Car reviews - Ford - Taurus - Ghia sedan
Comfort, equipment levels, V6 engine's relative smoothness, ride quality
Room for improvement
Awkward styling, iffy US quality, so-so dynamics
25 Jul 2003
THE slow-selling, American-made Ford Taurus - discontinued in October, 1998, after only two-and-a-half years on sale here - was not always a loser.
Rewind to 1985. Ford in the US gambled its future on the bold MK1 Taurus, and won. It pulled Ford out of debt, became America's best-selling car and influenced a generation of rival American cars as well as the pretty 1988 EA Falcon.
Then came the radical 1996 Taurus MK2. Under pressure from the US, Ford Australia almost replaced the local Falcon with this car until the AU Falcon proposal narrowly beat it.
Australia received the MK2 Taurus anyway but only as the top-line Taurus Ghia in March, 1996. Far from Ford's bullish forecast of 5000 Taurus sales annually, only 4020 cars were sold here.
The controversial design, high prices and fierce competition in the $45,000 bracket kept buyers away.
Then there was the Taurus's in-house Fairmont Ghia rival, which was perhaps its deadliest.
The ovoid Taurus is Falcon-sized even if the tightly wrapped body and tapered ends make it appear smaller.
Unfortunately, they also steal space inside - especially rear headroom - compared to the Fairmont.
Adults may find space a little tight across the back seat while the boot is long but shallow, although the split/fold rear seat increases versatility. Otherwise the cabin is roomy.
The seats are well shaped, supportive and with adequate adjustment for a comfortable driving environment.
Lavish equipment levels mean the Ghia tag is deserved with a six-stack CD player and leather trim the only major options.
The quality of the materials has proved hard-wearing, though not very classy.
Similar dimensions to the Fairmont aside, the Taurus may as well be from another planet.
The blobby styling theme continues inside. The dashboard features a football-shaped console scattered with small buttons. But familiarisation comes quickly and the ergonomics are sound.
The 3.0-litre "Duratec" V6 is as modern as the Falcon's low-tech engine is old-fashioned. Producing 149kW, it does not lack power but is short of bottom-end torque. The 272Nm of torque occurs too high up the rev range (4500rpm) for instant overtaking response or carefree towing capability. Nevertheless, the smooth V6 mates well with the four- speed automatic transmission. Once wound-out, the Taurus is a gutsy highway cruiser, reflecting its American origins.
Impressive fuel economy is a Taurus strength as are low noise levels. The ride, though a little firm over smaller bumps, is smooth and well controlled.
Typical of a big front-wheel drive car, the Taurus needs plenty of steering input around corners.
The steering itself is well weighted and communicative and roadholding is good.
Ford claims the engine does not require a tune up for the first 100,000km - with the regular 10,000km fluid and filter changes - thanks to the on-board computer diagnostics.
MK2 Taurus sales topped one million in the US and it has a good reliability record. Only one recall - early cars need a part in the transmission's Park mechanism replaced because it may not keep the car from rolling - has been issued.
The original General AmeriStar tyres were unanimously criticised for squealing in the dry and not gripping in the wet. Better quality tyres improve dynamics considerably.
The Taurus makes an excellent - if offbeat - used family car.
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