The rearview camera, with its trajectory lines, was a boon when parking the big Taurus. Even better was the automatic parking system, which easily and accurately steered into curbside spots. While years of city living have given me first-rate parallel-parking skills, I sometimes hit the curb or have to make an extra maneuver, but Ford's parallel-parking system always gets it in one.
As I would expect from its authoritative exterior, the cabin was quite roomy, both for legroom and width. The front passenger seat was practically in a different time zone from the driver's seat. And this Taurus featured many amenities, from heated and cooled seats to the Sony premium audio package.
Along with its new Ford-standard grille styling, the Taurus gets the MyFord Touch cabin tech interface, which gives touch-screen control over stereo, navigation, phone, and climate control. As I recently saw in the Ford Fusion, MyFord Touch remains sluggish in its response to touch input. For example, after starting the car I tried switching the stereo from AM to Sirius satellite radio. Nothing happened when I hit the appropriate button, so I touched it again, and again. Eventually the radio jumped from AM to FM, through a few presets, then finally to Sirius.
However, I did notice that most of MyFord Touch's problems occurred within 10 minutes of turning on the car. It's as if an old carbureted engine powers the cabin tech, one that needs a little warm-up time before you can get going.
Starting out in a city center, I set a destination in the navigation system and began following the route. And just as I was taking the left turn the system suggested, it recalculated, telling me I should have gone straight. Another time, again in a city center, I set out and got off its recommended track. The GPS showed the car driving through buildings, and had to wait to get the car's position fixed on the road before recalculating the route. After a little drive time, the system settled down and gave me accurate directions.
These errors can be particularly frustrating in an unfamiliar city with lots of traffic and pressure to keep moving.
Despite the poor performance, the navigation has an excellent feature set. The maps show in flat or perspective views, and included 3D-rendered building models in some downtown areas. Sirius brings in traffic data, which the system uses to actively change the route, and voice prompts read out street names.
Because of MyFord Touch's sluggishness, using the touch screen to find destinations proved tedious, especially when typing in addresses using the onscreen keyboard. Voice command worked a lot better, letting me give it full addresses as a single string, rather than having to specify city and street separately.
Voice command for the hands-free phone system worked equally well and had no trouble interpreting when I asked it to call people in my phone's contact list. Ford includes a feature that will receive and read out text messages, but it works with only a handful of phones.
I particularly like that Ford puts two USB ports in the console, as I could pack a 32GB USB drive with music and plug it into one while charging my phone from the other. During my road trip with the Taurus, I had a ridiculous amount of music to choose from, and the touch-screen interface mostly made it easy to find particular artists or albums. It still proved a little sluggish when scrolling through a music collection. I found it safer to program a few playlists, or just tell the system to play all the music on shuffle.
The Sony audio upgrade, with its 12 speakers, delivered excellent sound. Played low, it still let me hear music distinctly. When I cranked up the volume, it maintained good fidelity and did not noticeably distort the music until the volume knob was near maximum. What I really like about this system is that it could deliver convincing bass for hip-hop tracks, but also convey some nice acoustic performances. It lacks the midrange finesse to compete with true high-end systems, but it generally proved very satisfying.
The most effective part of the MyFord Touch interface shows up in the instrument cluster, which features small LCDs on either side of the speedometer. The right one let me view cabin tech functions, such as the current track on the stereo or route guidance. It offered me limited control using the steering-wheel-mounted buttons, letting me, for example, switch audio sources.
From the left-hand LCD I could choose different vehicle information displays. It offers two trip computers, a virtual tachometer, and fuel economy. For most of my drive time, I kept the fuel economy display up so as to monitor the Taurus' fuel efficiency. In the city, it was tough to keep it above 20 mpg, in line with the EPA-estimated city mileage of 19 mpg. Maintaining freeway speeds of 65 to 70 mph, the instantaneous fuel economy hovered in the mid-20s, ultimately justifying my driving average of 24.3 mpg, a bit under the EPA highway number of 29 mpg.
A few things stood out as high points of the 2013 Ford Taurus for me. The driver assistance features were excellent, and I would recommend optioning those. Long trips are made much more comfortable by adaptive cruise control, and collision warnings could prevent expensive and time-consuming fender benders. Automatic parking may seem like an unnecessary frill, but it works so well it becomes indispensable.
Although it's not exactly a high-tech feature, I was impressed by the suspension tuning. And while power steering feel may seem like a small point to dwell on, the new electric systems have led to some odd implementations from competitors. I really like how Ford nailed down this part of the car. The V-6 is plenty powerful, but I would be more interested in the EcoBoost four-cylinder, as it should pull in better fuel economy with only a minor power sacrifice.
I think Ford still has some work to do in perfecting the MyFord Touch system. Although it seems to work better after 5 or 10 minutes, I use it most when I start the car. Despite the performance issues, it offers an excellent set of navigation, phone, stereo, and connected features.
|Model||2013 Ford Taurus|
|Power train||3.5-liter V-6, six-speed automatic transmission|
|EPA fuel economy||19 mpg city/29 mpg highway|
|Observed fuel economy||24.3 mpg|
|Navigation||Optional flash memory-based with traffic|
|Bluetooth phone support||Standard with contact list integration|
|Digital audio sources||Smartphone apps, onboard hard drive, iPod/iPhone, USB drive, Bluetooth streaming, auxiliary input, satellite radio, HD Radio|
|Audio system||Sony 12-speaker audio system|
|Driver aids||Automatic parallel parking, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitor, rearview camera, cross-traffic warning|
|Price as tested||$39,680|