Road Test: updated Ford Taurus
If you agree that, all things being equal, Americans will buy the largest car their fuel budget will allow, then you will understand the thinking behind the updated 2013 Ford Taurus.
For the new model year Ford is offering an optional engine. But in a deviation from the norm in Detroit, the extra-cost power plant doesn't have more horsepower than the standard engine. It has less.
The Taurus' base engine is a 3.5-liter V-6 that produces 288 horsepower and is rated by the EPA at 19 miles per gallon in the city, 29 mpg on the highway. But for an extra $995, you can have a smaller EcoBoost 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine that generates 240 hp. and is rated at 22 mpg city, 32 mpg highway.
Ford delivered a midlevel SEL model with the optional EcoBoost engine for a week. I was looking forward to a full-size sedan that could return 32 mpg.
The best that I managed was 27 mpg. Disappointing? Yes. But the mileage was still admirable for a 3,969-pound, full-size sedan. And, in other ways, the Taurus with EcoBoost delivers on its promise.
While the four-cylinder develops 48 fewer horses than the V-6, it produces 16 more pound-feet of torque. You'll never miss the extra ponies; the car accelerates with authority. The six-speed automatic transmission responds quickly and smoothly, which, when coupled with the potent engine, allows the driver to easily hustle this husky-sized sedan through corners, despite the expected body lean.
But when asking for extra power at cruising speed, there's a slight lag while you wait for the turbocharger to kick in. And at idle there's noticeable vibration from the four-cylinder engine, something you wouldn't get with a V-6.
For 2013, Ford has added two new safety features. The first is called torque vectoring control, which lightly applies the brakes on the inside wheels in corners to enhance cornering performance. The second is called Curve Control, which applies the brakes if a turn is entered too quickly.
MyFord Touch, the system that controls a variety of navigation, entertainment, communication and climate functions, is still frustrating, although less so than last year.
While the Taurus with EcoBoost didn't reach the Olympian heights predicted by the EPA, it still proved to be fairly fuel-efficient for such a large car. Couple that with a spacious interior, large trunk, impressive safety credentials, a long options list and a price that's not much higher than a fully loaded midsize car, and you have a large car with the heart of a midsize.
2013 Ford Taurus
Base price: $26,700
Price as tested: $35,180
EPA rating (city/highway): 19/29 mpg
Engine: 3.5-liter V-6
Power: 288 horsepower; 244 horsepower with EcoBoost
Wheelbase: 112 inches
Length: 202.9 inches
Weight: 3,969 pounds
Height: 60.7 inches
Cargo space: 20.1 cubic feet
Towing capacity: 1,000 pounds
Bottom line: Better mileage, surprising punch.