A Taurus To Save Them All?
If you’re anything like me, then even the mention of the Ford Taurus leaves a bad taste in your mouth. I understand what the Taurus did for Ford and how many people absolutely loved it, but for me, I wasn’t sad to see it leave the fleet several years ago. Now however, it’s back. And I have to admit, it’s better than I could have ever imagined.
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Last week I attended a “Technology Forum” at Ford’s Western Regional office in Irvine. The forum was to showcase all the new technology going in to the various 2010-11 and beyond vehicles. Really though, since they’re stuffing almost all of that technology in the new Taurus, it was a forum to show off the new Taurus.
I realize that using the word “stuffing” implies they put too much technology in the vehicle. That’s not the case. They managed to fit a LOT of new technology in to the car while still giving the driver a vehicle that is indeed a driver friendly car. Let’s take a look at that technology.
Adaptive Cruise Control
Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) uses actual radar sensors located on the front of the car to adjust the car’s speed if your in cruise control and traffic in front slows down. I got to test it briefly and it works. It was pretty cool. I’ll be driving the Taurus up to San Francisco this weekend (which I will tell you all about later) and I know ACC is going to be my best friend.
Collision Warning With Brake Support
Using the same radar system that is used with ACC, Ford put a collision warning (and hopefully avoidance) system in the new Taurus. While this isn’t necessarily new technology, it’s certainly a great addition to a car in this price range. In the picture above you can see that a light flashes and an audible alarm goes off, in case you’re snoozing. I’ve been in that situation before. I was inches from hitting a car stopped on the freeway while I was travelling 65 mph. Luckily I woke up just in time to swerve along the center median.
Something that I found interesting: To test the system, they used these giant inflatable cars, so that until they got the distance right, they didn’t keep trashing real cars.
Blind Spot Information System or BLIS and Cross Traffic Alert
This is super cool. I didn’t even realize the car had this until I was driving it. See, the Taurus doesn’t just have radar sensors in the front of the car, it also has them on all for corners of the car. When I was driving and looked in the side mirror to get over, there was this little yellow light. At first I didn’t understand what it was there for until a car I didn’t see poked it’s way into my mirror. The Taurus doesn’t exactly have many blind spots, but I can see this technology being useful in MANY different vehicles. In fact, one of the photographers in the car with me said he wished his Prius had that. (Apparently there is a big problem with blind spots in that car. That’s what he gets for owning a Prius as far as I’m concerned, but I digress.) The Cross Traffic Alert also uses the rear sensors when you’re backing out of a parking space. As you’re backing out, if there is a car approaching from either side, up to about 3 parking spaces away, it sets off those same visual and audible alarms to warn you some jerkoff either isn’t paying attention, or just can’t wait for you to pull out of your space, so you should stop. Again I have experience with this. I owned a giant van with no rear visibility years ago, and one day while backing out of a parking space, I hit a car. It ended with her taking a LOT of money from the insurance company. Having also driven ambulances for years, these 2 technologies alone have great promise in the automotive industry.
Sync isn’t exactly new technology for Ford, but it’s still pretty cool. I enjoy that Ford has seen that cell phones and personal media devices aren’t just accessories for some people. To some it’s an extension of themselves. I know that my phone is my connection to all the things I enjoy (music, internet, my friends) and Sync allows me to stay in contact with most of those. I realize most cars now have a mini headphone jack so you can connect your mp3 player or Bluetooth connectivity so you can be hands free. Sync however goes beyond that. Two of my favorite features are the USB port and internal hard drive. With the USB port, you can not only connect and control your portable media device (with your voice even!) but you can also charge your device at the same time! If you have pictures, it can show those on the navigation screen too. In fact, because it’s USB, all you really need is a $5 flash drive and you can take your favorite songs and pictures with you anywhere. And if you actually own some CDs, you can rip them to the vehicles hard drive. Then you don’t need anything but your car keys. And did I mention the voice control part? If your mp3 player has many thousands of songs and artists, all you have to do is speak the name of the song or artists and it automatically finds it for you. I was skeptical, but it works…well. Of course you can connect bluetooth and yes that’s voice controlled too. Just say “Call (name)” and it does. Even if you have to pay a little extra for it, I believe it’s well worth it. Now if only they could make it so I could voice control my Twitter and Facebook status…you reading this Ford engineers?!?!
This is my favorite feature Ford showcased. For years cars have had chips embedded in the keys, so that either the car wouldn’t start without the original key or the key just needed to be inside the car and a push-button starts the car. Well My Key takes that further. In what is to be a standard option nearly fleet-wide, My Key is a technology aimed at teen drivers. When the designated key is inserted into the ignition, the on board computer automatically sets some very specific limits on the car. For starters, the seatbelt warning that eventually goes away after about 5 minutes, stays on indefinitely until the driver puts on the seatbelt. It also mutes the radio until the belt is on, so you can’t just drown out the alarm like I do when I’m running to the store. My Key also makes it so you can’t release traction control and spin the tires. Again I have experience with this. I almost got a ticket for it when I was 17. Instead of the 50 mile warning about low fuel, it bumps it up to 75 miles. Running out of fuel is a contributing factor into my first accident at 16. And finally, speed control! When My Key is activated the top speed of the car is reduced to 80 mph, with warning chimes at 45, 55 and 65 mph. Pretty smart, no? (It certainly would have prevented me getting a 105 mph speeding ticket at 18! My only beef with the top speed limiter is that 80 mph is pretty fast to drive on a side street. I know, I did that too when I was a teen. I was a horrible driver I know, I’m past that now…promise!). I’d like to see in future versions of My Key that the computer use GPS to limit the speed of the car to 10 mph above the posted speed limit. Maybe that’s too difficult, but it would be nice.
But enough about technology, how’s the Taurus???
The new Taurus, until recently, was to be the Ford 500. As you can see it is a completely new car from the ground up. I think the new look is nice. I’m not terribly fond of the back end of the car (see below), but overall it’s not bad on the eyes.
The interior on the other hand is quite plush. Our test drive took us almost 2 hours, and in that time I was always very comfortable. The inside is also very quiet. I think too quiet. This car can be dangerous because of it. All three of us in the car took turns driving and we all found ourselves driving much faster than we thought we were. At 80 mph it feels as though you’re going 50. If you don’t pay close attention to your speedometer, you could find yourself discussing the new features of the Taurus with your local police officer.
The seats in our test car were leather and I didn’t ask if that would be standard or not. We had some faux wood trim, which I always personally dislike, and this car was no different. I really liked the gauges on the car. Their bluish glow was stunning and soothing at the same time. As you can see we didn’t have the sweet sat/nav/DVD player in our car, but it did it’s job. All three of us were really disappointed by the Sony sound system they were touting. Even at full volume we couldn’t really get any bass out of the system (something I’ve seen with all of my stock Ford radios over the years…funny thing is, with a different head unit [stereo] the speakers are usually really awesome). This stereo was very unlike the stereo in the Raptor I test drove a few weeks ago, that stereo was amazing.
I don’t have any pictures of the trunk, but I wouldn’t be surprised if my Ford Focus fit in there. That thing is huge!
As far as the engine goes, our model had the base V6. It gets approximately 265 horsepower and the base model is about $26,000. Certainly not a bad deal. The engine seemed to lack the “oomph” that I feel a car of this size needs, but for most people, as a daily driver, I think this car is plenty. My only big problem with the car is that it’s front wheel drive. I was really shocked to find out that Ford made a car this size front wheel drive. And when you step on the gas pedal to get on the freeway, the torque-steer is BAD. Worse then my Focus, though that’s probably because the car weighs almost twice my Focus. That alone killed a lot for me.
One of the biggest announcements besides the Taurus coming back, was that they would be making a SHO version. If you remember, the original Taurus had a SHO version that was their “performance” version of the car. Back then it’s wasn’t too terribly amazing, but then the car it was based off of wasn’t good either. Making a SHO version of this new Taurus has promise. For the engine, they decided to be different. Rather than put a giant V8 under the bonnet, they decided to keep the same V6 the base model has, but they strapped on a twin turbo they dub EcoBoost, boosting the horsepower up by 100 making it 365.
Also, something I feel is a necessity in the car, they made it All Wheel Drive! Unfortunately, because we took too long on our test drive/photoshoot, by the time we got back to Ford HQ, all the SHOs were gone, so I can’t tell you if it’s a better drive or not, but I’ve been promised there is a big difference.
So that was my experience. I’ve included more pictures below for your viewing pleasure. As I mentioned, this weekend I will be driving a Taurus up to San Francisco for the 49ers/Seahawks game (Go Hawks!). I won a contest from Ford. I’ll be sure to tell you all about it when I get back…..OR you can follow my progress via Twitter. Follow @suprdave89
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