- 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
- Mediocre braking distances
- Deep-set gauges can be hard to read
- SHO model's steep price tag
Back in 2005 when it was called the Ford 500, today's Ford Taurus grew dramatically larger, leaving the midsize category to the Ford Fusion. And that's why the Taurus today is a bit of a niche player in the market compared to the segment-busting of the 1980s that once was the most popular car in America.
Despite its fall from the top of the sales charts, the 2012 Ford Taurus is appealing. Its primary asset lies in the roomy backseat and cavernous trunk. An extensive list of cutting-edge convenience and safety features doesn't hurt either. Aside from a minor face-lift, the Taurus returns largely unchanged for 2012.
If the regular Taurus seems a little too tame for your tastes, you may want to consider the distinctly more exciting 365-horsepower all-wheel-drive Taurus SHO model. The SHO is a decent alternative to other muscular sedans like the V8-powered versions of the Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger, while returning better fuel economy. In fact, the Taurus SHO is just as efficient as the regular Taurus. But at the same time, the SHO's hefty price tag puts it in the same category as luxury sport sedans like the Cadillac CTS and Infiniti G37.
Realistically, it's the regular 2012 Ford Taurus you're likely interested in. When pitted against other full-size sedans like the 300, Dodge Charger, Hyundai Genesis, Toyota Avalon and Volkswagen Passat, some of the Taurus' drawbacks begin to emerge. Most notably, the Taurus just feels bigger than it really should, something that comes about from the confining cabin design, tepid base engine and lack of rear visibility. Overall, we think the Taurus deserves a look, but we would recommend checking out the competition before committing.
WHAT'S NEW FOR 2012
Other than freshened styling, the 2012 Ford Taurus is unchanged.
TRIMS & EQUIPMENT
The 2012 Ford Taurus is a full-size five-passenger sedan offered in SE, SEL, Limited and SHO trim levels.
Standard equipment on the entry-level SE includes 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, integrated blind spot mirrors, keyless entry with an exterior access keypad, cruise control, air-conditioning, a six-way power driver seat (manual recline), a 60/40-split-folding rear seat, trip computer, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and a six-speaker sound system with CD player and an auxiliary audio jack. The Sync voice-activated electronics interface with Bluetooth and iPod connectivity is optional.
The SEL adds 18-inch wheels, steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters, heated mirrors, dual-zone automatic climate control, upgraded cloth upholstery, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a compass, an outside temperature display and satellite radio. Options on the SEL include 19-inch wheels, rear parking sensors, a rearview camera, leather upholstery (packaged with heated front seats and a six-way power passenger seat), ambient interior lighting and Sync.
All the above items are standard on the Taurus Limited, along with perforated leather upholstery, eight-way power front seats with power lumbar and driver seat memory functions, a wood-trimmed steering wheel and a seven-speaker upgraded stereo with a six-CD player.
The Taurus SHO adds a more powerful V6 engine, a sport-tuned suspension, different steering, xenon headlights, an auto-dimming driver side mirror, a rear spoiler, special styling flourishes inside and out, keyless entry/ignition (optional on SEL and Limited) and unique leather upholstery with faux-suede inserts. The optional 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.
Options on all but the base SE include a sunroof, power-adjustable pedals, a 12-speaker Sony premium audio system, and "multicontour" front seats with active bolsters and massage. Options on the Limited and SHO include a blind-spot warning system, automatic high beams and rain-sensing wipers (packaged together), heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats, a power rear window shade, adaptive cruise control, and a navigation system with a touchscreen interface, voice controls, Sirius Travel Link service (real-time traffic, weather and other information), a single-CD player, DVD audio and digital music storage.
INTERIOR & SAFETY
The 2012 Ford Taurus offers a classy passenger cabin, though the use of hard plastics in a few places detracts a bit from the overall upscale feel. Door panels are convincingly textured to look like stitched leather, but are hard to the touch. At least the interior is comfortable, especially with the optional high-tech "multicontour" front seats with built-in massage. The backseat offers generous head- and legroom even for good-sized adults. At 20.1 cubic feet, the trunk is one of the largest you'll find on any sedan. Fold down the rear seats and the Taurus offers up even more space.
On the downside, the car's rising beltline, thick roof pillars and tall center console can make the interior feel confining despite its large size. Other issues include deep-set gauges that can be hard to read and the dashboard's large and somewhat confusing assortment of buttons and knobs. Like most other Fords, the Taurus can be equipped with the useful Sync system, which connects cell phones and portable music players into the car's electronic interface that includes voice commands.
Every 2012 Ford Taurus comes standard with antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, front-seat side-impact airbags, side-curtain airbags and integrated blind spot mirrors. A rearview camera and rear parking sensors are standard on Limited and SHO models and optional on the SEL. Optional on the Limited and SHO are a pre-collision warning system (included with adaptive cruise control) and a blind-spot warning system bundled with a cross-traffic warning system, which warns you of approaching cars or pedestrians when backing up.
In government crash tests, the Taurus earned an overall rating of four stars out of a possible five, with four stars for frontal crash protection and five stars for 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.
In Edmunds brake testing, a Taurus with 19-inch wheels came to a stop from 60 mph in a longer-than-average 131 feet. Even with summer tires and 20-inch wheels, the SHO was only able to manage 127 feet -- a long distance for a performance-oriented sedan.
PERFORMANCE & HANDLING
The 2012 Taurus is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 engine that produces 263 hp and 249 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive are standard, while all-wheel drive is available as an option on SEL and Limited models. In Edmunds performance testing, a front-drive Taurus went from zero to 60 mph in 7.8 seconds -- a tad slow for the class. Fuel economy with front-wheel drive is an EPA-estimated 18 mpg city/28 mpg highway and 22 mpg combined. All-wheel drive drops those numbers to 17/25/20.
The Taurus SHO gets a 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged V6 (dubbed "EcoBoost") that makes 365 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed automatic with shift paddles is standard, as is all-wheel drive. In Edmunds performance testing, the Taurus SHO went from zero to 60 mph in a quick 5.8 seconds. Despite this engine's impressive performance, EPA fuel economy estimates are the same as the regular all-wheel-drive Taurus.
On the road, the 2012 Ford Taurus offers confident handling and a comfortable ride quality. The firmer sport-tuned suspension underpinning the SHO model sharpens up the handling noticeably. However, there's no hiding the Taurus' hefty weight and grand dimensions.
The SHO's twin-turbo V6 offers acceleration that falls just short of its V8-powered competitors from Chrysler and Dodge, but it returns fuel economy that puts them to shame. Even so, we think most folks will be just as happy driving any of the three models powered by the standard V6 and pocketing the substantial price difference.
With its comfortable interior and large trunk, the 2012 Ford Taurus is an appealing reinvention of the classic full-size American sedan.