It is midnight in the midst of what, for me, is an unnerving ritual:
Heavy trucks nesting alongside Interstate 81 shift into drive. One by one, they enter the road shoving large volumes of air with their massive bodies, flinging gravel and rocks from whining tires.
The trucks carry goods that feed our economy. It would be hard living without them. But living with them on a midnight highway is scary when all I'm trying to do is get home.
It helps in such moments to be behind the wheel of a car you believe in, one that feels solid, safe, comfortable and substantially more than competent. That means it's also fast - get-out-of-the-way fast, the kind of fast more designed to avoid collisions than it is to win races, a kind of strategic acceleration bountifully available in the 2010 Ford Taurus Limited.
The 2010 Ford Taurus Limited gets excellent marks on ride, acceleration and handling. Washington Post
Late-night, long-distance driving is a matter of triage. If you're on a highway bordered by reasonably located service stations, you don't worry so much about running out of fuel. Instead, your main concerns become power and agility.
Can the car move when called upon to do so? Can it dodge that flying piece of poorly re-treaded tire thrown from an 18-wheeler?
The new Taurus answered those questions in the affirmative - and did so repeatedly on a long drive through Virginia. It is a car much different from the Taurus introduced in 1986.
The new model is full-size and boxy versus the original, jelly-bean-shaped car's midsize proportions; and the 2010 version is far more accomplished in terms of overall performance and presentation than the 2009 model it replaces.
That's saying something. The Taurus born in 1986 set precedents for automobile design, primarily for family sedans, throughout the 1990s. But its imitators soon became its superiors and left it in the dust.
2010 Ford Taurus Limited
• The bottom line: Ford's Taurus is once again a contender in the market for large, premium family sedans.
• Complaint: Optional push-button controls on the Taurus sedan's center console can start the engine or release the trunk lid. They are identical in shape and color. Several drivers of the test car (I'm guilty) more than once opened the trunk when intending to start the engine.
• Ride, acceleration and handling: It gets excellent marks in all three.
• Head-turning quotient: Classy, conservative, but with a hint of sass.
• Body style/layout: The 2010 Ford Taurus is a full-size, front-engine family sedan available with front-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive and sold in four basic iterations - SE, SEL, Limited and top-of-the-line SHO.
• Engines/transmission: The standard 3.5-liter, 24-valve, V-6 engine develops 263 horsepower at 6,250 rpm and 249 foot-pounds of torque at 4,500 rpm. It is linked to a six-speed transmission that can be shifted automatically or manually. The SHO gets a twin-turbocharged version of that engine that develops 365 hp and 350 ft-lbs of torque.
• Capacities: There are seats for five people. Luggage capacity is a generous 20.1 cubic feet. Fuel capacity is 19 gallons of recommended regular unleaded.
• Mileage: You get 17 miles per gallon city, 25 mpg highway. All-wheel-drive usually consumes more fuel than two-wheel-drive.
• Technical highlights: All of that flying truck gravel and hardly a bit of chipped paint! The specially engineered anti-chip paint on the new Taurus seems to work.
• Safety: Standard equipment includes four-wheel disc brakes, antilock brakes; electronic stability and traction control; and side and head air bags.
• Price: The base price on the 2010 Ford Taurus Limited with all-wheel-drive is $33,020. Dealer's invoice price on that model is $30,308. Price as tested is $38,935, including $5,090 in options and an $825 destination charge. Dealer's price as tested is $35,562. There is a $1,000 consumer's rebate. Prices sourced from Ford, Edmunds.com and Cars.com, an affiliate of The Washington Post.
• Purse-strings note: Compare with Audi A6, Buick La Crosse, Hyundai Genesis, Lexus ES 350, Toyota Avalon and Volkswagen CC.
- Washington Post
Ford's first response to the Taurus brand's loss of status was to kill the brand altogether, beginning with the 2007 model year. But that decision was reversed shortly after the arrival of Ford's current president and chief executive, Alan Mulally.
Mulally argued that the only thing wrong with the brand was what Ford had done to the Taurus, which essentially was to neglect its further technical and performance development in favor of cheap cosmetic spiffs.
Under Mulally's tutelage, Ford polished up a so-so, full-size Ford Five Hundred sedan and reintroduced it as the 2009 Taurus, with promises of better Taurus automobiles to come. The 2010 Taurus fulfills that promise. It is a premium car minus pretense - and absent premium price in all versions except the top-of-the-line Taurus SHO (Super High Output).
Buyers who choose the popularly equipped Taurus Limited model driven for this column will be able to live with that. With a base price below $34,000, the Ford sedan offers almost as much power, and just as much comfort and safety, as the Audi 3.0 A6 Quattro for $16,000 less.
Purists and devotees of automobile-buff books might scoff at that. The 3.0 Audi A6 Quattro delivers a maximum 300 horsepower compared with the 263 horsepower offered by the Taurus Limited. But at the end of a long highway dance in which the Ford nimbly and swiftly moved around those big trucks, that 37-horsepower difference hardly seemed to matter.
I got home safely and drove with perfect confidence, comfort and safety - doing it all in an appealingly well-made, attractively priced (in comparison with competitors) automobile.
Mileage was not great at a combined 20 miles per gallon (17 miles per gallon city/25 mpg highway). But it was competitive (a combined 21 mpg for the Audi 3.0 A6 Quattro, for example). It helped that the Ford drank regular unleaded fuel, instead of the premium stuff demanded by the Audi.
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