Test Drive: 2010 Ford Taurus SEL and SHO

The Ford Taurus has had a long history on the American roadways. In its original form, it was introduced in 1986 to replace the outdated Ford LTD, and the Taurus became one of the most popular family cars of that decade and the 1990s. For the 2008 model year, Ford dropped the Taurus name in favor of the more modern-sounding full-size Ford Five Hundred and the mid-sized Ford Fusion. However, it turned out that the Five Hundred name was short-lived because buyers prefer the Taurus name, backed up by 20 years of popular cars. So the Taurus nameplate is back for 2010 with a solid and exciting new car from Ford.

The time was when a full-size car meant an overweight, squishy-handling, grandpa-mobile. That?s no longer the case ? the new 2010 Taurus is substantial, yet firm on the road. It?s fun to drive, plenty fast for most purposes, and altogether enjoyable.

A true fact that most people don?t know is that the auto industry designations of full-size, mid-size, compact, and so on do not refer to a car?s external dimensions, but rather its interior space. That?s how the Taurus gets to be a full-size car even though it?s not that much bigger outside than the Fusion. This is a big win for Ford, because it?s the exterior of a car that has to move through the air and get into tight parking spaces. The Taurus drives like a much smaller car than the interior space would lead you to expect.

About the only knock I can hold against the Taurus is that the designers carried a belt line through the wheel arches, which makes the car look like it?s got a funny little dent in the rear quarter panel. When I noticed it in the parking lot, I thought someone had backed into the test car!? But once you figure out that it?s supposed to look like that, the new Taurus is quite a handsome car.

Ford is doing a great job with its engines these days, and the Taurus comes with a 263 horsepower 3.5-liter Duratec V6, mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission. You can get your Taurus in front wheel drive or All Wheel Drive configurations. The basic Taurus or the upgraded Taurus SEL gets 18 MPG in the city and 28 on the highway ? not bad for the power and a full-size car.

But even with all that, the Taurus you really want to drive is the SHO. The SHO name stands for Super High Output, and with that option you get a twin-turbo direct-injected version of the same Duratec 3.5-liter V6 engine, along with All Wheel Drive and a host of interior and exterior upgrades. Amazingly, the SHO delivers the same fuel economy as the base model, but also gives you 365 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque ? watch out, Mustang!

The Taurus starts at $25,170, and the upgraded SEL starts at $27,170. There?s also a Limited edition that starts at $31,995. The Taurus SHO starts at $37,995, and you can build one to the limit of the option book for about $45,000.

2010 Taurus SEL [Rating:7/10]

2010 Taurus SHO [Rating:8.5/10]

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