By 2003 the problems in Taurusland were more than apparent. The Taurus, the American car that gave the Honda Accord a thrashing, the car that was so advanced that it needed merely a paintjob and some minor bits of plastic to be the police car of choice in the futuristic Detroit featured in Robocop, had fallen so far down from its pedestal that now the people most likely to buy them were fleet managers. Fleet managers who were only asked to keep the rental desks across America eternally stocked with mid-size cars of whatever brand gave the best bulk deal. The Taurus name had fallen, and only new blood would help it recover some of its lost dignity.
Okay, maybe that is too dramatic an introduction, but the fact that the Taurus was on a place far far away from where it was in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s still stands. But that’s not really the reason why the Taurus nameplate suffered its demise. No, the actual reason is much more…strange. I’m not sure how many of our esteemed readers are in marketing or in fields that relate to it. I know that to them I must occasionally seem ignorant, harsh or a combination of both since most of the time that I mention their profession is to point out some moves that to my untrained eyes seem bizarre and inexplicable. When I’m not washing about really old ads that is. But I’ll have to do it again, this time regarding the real reason ‘Taurus’ went on sabbatical. Ford’s ‘F’ Strategy.
Special Thanks to Brendan Saur for these images.
Basically what this meant was that to increase brand awareness and make Ford’s model names even more closely associated with the brand, Ford would rename their offerings with names starting with the letter ‘F’. Seems logical enough I guess and Ford needed some cash influx at the time so anything that could help was worth a try. But I can imagine that they ran into the problem that I’m about to tell you about because of the choices they made afterwards. The ‘F’ strategy, if completely implemented, would’ve killed three of the most recognizable model names in America.
The Crown Victoria may have probably survived the change relatively undamaged (and probably would’ve been renamed ‘Fairlane’); but how would you even go about renaming the Mustang. No matter what you did a lot of people would be very angry if you even tried. The third model name was Taurus, and in this case, with the image problems mentioned above and the desire to revitalize the brand. This is where the ‘F’ strategy would really come into play.
First off they would stop selling the Taurus to anyone but fleets, who were the ones buying most of them anyway. Then they would split the difference in the retail consumer lineup. Taking its place in the midsize segment there would be a new model that would attempt to do what the first-gen Taurus did all over again. Designed to be a class-leader, thoroughly modern and boldly-styled. It would also be the first glimpse of the new three-bar corporate styling. The first-gen Ford Fusion achieved everything it wanted to and more; and it remains a very good choice today if you’re in the market for a mid-size sedan. Our featured car was the other vehicle, a full-size sedan that would sell alongside the Crown Victoria for the buyer that wanted something more modern and wasn’t swayed by Panther love.
The Five Hundred (not 500) was the first Ford to be built from their Volvo-derived D3 platform. Ford got its hands on it after they bought the company in 1999 and it was by then already in use in the S80. Ford took the platform, made it cheaper and simpler to manufacture and locked it at a 112.9 inch wheelbase and used it to underpin their new line of large sedans and wagons. For power it had the slightly underpowered 3.0-liter Duratec engine mated to a six-speed automatic or a CVT and you could have either front-or-all wheel drive.
Unfortunately, it seems that they missed on the styling. It’s a subjective thing of course, but to my eyes it seems perfectly okay. The press agreed with me, saying it was a sensible design. Too sensible in fact, negative comparisons to the Audi A6 and the Volkswagen Passat were common. At around the same time Chrysler had released the 300 with more unorthodox styling and caused a small sensation in the market, so that couldn’t have helped either. This reflected on the Five Hundred’s sales numbers. 2005 was its best year with 107,932 sold (38,000 less than the 300). This would be the only year where it would sell more than 100,000 units. With criticism still pouring in over the styling and the powertrain Ford had to scramble back to the drawing board.
Then of course was the remaining criticism about the Taurus going away. Yes, the ‘F’ strategy had been successful in bringing life back to the midsize segment with the Fusion but the sacrifice to achieve it was incredibly frowned upon, which shows how much America loved the Taurus even as a shell of itself. Alan Mulally was one among those Taurus-loving Americans, so when he was named CEO of Ford in 2006 one of his first orders of business was to bring the Taurus name back.
And here’s where, I presume, they ran into another problem and the reason for my title. The obvious way to go around this would be to give a light refresh to the Fusion and rename it Taurus. But Ford had managed to make lightning strike twice and the Fusion had as much brand equity as Taurus and was recognized as a legitimate CamCordTima competitor. They’d be swapping a fresh model name that was having a lot of success with another one that at most would replicate that success after an unspecified amount of time. Fortunately, there was another car that hadn’t been as widely accepted as they had hoped.
The 2008 Taurus certainly solved the styling issues of the Five Hundred. The greenhouse remained of course but it was complimented by a more striking front end and a tweaked rear. It was enough to move it from “Volkswagen ripoff” to “Elegant yet restrained”. Under the hood Ford’s new 3.5-liter Cyclone engine gave it a performance boost to the tune of 60 horsepower and 42 foot-pounds of torque over the old Duratec. The CVT also went away and was replaced with a new Joint-developed six-speed automatic. It was a pretty good car to revive the Taurus nameplate, but it was only a stopgap. 2010 would bring us a new Taurus, and this time you definitely wouldn’t be able to confuse it with a Passat.
Here’s the big advantage that the FiveHundred/Taurus (2005 -2009) had – space utilization. I’ve sat in one of the last Taurus’ before the refresh to the more angular shape that prevails today. The room was cavernous compared to most sedans – and the back seat was truly limo-like.
It may have been received as a bit “dorky” by the press, the silhouette resembles a design for a car cookie cutter, but damn it if that space wasn’t well utilized.
This is true ,having owned a 1995 taurus and now a 2008 taurus the back seat is limo like the 95 had the least toe space under the rear seat than my escort wagon . When I first saw the 500 I thought it was a blown up passat.the 08 refresh was much better the name 500 was meaning less imho as it did not have 500 hp or 500 c i
A co-worker a few years back had a Five Hundred. I agree fully that the exterior was quite dull–his was the top trim (SEL? LImited? Something like that) and even with polished 18″ wheels and shiny black paint it just wasn’t exciting in the slightest. However, I agree with you on the interior. Lots of room, not to mention a pleasant design and good materials. If they introduced that interior with a more inspiring exterior design, it could have been a hit from day one.
This car was just too European. The Chrysler 300 is the only real update of the full size car as the Panther and GM H body faded.
This car is from the period of time where Ford hired J Mays away from VAG and basically threw a mountain of money at him to rehash his circa-90s VW and Audi designs, that’s why it was so derivative and unoriginal.
The “car formerly known as Five Hundred” is the Taurus I like best of all. Ford’s short infatuation with the three-bar shaver-head grille was quietly attractive, and added to the already excellent Five Hundred body, with massive improvements in the drivetrain made it the best “forgettable transportation (aka, Camry-class)” car out there – for the couple of years it was in production.
Fortunately and unfortunately, that Fusion was replaced by a car that fights it out tooth and nail with the Kia Optima for the title of best-looking sedan currently available in North America, while the Taurus was restyled into . . . . . . a rather large disappointment.
At least Ford has come to the realization that model names aren’t something to swap out every few years. Brand equity is important.
Quietly attractive wasn’t how I’d describe that 3 bar grille infatuation, I’d call it loudly appalling.
I’d call it mildly attractive, and not a little bit familiar to European eyes. I don’t know the history of the three bar grille more than Ford Europe used it to plaster on all the faces of Fords in the early 80’s, just about the same time the blue oval was resurrected as a company logo. And I have to say, I’ve always liked the three bar grille. Used across the lines, it gave Ford some familiarity, and it was distinctive enough not to be mistaken for anything else. As 80’s pop styling goes, I think it was rather succesful. And I was actually mildly amused when Ford resurrected the theme in the early 2000’s. To me, it gave the cars instant recognition as Fords. Then they used that theme for what, three years? Just to ditch it once again. And I never understood why. It was a design theme that could have been expanded and played with almost indefinitely. It’s just another of those things Ford made a bungle of.
The key difference is the 3 bar grille on the 80s version wasn’t flat and lathered in plastichrome. And there was no such US throwback to it, so whatever retro vibe it may have been channeling is completely lost on me.
A big problem about this generation ( and facelift Taurus ) is rust. Tacoma and 4Runner are the only fairly modern vehicles rusting faster ( and rusting structurally ). Even though this Five Hundred/Taurus isn’t structurally compromised by rust, it’s still scaring to see how fast rust develops on roof, hood, and rear wheel wells/lips, and wheel lip rust is shared with older Taurus.
Yes, I live in a strong Ford area where there are still a lot of the Gen 4 Tauruses on the road and rear wheel well/rocker panel rust is horrible on most.
You’d think Ford would have addressed that through some combination of drainage and protection but they still suffer from it.
4th gen Taurus has quite quicker rust on the left side wheel well compared the right somehow. But it’s not all that bad because Escape is worse in rust resistance, and I figured engineering by Mazda explained why that bad.
I remember seeing a 500 at an auto show and being quite impressed. I thought it was a worthy successor to the original Taurus concept. I remember how spacious it seemed, and well-designed in general. I thought that the styling implied a modernization of the original jellybean and that if this car had appeared instead of the ‘catfish’ as gen 3, Ford would have ruled the world. However it landed with a plop, and never sold. Of course, I personally never considered buying one – but I thought everyone else would. They didn’t and that puzzles me. Why didn’t it sell?
It had a few shortcomings:
1. The 3.0 was underpowered. I remember complaints about the Lincoln Zephyr (MKZ the second year) with the same engine.
2. I’ve heard complaints about the CVT, supposedly not the most robust and having the misfortune of being one of the early ones that nobody with an internet connection was trusting.
3. The image. If anything, it seemed like Ford was trying to out-senior-citizen Buick with this car. Comfortable, soft, slow, roomy, with absolutely no sex appeal or aggressive performance whatever. It should have been the perfect Consumer’s Reports four wheeled transportation appliance. But wasn’t reliable enough.
4. Take a car manufacturer’s product survey. In it it’ll probably ask you to describe the car that you’d want to buy. Being a good, proper citizen wanting to make a good impression you’d describe a car exactly like the Five Hundred. Of course, you won’t buy one. You’d much rather own something not as proper, socially correct, etc. – but you won’t admit to that, on paper.
To which I’d add, a goofy name. Five Hundred? Five hundred what?
I always assumed that was a vague attempt at ‘heritage’ badging, since Fairlane 500 and Galaxie 500 were Ford trim levels for many years.
An enlarged contemporary Ford Mondeo, that’s what it looks like.
The other side.
It really does, although I think the Mondeo pulled off that look much better. (I think it was first, although I’d have to check, which I’m too lazy to do right now.) The Mondeo of this generation is pleasant if a bit bland; the Five Hundred’s bigger dimensions lose what character the Mondeo had.
It was introduced in October 2000. The top model of that generation was the 223 hp Mondeo ST220 with a 3.0 liter V6.
That generation Mondeo looks like it should have been the predecessor of the Fusion. In a way I guess it did inspire it, though the two cars are AFAIK unrelated. They brought the Fusion and Mondeo back into line with the current generation.
I was actually a fan of the wagon version, the Freestyle/Taurus X and would have bought one if I had the money at the time.
I never see Five Hundred sedans, but there’s a handful of Freestyle wagons around town that I see regularly. That said, the wagon roofline looks awkward to me, but the J Mays styled sedan is visually almost perfect, even if it may be a dull car to own and drive. Other than police cars and some rentals, I don’t think Ford is selling many of the current Taurus in California. And locally, Explorer cop cars outnumber Taurus cop cars by a huge margin.
“…a full-size sedan that would sell alongside the Crown Victoria for the buyer that wanted something more modern and wasn’t swayed by Panther love.”
Interesting comment. I bought a Crown Victoria in 2007 and was able to compare it to the 500. I liked the 500 a lot, and would have seriously considered it over the Crown Vic had it not been so underpowered (also I wasn’t thrilled about the AWD version coming only with a CVT, which I wasn’t thrilled about).
I found the 500 to be fantastically comfortable, and the high seating position was almost SUV-like in its commanding view. Being conservative, I liked the styling, though I realize it’s not everyone’s idea of a good design. If not for the allure of buying one of the last body-on-frame RWD V-8 sedans, I may very well have bought a 500.
But ultimately I did succumb to Panther Love. By 2007, however, the vast majority of Ford dealers did not have any Crown Vics in stock, and most strenuously pushed the 500 as a better alternative, as I’m sure they were instructed to do should any Crown Vic shopper wander into the showroom. However, I persevered, and found my Crown Vic eventually.
Still, though, I liked the 500 as well as the Freestyle, and in many ways I wish that such a car was still made today. Too bad that through a combination of an underperforming drivetrain and a questionable marking strategy they were considered sales flops.
2007 was the last year the Crown Vic was sold to retail buyers although the retail Grand Marquis stayed on until the 2011 end of the Panther line. I think there was a non-PI Crown Vic for rental fleets as well.
That’s right, and by 2007 the retail Crown Vics had all but vanished anyway. I bought a leftover 2006, and that was in July, ’07 — so that indicates how low demand was by that point.
The Grand Marquis did linger on a bit longer, but as I understand they were available only by special order; dealers did not stock any GM’s after 2007.
Could be. I remember seeing plenty on the dealer lots but those might’ve been almost new ex-rentals. There was a full-featured model website for it at mercuryvehicles.com rather than just a fleet one though.
I have to wonder if the Five Hundred might have done better if the 3.5-liter engine had been available from the start. Having the 3.0 as the base engine for fleets and people who didn’t care would have been okay if the 3.5 had been available for a modest premium. Obviously, it was never going to be a very exciting car, but that wasn’t the point, and there’s nothing wrong with a competent big family sedan.
By this point, I’m crying for the 1st generation and the 2nd generation Taurus. Sadly, things went downhill for the Taurus.. It all started with the 1996-98 model years, and sadly went south from there, not only in terms of appearance, but in name. Five Hundred? Whatever was Ford thinking?
I’m not sure I understand all the consternation over the 500 or, Five Hundred moniker. I always thought it was to recall the 500 trim levels of the Fairlane (500) and later, the Galaxie (500) which, given it’s size (large sedan), was accurate, if nothing else. And yes, I did get a new supply of parenthesis for Christmas. 🙂
It wasn’t so much the name that I didn’t like, Ford could’ve called it the Taurus 500 and it would’ve been okay. What I didn’t like was its appearance. I’ve never found the 1996-98 Taurus very attractive. I found it to be hideous, particularly its front end appearance.
I think Fairlane would have been a better choice than 500. That would have much better historic name recognition as a full fledged model name rather than the 500 which was just a trim upgrade and thus not as well known.
Plus Fairlane just sounds better and would look better on a badge.
On the other hand I can see that you might not want to call your car “fair” as you clearly want your potential customers to think the car is excellent and not meh.
Interesting article. I was not aware of Ford’s “F-naming scheme” at that time, but now I see it very clearly. This would include the Ford Fiesta, Ford Focus, and, from their past, the cutesy Ford Fesitva. Oh, and of course, their F-series trucks. This reminds me of how Pontiac’s last lineup re-naming strategy was by labelling every car “G-with-a-number”.
Not to forget the Aussie Falcon, Futura and Fairmont. And (until 2007) Fairlane.
Australia – home of the real ‘F-named’ Fords.
In the F-naming, Windstar was even renamed to Freestar (most ppl tend to forget this). Suv’s were to all be named with E’s. Excursion, Expedition, Explorer, Escape, Eco-Sport.
To be fair, though, part of that was the fact that Windstar was a damaged nameplate by then. The funnier part of Freestar was all the hoopla around Ford when they released the Freestar, only to have them putting $6,000 in incentives by the end of the first model year because Chrysler released the new Caravan with Stow-n-Go seating and ate Ford’s lunch. Ford was betting that a conservative updating to the Windstar, seats that could easily fold away, and the 4.2 V6 then-advertised as having best-in-class torque would do the job. No one saw Stow-n-Go coming, though, and the new trick Ford seats had nothing on Chrysler.
“No one saw Stow-n-Go coming, though, and the new trick Ford seats had nothing on Chrysler.”
Just like Ford had not seen the second rear door coming on the 1996 ChryCo minivan, right after the original 3 door Windstar came out.
My wife (briefly) thought she wanted one of these when they first came out. She was ready to move from her PT Cruiser into something bigger, and hopefully better constructed. We test drove a Five Hundred and honestly were not impressed. The only thing that it really had going for it was that it was very quiet. Even my wife thought the handling was rather meh, and it felt underpowered; I know that when I was merging onto a freeway during the test drive I was concerned about getting run over. As it turned out we ended up getting a Camry, which was at least thousands of dollars cheaper, even it too was not all that inspiring to drive.
I used to work for a market research company and can tell you that companies do indeed make changes solely to advertise products as “new and improved”. Some genius would change the type font on a shampoo label and expect consumers to believe that it something new. I won’t name any names but a huge, multi-national consumer products company based in Cincinnati was really bad about this.
We own two of them, they are the perfect “commuting devices”. Comfortable, safe, reasonably economical and reliable. They were considered very competent cars when they came out, but very expensive versus the perceived value, and no sex appeal whatsoever. Avoid the CVT at all costs.
We became interested in them for two reasons, one was that our Ford Mondeo rental in Europe was way ahead of the Camry (or equivalent) that we rented for the other half of the trip. The Ford was equal or better in just about every way, except for gas mileage and that our hosts said the Ford was generally thought of as “a car for traveling salesmen”. I know, the Mondeo and the Five Hundred are different cars, but I liked the idea that Ford was able to create a real winner. The second reason was that the huge initial depreciation rate of the car made two year old examples real bargains (low mileage examples in perfect condition could be easily found for under $10k in Southern California). Commuting problem solved!
“The 2008 Taurus certainly solved the styling issues of the Five Hundred. The greenhouse remained of course but it was complimented by a more striking front end and a tweaked rear. It was enough to move it from “Volkswagen ripoff” to “Elegant yet restrained”.
A bit of hyperbole in this statement..”striking front end”??? .A new grille and tail lights did not solve the dull styling of this car….And the statement about the Fusion…. “thoroughly modern and boldly-styled” It was nice but certainly not bold in the sense of the Taurus from both 86 and 96 were….It was actually sort of timid.
I’ve often wondered how much influence on it’s success or failure the Ford show car ALSO named 500 had on this car?
For those not acquainted with that car, it was touted as a possible Crown Victoria replacement and as such was thought (or maybe had, I forget) a V8 engine and RWD….with AWD a possible option. That car was “inspired” by the great Ford full-sized sedans of the mid 60s.
The upshot? The 500 became similar to the Probe that was originally planned as the Mustang replacement.
I never drove a 500 but did get behind the wheel of one at my local CarMax. As other have said, good, upright seating position with loads of room front and back. I would have bought one except for that CVT. Having driven a bigger and heavier Crown Vic with about the same power to weight as the 500, I could have lived with that “underpowered” engine.
The truth about cars.com recently had a link to an auto auction that was selling a 412 Thousand Mile Five Hundred for a starting bid of Five Hundred Dollars. These cars are bound to become Curbside Classics due to their rariety.
I’ve never driven a Five Hundred but I’ve ridden in a few that pulled taxi duty here in Toronto and I was impressed with the room. Still, though, I preferred the styling of the later Taurus iteration. I also had a Freestyle once as a rental, and while I liked the room and the seating position, I found it quite underpowered for its size. In my opinion, the Fusion got everything right. I’ve driven them as rentals, and it’s one domestic car that is definitely on my shopping list.
I liked my rental Freestyle too. I had the luck of getting it for an upgrade. The gas mileage was so-so but it was great in the snow. I would consider one now.
Ford designers seem to love that look of Ford 500, they did the same thing in Europe in the 90’s and it didn’t work either:
Apart from how that last Scorpio looked -horrible, actually- the days of mainstream brands offering E-segment (executive) cars were already numbered back then.
Ford, Opel, Renault, Peugeot, Citroën, Fiat, Toyota, Honda and Nissan still had them in their showrooms in the nineties and beyond. Plus Saab, Lancia and Alfa Romeo. All gone by now.
The current brands in this segment: Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Jaguar, Lexus, Infiniti, Maserati and Volvo (with a wonderful new S90).
IIRC the plan all along was for the Mustang to be spared from the “F-name” plan.
Don’t forget, the Fusion was introduced as the Futura, but someone at Ford forgot to keep up the trademark. Pep Boys got it for their tires and Ford didnt want to pay royalties like GM did for the Beretta or Mitsu for the Mirage. So Fusion it became.
Interesting. There’s also a bus model called Futura. The Bova Futura (introduced in 1982), now VDL Futura.
Isn’t it illustrative of the long term confusion at Ford that, at the same time they changed the name of the Five Hundred back to Taurus they changed the Lincoln Zephyr to MKZ?
except in Lincoln’s case, the MKZ became Lincoln’s best selling model starting in 2008 after a year of being changed from Zephyr to MKZ. Lincoln originally thought to tap into classic nostalgia with the Zephyr name. But nobody really remembers Lincoln had a car named Zephyr from 36-42 except car enthusiasts. The folks that were able to afford this car are long dead.
When a lot of folks think about a car named Zephyr, they most likely think of the 78-83 Mercury.
My grandpa had one and he liked it, he claimed that it had good power and he got a ticket one time because of it. My dad has it now and he likes it too. It has very good space inside and good seats. My dad doesn’t think it is down on power at all.
I think I’ve told this story here before, but it’s worth retelling I think.
On my first day at Ford in early 2004, my colleague and I that were hired together were sent to the auditorium in World Headquarters for the presentation that was about to happen. Nominally it was to give us an idea of what was going on, but in some measure it was because it was a busy day and they didn’t quite know what to have us do just yet. Outside the auditorium for those sorts of presentations, there would often be an example or two or three of whatever the newest, latest, greatest upcoming product was at that point in time.
My first day and I was already seeing cars that hadn’t yet been released! One had a familiar yet modern look about it, and one quick look immediately confirmed it was the upcoming 2005 Mustang. The other was a large car, at least as large as the 1995 Buick LeSabre I was driving at the time, sporting the same design language the recent refresh of the Ford Focus was sporting and not so different than the 2000 refresh of the Taurus.
I looked it over pretty intently, to be sure. The styling wasn’t a radical departure from the then-current Taurus. The interior was trimmed in leather, had nice-looking wood-look dash, very clean and conservative lines inside and out. Nothing about it was shocking or bold, but it was a very nice-looking car.
Based on the direction they’d been trying to take the Taurus at that time, I was sure I was seeing the next generation of the Taurus. It was larger, nicer, but still had all the familiar design cues that immediately signaled Taurus.
Then I made it around to the back of the car and saw the nameplate. Five Hundred. “What the —-‘s a Five Hundred? Is it 200 better than a 300?” was my internal, immediate, and, judging by the several people who glared at me a little bit, apparently accidentally vocalized reaction. As a 22-year-old that grew up in a GM family, I had no idea 500 was a Ford trim line through the 1960s. To me, it was a nonsense name meant only to upstage the recent and breakaway success Chrysler 300.
Shortly after the cars were released, so maybe September or October 2004, I got to drive one in a roughly one-mile loop as part of an employee event. My immediate reaction was that the car was grossly underpowered, but the chair was really rather comfortable. The one I drove had the CVT, and when I put my foot down, it mostly just made some noise and felt like it remained stationary.
To be fair, I honestly think the car probably actually accelerated fine. But, the CVT destroyed any feeling of acceleration or agility. Truth be told, I don’t know what the rated 0-60 time was, and I didn’t get enough butt-in-chair time to change my perception. I do know, though, that the CVT and the sensation of nothing happeneing upon pushing the gas probably turned away a fair number of buyers.
In a final twist, one of Mulally’s first things at Ford was to dust off the then-retired Taurus nameplate, a name I felt the car should have had all along, just in time to graft it to the hasty refresh of the Five Hundred. To this day, I wonder how the Five Hundred would have done in the market if it had been called a Taurus from the start. My partner drives a 2013 Taurus SEL, and I think it’s a fine car that follows well in spirit to the Taurii that came before.
Ah yes the Ford Five Hundred and the 08-09 Taurus, I know them well.
I had a 2008 Taurus and my folks have a 2009 Taurus. I can agree with principal Dan in that the 05-07 and 08-09 Taurus had gobs of room in them. I know I am going to upset a lot of Panther fans but as big as those cars are, the interior is cramped. Ford really mismanaged the space in those cars. The 08-09 taurus was more powerful then the Panther cars(save the Marauder)
To me the 2008 and 2009 Taurus bear a resemblance to the 86-91 mercury Sable
The first time I saw a Ford Five Hundred (500), I thought it was the same size as the previous generation Taurus, but with a better looking grille.
My wife’s uncle drives a Five-Hundred (terrible name, should have called it Galaxy). It’s an inoffensive, but anonymous looking car, and has plenty of room on the inside and in the trunk. Despite the leather, analog clock and fake wood, it feels very rental grade. The lack of a bench and column shift up front seems like an omission considering the Impala continued on with one for the redesign the following year.
Also, I was at the NAIAS in Detroit when the 2008 Taurus was actually introduced as the Five-Hundred refresh, and still have the brochure. The following month, it was reintroduced in Chicago as the Taurus alongside the reborn Sable.
I had one of these in 2013, and it wasn’t the most reliable of cars ($1,000 of uncovered repairs in 8 months of ownership). It was pleasant enough to drive, returned 29-30 mpg on trips, and I didn’t notice it being underpowered, 200 hp seemed to be enough for me. It was comparable to my similar vintage Impala. It did have very good visibility all around.