2003 Ford Taurus SEL Review
The Auto Channel
DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD WITH CAREY RUSS
The family sedan isn't going away any time soon, despite the
popularity of SUVs. I've just finished a week with a 2003 Ford Taurus sedan, and it seemed that I saw myself, or at least my car, everywhere I went.
Which is not all that surprising. The Taurus has been at or near the top of the sales charts since its introduction nearly 20 years ago. It's Ford's contemporary take on the American family sedan. Or wagon, as it is also offered in that body style. A Taurus may not be the stuff of teenage performance fantasies (except, maybe, for the NASCAR racing version, which shares little other than the name with any Taurus you can buy for the street) but it fits the needs of many Americans.
After some major changes three years ago, ``refinement'' has been the Taurus watchword. The 2003 Taurus is offered in, as mentioned, sedan and wagon body styles, with four trim levels. 3.0-liter V6 engine choices are the 155-horsepower pushrod ``Vulcan'' and the 200-horse twincam ``Duratec,'' both matched to a four-speed automatic transmission. The base LX and slightly fancier SE are augmented by the premium SEL and new, sporty-looking SES.
My week with a fully-equipped Taurus SEL was quite pleasant. With a very good suspension calibration it was comfortable and surprisingly enjoyable to drive, with a very European ride quality. Interior and trunk space were never problems, and new soundproofing in the floor made helped keep road noise at bay.
APPEARANCE: Back in the mid-1980s, the original Ford Taurus redefined automotive styling, replacing the boxy look of the late 1970s and early `80 with more rounded forms. When the current Taurus was introduced back in late 1995, it made the first-generation car seem as square as the cars it replaced, and pushed the envelope for rounded styling. In the view of many observers, it pushed a little too far, and so soon was revised with a touch of Ford's ``New Edge'' angles-and-planes styling. A larger grille, character lines cut into the hood, and a truncated rear with large triangular taillights gave it better definition, without losing character. Styling changes since 1998 have been minor, mostly to wheels and paint colors.
COMFORT: What makes a car easy to live with? If interior space and comfort top your list, the Taurus will not disappoint. It's at the large end of the mid-sized category, and can be had in five- or six-passenger form. The interior was restyled at the same time as the exterior, with a more mainstream appearance and the addition of useful storage pockets. My SEL test car was in five-seat trim, with comfy front bucket seats separated by a functional console. The rear bench seat is wide enough for three people, with better-than-average head and leg room. It folds with at 60/40 split to handle long cargo items, but that should be a rare occasion as the trunk is commendably large, with easy access. Easily readable black-on-white instruments are featured, and the control buttons are the standard large, easy-to-use Ford items. In standard trim, the Taurus SEL is well-equipped, with a power driver's seat, AM/FM/cassette/ 6-CD changer stereo, an excellent climate-control system, remote keyless entry, and more. Options in my test car like a genuine wood and leather steering wheel that looked to be right out of a Lincoln, leather upholstery, and the premium ``Mach'' audio system brought it up nearly to an entry-luxury level of appointment.
SAFETY: Every 2003 Ford Taurus comes with the ``Personal Safety System''(tm), which uses electronic sensors to determine deployment of the dual-stage front airbags in a crash. Antilock brakes are standard, and side airbags are available. The Taurus has received high ratings in both government and insurance industry crash tests.
ROADABILITY: Combine a rigid chassis fully independent MacPherson strut front and multi-link strut rear suspension that is tuned correctly, with matched spring and shock rates, and you get a comfortable ride that smoothes out road irregularities and handling characteristics that are a cut above what is expected in an American family sedan. The Taurus has a contemporary European feel. Body motions from acceleration and braking are damped out quickly, and cornering behavior is very good for a middle-of-the-road family sedan. New underfloor sound damping material lessens road noise, for a quieter and more relaxing driving experience.
PERFORMANCE: With the 200-horsepower twincam 32-valve 3.0-liter ``Duratec'' V6 and a four-speed automatic transmission, the Taurus SEL is optimized for American everyday life. It's out of its element over about 75 mph, when the engine begins to run out of breath, but acceleration and response in all common situations is very good. Welcome to the real world. In highway cruising, in city traffic, and at moderate speeds on secondary roads the Taurus is in its natural habitat.
CONCLUSIONS: The 2003 Ford Taurus combines space and comfort.
2003 Ford Taurus SEL
Base Price $ 23,835
Price As Tested $ 26,160
Engine Type dual overhead cam 24-valve aluminum alloy V6
Engine Size 3.0 liters / 180 cu. in.
Horsepower 200 @ 5650 rpm
Torque (lb-ft) 200 @ 4400 rpm
Transmission 4-speed electronically-controlled automatic
Wheelbase / Length 108.5 in. / 197.6 in.
Curb Weight 3322 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower 16.6
Fuel Capacity 18.0 gal.
Fuel Requirement 87 octane unleaded regular gasoline
Tires P215/60 TR16 Continental Touring Contact AS
Brakes, front/rear vented disc / drum,
antilock no-cost option
Suspension, front/rear independent MacPherson strut /
independent multi-link strut
Drivetrain front engine, front-wheel drive
EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
city / highway / observed 20 / 27 / 22
0 to 60 mph 8.4 sec
OPTIONS AND CHARGES
Wood steering wheel and shift knob $ 190
Premium leather seating $ 945
Mach audio system $ 345
Luxury/convenience group - includes:
power heated outside mirrors, perimeter
lighting, inside mirror with compass $ 185
Destination and delivery $ 660
My first car was a 67 Mustang Coupe, 2nd one was a 67 Cougar XR-7, 3rd one was a 66 Mustang Coupe. Why did I get rid of these cars for ? I know why, because I'm stupid, stupid, stupid.
My next Ford.....