Back for Seconds
While it’s not unusual for us to test certain vehicles of the same year, make, and model more than once, it feels a bit odd to be focusing on a Ford Taurus again.
It would be less odd if the Taurus were equipped with a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four, or the SHO’s performance 3.5-liter twin-turbo V-6, but it’s the standard 3.5-liter V-6 that’s back for seconds. Less than a year ago, we grabbed test numbers from a different 2013 Taurus SEL V-6, nearly identical to the one we have here, except for one major distinction. You’re probably used to the criticism of the packaging efficiency on the customary sixth generation (2010-now) Taurus — note the past comments on the “big exterior, small interior” design — so let’s dive deeper into the numbers.
For those looking to get acquainted with Ford‘s big sedan, 2013 is the first year of the sixth-gen’s mid-cycle refresh. A lot changed after three years. To help mitigate the interior volume concerns, the cabin is decked out with nicer materials; a substantially less cluttered center stack; three-spoke steering wheel; and an eye-catching gauge cluster with crisp, configurable digital screens. Run your hand along the center console’s sides — a place your knee is likely to graze upon a daily basis — and it’s greeted with soft-touch material. A fair number of luxury vehicles costing much more than the Taurus SEL’s $33,490 as-tested price don’t bother wrapping anything over the console’s plastic case. Aside from updating the cabin and exterior details, the workhorse V-6 now is up to 288 horsepower and the EPA fuel economy estimates for the V-6/front-wheel-drive combo pump up to 19/29 mpg city/highway (+1/+1).
With 288 hp at the engine’s disposal, the more recent, 3968-pound Taurus SEL we tested rushed from 0-60 mph in a respectable 6.6 seconds, same as the 2013 Taurus from last year. The quarter-mile times lie right on top of each other (15.1 seconds versus 15.0) and the trap speeds are equal (95 mph even). Asking the two to merge from 45-65 mph would take 3.4 seconds. It’d take 13.6 seconds for the pair to hit 90 mph from a side-by-side standstill. So, no surprises here.
The earlier tested Taurus weighed 3951 pounds — any thoughts on where the extra 17 pounds are found? It’s impossible to know for sure, but if you guessed the additional weight came from the wheels and tires, we’d say that’s excellent speculation. Our 0.4-percent heavier Taurus rides on a set of 19-inch aluminum-alloy wheels instead of the marginally lighter car’s 18s. A fleeting glance would presume the standard 18- and optional 19-inch wheels share the same five twin-spoke array, but that’s not the case. The 19-inch wheels also come with 255mm Michelin Primacy MXM4s, a hefty 20mm wider than the tires mounted on the 18s. More contact patch typically brings more cornering grip and stability, and our handling metrics reveal higher lateral acceleration — 0.87 g (average) versus 0.80 — and a noticeable difference around the figure eight — 26.9 seconds against 27.8. Credit the newer Taurus’ greater rate of travel around the figure eight’s corners for clawing back 0.9 second.
Driving the Taurus fast is a somewhat comical proposition. On one hand, the idea of a FWD, near-4000-pound sedan pushing hard is amusing. On the other hand, our test car cornered just fine. The 255mm Michelins cling and coexist nicely with the abundant body roll. Roll, as long as it’s gradual and the driver can make sense of the progression rate, isn’t quite as disconcerting as the vertically oriented heave motion. The Taurus has plenty of heave, and it’s the simultaneous combination of momentarily losing the feel of the chassis and rear end (when the driver’s back end is lifted off the seat) and a short disconnect from the front wheels (when the steering temporarily gets light) that makes you think twice or back off on power. There’s actually some good weighting to the rack-assist electric power steering effort, and while there’s little in the way of steering wheel feedback, there’s enough information trickling in to where a more aggressive driver may appreciate the heavier off-center steering attitude. Anyway, that’s probably more driving jargon than is needed for the cruiser-typecast Taurus. It cruises and mooches along well.
Let’s say we could have three wishes granted to us regarding the Taurus SEL, on the condition one of those wishes wouldn’t ask for a fully redesigned sedan. First, we’d request the Limited model’s 10-way power seats. The SEL has a power switch to adjust the seat base position and height, but altering the seat back recline angle and lumbar support means fiddling with stiff plastic controls. The entire process seems disjointed. Second, on the driving controls area, we’d request the gas pedal be less touchy. Third, lower the step-in heights for the front and back rows. Then, maybe, when the third Taurus SEL comes around for testing it’ll be more of a charmer.
|2013 Ford Taurus SEL|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$33,490|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan|
|ENGINE||3.5L/288-hp/254-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||3968 lb (60/40%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||202.9 x 76.2 x 60.7 in|
|0-60 MPH||6.6 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||15.1 sec @ 95.0 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||125 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.87 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||26.9 sec @ 0.67 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON||19/29 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY||177/116 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS||0.86 lb/mile|