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Getting Ford's legendary Taurus nameplate back on track has been one of the automaker's many miracles of the past several years. With the return of the Taurus SHO, and a newfound emphasis on tech features and luxury refinement, Ford brought a once-great name back from the brink—as an excellent, albeit staid larger sedan.
For 2013, Ford hasn't shaken up the formula all that much, but it's stepped up its game just a little bit in all respects—with better fuel economy, improved driving feel and dynamics, and even more safety and tech features that are typically reserved for German luxury flagships. It's also refreshed the Taurus' look in front and in back, as well as spruced up the cabin look and made room for the MyFord Touch infotainment interface inside.
But the big news is that a 2.0-liter EcoBoost turbo four will be optional, making 237 horsepower and 250 pound-feet of torque, while also returning at least 31 mpg on the highway. A 290-horsepower version of the familiar 3.5-liter V-6 will remain standard; it adds twin independent variable camshaft timing, bringing it up to date with recent upgrades in the rest of the Ford lineup. Each of those engines is hooked up to a six-speed automatic transmission. And yes, the high-performance 2013 Ford Taurus SHO is back, with its 365-hp, 3.5-liter turbocharged V-6 and standard all-wheel drive (AWD is available on Taurus SEL and Limited, too).
Whether you'll like the SHO really depends on what you want in a performance sedan. It's not a high-involvement car, yet it can be quite rewarding in the sense that it's very capable in the corners without reminding you with added noise or vibration during everyday driving. Ford has also retuned the entire lineup's ride and handling for 2013, with less impact harshness and a little more progressivity to the suspension. You'll find decent ride comfort, yet it's confidence-inspiring, with direct, precise steering and more feedback than is typical from the electric power steering.
From one of the front seats, the Taurus feels almost like a personal-luxury car. There are focused, defined areas for the driver and front passenger, with a wrap-around instrument panel design and a low, wide center console that firmly splits the driver and passenger sides (and actually, taking up a lot of space). The back seat is wide, with potential space for three adults, though legroom and headroom can be surprisingly tight, given the Taurus' full-size exterior; that's one of the glaring flaws remaining from a 2010 redesign that dropped the roofline (to good design effect, otherwise). Faux-wood and chrome trim combine with good fit and finish to give it an upscale look and feel that's generally in sync with its price tag.
The Taurus already had a reputation for safety and safety features, and now the automaker is really following through with Alan Mullaly's vision of making the Taurus the brand's luxury-and-tech flagship. Examples of what's on offer include a new heated steering wheel, multicontour seats with Active Motion, Intelligent Access with push-button start, auto high beams, rain-sensing wipers, a rearview camera system, and a power rear sunshade. And for those who do a lot of parallel parking in urban areas, the Intuitive Park Assist feature remains another standout convenience.
The 2013 Ford Taurus will as before be offered in SE, SEL, Limited, and SHO versions, with prices up somewhat from last year; base Taurus SE models start at $27,395, and later in the year the 2.0T four-cylinder engine will be a $995 option on all non-SHO models.