Even though Ford launched its new Five Hundred sedan for 2005, the automaker's midsize Taurus continues into the 2006 model year with a simplified lineup and a single V-6 choice. Four-door sedans are offered in SE and SEL trim levels. SEL models gained woodgrain trim on the console, doors and instrument panel for 2005. When properly equipped, sedans seat up to six occupants.
Ford has already dropped the Taurus wagon, and the sedan isn't likely to last much longer. Mercury no longer offers its related Sable sedan but has instead turned to the new Milan model.
Aerodynamic teardrop-shaped headlights and large taillights are the major styling cues on the four-door Taurus sedan, which rides on a 108.5-inch wheelbase and has 16-inch tires. At 197.6 inches long overall, the Taurus is approximately 8 inches longer than the Toyota Camry. Seven-spoke aluminum wheels are mounted on SEL models. A sunroof is optional.
In SE form, the Taurus sedan can seat up to six people with a front bench seat and folding center storage console. Five occupants fit in the SEL sedan, which is equipped with front bucket seats. All four doors contain map pockets, and the trunk holds 17 cubic feet of cargo.
Standard SE equipment includes air conditioning, remote keyless entry, cruise control, a cassette stereo, and power windows, locks and mirrors. Moving up to the SEL model adds a driver's door keypad, a six-way power driver's seat, lighted visor mirrors, a HomeLink garage-door opener and a CD player. The SE sedan has a column-mounted gearshift, while the SEL has a floor lever. Options include leather seating surfaces and heated mirrors.
Under the Hood
Only a single 3.0-liter V-6 is available for 2006:a Vulcan overhead-valve engine that produces 153 horsepower. The four-speed-automatic transmission incorporates adaptive shift control.
The front airbags deploy at one of two inflation levels based on crash severity and whether or not the seat belts are buckled. Side-impact airbags, antilock brakes and traction control are optional.
The Taurus sedan is satisfying in most respects, but it doesn't stand above the midsize pack, which includes the league-leading Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. Ride and handling are acceptable, but the Taurus can feel a little ponderous at times; it can also exhibit a harsher-than-expected ride. The automatic transmission functions in an easygoing manner but may suffer a bit of hesitation when downshifting.
Interior space is ample, but large roof pillars impair visibility. All the seats are comfortable and supportive. Despite a few drawbacks, attractive prices have made the Taurus a good buy against much of the competition. Now that the sedan is on its way out, it's tough to recommend at any price.