This review is part of a ten-car comparison of large sedans. The Taurus is ranked tenth place of ten.
10th Place: 2014 Ford Taurus Limited
When it was redesigned in 2010, the Ford Taurus was key to ushering in the rebirth of the large sedan class. The company took the underpinnings of the spacious but humdrum 2009 model, and reshaped them into something more stylish but less practical. Sales took off, even as prices soared. Other automakers took notice, injecting their own fresh doses of style and luxury.
But despite a 2013-model update, the Taurus now feels a decade or more behind today's large sedans.
Its biggest flaw is that it's a real a whale of a car – the longest, widest, tallest, and second-heaviest vehicle in its class. It clearly communicates its size to the driver, too; it feels bulky at low speeds and ponderous at higher ones.
The car's size would make sense if it yielded a roomy cabin. Astonishingly, it does not. The Taurus has a massive trunk but passengers aren't so lucky. The driver is hemmed in by a wide, tall center console, and a relatively short wheelbase leaves the rear seat without any extra legroom.
The interior is also a strange mix of behind the times and modernly flawed. A huge blocky dashboard with swaths of hard plastic and expanses of false wood trim feels like an old-school American car. But the 2013 update brought a system of touch-sensitive controls that have plagued various Ford models, and that are even more out of place in the Taurus. This car in particular should have huge, simple buttons with large-print labels.
Steep discounts – to the tune of nearly $7,000 off the sticker price, for $32,364 very well-equipped (see note on pricing*) – can make the Taurus seem like a lot of car for the money. But although you get a lot of metal for your dollar, the car that it's shaped into ultimately lacks the sophistication and interior room that's required at such a price point. Look elsewhere.
Where's the space?
The Taurus is 203 inches long, more than a Toyota Sienna minivan or Chevrolet Tahoe full-size SUV. In a photo, it looks like a normal car, but all of its proportions have been upsized – the high trunk in particular towers over most fellow sedans'.
But impressively poor space efficiency leaves this sedan without what should have been its big selling point: interior room. The trunk is outstanding – a class-leading 20.1 cubic feet and well-shaped. But the Taurus's wheelbase is relatively short for its overall length, and no passenger ends up with a lot of space. The cushy rear seat is wide enough for three adults, but leg room is tight; you need to maneuver your feet into a small space under the front seats, and your knees are almost touching the front seatbacks unless they've been scooted forward.
Another design flaw makes things messy up front. The bulky dashboard and center console crowd knee room and yield a confined feel, rather than the airiness you'd expect in a giant sedan. The high trunk and windowline also complicate rear visibility.
As noted earlier, the Taurus also trails most competitors for the quality and user-friendliness of its interior. The “MyFord Touch” infotainment system replaces nearly every dashboard control with either a touchscreen or dedicated touch-sensitive buttons. None of this is easy to operate while driving the car – you can't easily reach over and feel for a button or knob – and it's further hamstrung by slow responses. The system has voice-activated operations and steering wheel controls, but those should be added options, not necessary workarounds. The entire system is not only ill-conceived but badly executed. Similar systems from Chrysler and Kia demonstrate how complex infotainment operations can be user-friendly. Ford's is a mess.
The Taurus may not feel like a roomy car, but its bulk is always clear. The poor visibility, 40-foot turning circle, and extended distance between the driver and the car's perimeter conspire to make a chore out of parking or maneuvering narrow or busy streets.
At higher speeds, the Taurus feels big and clumsy for a modern sedan – relatively agile by old-school standards, but the class has moved on. Oversized 19-inch wheels, standard on the tested Taurus Limited, contribute to a somewhat clompy ride in a car that should have been cushy and hushed. But the rest of the car's dimensions are so dramatic that anything short of massive wheels would look silly, and even the 19-inchers don't look big on the car. A sportier SHO model is also available with a tighter suspension.
The tested 288-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 is the most popular engine; turbocharged four-cylinder and V6 engines are also available, as is all-wheel-drive to replace the standard front-wheel-drive. The engine delivers competitive acceleration and good gas mileage, at an EPA-estimated 23 miles per gallon in mixed driving, but it's relatively noisy and coarse for this price point.
The Taurus seems like it could have been a compelling bargain, when one of the lowest prices in this comparison buys the biggest car. The Taurus Limited with a $39,220 sticker price includes such features as heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats and a heated steering wheel, power-adjustable pedals, a sunroof (but not panoramic), rain-sensing windshield wipers, and blind-spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert. Expect to be able to haggle that down to $32,364, one of the lowest prices in this comparison.
But there's a reason the Taurus can't command a transaction price closer to its MSRP. It's behind the times for its driving dynamics and space efficiency. It's a confused mix of badly executed old-school luxury and badly executed modernity.
During the test drive, this writer asked a salesperson why someone should choose a Taurus over the competition. He replied that he wasn't familiar with the rest of the market, but that this hadn't proven to be an issue. “Most of our Taurus customers are loyal to Ford,” he said. “They're not looking at Hyundai and so on.”
If you don't look at anything but another Ford and you want a roomy sedan, you might find the Taurus to be okay – frustrating controls and poor visibility aside. You might not realize that this isn't the most room you can get in a sedan. You might not realize that other big cars don't drive like barges. You might not realize what level of luxury other cars at this price point have achieved for interior quality, ride quality, and noise isolation.
Do yourself a favor and check out the rest of the class. You'll see just how much the Taurus buyers are missing.
Overall grade: D+
- More photos of the 2014 Ford Taurus Limited
- Report card: Rating the Taurus -- how does it compare in different ways, such as comfort, performance, and fuel economy?
- Report card: Ranking the Taurus -- how does it stack up for different types of buyers?
More from this comparison:
- Next review: 2014 Dodge Charger SXT Plus (9th place)
- Rating the ten large sedans
- Ranking the ten large sedans
- Quick summaries of the ten large sedans: Pros, cons, conclusions
Vehicle tested: 2014 Ford Taurus
Vehicle base price (MSRP): $26,700
Version tested: Limited
Version base price (MSRP): $34,200
Vehicle price as tested (MSRP): $37,915
Vehicle price as comparable (MSRP)*: $39,220
Estimated transaction price as comparable**: $32,364
Test vehicle provided by: Ted Britt Ford; Chantilly, Va.
Length: 202.9 inches
Width: 76.2 inches
Height: 60.7 inches
Wheelbase: 112.9 inches
Weight: 4,035 pounds
Trunk volume: 20.1 cubic feet
Turning circle: 39.6 feet
Engine (as tested): 3.5-liter V6 with 288 horsepower
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
EPA city mileage: 19 miles per gallon
EPA highway mileage: 29 miles per gallon
EPA combined mileage: 23 miles per gallon
Assembly location: Illinois
For more information: Ford website
* "Prices as comparable" reflect 2014 models with leather seats, a sunroof, a navigation system, a premium audio system, heated front seats, and certain other premium features.
** Transaction price estimates are based on data from Truecar.com and dealer quotes.