Which Taurus does AMG CARS INC recommend?
The Taurus is reasonably priced, with trim levels and features more or less matching up with the Chevrolet Impala, and it costs thousands less than a Toyota Avalon or Kia Cadenza. However, the Taurus’ full-size competitors generally have nicer interiors, don’t feel as heavy and are roomier. The range-topping Taurus SHO is the only standout in the lineup, with a sport-tuned suspension and powerful engine that overcomes the Taurus’ otherwise wallowy, sluggish driving experience. For the same money, however, enthusiasts can choose between two V8s in the Dodge Charger.
The Taurus is one of the better-known nameplates in the car business. Alas, much of that renown comes from past deeds instead of present success. This generation Ford Taurus, which the 2019 model represents, dates back a decade. It hasn’t received many updates either, other than a face-lift in 2013 and the adoption of the Sync 3 infotainment interface in 2016.
To its credit, the Taurus remains compelling for a few reasons. The ride is very comfortable, even in the high-octane SHO version, which features larger wheels and a sport-tuned suspension. We also like certain aspects of the interior, with high-quality materials, a quiet ride, and easy entry and exit. The Sync 3 system is another highlight. We think it’s one of the most intuitive user interfaces on the market.
However, the Taurus has numerous drawbacks, adding up to a car that is not suited for everyone. The cabin feels unusually tight for such a large vehicle, especially in the back seat. The tall rear bench and short roof reduce headroom, and there’s not much legroom either. Even in its lowest position, the driver sits unusually high and looks down at the dashboard or out the window. Ford’s decision to remove features — the power-adjustable steering wheel and power rear sunshade have been nixed for 2019 — is perplexing as the car ages and naturally loses ground to newer large sedan competitors.
The 2019 Ford Taurus isn’t a bad car, but nearly every one of its rivals is newer and more competent. The redesigned Toyota Avalon and recently refreshed Kia Cadenza are comfortable cruisers that offer more room, while the Dodge Charger remains a good choice if you want some muscle-car flair.
Ford Taurus models
The 2019 Ford Taurus is a five-passenger large sedan sold in four trim levels. The base SE is modestly equipped, which is why buyers looking for 21st-century tech should strongly consider the next-level SEL. It counts rear parking sensors, dual-zone climate control and puddle lamps among its upgrades. The Limited is significantly more expensive since it comes with items that are optional for the SEL, plus additional luxury features. The SHO is a different beast entirely, marrying most of the Limited’s features with a high-performance V6 and a sport suspension.
For power, the SE relies on a 3.5-liter V6 engine (288 horsepower, 254 pound-feet of torque) paired to a six-speed automatic transmission. Standard features include 18-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, an exterior keyless-access keypad, six-way power-adjustable front seats (with manual recline and lumbar adjustment), 60/40-split folding rear seatbacks, a driver information display, a rearview camera, Sync voice controls, Bluetooth, a 4.2-inch central display, and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player and two USB ports.
Stepping up to the SEL adds LED daytime running lights, body-colored heated mirrors with puddle lamps, rear parking sensors, remote engine start, dual-zone automatic climate control, upgraded cloth upholstery and interior trim, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, and satellite radio. Leather upholstery paired with heated front seats is available as a stand-alone option.
The SEL can also be had with the Equipment Group 201A option package, which adds keyless entry and ignition, an additional center speaker for the audio system and the Sync 3 infotainment system, which includes an 8-inch touchscreen and smartphone integration via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The more luxurious Taurus Limited gets you all the Equipment Group 201A items, plus 19-inch alloy wheels, automatic high-beam control, automatic wipers, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and driver-side mirror, power-adjustable pedals, leather upholstery, heated and ventilated 10-way power front seats, driver-seat memory settings, heated second-row seats, a heated steering wheel, ambient interior lighting, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, and a premium Sony audio system with HD radio.
Limited models can also be had with the Driver Assist option package, which includes adaptive cruise control, an automated parallel parking system, a forward collision warning system, and lane departure warning and intervention. Stand-alone options for both the SEL and the Limited include 20-inch alloy wheels, a sunroof, a rear spoiler and a navigation system.
The sporty SHO starts with most of the Limited’s standard equipment and adds all-wheel drive, a turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 engine (365 horsepower, 350 pound-feet of torque), a sport-tuned suspension, exclusive 20-inch wheels, xenon headlights, black exterior trim, a rear spoiler, dual exhaust tips, unique leather upholstery and interior trim, and steering wheel-mounted shift paddles.
Most Limited options are also available for the SHO, along with a SHO Performance package that adds a revised final-drive ratio for quicker acceleration, summer performance tires, stiffer suspension tuning, upgraded brake pads, special steering tuning, an enhanced stability control system with a Track mode, and simulated-suede trim on the steering wheel.
If Ford hadn’t called it the SHO, this Taurus would have acquitted itself nicely with a good balance of power, braking and solid drivability. But as a SHO, and a sport sedan, it comes up a bit flat with uninvolved steering and handling and much too tall gearing.
Whether from a standing start or a roll, there’s good thrust on tap. But tall gearing dulls the edge of the 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6 and makes it feel more like a mid-’90s V8 than a modern turbocharged V6. It does pull hard enough to reach 60 mph in 5.4 seconds, but it begins to lose steam after that.
In daily use, the SHO’s brakes proved more than adequate to deal with the car’s considerable weight. Sure, the pedal felt a bit squishy underfoot, but modulation was good enough that smooth and consistent stops were easy to make. Our panic-stop test from 60 mph came in at 124 feet, an unremarkable result.
Its thin rim makes the wheel awkward to grip. There’s a satisfying heft to the steering, but it’s artificial and it doesn’t translate into the feel you need to judge a corner properly. That said, the Taurus is as easy to steer on back roads as it is around town, provided you’re not going too quickly.
The Taurus SHO is a bit of fun for a big car so long as you’re not trying to hustle it. It stays relatively flat and composed up to a certain point, even through transitions. The tires offer decent grip, too, but you’ll run out of seat side support well before then.
The six-speed automatic is a bit dated but refreshingly straightforward, never second-guessing itself or tripping over one too many gears. A shorter ratio would wake up the car and make it livelier. But as it is, the SHO is a relaxed and capable cruiser, even in Sport mode.
If you happen to be the right height, the Taurus will impress you with a well-controlled ride and almost zero wind and road noise. But should you be above-average height, the wacky seating position will override most of its strengths.
The seats are fairly cushy, but they lack lateral support. We’d say that about a regular Taurus, but it’s a bigger deal in a SHO. The high front and rear seating positioning feel confining, though that’s not a physical comfort issue. The front seats are cooled and heated, and the rear seats are heated.
The ride seems pretty smooth. And even though the SHO is a fairly big car, it’s never sloppy, keeping pretty good control of itself. Most surfaces don’t faze the Taurus, and the big Ford soaks up quite a lot. Cornering is also commendably flat up to a moderate pace.
Noise & vibration
Only extremely coarse pavement manages to make any significant noise in the cabin. Otherwise, the Taurus provides a fairly quiet interior. The engine is well-isolated, and wind noise is minimal.
The climate control looks very dated with basic physical controls circa 2008. More detailed adjustments must be made via the digital interface. The driver’s vents serve only to cool the steering wheel area, and the noisy rear vents can’t be shut off, only closed.
It’s difficult to put our fingers on what makes this interior so unsatisfying, but it might be because we don’t have enough fingers. The inside of the Taurus is an automotive anomaly, from the downright weird front seats to the inexplicably high rear seats and the time warp control interfaces.
Ease of use
It’s clear the Taurus was not designed to accommodate some of the controls it now carries — see the rear window shade and lane keeping assist buttons located in the ashtray. While most of the controls are straightforward, they look and feel dated. The touchscreen does most of the heavy lifting.
Getting in/getting out
Thanks to a high floor and a much higher than typical seating position, you can almost walk into either the front or back seats. Those with limited mobility will appreciate that. The tall doors extend below the sills, keeping pant legs clean when the weather gets messy.
This position is just bizarre. The seat sits inexplicably high, and anyone over average height towers over the dashboard. Adjustable pedals are a nice touch, but the steering wheel hardly telescopes, so taller drivers have their knees pressed against the dash. None of our editors ever felt comfortable.
Front passengers have adequate head- and shoulder room, but the strange seating position makes it feel as if most of the room is below you. Rear passengers have very little headroom because of the stadium-like seating. Rear legroom isn’t what it should be in such a large car either.
The high seating position gives you a commanding view of the road ahead, but that’s the only direction where visibility is any good. The narrow side windows and thick pillars cut down on side visibility, while a small rear window limits the view out the back.
Fit and finish on the SHO is good, both inside and out. Plastic covers all click nicely into place, and there are no squeaks or rattles even over broken road surfaces.
The Taurus SHO makes good use of its size, for the most part. There’s certainly a big enough trunk for four golf bags, but the cabin is a mish-mash of oddly shaped bins and wasted space.
The seemingly random array of center console storage, with two sets of cupholders and a center bin set well behind the driver’s elbow, is a bit puzzling in such a large car. Front door pockets are very accommodating, but the ones in the back aren’t quite as big.
With 20.1 cubic feet of trunk volume, the Taurus easily leads competitors, such as the Chevrolet Impala (18.8 cubic feet) and Dodge Charger (16.5 cubic feet), in cargo capacity. The 60/40-split folding rear seats help make up for the way the trunk narrows around the rear suspension.
Child safety seat accommodation
Accommodation comment: Mounting a car seat won’t be much of an ordeal due to wide rear door access, but the somewhat narrow outboard rear seats might cause wider car seats to overlap the seat-belt latches. LATCH anchors, slightly tucked beneath the cushions, are easy to locate.
Ford’s Sync 3 might well be the saving grace of a dated interior. Impressive connectivity and usability make it flexible enough for most any buyer. Be careful with option packages, as the Driver Assistance package cannot be ordered in conjunction with the Performance package.
Audio & navigation
Don’t let the rest of the somewhat dated interior put you off. The SHO does come with Ford’s highly rated Sync 3 system. Navigation is also available through Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. While the audio system does have some power, it won’t impress true audiophiles.
Drivers have the choice of Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which all connected quickly. We experienced no drops in connection.
Our tester had the optional Driver Assist package, which includes adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, active park assist and forward collision warning. Disabling stability control is only available with the Performance package. The adaptive cruise system was satisfactory and free of quirks.
Ford’s Sync 3 voice controls worked consistently and quickly, and we found them to be a decent substitute for pressing buttons. Apple CarPlay users have the additional option of Siri voice commands.