From 2001 to 2017, at least one Ford Taurus or Mercury Sable counted itself as a member of the Snitkoff fleet. Letting go of a car is generally a somewhat emotional affair, but as CC’s resident Taurus expert, this was something different. I owed it to myself to gather some final thoughts on the car by taking it out one last time.
With 176,000 miles on the odometer, the Taurus isn’t a young car by any stretch of the imagination. But that number doesn’t tell the whole story: the vast majority of the accumulated mileage is the result of highway driving. From March 2007 to November 2012, the Ford served as dad’s primary transportation from chateau Snitkoff to the Wonder Bread depot in the Bronx, a distance of about 60 miles. Some quick calculations put total commuter mileage at 138,000, or 78 percent of the overall number.
Although the Taurus traveled far less in the last five years, it was still used regularly. The Ford was pretty close to the ideal used car for the price point: never sat for long periods of time, the majority of the miles were acquired on the highway, and its owner performed all the requisite maintenance when needed. Sure, the car has some rust on the rear wheel well and elsewhere, but its also seen eleven New York winters.
Getting behind the wheel confirmed my suspicion: the Taurus is much younger than its miles suggest. The suspension seemed a bit noisy, but whatever was going on didn’t impact the ride or handling. Probably just a CV joint that will need replacement in the near future.
You’ve pretty much already seen the downsides to the Ford: that dent on the front passenger bumper and this side mirror that lost its body colored cover when dad rubbed it against the garage. Fortunately, that cover did not provide protection for the components inside the power mirror, because its functionality wasn’t impaired after residing outside for three months, which exposed it to rain and snow. The only other issue is a dead speaker inside the drivers door.
The 2013 Honda Civic dad purchased in September was ostensibly the replacement for the Taurus. An upcoming post will detail his feelings towards the car once the honeymoon period ended, but I can’t totally omit all information related to his distaste of the Honda if I’m going to write a compelling review of the Ford.
|Year/Make/Model||Horsepower||Torque (Ib ft)||Weight (Ib)||Power-to-weight ratio|
|2013 Honda Civic||140||128||2837||20.26 Ib per horsepower|
|2006 Ford Taurus||155||185||3316||21.39 Ib per horsepower|
Dad’s major problem with the Civic was its lack of power. At first I thought this was due to the ECO mode that he insisted be kept on, but once he realized its uselessness he turned it off. His complaints about a power deficit relative to the Taurus never stopped though, although my skepticism of his claim remained high. Then I drove the Taurus and realized he was right: the Taurus is noticeably quicker than the Civic. And substituting torque for horsepower when calculating the power-to-weight-ratio reinforces our claim, with the Honda’s figure rising to 22.16 while the Ford drops to 17.92. So the table doesn’t tell the whole story.
The Taurus also likely benefits from a transmission tune that favors performance over fuel economy, as the car was calibrated in an era when that really didn’t matter. Here’s another quasi-bombshell: the shift quality in the Taurus is smoother. Before your head explodes, take note that I didn’t say the transmission is more refined than the Honda, because it isn’t. The Ford will awkwardly shift sometimes, but the driver is more isolated from feeling those shifts when compared to the five speed unit in the Civic.
“Smooth” really is the best word to describe how the Taurus operates. The Vulcan V6 didn’t vibrate much at idle, and when summoned, performed so well that I had trouble modulating the gas pedal for refined takeoffs. I probably looked like a new driver to the motorists who were next to me at stoplights.
On the road the Taurus performed well. Road imperfections didn’t really faze the car, and unlike a Toyota Camry of the similar vintage, the Ford remained composed over bumps and railroad crossings. What the Taurus and Camry have in common is fairly numb steering that doesn’t do a good job at telling the driver what the wheels are doing, although the Ford’s steering provides slightly better feedback.
Interior quality was perfectly adequate for the time and really isn’t much of an issue. The steering wheel and center stack didn’t feel cheap at all. Plastics along the dash definitely lagged behind the Japanese competition but would not have been a deal breaker for me if I had been shopping for a mid size in 2006. Hard touch plastics adorn every inch of the door inserts. That area is where you really feel the difference between the Taurus and its Korean and Japanese counterparts, but how often do you rub your hands over sections of the door pockets and the part of the dash that covers the passenger side airbag for the tactile quality to make a difference?
The aforementioned interior flaws are minor. Really, the only area that truly fails to compete is the seating. The leather in this car can be best described as “cloth alternative.” It kind of feels like a combination of vinyl and whatever material the seats at your local diner are made of. The seats are thickly bolstered though, which is their saving grace. I’d be very surprised if these seats were less comfortable after a three hour drive than the ones in my 2013 Focus, which become uncomfortable after about two hours.
As for durability, the interior held up extremely well. No broken or missing buttons, seat bolstering never caved in or degraded, and nothing in the cabin was falling apart or threatening to do so.
The same can be said for the rest of the car too. The car ate some batteries and alternators and needed a new catalytic converter at 150,00 miles, but none of those things are abnormal for a car over a ten year period. In other words, the car proved to be very reliable. I’ll conclude this piece with the question I asked dad after spending a day with the Taurus:
“Why in the hell are you selling this car?”
It will be interesting to see when my school district lets go of their last Taurus. They bought quite a few of the 2006-2007 fleet specials when the jellybean was last being phased out. All of them identical to the point where you could start swapping parts around from one car to the other.
Personally I thought they did well gobbling up highway miles when I would be assigned one – set the cruise at 5 over the limit, point the nose where you wanted to go. Crank the manual lumbar to keep my back happy.
If I could get one cheap, clean, with receipts, and under 100,000 miles it would still make a great commuter.
As the owner of multiple Taurus/Sable since a 1986 and over 650,000 miles, I can say that they all did what was asked of them with no drama. They were pleasant drives, roomy, comfortable and durable. I avoided the 2.5L Four and the 3.8L V6, and the Gen 3 “Fish face” though even that has grown on me. For me, these Fords have been a highly satisfactory and successful line of cars and the two I still have are continuing that experience.
“If I could get one cheap, clean, with receipts, and under 100,000 miles it would still make a great commuter.”
I’ve bought several cars on that basis, and sold each of them fairly soon afterwards. Dependable and reliable just isn’t enough for me, I need some uniqueness in the equation.
Others will disagree with me here, but I see a parallel to the early CAFE days in the early 80s. For anything larger, the new ones certainly got better fuel mileage but at a penalty in driveability.
Your Taurus sort of represents something from the mid 70s in my analogy – the modern equivilent of the stupid pushrod V8 and 3 speed auto that provided a very satisfactory driving experience, for the most part. My stepmother’s Camry with its 4 cylinder engine hampered by a transmission that aggressively upshifts at the very earlies opportunity makes for an unpleasant drive.
Americans like torque and always have. PN tells me that the new turbo 4s are a new ballgame and it could be true. I fear that we are soon going to miss the era of stupid lazy V6s and automatics with enough, but not too many, gears.
“Stupid” push rod engines?
What’s not to like about near anvil reliability, valve covers that don’t threaten to rub the hood or inner fenders and timing chains that don’t reach from here to the next county?
Don’t get me started on timing belts! 😉
(Truth be told, I am warming to the iVTEC and similar OHC’s as long as a timing chain is involved.)
I’d say PN is probably right. My mom went from the (IMO) awesome 3800 in her Buick to a little 4-banger in her Fusion and she can’t tell the difference. I can tell the difference in torque off the line, but honestly can’t care as the 4 moves that car just fine enough, thank you.
Is it one of the Ecoboost models? That seems like it would be the determinant. I went from the SOHC 4.6 V8 in my Crown Vic to the 2.5 NA 4-cyl in my Fusion and there is a much bigger difference than the power ratings would suggest. Much like the comparison with the Honda here, the ’97 Vic has all of 190 HP to haul around 3800 lbs, whereas the Fusion is armed with 175 HP weighing in at a surprisingly hefty 3600. HP to weight is very similar. Torque is a different ball game, 260 for the ‘Vic versus 175 for the Fusion, and the end result is that the Fusion feels comparatively gutless. Which is particularly damning given that a ’97 Crown Vic isn’t exactly a ball of fire.
The 1.5 Ecoboost isn’t much better at 181 HP/181 lb-ft, though it gets better mileage numbers by dint of its smaller size. The 2.0 turbo? 231/270, which makes a night and day difference. That’s the one I wish I’d held out for.
Every one of these Taurus/Sables (and the 1996-1999, which is of course the same car) has sagging rear springs. I’m glad to hear you’ve had a good experience, and call me superficial, but seeing EVERY DN101 with the same suspension problem has cemented a very negative image of the car in my mind.
My father owned 2 of the 96 era Tauruses, and a 2003 Taurus, none of them had sagging suspensions. ( However, I do have to qualify that by saying they generally hauled my father and 1 or 2 passengers. )
All of them did have transmissions that failed before hitting 6 figures, though.
Having driven several Hondas, mostly, but not all with manual transmissions I have to say the engine-transmission match-up can be hit or miss. I wonder if that applies to the Civic belonging to the author’s father?
To get back to the Taurus “chronicled” here… when this model of the Taurus was 1st offered, one of the standard features of the SEL, if I remember correctly, was the DOHC engine. Towards the end of the Taurus’s run, cost cutting reared its ugly head at Ford. Either that, or Ford made the DOHC engine standard to the new that year 500 hoping buyers would move to the newer/more expensive car.
And my Crown Victoria has what I consider to be the hardest door mounted armrests in a car, so skimping on soft touch plastics in Fords can’t be minimized.
I believe that in the last couple of years, the only engine in the Gen 4 Taurus was the pushrod 3.0L Vulcan. The 3.0L Duratec was gone.
In the last year, 2007, the Taurus was “fleet sales only.” Taurus was “sedan-only” by then, no more wagon.
Prior to that there was some cost-cutting decontenting. Inside door handles lost their chrome, as did the trim spear above the rear license plate. 2003 was probably its peak year. But the Taurus never lost its quiet smoothness and good manners.
I’ve likened buying a Honda Civic and not getting a manual transmission to going to a seafood restaurant and ordering chicken. The automatic’s very much not the house specialty, it’s only on the menu because people keep asking for it, and it sometimes absorbs some fishy flavor from the fry oil.
If nobody has nominated this for comment of the day yet, let me be the first. Love it!
Ah the 4th generation Taurus/Sable. Much better looking then the 3rd gen. I have a lot of experiences with these. I owned a 2006 Taurus and my folks still have a 2003 Sable wagon
Ford has a built in noise sensor to let you know when you are turning the wheels. When you turn the steering wheel it makes a nnnnnaaarrggg sound (aka the power steering pump whine)
Yours is rare, not many Taurii were made with a sunroof.
I’ve never been able to like these cars too much just because they’re so… adequate to drive. It’s like driving a sensory deprivation tank, except whenever you hit a pothole the suspension is upset and the whole car jiggles. They’re far from the worst car I’ve ever driven but there’s not an ounce of passion anyway in this car. At least in the Camry you get the sense that Toyota was trying to build a quality vehicle.
It’s great that you had good service from this model of Taurus and I know they’re decent enough cars, I just have an irrational hatred of them.
Being the passionate Taurus/Sable fan you are, I can only imagine how difficult a day this is for you.
On that note, these fourth generation Tauruses and Sables have really diminished in numbers these last few years. It seems that up until recently, they were still everywhere. At least in my area, they’ve become non-everyday sights.
I knew this day was inevitable, so it didn’t really bother me too much. But it was with my family for ten years and not seeing it in the driveway is still strange. I’m honestly more upset about Ford potentially leaving the midsize segment in a couple of years.
I call my ’04 Taurus “The Appliance”. All it does is run.
The performance deficit felt in the Civic compared to the Taurus isn’t so much power to weight ratio as it is to where in the powerband each car peaks. Civic hp comes at 6500 rpm. Taurus is 5000. The Taurus torque rating is made at 3250, while the Civic is 4300.
Exactly. Tell your dad to just put his foot down harder. And longer. The Civic will wake up to that; it just needs to be shown the spurs.
I thought it was pretty odd that anything, let alone a newer model Civic, would be considered slow compared to a Vulcan Taurus.
Yes, I definitely think that his inexperience with four cylinders, especially a Honda four, is partially to blame for his complaint about the Civic lacking power.
That being said, my 2013 Focus feels much quicker than the Civic ever did, and that also has a naturally aspirated four.
As the former owner of a 2012 Civic 5-speed auto and a 2014 Civic with CVT, I feel obligated to chime in.
First of all, Ed, thanks for this post! For it’s age, that’s one sweet Taurus. I’ve never driven one, but my sister-in law had a ’86 Aerostar with the 3.0 Vulcan engine that I did get to experience. It was a $1,500 beater by the time she got it, but drivetrain-wise it was the proverbial Timex — it took a licking and kept ticking.
Granted, the featured Taurus has both a HP and torque advantage, but I agree with Paul. No need to fear giving a Civic a little more “spur.” Both of my Civics (iVTEC 1.8L) would pull pretty nicely starting about the mid 3,000 RPM range. 5,000 RPM for more than a few seconds was overkill. I’d be in excess of most legal speeds by that time.
The 5-speed auto in my ’12 Civic was a joy to drive, as is the 5-speed auto in my wife’s current ’14 CR-V. The Hondas handle speed and load conditions quite competently, with very little hunting for the right gear. Very unlike my ’00 Malibu (3.1 V6 and 4-speed auto) and most other 4-speed automatics I’ve driven.
The CVT in the ’14 Civic did take a little getting used to but didn’t exhibit the excessive “rubber-band” behavior attributed to earlier CVT’s. My recollection is that once the RPMs hit the sweet spot, the seat of the pants feeling was slightly more satisfying than the ’12 with the 5-speed.
Yep, when I’m passing I’ll wind it out well over 5,000 RPM in fourth gear.
We owned a 2004 Taurus SE with the Vulcan, which we got from my Aunt in 2007, with only 11K, older lady miles. It was definitely an appliance, like the 1992 Camry it replaced, which had 200K miles on it. It racked up an additional 90K-ish miles in the 8 years we owned it, with very few issues.
The Vulcan was comparatively peppy, but a bit raspy at higher RPM’s. The Camry had a smaller turning radius and the Toyota engineers had clearly spent a little time to create a much smoother throttle tip-in. Plus, they hadn’t cheaped-out yet with the Gen 3 models. At the end of the day, both cars did what they needed to do, reliably and with with no driving excitement whatsoever….the essence of plain vanilla.
Other than the fact that low mileage examples of this era Taurus are few and far between, I’d have no hesitation about recommending one as basic transportation.
My previous employer had a few 2002 Tauri in the motor pool where they served well, and far more reliably than the 2004 Dodge Strati in the fleet. My current employer has quite a few current generation Tauri, many with 100K+, mainly highway miles, and they seem to hold up quite well. The new ones are exponentially more refined than my 2004, but the old ones were sure easier to see out of.
We’ve owned two of these- a ’03 Sable and a ’03 Taurus. The Sable came out of the Estate of a co-workers mom. More accurately, they’d forgotten about the car completely until they started cleaning out the house prior to the new owners taking possession. The car was literally like new, under 20K miles, and coated with a thick layer of dust. Fired right up first twist of the key. Nice detail, belts, hoses, tires, and the Sable proved to be a willing soldier in the commuter wars. Totalled by a prior student of mine, who pile-drove his mom’s Highlander into the back of it one afternoon. Ironically, I was able to drive the Sable home, although both vehicles were totalled.
The Taurus is still in the family, with over 170K miles behind it. Air still blows cold, has all the Pwr Equipment (it all works), doesn’t use a quart of oil between changes, and is on it’s original transmission. Bottom line with both cars- they’re like the Energizer Bunny. Solid, smooth, comfortable, roomy, decent gas mileage.
*Can’t comment on the OP’s dad’s Civic, but the neighbor across the street bought a new ’17 Civic EX for his wife this summer. It’s for sale- she hates it. Her prior rig was (and is again, for now) a ’11 Expedition. I suspect the change in size was too much.
This is the Taurus. Not in bad shape for a 15 yr old car.
Not at all! Nice color too.
Ford built a decent car that could compete with Toyota. My two Vulcans have given me good service (336k on a 1990 I bought new…no major repairs; and my ’04 I bought in ’05 has been babied and virtually trouble-free to 160k).
Ford leaders, however, deserve a good kick in the seat for neglecting a great selling nameplate until its demise. The ’96 fish face redesign was terrible. The ’00 freshening helped; but the basic car was now 15 years old.
I have helped 4 friends of modest means have affordable transportation by finding them decent used ’00-04 Tauruses. All are serving well.
The 1996 version was about as much as a clean sheet redesign as anybody’s had in the last 20 years. The 2000 model was a refresh of at that time a 4 year old platform.
Source: possibly the best book ever written about the auto industry, Mary Walton’s Car
I highly recommend Ms. Walton’s book to those CC-ers who haven’t read it. Although Taurus-centric, as CJC pointed out it gives a great view into the industry as a whole.
I rented one in ‘04 in Portland and was shocked how good it was on the hills. Being from
the flat Midwest and not used to driving up and down things, I was worried for both the car and I handling it properly. But we both got through it. We’re probably both just Good Enough; but I’ll always like these Taurii.
We purchased an ’01 Sable GS wagon new and kept it for 15 years, 193K miles. While it was nothing exciting, it was definitely safe, reliable and durable. Never had a problem with the Vulcan engine or the transmission. And I liked the rumbly growl of the exhaust at idle –quieter and smoother than contemporary GM V6s, but cool nonetheless — way better than all the turbo 4-bangers buzzing around now. Also, the cloth seats were comfortable and had a great, soft fabric — not like the institutional, nylon-y feel of so-called “cloth” seats in today’s cars. We raised our 5 kids with the Sable, and my wife and I both shed a few tears when we backed it out of the garage the last time (still running fine, but body falling apart) for pick-up by the non-profit agency we donated it to.
I’ve had ’01 Taurus SE bought used in 2010 for five years. Mine also developed rust at the left rear wheel arch. While not without problems (no heat, power steering rack leaking and few other issues), it never left me stranded. I liked it for a smooth ride and a nice feeling (not scratchy) mouse fir Gray interior. What I didn’t like was abysmal fuel economy and no power from the Vulcan.
It’s a delight to get this COAL story back-to-back with Paul’s “15-year-ownership” post. My ’99 Taurus wagon is turning 19, and has overall been reliable, practical, and never unexpectedly hard on the wallet. Had I not come upon CC a few years ago I’d probably have sold it off, but Paul/CC have somehow spurred me to keep her going as long as maintenance or reliability didn’t suddenly get costly/iffy.
I don’t know where principaldan lives, but even here in Great Lakes territory it’s not hard to find that modest-miles, well-maintained Gen4 car (check for Mercury Sables also to increase your chances) that some couple is finally letting go of (or selling for a elder parent).
p.s. Edward, I understand the sadness of parting with a faithful car–hope you’re working through it OK!
p.p.s. to everyone: my transmission has been trouble-free with decent fluid changes. However soon the problems come, would the first symptom be rough shifts or hunting for a gear, or is there any way it could “break down” leave us suddenly stranded?
Mine started hunting for a gear… violently… when accelerating hard a couple of years ago. Had the screen cleaned, serviced, and the problem went away. That was maybe 20+K miles ago.
I know I’m late to this party and I hope you see this, but: I have that leather in my 2006 Ford Focus, and frankly it’s a little tricky to tell the leather seating surfaces from the vinyl on the sides and the back.
My mom found one 4 years ago, a 2004 SES Sedan with 72k and one owner and snagged it up. It’s at 101k now. It’s a good car, probably the best of all five Tauri and one Sable we have had in the family. Has the Duratec engine. I drive a Camry XLE, and yes I do find the Taurus to be more composed over bumps and irregularities in the road. Steering is slightly less numb in the Taurus as well.
I’ve been looking at a 2006 97,000 mile Taurus while I’m typing this. Its clean inside and out and priced right at $1750. After reading this I think I’ll take the plunge.