---- — Ford continues to drive forward in its effort to popularize small engines that work like big engines. A new front in the campaign is the four-cylinder motor now available in the 2013 Ford Taurus.
The Taurus is a large car, with cabin dimensions meant to satisfy the desires of drivers who prefer the stretch-out spaciousness of a traditional American four-door sedan. That’s significant, because many of those same drivers also are accustomed to large engines capable of moving so much hardware.
“It wasn’t too long ago when all cars this size had eight-cylinder engines,” said Joseph Cullinan, sales manager at Regan Ford in Haverhill. “With some customers, it can be hard to get them to go from an eight-cylinder to a six-cylinder.”
The standard engine in the Taurus is a generously sized V6. It provides power aplenty for a contemporary large car like Taurus, after modern materials and advanced design and construction methods make the model more light-weight, less ponderous than an auto of its size would have been 10 or 15 years ago. At a starting list price of $27,495 for a base-level, Taurus SE, the V6 delivers 288 horsepower, operating with a government fuel-economy rating of 19 miles per gallon in city driving, and 29 mpg on the highway.
But for an additional $995, you can buy the Taurus with a much smaller, four-cylinder motor that gives you a boost in fuel economy, with a government rating of 22 mpg city, 32 mpg highway. If you drive 12,000 miles every year, and if gas stays around $3.50 per gallon, you would save $210 in gasoline purchases annually. That would pay off the $995 price boost for the four-cylinder engine in about four years and nine months.
If gas prices rose to $4 and stayed there, you would save $240 each year, paying off the extra cost for the four-cylinder in a tad more than four years.
But fuel savings isn’t the only reason to opt for the smaller engine. It also performs more robustly than the larger motor, providing the oomph you would expect from a much larger source. For starters, the smaller engine approaches the horsepower of the larger, standard engine – 240 horsepower for the four-cylinder versus the 288 of the V6. What’s more, the four-cylinder delivers more torque, which is a measure of the rotational force coming out an engine. With the smaller motor, you get 270 lb.-ft. of torque, compared to 254 lb.-ft. from the V6.
Torque creates the giddy-up surge you feel when you make a fast start. Therefore the higher measure of torque from the Taurus four-cylinder translates to a quicker response when you step on the gas pedal. The four-cylinder engine also reaches its peak output sooner than the V6 engine, adding to the faster action you get from Taurus’s smaller motor.
Those factors account for the satisfying road feel I experienced test-driving a Taurus equipped with the four-cylinder engine. In fact, if I hadn’t seen the emblem on my evaluation model, I never would have guessed that the muscle beneath the Taurus came from a power plant only 2.0 liters in size – pretty small as car engines go.
The engine is a member of the EcoBoost family from Ford. The company designs EcoBoost engines to utilize turbochargers – basically, fans that force more air into engines for better fuel combustion – and other advanced fuel-management technologies in ways that alter the traditional characteristics of car engines. They increase power while also maximizing fuel economy.
“You get better gas mileage, and you still get all the power you want,” said Cullinan.
The current, 2013 model is the first Taurus to offer an EcoBoost engine option. At Regan Ford, Cullinan sees about half the people who buy the car opting for EcoBoost. That matches the pattern occurring with other Ford models that include an EcoBoost option: the capable, efficient engines quickly gain popularity against traditionally designed engines available in the same model. Even in the best-selling, Ford F-Series pickup truck, where V8 engines are the traditional favorite, a six-cylinder EcoBoost is winning converts.
As the acceptance of the engines grows, Cullinan expects to see EcoBoost spread to more models within the Ford lineup.
“I think we’re going to see an EcoBoost engine in every car, and I won’t be surprised if eventually that’s the only type of engine they make,” he said.
The Taurus is no ordinary Ford. As the largest, most expensive passenger car manufactured by the auto maker, it is the flagship of the brand, responsible for the overall image that applies to other Ford models. It also occupies a unique spot in the overall auto business, because you can’t find many other cars as large as Taurus, Cullinan stated.
“Unless you want to spend another $20,000 or more for a luxury car, there is not a lot of competition in the large-car class,” he said.
Even so, most Taurus buyers go for high-line models with lots of added equipment, Cullinan noted.
“They’re not looking for a cheap car,” he said. Next to its comfortably large interior, the characteristics that draw drivers to Taurus are its luxuriousness, its sporty good looks and its smooth, capable road handling, said the sales manager.
Those qualities enable the model to grab more than just mature drivers who came of age when large cars were more commonplace, Cullinan said. The Taurus also attracts a healthy share of younger drivers, in their 30s and 40s, especially people who want a sedan before they need the higher-capacity hauling that typically drives parents to purchase an SUV.
“People buy one either before they have kids, or after they have kids,” said Cullinan.
With the 2013 Ford Taurus, many of them learning that now they can have large-car amenities along with small-engine fuel conservation.
“A lot of people still come in and say they don’t want a four cylinder. But when they drive the EcoBoost, they change their mind, Cullinan said.
Jeffrey Zygmont is an author of fiction and nonfiction 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 large sedan Price range: $27,495 to $33,895 (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 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 feet