- Top crash test scores
- Long list of standard features and cutting-edge options
- Handsome and quiet cabin
- Humongous trunk
- Comfortable ride
- Available all-wheel drive
- Cabin can feel confining
- Deep-set gauges can be hard to read
- SHO model's steep price tag
Whether it's actors or athletes, everybody loves a good comeback story. When it was introduced in 1986, the original Taurus helped revolutionize the midsize family sedan segment. But then years of neglect caused the Taurus' star to dim. Now a comeback is in order, as Ford redesigned the Taurus just last year to make buyers take notice once again.
The 2011 Ford Taurus continues to be a full-size sedan, leaving the midsize category to the Fusion. Its styling is hardly the revolutionary concept that the original Taurus was, but it's nevertheless attractive and more interesting than the previous model. On the inside you'll find a handsome design and top-quality materials. Perhaps most appealing is the generous passenger room and a trunk that's bigger than nearly everything else on the market.
While the Taurus makes for a comfortable family vehicle, those looking for some extra muscle can consider the SHO version. Powered by a twin-turbo V6 known as the EcoBoost, this engine sends 365 horsepower to all four wheels, yet returns the same fuel economy as the normally aspirated 263-hp V6. The SHO is a worthy competitor to Chrysler's Hemi V8-powered 300C and Lincoln's MKS, but given its hefty price, you'd be wise to check out luxury sport sedans as well.
As for the more common regular Taurus, it competes with both full-size family sedans and entry-level luxury cars depending on trim level. Base models compare favorably with the 2011 Honda Accord, 2011 Hyundai Azera and 2011 Toyota Avalon, but the top-of-the-line Limited doesn't strike us as a particularly good bargain when pitted against the more luxurious and refined 2011 Hyundai Genesis.
Even so, we still think pretty highly of the 2011 Ford Taurus. Other than a couple interior design missteps and the SHO variant's hefty price, the Taurus is largely vice-free. With its roomy, comfortable interior and full complement of cutting-edge convenience and safety features, the new Taurus looks to be an American nameplate poised to make a dramatic comeback.
WHAT'S NEW FOR 2011
Only minor equipment changes are in store for the 2011 Ford Taurus. The Limited and SHO models gain a standard rearview camera, while Syncequipped models receive a complimentary three-year subscription to the new Traffic, Directions and Information service. The optional navigation system now includes HD radio capability.
TRIMS & EQUIPMENT
The 2011 Ford Taurus is a full-size sedan that seats five people. It is available in SE, SEL, Limited and SHO trim levels. Standard equipment on the SE includes 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, keyless entry with an access keypad, cruise control, a six-way power driver seat (manual recline), a 60/40-split-folding rear seat, a tilt-and-telescoping steering column, steering-wheel audio controls and a six-speaker stereo with CD/MP3 player and an auxiliary audio jack.
The SEL adds 18-inch wheels, automatic transmission paddle shifters, heated mirrors, dual-zone automatic climate control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, upgraded cloth upholstery, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and satellite radio. Options on the SEL include 19-inch wheels, rear parking sensors, a rearview camera, a power passenger seat, ambient lighting, leather upholstery and the hands-free Sync system, which allows you to control compatible cell phones and MP3 players with simple voice commands. All Sync-equipped models also get a complimentary three-year subscription to the new Traffic, Directions and Information service.
These items are standard on the Taurus Limited, which also gets eight-way power front seats with power lumbar and driver memory functions, a wood-trimmed steering wheel and an upgraded stereo with a six-disc CD/MP3 player.
The Taurus SHO adds a more powerful engine, a sport-tuned suspension, xenon headlamps, an auto-dimming exterior driver mirror (optional on Limited), a rear spoiler, keyless ignition/entry (optional on SEL and Limited), upgraded leather upholstery and faux-suede upholstery inserts. The SHO Performance package adds performance brake pads, recalibrated steering, a different final-drive ratio, stability control defeat, summer tires and 20-inch wheels. Those wheels are also a stand-alone option.
The SEL can be optioned with heated front seats, while the Limited and SHO can be equipped with a blind-spot warning system, automatic wipers, automatic high beams, keyless ignition/entry, adaptive cruise control, heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats, power rear window shade and a navigation system with voice controls, touchscreen, Sirius Travel Link (real-time traffic, weather and other information), a single-CD player, DVD audio and digital music storage. All Taurus models but the base SE can be optioned with a sunroof, "multicontour" seats with active bolsters and a 12-speaker Sony sound system.
INTERIOR & SAFETY
Inside, the 2011 Ford Taurus offers a cabin that's surprisingly upscale, though some hard plastics on the center console detract from this effect. The interior also gets high marks for comfort, especially the adult-friendly backseat. The rear seatbacks can also be folded down for rare occasions where the cavernous trunk's 20.1 cubic feet of cargo room isn't sufficient. Unfortunately, the car's high beltline, thick pillars and tall center console can make the cabin seem a bit confining.
The Taurus' control layout is quite functional overall, despite the abundance of buttons for the climate control and audio systems, and the deep-set gauges that can be hard to read. Models equipped with the Sync system allow the driver to access a wide variety of functions on their compatible cell phone or MP3 player with voice commands, all without ever taking their eyes off the road or hands off the steering wheel. The three-year complimentary subscription to Sync's new Traffic, Directions and Information service also allows the driver to call up info ranging from real-time traffic reports to personalized info like news headlines and sports scores the same way.
Every 2011 Ford Taurus comes standard with antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, front side airbags and side curtain airbags. Optional safety features include a blind-spot warning system, pre-collision warning system, a cross-traffic warning system (when reversing) and rear parking sensors. A rearview camera is standard on Limited and SHO models and optional on the SEL.
In the government's new, more strenuous crash testing for 2011, the Taurus earned an overall rating of four stars out of a possible five, with four stars for overall frontal crash protection and five stars for overall side crash protection.It also got the best rating of "Good" in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's frontal-offset, side and roof strength tests.
PERFORMANCE & HANDLING
The 2011 Taurus is powered by a standard 3.5-liter V6 engine that produces 263 hp and 249 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard. On all trims except the SE, the transmission features manual shift control and downshift rev-matching capability. Front-wheel drive is standard with this engine and all-wheel drive is available on SEL and Limited trim levels. Fuel economy with front-wheel drive is an EPA-estimated 18 mpg city/28 mpg highway and 22 mpg combined. All-wheel drive drops it to 17/25/20.
The Taurus SHO features a 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged V6 making 365 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed automatic with shift paddles is standard. Every SHO is all-wheel drive. Despite its impressive output, estimated fuel economy is the same as the regular all-wheel-drive Taurus.
Whether cruising down the interstate or battling cross-town traffic on surface streets, the 2011 Ford Taurus remains unexpectedly quiet thanks to fine-tuned aerodynamics and strategically placed sound insulation. Ride quality is equally good, even with the SHO model's stiffer suspension. Handling feels stable and secure, though the lack of steering feel and its substantial proportions keep the car from feeling particularly sporty even in SHO trim.
The standard V6 engine provides decent acceleration for everyday driving. Pony up for the turbocharged Taurus SHO and you'll get significantly more oomph without a drop in fuel economy.
With its roomy, comfortable interior and large trunk, the 2011 Ford Taurus is an appealing reinvention of the classic full-size American sedan.