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2008 Ford Taurus: So Dull We Almost Forgot How Innovative it Actually is

I almost have to feel sorry for the “new” Ford Taurus. It’s actually a really innovative, clever, and compelling sedan, but it’s clad in a wrapper that’s so dull and forgettable that I actually had to sit and think hard to remember my drive experience with the car so that I would have something meaningful to say for this story!


The 2008 Ford Taurus. What, did you forget it exists?

Considering just how dreary it looks, the car has a pretty interesting and convoluted pedigree. Let’s start with the Taurus nameplate. Introduced for the 1986 model year, the original Taurus was nothing short of revolutionary. Its radical styling was unlike anything ever seen on American roads, yet the beauty and cohesiveness of its design and proportions made it a must-have all across the country. It soon went on to become America’s best selling car. Unfortunately for the car, the popularity of trucks and SUVs in the ‘90s and much of this decade led Ford to ignore Taurus, and this once-proud symbol of what the American auto industry was capable of became nothing more than default rental fleet fodder.


The original Taurus was truly groundbreaking stuff in 1986

Since the Taurus had essentially become a rental and government fleet car, Ford tapped its resources at Volvo to create a new large sedan for retail customers. The result was the 2005 Five Hundred. It was based on Volvo’s P2X platform that underpinned the S60, V70, S80, and XC90. Unfortunately, potential customers had no idea what a Five Hundred was, and its forgettable styling and weak powertrains ensured that sales languished.
For 2008, Ford decided to rename the car Taurus in the hopes that reverting to the iconic name would reverse the car’s fortunes. Along with the resurrected name, the car also got a new 3.5L V6 and 6-speed automatic to address complaints about the weak 3.0L V6 that the Five Hundred originally launched with. It also got a 3-bar grille to tie it stylistically with the rest of the Ford car and crossover lineup.

The “new” Taurus is little changed from the Five Hundred

So now that we’ve got the car’s seriously convoluted pedigree out of the way, what do we have to say after living with the car for a week? Well, let’s start off with the car’s one true unique selling point: it’s interior package. We often think of crossovers as SUVs with car-like attributes. The Taurus is the exact opposite: it’s a car with SUV-like attributes. The car is tremendously tall; it towers over almost any sedan it’s parked next to. We would submit that the Taurus is most definitely a crossover, at least in a literal sense.
What’s the advantage of a tall, SUV-like sedan? Plenty, actually. Getting in and out of the car is just so easy since the floor is low and the seats and roof are high off the ground; you literally walk into this sedan. The high seats afford a very comfortable and chair-like seating position, as well as providing a high, SUV-like view of the road ahead. Because of the chair-like seating, rear passengers are treated to one of the most cavernous back seats in recent memory; the fact that the high seating results in legs hanging down vertically from the seat cushions (rather than splayed out forwards as in most other sedans) means that there is much more usable legroom than the norm.

SUV-inspired interior package means great access and chair-like seating

There’s even some SUV-like flexibility in the interior. Not only does the back seat fold down, as might be expected, but the front passenger seat folds flat too. My 9’6” longboard fit in the Taurus with ease. Quite simply, in terms of interior packaging, this really might represent one of the most innovative and comfortable on the market.

Fold-flat front seat allows long items to be carried with ease

Unfortunately, for all of its innovation, one would still never know there’s anything special about the Taurus because of its still-anonymous styling. On the outside, it’s just so dull and forgettable despite the flashy new grille and revised tail lamps. Inside, it all looks just so old school with unimaginative shapes and particularly unconvincing plastic fake wood trim.

Old-school styling inside belies the innovative use of space inside

It drives old school too. Yes, acceleration is much improved with the new 263HP 3.5L V6 (the Five Hundred had a weedy 201HP from its 3.0L V6). However, the suspension is so soft in both springing and damping that it recalls those land yachts from the ‘70s. Over some surfaces, it’s enough to make you carsick. Combining this softness with crossover-like height means that the car leans like an SUV in turns. The steering is also particularly slow; even mild corners require lots of arm-twirling. It’s one of the least-fun cars we’ve driven in a long time; the Buick Lucerne that we had at the same time was infinitely more entertaining to drive! And that’s a friggin’ Buick!
We think that a sedan with a similar crossover-like interior package combined with desirable styling and better drive dynamics would be a winner. Fortunately, we know for a fact that the next Taurus, due for the 2010 model year, will get at least two out of those three right. It will be based on the same basic mechanicals as the current car, which means that it should retain the amazing interior package. Leaked photos of the next Taurus’ exterior suggest much more emotion and passion in the styling. If Ford ensures that it’s enjoyable to drive too, we think that the next Taurus will have the goods to live up to its original namesake.

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