After a brief hiatus, one of the most successful cars in the history of Ford Motor Company will soon be back in showrooms. The restyled 2010 Ford Taurus rolled out of its Chicago assembly plant today.
The launch of the next generation Taurus, Ford's flagship sedan, marks what the automaker hopes is a milestone in the company's reinvention.
But the launch of the new Taurus is also a test of whether consumers will once again want full-size sedans.
"This really does not look like the old family roadster from the 1980s when Taurus was the top-selling sedan in the United States," said Stephen Spivey, senior auto industry analyst with Frost & Sullivan. "You're looking at a car that's more of a luxury or muscle car."
The car has received positive reviews for its stylish interior featuring gadgets such as the Ford's relatively new SYNC system, a computer that gives drivers hands-free control of their mobile phone, MP3 player, traffic and weather reports.
"The look of a car gets you in the showroom, but you spend 99 percent of the time behind the wheel," said Joe Phillippi, principal in AutoTrends Consulting. "Fit, finish, refinement, how the controls feel—those are the things that make people happy with their car and generate the kind of word of mouth to get to neighbors and friends."
"Some people questioned whether you launch a new product in a down economy but we think this is a car that will get people excited about buying cars again," said Amy Marentic, Ford's Car Marketing Manager of Large Cars and Crossovers.
The new Taurus en route to showrooms is offered in SE, SEL, Limited and Super High Output (SHO) trim. The base price starts at $25,999 and the premium SHO runs between $37,000 to north of $40,000 for a fully loaded version. The SHO features a 3.5-liter V-6 that produces 263 horsepower, or if that's not enough power, there's a 365 twin turbocharger option.
A few other sharp optional features include a blind-spot alert, an adaptive cruise control system that applies the brakes when a collision is imminent, and a system that allows parents to kill the audio on the radio when a teen drives above 80 mph.
Those safety features, along with a package that includes heated and cooled massage seats -- and the overall luxury feel -- caught the attention of Esquire. "Looks good, goes fast," the magazine's editors explained in a surprise selection of the Taurus as car of the year. They continued, "Here we have an affordable American sedan that benchmarks not the Chevy Impala or Hyundai Sonata but the Audi A6 and BMW 535xi."
Edmunds.com quibbled over some of the new Taurus' features, but concluded the car is a "very attractive choice for those searching for a large, family-friendly sedan."
Carconnection.com gushed over the vehicle's powerful engine, saying its bottom line was that "The 2010 Ford Taurus punches up Ford's reputation for quality and features."
Despite all the fanfare surrounding the Taurus, sedans have struggled to catch up to the high-profit pickups and sport utility vehicles over the past decade. And the SUV and truck market was where Ford had hoped to dominate. Sedans were virtually forgotten about.