2013 Ford Taurus

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Reviewed By: Sam Moses
© 2013 NewCarTestDrive.com


The 2013 Ford Taurus is new, though it isn't all-new. It's not a new generation, just the current generation at its peak. This latest Taurus has many significant changes for the 2013 model year, all good so far as we can see, from powertrain to interior to exterior, in that order. Three engines are available for the 2013 Taurus.

The standard 3.5-liter V6 engine has been updated for 2013 for improved fuel economy, increased power and lower emissions. It's called TI-VCT, for Twin Independent Variable Camshaft Timing, a system that precisely times the valve openings to increase power, throttle response and fuel mileage, while reducing emissions. As a result, the 2013 Taurus gets an EPA-estimated 19/29 miles per gallon City/Highway with front-wheel drive, 18/26 mpg with all-wheel drive. The 3.5-liter V6 with Ti-VCT now makes 288 horsepower, a boost of 25 horsepower over the previous model.

A new EcoBoost 2.0-liter engine expected to get 31 miles per gallon on the highway is an option, though not initially. The turbocharged, direct-injection 2.0-liter four-cylinder is rated at 240 horsepower, 270 foot-pounds of torque at 3000 rpm. Keeping in mind that the Taurus is a full-sized car, these numbers make a statement about Ford's commitment to improved fuel mileage with increased power.

The twin-turbo EcoBoost 3.5-liter V6 that comes in the 2013 Taurus SHO has been pumped up to 365 horsepower and 350 foot-pounds of torque beginning at a super-low 1500 rpm. SHO stands for Super High Output and this engine lives up to the moniker. The 2013 Taurus SHO engine delivers 17/25 mpg, according to the EPA. Premium fuel is recommended. We got 19.4 mpg running it fairly casually in the city, on a freeway, and on two-lanes; and 17.6 mpg running it hard on a twisty two-lane.

The 2013 Taurus also gets a styling makeover, with a new hood, wider grille, cleaner front bumper and fascia, new wheels, new halogen projector beam headlamps, new deck lid, and LED taillamps. Unlike the new 2013 Ford Flex that wiped out the traditional Ford blue oval with chrome, the grille remains Ford's signature three-bar with a blue oval (cool black mesh on the SHO). A new trick is active grille shutters, that reduce aerodynamic drag at highway speeds.

The 2013 Taurus has presence: smooth, cool and muscular. Body-colored door handles and mirrors, with graceful headlamps; long horizontal slits for headlamps, that seem like they are as much on the corners and fenders of the car as on its face. Horizontal character lines travel under the door handles and streak rearward at the same level as the headlamps, as if they're an extension of speed. Taurus is a big car, larger than the midsize Ford Fusion and comparing with the Chrysler 300, Chevrolet Impala, Toyota Avalon, and Buick LaCrosse.

The interior gets a makeover for 2013 as well, a clean and stylish instrument panel, center stack, and console. Soft-touch materials abound, as fabric, trim, seat cushions and switchgear are all new, and beautifully done. There are rich materials on the graceful dash, and padding on the sides of the center console, where the driver's leg rests and is sometimes braced during cornering.

The Taurus is sweetly silent on the highway, thanks to work on sound insulation, namely behind the dash to keep engine noises at bay, in the wheelwells for road noise, and the A-pillars for wind noise. It's quiet also because the engine is so smooth, whether the TI-VCT or EcoBoost.

As with other 2013 Fords, the MyFordTouch system of electronic control gets revamped, after being introduced just two years ago. It's standard on 2013 Taurus Limited and 2013 Taurus SHO models, using a terrific 8-inch touch screen on the center stack. Ford owners liked the idea but hated the execution on the 2011 models, so MyFordTouch has been redesigned for 2013 to be simpler. What's more, the new MyFordTouch can be downloaded by dealers into any Ford vehicle that has the prior program. There's no charge for this upgrade/update, a tacit recognition by Ford that the first version was problematic, if not the total mess that many buyers complained about.

Taurus SE, SEL and Limited have been moved uptown for 2013, with driving dynamics made lively by electric power steering with a quicker ratio, firmer springs and dampers for more precise cornering, and the new TI-VCT engine with its 288 horsepower.

The Taurus SE is a satisfying family sedan with ample power from the 3.5-liter engine. For daily driving the Taurus with the 3.5-liter V6 more than holds its own, including out where the roads weave and wind, which it handles with alertness and stability. The Taurus is not a sports sedan. The ride is comfortable, as the suspension skillfully soaks up bumps. Power from the 3.5-liter V6 is smooth and progressive, with no awkward gas pedal tip-in that many cars with electronic throttles have nowadays. The TI-VCT V6 is even exhaust-tuned to deliver a satisfying little growl under acceleration.

The 6-speed automatic SelectShift transmission is seamless and well-programmed. Even in the SE, there's a Sport mode, with manual control using a thumb button on the side of the shift lever.

Model Lineup

Ford Taurus SE ($26,600); SEL ($28,800), SEL AWD ($30,650); Limited ($33,300), Limited AWD ($34,850); SHO ($39,200)

Walk Around

For 2013, Taurus gets a makeover with a new hood, wider grille, cleaner front bumper and fascia, new wheels, new halogen projector beam headlamps, new deck lid, and LED taillamps. Thankfully the grille remains Ford. s signature three-bar with a blue oval (cool black mesh on the SHO), unlike the new Flex that wiped out the oval with chrome.

Taurus has a presence now: muscular, smooth and cool. Body-colored doorhandles and mirrors, with graceful headlamps; long horizontal slits that seem like they. re as much on the corners and fenders of the car, as on its face. Horizontal character lines under the door handles streak rearward at the same level as the headlamps, as if they. re an extension of speed.

From the side, following these lines, the rear deck looks like it was sliced off by a guillotine. With a chrome strip between the taillamps and across the vertical trunk lid, the tail does not look as good from the rear as it does from the side. It looks a bit like a Chrysler. The SHO carries a tidy black spoiler back there.

The roofline is distinguished; we'd probably like it more without the chrome trim around the side windows.

Somehow, even with a 5-inch shorter wheelbase than the Ford Flex, the Taurus body is as long as that seven-passenger people-hauler. The Taurus isn't the midsize car it used to be. You want midsize, the Fusion is your Ford.

In fact, the Taurus's stretch is largely forward of the front wheels; its long hood is its style. The Taurus is 4.3 inches longer than the Chrysler 300, for example, but there are 11.6 more inches of overhang. Maybe it's the Chrysler that's the exception, because the Chevy Impala has the same overhang as the Taurus. The Toyota Avalon, with the least length of the four (5.7 inches shorter than the Taurus), falls between the Ford and Chrysler.

The exterior fit and finish, namely the tight body seams, matches that of an expensive European sedan. Craftsmanship reaches new levels with digital pre-assembly, at the Chicago plant. This technology enables engineers to find manufacturing imperfections before they become fixed sheetmetal, and ensures precise and uniform margins during production.

There are a number of wheels to choose from, depending on the model: either 17, 18, 19 or optional 20 inches.

Interior

If we could sum up everything we say below in detail, it would be that: the Taurus interior will make you happy. You won't curse your car for its flaws or what it lacks, you'll love it for the way it treats you, and feel comfortable in it.

The 2013 Taurus interior gets a makeover like the exterior does, with soft-touch materials and a clean instrument panel, center stack, and console. Fabric, trim, seat cushions and switchgear are all new, and beautifully done. There are rich surface materials for the stylish dash, and soft-touch material and padding on the sides of the center console, where the driver's leg rests and is sometimes braced during cornering.

The dashboard is handsome, being split up over the center stack so there are two separate eaves, over the driver's gauges and the space over the glovebox. It's a simple and pretty design, to avoid the big flat dash that many bigger cars seem to end up with, even expensive ones.

The seat cushions are new and super comfortable, not too soft and not too firm. The seats have ample bolstering to hold the driver in place. The optional Recaro seats in the SHO are amazing. And with the perforated suede-like leather, your body doesn't slide around. It feels to us like a perfect compromise for the hard-cornering but gentlemanly SHO.

The thick leather-wrapped steering wheel on SEL, Limited and SHO models is especially beautiful; it's basically a three-spoke but the downward short spoke is a V, so it's technically four spokes. Controls for audio, cruise control and trip information are on the wide horizontal spokes, reachable with a thumb. Taurus SE gets a urethane-wrapped steering wheel.

The Taurus is roomy inside, with total passenger volume of 102.2 cubic feet, including a decent 38.1 inches of rear legroom (Chrysler 40.1, Impala 37.6, Avalon 40.9), and a massive 20.1 cubic feet of trunk volume. With a deck that appears so short, we wonder where the trunk space comes from, and that's the mark of a well-designed car.

The cabin is sweetly silent on the highway, thanks to work on sound insulation, namely behind the dash to keep engine noises at bay, in the wheelwells for road noise, and A pillars for wind noise. The engines are also quiet and smooth, whether the Ti-VCT or EcoBoost V6.

As with other 2013 Fords, the MyFordTouch system of electronic control gets revamped, after being introduced just two years ago. It's standard on the Limited and SHO models, using a terrific 8-inch touch screen on the center stack.

Ford owners said they liked the idea but hated the execution, so it's been redesigned to be simpler. What's more, the new MyFordTouch can be downloaded by dealers into any Ford vehicle that has the 2011 program. There. s no charge for this upgrade/update, a tacit recognition by Ford that the first version was problematic, if not a mess as many complained.

We got along much better with MyFordTouch with this latest generation, introduced on the 2013 models. The touch-screen buttons are bigger, clearer about what they do, and respond with a satisfying blip. This version of MyFordTouch is more intuitive. SYNC voice recognition can be used in place of using the touch screen. Rather than pressing the on-screen Destination button, you say Destination, and tell it where you want to go, and hope it understands you. It worked for us, this time. We've had trouble with voice-recognition and are still unsure about talking to our cars, but these systems are getting better all the time.

Fancy interior options can run the price up, but the luxury sure sounds good. There's multi-contour front seats, with 6-way lumbar and subtle rolling-pattern massage. Great seats are important when doing a lot of driving. The bottom cushion features Active Motion, which provides a therapeutic lower back and upper leg massage. We say: you gotta be kidding us. And: woohoo!

Ambient lighting, standard on Limited and SHO, optional on SEL, uses LEDs that illuminate the front and rear footwells, door handles and two front cupholders. You can select the color you want: ice blue, soft blue, regular blue, orange, red, green, or purple. There are also five dimmer levels to adjust the intensity of the light.

Another nice option is HD Radio with digital broadcasting, giving CD-quality sound to FM radio and the sound of standard FM to AM stations. It comes with no monthly subscription fee.

Driving Impressions

Taurus SE, SEL and Limited are satisfying family sedans with ample power from the 3.5-liter engine. For daily driving, the Taurus more than holds its own, including out where the roads weave and wind, as it handles with alertness and stability. It is not a sports sedan. The ride is comfortable, as the suspension skillfully soaks up bumps.

The standard 3.5-liter V6 engine gets an EPA-estimated 19/29 mpg City/Highway with front-wheel drive, 18/26 mpg with all-wheel drive. The 3.5-liter V6 with Ti-VCT makes 288 horsepower.

Power is smooth and progressive, with no awkward gas pedal tip-in that many cars with electronic throttles have nowadays. The TI-VCT V6 is even exhaust-tuned to deliver a satisfying little growl under acceleration. The 6-speed automatic SelectShift transmission is seamless and well-programmed. Even in the SE, there's a Sport mode, with manual control using a thumb button on the side of the shift lever.

Taurus SHO has a different character, featuring the twin-turbocharged, 365-horsepower EcoBoost engine, which continues to prove itself, pounding a spike in the coffin of the V8. The EcoBoost V6 has the acceleration and torque of a V8. It may not have the full V8 rumble, but the V6 exhaust note through twin pipes does growl. If you drive a steady 65 mph, you'll get 25 mpg. We got 17.6 mpg during three hours of spirited, hammer-dropping driving through the forgotten forests between Portland and the Oregon Coast.

To counter the SHO's go, there's a new brake system with a larger master cylinder, revised booster tuning for improved brake feel, and upgraded friction material for additional resistance to fade. We used the brakes hard, and they felt wonderful, strong but not too sensitive, with a progressive feel to the pedal. Even the ABS felt smooth, without much vibration in the pedal, when we did a panic stop to test them.

The 2013 Taurus comes with a new electronic power steering system, with a quicker steering ratio in the SHO. In the curves and switchbacks, the steering sometimes feels behind the car, like it's just guiding the wheels, not forcing them. The handling can feel a bit floaty, even with the SHO's sport tuning of the suspension. Which by the way is jouncy, dancing around when we drove it hard over the undulating and twisty two-lane. Once we hit a bump while turning and one front wheel lost traction.

Over patchy pavement in town we found the ride was not harsh or uncomfortable in the SHO.

We loved the smoothness of the 6-speed automatic transmission, which in the SHO is beefier than in the other models, in order to handle the horsepower. And we loved the perfectly designed paddle shifters, especially compared to the awkward non-ergonomic button on the shift lever of the others. But the programming in Sport Manual mode was intrusive, and baffling. It not only shifted itself, but at the wrong times.

We came racing up to a curve at 4000-5000 rpm in second gear, and lifted the throttle to use engine compression to slow down, but the transmission upshifted to third so we needed to use the brakes to slow the car. Another time, we revved to redline 6500 in 2nd gear and upshifted to 3rd gear; then, still at full throttle, it almost immediately short-shifted itself into 4th gear at a lower engine speed than we wanted.

This is the kind of thing that turns a sports sedan driver off, and makes him or her not want to bother with a car. It's not your car, to drive how you want, it's some transmission programmer's. And frankly you know better than he or she does.

By the way, the rev limiter is not intrusive. No abrupt cutout of spark, the engine doesn't fall suddenly on its face, it just hangs there at 6500 and revs no higher, limited by fuel.

We don't mean to question Ford's dyno numbers, but still: the EcoBoost twin turbo V6 makes 350 foot-pounds of torque at 1500 rpm, all the way up to 5000 rpm, according to the stats. So we floored it in 6th gear at 1500 rpm, with the transmission in Sport Manual mode, and it kicked down on its own, all the way down to 3rd gear. If it's got all that torque at 1500 rpm, all the way to 5000 rpm, what's that surge we feel at 4000 rpm? Not that the surge is bad, we're just asking.

Finally, there's Torque Vectoring Control, which uses the electronic stability control module to monitor the dynamics of the car 100 times per second; when the front inside wheel starts to slip in a corner, brake is applied to that wheel, balancing the grip with the left front wheel and reducing understeer.

Torque Vectoring works with Curve Control, which is like electronic stability control, only quicker; it senses when a vehicle is entering a curve too fast, and cuts power and/or applies braking to individual wheels to reduce speed by up to 10 mph in one second. Think freeway on-ramps or off-ramps, especially in the wet.

Like the Taurus, the 2013 Ford Flex comes standard with Torque Vectoring and Curve Control; we drove the Flex over these same twisty roads on the previous day, and didn't feel Torque Vectoring in action. But we tried harder with the SHO, especially to make it oversteer (tail out) and understeer (plow), but we couldn't do it, because of something magical and invisible keeping us aligned, which we presume to be Torque Vectoring and Curve Control working as it was brilliantly intended.

Substantially revised for 2013, Ford Taurus is a solid family sedan, smooth and quiet underway. There's ample power from the standard 288-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 engine, which feels smooth and sophisticated when pulling from intersections but growls under hard acceleration. The 6-speed automatic SelectShift transmission is seamless and well-programmed. The ride is comfortable, as the suspension skillfully soaks up bumps, and the Taurus handles roads that weave and wind with alertness and stability. Torque Vectoring Control and Curve Control help keep it on the road, and all-wheel drive is available for slippery conditions. The Taurus SHO delivers V8-type acceleration performance from its Ecoboost V6.

Sam Moses filed this NewCarTestDrive.com report after his test drive of the Taurus SHO near Portland, Oregon.

109 Ford Taurus vehicles in stock at carmax.com

109 Ford Taurus vehicles in stock