Whenever talk turns to cars, you still hear a lot of old-timers say, “they don’t make ‘em like they used to.” I’m pushing into that old-timer category myself, and I agree with them – but not in the way the expression is usually meant.
Nostalgic yearners complain that cars today aren’t up to the ideals of some mythical past. But from what I see, vehicles sold today far exceed past standards. They aren’t what they used to be because they’re an awful lot better.
As one measure, just look at the longevity of autos made now. Turning 100,000 miles on an odometer today is commonplace. If a car has received some care, drivers can expect to double that distance in a vehicle that remains handsome and reliable, if somewhat tired and worn at 200,000 miles. Still, not too long ago just reaching 100,000 miles was as rare as a 100th birthday.
But, OK, the “not like they used to be” lament also applies to intangible qualities, especially vehicle character and size. But even there, you can capture the expansive grandeur of yesterday’s large cars today in the full-size Ford Taurus sedan.
Taurus is a front-drive, five-passenger cruiser that combines spacious, easy-living cabin accommodations with all the contemporary engineering and manufacturing technologies that make today’s autos so superior. The model starts at $27,495, but can reach into the $30,000s, especially if you choose the all-wheel-drive option and layer on such amenities as leather upholstery ($1,495), and reverse sensing, rear-view camera and aluminum wheels (a $2,300 package). Taurus looks striking, too, with a vectored nose, stretched, bulging hood, and elegant elongation front to back.
At Regan Ford in Haverhill, sales consultant William Lafy sees the car’s qualities appealing primarily to mature drivers, especially those old enough to recall the big autos of earlier eras. But the Taurus also ropes in some tyro strivers, he explained.
“It has a real sporty look that is drawing in younger people,” Lafy said.
Wide abeam and with a spacious back seat, the Taurus finds favor with families who prefer a sedan over, say, a lumbering SUV, with professionals who haul around associates, and with “anybody else who needs a lot of room,” said Lafy.
That includes the Massachusetts state police, he noted, whose officers spend day-long shifts in their cruisers. Regan Ford services a growing number of Police Interceptors for the Commonwealth’s constables, Lafy said. Although specially tailored for law enforcement, the Interceptors are based on the Taurus and assembled at the same Chicago factory that turns out civilian versions of the car. Ford introduced the Taurus-based Interceptor one year ago, replacing an earlier police cruiser that was based on the Ford Crown Victoria – a big, rear-drive, old-style auto of the type traditionalists pine for. Now the Taurus fills that role entirely.
Taurus’ front-drive platform remains a large departure from the rear-wheel-drive configuration big cars once used almost exclusively. But in our climate, front-wheel drive is an unquestionable improvement because drivers prefer its stability in snow, Lafy reiterated. In fact, at Regan Ford, only about one in five Taurus buyers opts for all-wheel drive, he estimated. The extra cost of the all-wheel-drive option seems like an unnecessary expense to most locals, who find the standard front drive sufficient.
Ford sells a speedy, high-performance version of the sedan, the Taurus SHO – which stands for super high output. The highest priced version by far at $39,995, the Taurus SHO is packed with performance enhancements like stiffer springs and stabilizers underneath and bigger brakes. It wears aggressive embellishments inside and out, like a rear spoiler and black mesh grille. Its 3.5-liter V6 engine with two turbochargers produces 365 horsepower.
The standard Taurus uses a 3.5-liter V6 that produces 288 horsepower and earns a fuel economy rating of 19 miles per gallon in city driving, and 29 mpg on the highway in a front-drive Taurus. Both power and economy are 2013 improvements over the 2012 model.
A new, optional, EcoBoost engine available in the 2013 Taurus optimizes both power and fuel efficiency, by applying a turbocharger to a small, specially designed four-cylinder. The 2.0-liter EcoBoost option provides 240 horsepower, while delivering a highway fuel use rating of 31 mpg.
In addition to improving the engines in the 2013 Taurus, Ford revised its appearance, adding a new hood and trunk lid, a wider grille, reshaped nose and new lights.
But Lafy noted that extensive improvements to the 2013 model’s interior are more noticeable. This year’s Taurus has a new instrument panel, center stack and console, with softer, higher-grade materials used throughout the cabin. Ford also made the car more comfortable in ways you can’t see, Lafy said. For example, it added sound insulation around wheels and behind the dash, to provide a quieter ride.
“When you get them in the car and they drive it, then they can feel the difference,” Lafy said of customers who notice the improvements to this year’s model.
They discover a model that’s not just better than last year’s, but vastly improved from generations earlier. The 2013 Taurus is certainly not like they used to make ‘em.
Jeffrey Zygmont is an author of fiction and non-fiction books, and a long-time auto writer. Contact him at www.jeffreyzygmont.com.
2013 Ford Taurus Vehicle type: 4-door, 5-passenger, front- and all-wheel-drive full-size sedan Price range: $27,495 to $35,540 (plus options) Warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles basic warranty; 5 years/60,000 miles powertrain warranty; 5 years/unlimited miles corrosion warranty; 5 years/60,000 roadside assistance Base engine: 3.5-liter V6 Power: 288 horsepower at 6,500 rpm; 254 lb.-ft. torque at 4,000 rpm Transmission: 6-speed automatic Fuel economy: 19 mpg city; 29 mpg highway (with front drive) Wheelbase: 112 inches Length: 203 inches Width: 76 inches Height: 61 inches Weight: 3,969 pounds Fuel capacity: 19.0 gallons Turning circle: 39.7 ft.