By Dusty Overby
on 11.5.09

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It’s no secret that American car makers are in the process of reinventing themselves. Their image and their vehicles are being transformed, as well. Admittedly, we’re often enamored with the latest models to arrive at port from Asian and European manufacturers and, for years, our excuse has been that there simply wasn’t much to consider here at home. In other matters, we love all things Americana, but not so in our vehicular lusts.

We’re happy to report that, tough as times are, Detroit is starting to change our (hearts and) minds. Whereas it’s tough to put old biases and longstanding impressions aside, the 2010 Ford Taurus gave us pause and a real reason to rethink our prejudice against the American sedan. Gone is the El Toro that deserved ridicule in your high school parking lot; it has been replaced by a mature and well-performing mid-sized sedan, easily suited to a wide range of drivers and needs.

We didn’t expect to be won over by Ford’s newly redesigned flagship, but the wooing worked. Follow along to see why.

We recently had the opportunity to take the 2010 Ford Taurus for a weekend romp, which provided more than enough opportunity to feel it out. Our route would take us from Knoxville, TN to Charlotte, NC and back; tracing over 800 miles in three days, a good bit of which was up and over the Appalachian Mountains. Though the weather was poor (rain, mostly), slick and winding roads gave us an even better accounting of the Taurus balanced, powerful handling.

…we averaged 26+ MPG. Impressive for a car of this size under the burden of a spirited test drive…

Our test car was a Taurus SEL, the second of four trim levels, and it came nicely equipped (more on that to come). Finished in a classy Steel Blue, our first impressions of the vehicle were of its exterior stylings and they were quite positive, especially compared to recent iterations of the Taurus and the even stuffier Ford Five Hundred. Despite the 2010 Taurus’s obvious heft (this is not a small car by any measurement), everything about the design is aggressive. El Toro, indeed. Most notably, the car’s waistline has been raised and the roofline flattened and lowered, furthering its athletic stance.

Standard 18″ wheels (our car featured even bolder 19′s) go one step further in enhancing the bruiser’s sporty appearance. Though the rear might seem a little large for some, this editor found it to flow well with the cars front end lines, and is imminently forgivable considering the massive trunk storage it affords (20+ cubic feet). In my opinion, the only exterior gaffe comes in the form of fake vents in each front quarter panel, they look a bit cheap and are pointless. Still, that’s a minor gripe when compared with the overall classy, refined look of the car’s body.

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Inside, most of the appointments featured in the cabin of the 2010 Taurus work to enhance the feeling of quality and contemporary style. Most prominent in our demo were the black leather seats accented by white glove-stitching. Not only did they look hot, but unseen were the seat heaters, 8-way power motion on both front seats, and, best of all, Ford’s new Active Motion system which provides rolling massage for both your back and bottom. This was especially enjoyable on our long, interstate drive. Throw in user-controlled LED lighting throughout the cabin, satellite radio, and Ford’s impressive Sync system, and we have plenty to toy with along the way. The cabin was roomy (although the aforementioned roofline could be a little tight for some), easily fitting full-sized adults in any seat. We traveled with two car seats in back, and the Taurus didn’t flinch. Even at highway speeds (and beyond), the interior remained impressively quiet and smooth. Good ride, check.

The Taurus impressed in the performance department, as well. Immediately, the car feels heavy (our FWD models weighed in a just over 2 tons). However, a quick mash of the accelerator, it became clear that this wasn’t much of a detriment. The 263 HP, 3.5L V6 had more than enough giddy-up to move the car with agility and responsiveness. Paired with an excellent 6-speed automatic transmission, the car shifted properly and without hesitation. The manual shifting option seemed to allow for much more control than most tiptronics we’ve seen, though the paddle shifters might seem a bit overkill in this range.

2010-ford-taurus-drive-rear-gear-patrolAs I mentioned, our route took us “up the hill” from Knoxville to Asheville, NC en route to Charlotte. This is a favorite stretch of road, as it features a 50 mile climb through the mountains on I-40, where sharp curves and fairly high speeds can reasonably coexist. Thinking that the inertia of the seemingly weighty Taurus might make for a reserved climb, in reality, nothing could have been further from the truth. The Taurus seems made for such drives, aggressively pawing its way uphill and around lesser vehicles. Beefy roll bars and fine balance made for little to no body roll. Yes, you heard right, the Taurus is fun to drive. Lastly, it’s worth mentioning that over the course of our weekend drive (which was about 80% highway miles), we averaged 26+ MPG. Impressive for a car of this size under the burden of a spirited test drive.

Bottom Line: As a vehicle on a midsize mission, the 2010 Ford Taurus is a damn good car. It looks good, it performs well, and, though time will tell, it seems built to last. If I were to recommend the car to a particular type of driver, I’d say that it’s ideally suited to a commuter or salesperson who spends time on the highway each day. The Taurus will get you to where you’re going in comfort, style, and in touch with the road. Kudos to Ford and their 2010 Taurus for getting us excited again about hitting the American road in an American car.

Cost: Starting at $25,170 | As Tested, Approximately $29,000

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