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The Taurus has gone through a few external design incarnations since its introduction, but its interior has remained practical and spacious.

2000 Ford Taurus Road Test
One for the generations

By Bill Roebuck

It was way back in 1983 when I first read about the forthcoming, all-new Ford Taurus, which was to be launched in the fall of 1985 as a 1986 model. Production and quality glitches delayed its introduction until after the new year, but I ordered the 1986 station wagon as soon as I could, figuring Ford must have gotten all the problems solved by then. I remember I liked the handling -- stiffer and more European than other North American cars available at the time -- and the fold-away third-row seats.

That first model year proved to be a bad one -- this Taurus was one of the most troublesome cars I'd ever driven, surpassed only by a 1963 MGB I'd owned earlier. But I still liked the design and replaced it with a 1991 -- another wagon -- which proved to be pretty reliable. Same again with a 1994 model. I skipped the next generation, Ford's 1996 ovoid redesign. Turns out I wasn't alone -- the look of that version made the one-time best seller almost disappear off the monthly sales reports issued by the company.

With another revamping for the 2000 model year, Taurus designers have backtracked and come up with a fine-looking vehicle. The oval windows and shapes are gone from the sedan, the front hood now scoops low -- looking Neon-like -- and the rear is nicely sculpted with large, Crown Victoria-type tail lamps. However, the 2000 wagon is identical to its predecessor from the A-pillar back. Passenger capacity in the wagon can be as many as eight with its rear-facing third seat option and unique split-bench front seat. (The centre seat back can be flipped over to reveal a console with handy cupholders.)

Ford found a lot of other areas to improve in the 2000 Taurus. Two things stood out after recent test drives with the SE sedan and SE Comfort wagon. First, it's quieter, mainly because of smoother engines and improved sound deadening in front of the firewall. (The company says there is a 30 percent reduction in interior noise.) Second, safety seems paramount.

Ford's Personal Safety System encompasses a dozen components that allow the car, as the company puts it, to “think” about a crash, “understand” its severity, “examine the driver seat position and whether a safety belt is being worn, and “decide” how to deploy the safety systems. That means the dual-stage air bags will inflate at two different rates depending on the severity of a crash. The safety belts have pre-tensioners and force-limiting retractors to help reduce injuries. Head and chest combination side air bags are available. The sedan comes with an emergency release latch that opens the trunk from the inside. And the Taurus has a five-star frontal crash protection rating from the U.S. government.

This also is the first car to offer a power adjustable brake and accelerator pedal cluster. It enables drivers, especially those of small stature, to find the optimal seating position, without getting too close to the steering wheel. (There should be 25 cm between you and a steering wheel-mounted airbag.)

Other features are an increase of almost two inches in the headroom of the rear seat position in the sedan (the wagon was already much roomier), more cargo space in the sedan's trunk, and, in both models, improved engine power and steering and alignment refinements. However, I found the steering to feel quite heavy at low speeds.

Two engines are available, a 153-hp Vulcan and a 200-hp Duratec, both 3-litre V6s. The Duratec version I tested is quiet, smooth and very powerful.

The base 2000 Taurus LX is $24,495, the SE, which includes ABS and the adjustable pedals, is $1,100 more, and the loaded SE Comfort is $26,495 ($27,695 for the wagon).

© Copyright Bill Roebuck, 2002.

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