A flagship sedan represents the best you can get from a given automaker. It should encapsulate the latest design ideas, power train components, and cabin electronics, leading the way for other models of the brand. At the 2009 Detroit auto show, two such sedans, the Ford Taurus and the Buick LaCrosse, saw significant updates.
Ford shoots the moon with the 2010 Taurus, bringing in technologies that you would expect in the more upscale Lincoln brand. Ford is trying to recapture the magic of the original Taurus, a best seller for the company, and this 2010 model may have what it takes.
Ford changed its signature three-bar grille for the Taurus, a move we like. The new car's belt-line runs straight along the body, creating a bulging hood and distinct fenders. The headlight casings are narrow slits, a look that goes along with the lowered roof.
A 3.5-liter DuraTec V-6 provides the power, not exactly the most advanced engine, although, according to Ford, its new direct injection EcoBoost engine will be available at a later date. Ford claims its new SR1 suspension configuration offers better balance in the corners than previous designs.
Although we aren't terribly impressed with the power train, it gets more interesting with the electronics. Ford packs the car with driver aids, such as a blind spot system using radar to detect other cars and adaptive cruise control. Adaptive cruise control uses forward facing radar to match speeds with traffic, and includes precollision automatic braking.
Electronics abound in the cabin, with Sync for MP3 player and cell phone connectivity, Sirius Travel Link for traffic, weather, and fuel prices, and a Sony audio system and 10GB of onboard music storage. Our favorite feature is the multicontour seats, which massage the driver and front passenger.
The Ford Taurus may have the edge in cabin electronics, but the new LaCrosse carries advances in performance technologies. The 2010 LaCrosse is the realization of the Invicta concept first shown at last year's Beijing auto show.
The designer of the LaCrosse was influenced by Buicks of the 1950s, which led to the almost fastback style of the rear window. It does have Buick styling cues, such as the waterfall grille. The classic Buick port holes are up on the hood crease. Instead of a straight belt-line, the LaCrosse's curves up at the rear fenders.
LaCrosse uses GM's new generation of direct injection engines, getting a 3-liter V-6 in the CX and CXL trims, and a 3.6-liter in the CXL trim. These engines are mated to six-speed automatic transmissions that give the driver manual control. An active damping suspension is also available for better handling.
Like the Ford Taurus, the LaCrosse gets its share of driver aids. A head-up display on the windshield lets the driver monitor speed without looking down, a blind spot system warns of cars in the lanes to the sides. Adaptive headlights are also available.
The cabin looks a little more luxurious than that of the Taurus, but the electronics aren't quite as advanced. The LaCrosse does have navigation, Bluetooth, and an available rear seat entertainment system. The center instrument panel shows a hard drive as an audio source, indicating onboard music storage, and a USB port is also available.