Ford Taurus (Redux) Vs. Chevrolet Impala (Redo)

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
ford taurus redux vs chevrolet impala redo

Back in '89, the Chevrolet Lumina arrived to take on America's sweetheart: the Ford Taurus. The swoopy-shaped FoMoCo four-door kicked the Lumina's butt seven ways to Sunday. The Taurus continued to crush The Official Car of Disney World– until Dearborn's astrological automobile hit the skids, knocked off its perch by Toyota's handiwork. The Taurus slid into fleet-only sales, replaced by the lackluster Five Hundred. Meanwhile, Chevy replaced the Lumina with the Impala and walked away from the full-sized Ford. And now Ford's back with the resuscitated Ford Taurus. Gentlemen, Ford or Chevy? Place your bets!

Introducing, in the Bow Tie corner, a genuine best seller! For real!. At the turn of the last century, Chevy took the dubya-bodied Lumina, haphazardly re-skinned it and slapped the famous Impala logo on the grille. Seven years later, after a few tweaks and a cleaner profile, the Impala has become GM's best selling passenger car (fleet sales notwithstanding). Year-to-date to June, The General's sold some 144,451 Impalas.

Though it never grabbed headlines like the so fresh, so clean Chrysler 300, the wrong-wheel drive Impala quietly raked in the greenbacks for a cash-deprived General Motors. And if you (conveniently) overlook the acres of American-made Camcords, the Lumina-cum-Impala is still the best selling domestic car on the market. It's even had a bit of a bounce of late, as Chevy-loyal SUV refugees succumb to the Impala's frugal and capacious charms.

Once you jettison the "parking lots filled with refrigerator-white fleet bodies" slam to the base unit and drop the "torque steer monster" insults to the SS variant, the Chevrolet Impala emerges as one of the most popular full-size sedans. And why not? Forget the dull styling, lousy road manners and crude materials, and you'll find a comfy ride with several trim levels sporting mad value-added skills. Like, awesome.

And now, presenting, in the blue corner, the fairly competent but totally uncool Ford Five Hundred! Bred from a meticulously cost-engineered, well-aged Volvo platform, wearing the most generic lines this side of a Levittown township, sporting a boring name and cursed with an overburdened powertrain and a silly-ass transmission, the five bills Ford designed to restore luster to The Blue Oval didn't.

The Five Hundred has rarely sold over 10k units a month. Considering the startup costs of a new platform and a thoroughly modernized Chi-town facility, that's gotta hurt. Months after launch, production was lowered to meet demand. Sales in 2006 barely crested 84k, some 70 percent below the Impala's sales for the same period.

So while Ford struggles, GM's laughing all the way to the bank; their sedan from the Tone Lōc school of thought is a money-making sleeper. Yes but– the Impala ain't no beancounted wild thang. The W-body is primed to get knocked off its high horse. Cue the Rocky training sequence, as the Five Hundred pumps iron to become… the fifth generation Taurus!

The pride of FoMoCo's Chicago plant is ready with a dollop of new sheetmetal, a Volvo-bashing marketing strategy (America's safest car!), a larger and more refined Duratec six-banger and one unforgettable name. All of the Five Hundred's shortcomings are addressed (if not entirely cured) in the mildly updated, mildly appealing 2008 Ford Taurus.

Ford's bullish about the model's brand heritage, but there are plenty who hate the Taurus. Memories of exploding head gaskets and grenaded transaxles fade slowly. Some go the other way: SHO-ing the sedan some love for the design revelation that saved Ford's bacon. Odds are most Americans recognize the name and will listen to Dearborn's elevator-pitch before making up their minds.

Truth to tell, there's not much chance that the Five Hundred redux will take the market by storm. Still, The Glass House Gang deserves some credit for finally realizing that constant evolution is the way Fordward- even if the move was motivated more by financial constraints than strategic sagacity.

Anyway, how could the Taurus not improve Ford's sales disparity with the Impala? Put another way, Ford has a two out three shot of making a bigger score with the Five Hundred's replacement just by name alone. Look out Impala: the Ford vs. Chevy battle is about to begin, again.

Unfortunately, this match is not likely to be as well-attended as the epic battles of days gone by. Years of customer indifference to half-assed redesigns and the smell of fleet sales spirit (not to mention the constant action over at Toyota, Honda, Hyundai, Kia and Nissan) have emptied the stands.

Both Ford and Chevrolet will have to work a lot harder to recapture the public imagination. How about a title bout between a full-fledged rear-wheel motivated Impala and a sharp-looking, smooth-riding, Mustang-based Ford Galaxie?

For now, both combatants are losers, desperately clawing for respect among those who currently start (and finish) their sedan search at their local transplant dealer. Ford vs. Chevy. Someone will win, but does anyone really care?

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  • Armadamaster Armadamaster on Jul 06, 2007

    "Ford would probably have better chances if they would wrap the 427 concept sheetmetal over their Panther platform, add a slightly better tuned v8 (after all, they squeezed 300 horses out of the same engine for the Marauder, so we know it can be done)" Indeed. "Ford wins on getting the point. GM wins on keeping GM buyers buying GM. They both lose because both Ford and GM are still bringing a NERF bat to a knife fight. " LOL! "Could someone make sense of this for me. Wouldn’t Rear Wheel drive make sense for both of these guys? Some designs from down under for GM. Hummm maybe this is the vehicle to introduce Holdens new mount. And Ford, you guys know how to do the RWD IRS thing pretty well. Or maybe AWD for both. " American RWD iron is one of the last niche markets the domestics still have or could have a deathgrip of like fullsize trucks. Unfortunately, for years they've chosen to build essentially imitation Japanese FWD cars which are exactly what these are perceived as. Ford is the only one who has continued to make a fullsize traditional American sedan but has allowed it to wither on the vine and now dumped it in favor of Taurus. Chrysler woke up and realized this and has been selling LX platforms like hotcakes love it or hate it since 2005. GM cashed in the 1996 Impala nameplate slapping it on a reskinned Lumina and have milked it just about dry. I'm not saying the domestics should try and compete in this market, but do it with a Malibu, and an actual MID-sized Taurus. The Panthers already have everything that Ford is desperately trying to SELL to consumers with advertising, ecomony, safety, ride, durability, but they just don't want to sell them.

  • Happyme Happyme on Jan 21, 2008

    Hmmm....what was the point of the article- buy japanese? there was no comparison between the two badges! look around..japanese quality is below what it was. i love my impala. zero defects in 40,000 miles. had a ford once - they still make a lousy transmission.

  • Leonard Ostrander Pet peeve: Drivers who swerve to the left to make a right turn and vice versa. They take up as much space as possible for as long as possible as though they're driving trailer trucks or school busses. It's a Kia people, not a Kenworth! Oh, and use your turn signals if you ever figure out where you're going.
  • Master Baiter This is horrible. Delaying this ban will raise the Earth's temperature by 0.00000001°C in the year 2100.
  • Alan Buy a Skoda Superb.
  • Alan In Australia only hairdressers would buy this Monaro as its known as. Real men had 4 door sedans and well hung men drive 4x4 dual cab utes with bullbars and towbars. I personally think this is butt ugly. Later iterations of the Commodore were far better looking.
  • Jeff As a few commenters on prior articles on this site about the UAW strike mentioned many of the lower tiered suppliers could go bankrupt and some could possibly go out of business if the strike is prolonged. Decades ago Ford and GM owned many of their own suppliers but as we all know over the years manufacturers have been outsourcing more parts and with just in time supply there is little room for any interruptions to production including strikes, natural disasters, and anything unforeseen that could happen. When the strike ends there will be delays in production due to parts shortages. It costs suppliers money to just keep making parts and stockpiling them especially when many parts have razor thin profit margins.