“I have a Ford Taurus or a Toyota Camry – which do you prefer”? Travelers are faced with questions just like this one every day at rental car counters across the nation, and these were my two options today. The first words out of my mouth were “I’ll take the Taurus”, but I really have no idea why – both cars seemed like pretty bland options to me.
Several minutes later, we were out the door of Fresno international airport with keys in hand to a brand new 2011 Ford Taurus. The destination: Sequoia National Park.
First impressions: this is a big car. To be honest, I don’t really understand America’s love affair with the large automobile – I prefer smaller cars that handle crisp and clean, and just walking up to this car just made me sigh with disgust. While I did find it to be somewhat attractive, the 2011 Ford Taurus looks much bigger than it’s predecessor and I couldn’t help but think of the words “hoopty” and “land barge”. And I could only imagine how inappropriate this car was going to be for our trip through the mountains. Barf bag, anyone?
However, my pessimism came to a halt as soon as I opened the door. It was a hard feeling to describe but the car felt solid – and tight. The large door was effortless to open and yet felt like a solid chunk of metal.
First impressions of the interior were the same. I was expecting something bland with flat seats, cheap materials, and a boring layout but I found none of that in this Taurus. It actually looked – good. All the controls were within easy reach and most everything moved with a nice solid clink or clunk that made the car feel much more high-end than it really was. Even before we left the parking lot, I had a sense that maybe this road trip wasn’t going to be so bad. Hey – we may not need those barf bags after all…
Out on the road, the car delivered plenty of linear power and a nice firm ride. Again, this was not what I was expecting out of a large family car from Ford. It felt great, and was nimble enough to hide it’s size. The steering was a little bit too light for my liking though, and it didn’t seem to match the firmness in the rest of the car. It tracked well and was effortless to cruise at a speedy clip headed out of Fresno and into the western range of the Sierra Nevada mountains.
Performance in the higher elevations seemed effortless as well, and this 2011 Ford Taurus had no problems getting up into the steep sections and around the bends with ease. It never once felt tired or sluggish, and despite it’s size, it was actually pretty easy to drive around the tight hairpins and steep grades in and around the park. Brakes performed well, but this was the only part of the car which couldn’t hide the fact that it was no lightweight. Brake performance was good, but not great – dropping the transmission down into a lower gear and letting the engine do some of the braking was a must to keep those brakes from overheating on the descents. Fortunately, dropping in and out of lower gears was easy to do with the manumatic transmission in sport mode.
I returned the Taurus with a much different attitude than I had when I picked it up. For a large car, I have to admit that I liked it. It’s a solid piece, and it’s performance easily hid the fact that it was such a fatty. A comfortable cruiser for sure.