Its three-decade lifespan will likely end soon.
The writing's on the wall. Large, front-wheel drive family sedans will be close to extinction in the next few years. Sure, a couple might survive, initially, but the onslaught of crossovers and their constantly growing popularity makes the family sedan a harder sell. What does it offer customers the crossover doesn’t? From a practical level, nothing. Only nostalgia remains. As we recently heard, there’s a good chance Ford will drop its long-running Taurus in the near future, and it won’t be alone within the segment.
Others will soon follow, and we’ll discuss what we think they’ll be in this week’s series. For today, it’s all Ford Taurus, a car many millennials remember as one of the most popular cars on the road for years. Not only was it an all-around fine family sedan, but also served duty in rental car fleets. Originally launched for 1986, the first Ford Taurus (also available as a wagon) was revolutionary design wise. It looked futuristic with its smooth lines and a more rounded appearance than its squared-off piers of the time. The Taurus (and its Mercury Sable corporate cousin) proved family sedans could and should look good.
It was also the beginning of a new set of quality standards for Ford, which was more accustomed to building rear-wheel drive sedans, such as the Taurus’ predecessor, the lame LTD. Sounds hard to believe today, but FWD was not the norm for sedans back then. Why the switch from RWD to FWD? Mainly for better fuel economy. Along with V6 power, the 1986 Taurus was the beginning of a new era not just for Ford, which spent billions of dollars on its development, but for the sedan segment as a whole. Competitors quickly sprung up, but the Taurus remained popular. It was refreshed for 1992.
When it was completely redesigned from the ground-up for 1996, many didn’t appreciate its new “jelly bean” styling, but this new Taurus continued to sell well. Following another refresh, Ford made the odd, and later reversed, decision to kill the Taurus in favor of the all-new 500 for 2005. It was a dumb move that cost Ford sales. Why drop a credible nameplate? That’s the very question Alan Mulally, appointed CEO in 2006, asked the Ford team. In fact, he was baffled by the decision. As a result, the Taurus name was revived for 2008, but it was applied to a refreshed 500. Built on a larger FWD platform, which is still in use today, the Taurus could now also be had with all-wheel drive.
No longer considered mid-size, a segment taken over by the Fusion, the Taurus was clearly larger than before. This was done on purpose because the long-running Crown Victoria was removed from the retail market, regulated to fleets only. At the time, Ford still required a full-size sedan, and given the Fusion’s success, it made sense to fill that slot with the Taurus. But unlike the Crown Victoria’s V8, the “new” Taurus came powered by a 3.5-liter V6 only. But the Taurus’ main drawback was its bland styling, leftover from the brief 500 era. Mulally wanted a redesign, but not at the expense of billions. That came in 2010, with a sleeker, somewhat less conservative design that’s still in use today.
Yes, jump ahead eight years to today and that same Taurus generation remains on the market, though it received a refresh a couple of years ago. It’s definitely out of date but instead of redesigning it completely, that aforementioned report indicates the Taurus has reached the end of the line. It’s simply no longer needed. That’s unfortunate because the Taurus has never been a bad car. On the contrary, it’s been the definitive domestic brand family sedan for over 30 years. Along with the high-performance SHO variants that have popped up along the way (today’s model features a 365 hp turbo V6 and AWD), the Taurus has also been a cop car favorite.
Rebranded and upgraded as the Interceptor, along with the Explorer SUV, the Taurus Interceptor is one of the most commonly seen police cars in the US right now. It also conveniently replaced the Crown Vic when it was retired from police service. But what will police departments do once the Taurus, and therefore the Interceptor as well, is off the market? That’s easy. Like the rest of America, more and more police departments currently driving Interceptor sedans will replace them with Interceptor SUV crossovers. By the time all is said and done, the Ford Taurus would have had a good run. More than three decades of service rightly earns it a place in American automotive history.