motioncars
No Lucky Stars: Ford Taurus GL (1998)
 
What does it mean to be a bestseller? In the Philippines, a best-selling car like the CR-V usually sells about a thousand units per month, or about 12,000 per year. In the U.S. 12,000 per year is pretty much insignificant. Consider the top three selling cars in the U.S.:

Toyota Camry: 448,162 cars sold
Honda Accord: 404, 192
Ford Taurus: 368, 327

Those are truly massive numbers for almost any product.1.2 million burgers are already a lot, but cars! If parked side by side and bumper to bumper, all those cars will be enough to cover the whole City of Mandaluyong! The American public is snapping them up, with no letup. We're already familiar with the Camry and Accord, and we’ve seen that their reputation for reliability and a comfortable driving experience is well-deserved.

How about the Taurus then? This car has yet to be brought out by Ford Philippines. Will it be a worthy addition to the Ford lineup, or should it just stay in America? motioncars decided to take a closer look at Ford’s best-selling passenger car.

The Ford Taurus was introduced in the early 1980s as a wedge-shaped, futuristic sedan. Even Robocop found it good enough to use as a patrol car. For a couple of years, it vied for the top slot with Honda’s Accord. One year it won out, the next the Accord did. However, the Accord was marketed only to end users, while the Ford was also sold to fleets like car rental companies. Its main weapons were its large engine, large interior space and low price; it couldn’t quite beat the Accord in sophistication or styling.

So for its redesign Ford decided to pull all the stops and do something radical. Out went the old wedge design and in came ovals…lots of them. Perhaps taking the cue from the company’s own logo, Ford designers decided to make the oval the theme for every visible surface on the car. From the side, it’s not a three-box design, but a three-oval. Then the window grouping is also oval, and so is the backlight! Head and tail lamps also follow this pattern. (This was done before the E-class and Corolla went back to discrete oval lights.) Put together, the ovals

make for a very fish-like appearance. That's not altogether bad: it’s a smooth, organic shape that’s rather soothing to the eyes. I'm not sure that the Ford designers were aiming for soothing, but that’s what they produced.

Of course the oval theme continues into the interior. Here you will notice that there is not a single straight line in the whole interior (aside from things like seat rails). Instrument binnacles, glove box, center controls, doors, handles, switches and dashboard all swoop into each other, as if the plastic was simply allowed to flow where it wanted.

This styling concept comes out as a mixed bag. It's certainly more interesting than the typical neat rows-and-columns approach, but the controls are not easy to use. Controls for the aircon and radio are arranged all together in one oval on the dashboard, and with a similar curved layout. Result: you will have to take your eyes off the road to adjust them.

Form over function has also sacrificed storage space, and there are few open bins where you can toss your cell phone, wallet or other stuff.

I have no complaint, though, about the Taurus’ interior room. Front and large seats are spacious, and legroom is generous. However, the rear headroom might be a little cramped for taller folks—again, a victim of the styling for the roof and backlight. The front seating has two buckets, with a folding armrest in between that will allow a third person to squeeze into the middle. Front seats are relatively flat and feature little side support. Clearly, this car has been designed for family and not sporting use. For sporty, better check out the Taurus SHO—more on that later.

Even if they’re driving a family car, American moms and dads certainly don’t want to be left behind at the stoplight. Ford doesn’t disappoint them: it has provided even the base Taurus with a brawny 3.0-liter V6.No pipsqueak 4-cylinders for this car.

For those seeking all of the above virtues of roominess and radical styling, but who want something more in the performance department, Ford offered the Taurus SHO. The Super-High-Output Taurus features a 3.2 32-valveV8, with 235 bhp and much improved handling.

Back to the Taurus GL—the shape may have changed radically from the last Taurus I drove back in 1995, but sadly, the driving experience hasn't. The steering is still over boosted and doesn’t transmit any feedback from the road. The engine is torquey and able to propel the car quickly to speed, but doesn’t elicit any emotion even if you floor the throttle.


Our test car was equipped with a four-speed automatic transmission with the awful column-mounted shifter. At part throttle, shift points are quite low, below 2500 rpm. That’s quite sufficient because of t`e capacious engine. It also helps fuel economy, which can exceed that of 4-cylinders of lesser displacement, because you don’t have to rev it that high.


Turn-in grip and braking are competent, but the suspension setting is definitely on the soft side. Road feel is absent, and the ride tends to feel floaty. It’s no surprise that this car and the F150 were made by the same company. If you imagine the typical American car, the Taurus is it: big engine, soft riding, large, roomy and utterly boring to drive. In The Truman Show, Jim Carrey plays a man who lives the "ideal American life". Do you have to guess which car he drives? Yup, it’s this model Ford Taurus.

How does the car’s owner feel about it? Between this 56,000-km Taurus and his 125,000-km. 1992 Honda Accord, the owner would rather keep the Accord and sell the Taurus. That speaks volumes.

American manufacturers, and Ford in particular, seem to have recognized that family people do also want some fun with their driving. Could it be the Jaguar blood now infused into the family? Witness the Lincoln LS, the Jaguar S-type’s platform-mate, which reportedly is the first fun-to-drive Lincoln in years if not decades.

Ford has also retreated from its radical-design stance, at least with the Taurus. The 2000 model has abandoned the oval theme and gone back to more classic lines. The roofline and backlight have been “straightened out”, much to the benefit of rear headroom. The controls and switches are now conventionally and more logically laid out; it doesn’t make any styling.

So much for the “experimental” Ford Taurus of 1998.368,327 certainly can’t be considered an abject failure, but Ford probably feels that the car can sell more. They can only do that by giving the customer what he really wants in a car—and isn’t that what this numbers game all comes down to?



By Jason Ang | Photos By Jason Ang
Originally Published June 2000 Issue
No Lucky Stars:  Ford Taurus GL (1998) No Lucky Stars:  Ford Taurus GL (1998) No Lucky Stars:  Ford Taurus GL (1998) No Lucky Stars:  Ford Taurus GL (1998) No Lucky Stars:  Ford Taurus GL (1998) No Lucky Stars:  Ford Taurus GL (1998) No Lucky Stars:  Ford Taurus GL (1998) No Lucky Stars:  Ford Taurus GL (1998) No Lucky Stars:  Ford Taurus GL (1998) No Lucky Stars:  Ford Taurus GL (1998) No Lucky Stars:  Ford Taurus GL (1998) No Lucky Stars:  Ford Taurus GL (1998) No Lucky Stars:  Ford Taurus GL (1998) No Lucky Stars:  Ford Taurus GL (1998)

 

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August 30, 1999
Honda City LXi (1999)
July 12, 1999
Alternative Nature: Mitsubishi Galant (1999)
June 20, 1999
The Bavarian Delight: BMW 328Ci (1999)
May 15, 1999
Alpha and Omega: Opel 2.5 V6 Omega (1999)
February 5, 1999
Opel Vectra (2.0 (1999) Driven
January 1, 1999
The Daily Nightmare: Nissan Cefiro (1998)
December 1, 1998
VTEC with a Vengeance: Honda Accord (1998)
November 10, 1998