Try spending THAT much time with one (instead of two days out of a rental lot after some teenager has beaten the snot out of it) and you’ll think differently. I owe that car money! I would like to sell the Chrysler and use the money to repair some minor things that need attention on the Taurus (struts, etc). Unfortunantly, the highest offer I got from local junkyards for the Concorde (in otherwise showroom condition, fully loaded with every possible option) is $40.

    I wish Ford luck on the Fusion, it looks promising. But I have a feeling this 1993 Taurus and I going to be spending even more time together. I wouldnt trade it for a fleet of Camrys, Accords, Intrepids or Lucerns.

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus

    This Friday, the last Ford Taurus will be built in Atlanta. If any of you were interested in buying the very last one, sorry, its spoken for. The founder of Chick-fil-la (sp?) resterants (which got started in Hapeville right next to the Ford plant, its owner giving Ford credit to his success) has requested it, and Ford agreed. They will give it to him right after the plant closes on Friday.

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    Yes, its over now.

    The Bull is Dead.

    Long live the Bull.

  • avatar
    mechaman

    Just stumbled on this site – there must be some synchronicity here, because I own an ’03 Taurus. White. So you know I see myself coming and going. However, I am unable to find all the flaws that are supposed to be in this car. You don’t think I got a ringer, now do ya?

    The styling criticism is valid, of course — I would have liked Ford to nip from the GT/GT40 for cues, simply because that car gives me a hard-on that Beyonce couldn’t cause. If Ford had followed the path that Toyota did with their Cthulhu — er, I mean Camry, that would have made me run in the opposite direction. Clipping the ends of the front grille ‘oval’ in the latest model was a good touch, but I wonder why no one had the courage to do more? Did the Bean counters say no to more styling costs? As far as performance is concerned, I won’t be outdragging any Vettes, but it’s pretty good on getting a move on while not guzzling petrol. My only complaint is the interior — fit and finish is pretty good, with only a couple ugly gaps that someone in corporate should have seen; no excuse for ‘em, but it’s so DULL! Even some fake woodgrain would be nice on the dash.

    The sound system is a LOT better than I expected; I even put off my usual speaker upgrade that I do when I buy any car, because the stockers are that good–and I guess the seating depends on how you’re built, but I have to be careful that I don’t get TOO comfortable on long drives. As opposed to my last car, I don’t feel as if John Cena has been slamming me on the mat for an hour. If only Ford had at least kept up with the competition …

  • avatar
    NickR

    Ah yes, the Taurus. Proving that Ford never saw a success it couldn’t eventually turn to failure.

    I agree with all the praises and criticism in this article. I was in sales when the Taurus was launched, and compared to the plywood Dynasty and the stolid but mundane Cutlass Ciera’s we had, it was a breath of fresh air. It was no wonder it eventually reached the top of the sales charts. I know two people with Tauruses or Sables today; the cars longevity and relatively cheap parts and repairs are perfect matches for the people that bought them. If Ford had invested a fraction of the money they blew on Jaguar in updating the Taurus it could still be marching along, providing a steady stream of revenue. Instead, we got the Five (nods off) Hundred.

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    Well the Taurus is back, as of today! Too bad it looks much too much like the Ford Five Hundred.

  • avatar
    mechaman

    Considering the drubbing Ford got for the ‘ovoid’ series of Tauri, perhaps someone said, ‘back off the wild stuff’. Well, at least this new Taurus/500 has a better grille. And I still contend that if the 500 had come out of Germany, a lot of auto press would have called it’s styling ‘clean, uncluttered’. Yeah, you can accuse Ford of being too conservative with the 500, but I’ve yet to meet an owner who hated the car. At least it doesn’t look like the Cthulu, er, I mean, Camry. Maybe that ex-Boeing guy is really gonna shake Ford up …

  • avatar
    turboman

    I’ve had several Taurus cars, and have had generally good experiences.

    The first one was a 1986 Taurus MT5, that’s right, the one with the 4cyl/5peed. Nice buckets and console, no power but great mileage. Bought used in 1999 for $800, I drove it for a year and it wound up with well over 100k on it. I sold it and got my money back. Not bad.

    Then I bought a 1991 Wagon w60k miles with the 3.8 from the original owner. The head gaskets had already been done at 50k, and the trans seemd ok. Put 30k on it in a little over a year, the trans sometimes acted ‘funny’, but I wrecked it before it failed and it wound up in the boneyard.

    Then I bought a 1993 Wagon from the original owner with the 3.0 Vulcan and 120K. Cost $1800. Drove it for 2 years until 180k miles. Repair bills over that period not that bad considering how little I paid for the car. Sold it to a friend and he’s still driving it 3 years later.

    Then I bought a 2000 Wagon with the Duratec and leather. Nice car. Paid $5750 for that one in 2004 with 78k on it, drove it up to 190k in 3 years, sold it for about half what I paid. Repair bills not too bad on that one either.
    See a pattern here?

    Last month I bought a 2003 Wagon with the Duratec, no leather, with 84k on it for $6100. I love these late model cars for so little money. I’m gonna push this one to 200k, hopefully.

    I need a wagon becaus e I’m a drummer in addition to my day job in I.T.

    I love these cars, the 2003 seems to be the best yet – rides very nice and still tight at 86k.

    By the way, my wife drives a Lexus GS300, I’ve had several Mercedes (I now HATE those cars since they cost me so much to fix), I used to build race cars in the 60′s and 70′s, went thru an italian car phase with Alfas and Fiats and Lancias etc.

    American cars are safe and reliable for the most part, cheap to fix and can be worked on anywhere in the country.

    Buy’em used boys, when they’re cheap…


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