I’m staring at the 2013 Ford Taurus and it’s looking back at me.
I don’t remember taking anything either.
The old Taurus that I remember from the 1980s and 1990s had a way of hiding in plain sight among tract homes, despite being parked in many of their driveways.
Now, it’s departing from its non-descript history. The Taurus name was upended in 2010 with a stylized overhaul that reverberated throughout Ford’s portfolio in following years. For 2013 — halftime for many nameplates — the Taurus gets incremental upgrades to that original salvo of changes, mostly to the powertrain, with modest suspension, interior and exterior changes following behind.
There’s more than a mid-cycle refresh at stake here, though. The Taurus is in crowded traffic among full-size sedans with modern improvements from the nearly here Chevrolet Impala and further-off Nissan Maxima, to the Dodge Charger/Chrysler 300 — even unexpected nips from the mid-size Ford Fusion. (As a younger, smaller sibling myself, the last one greatly pleases me.)
In line with the great downsizing of full-size engines, this year the Taurus is offered for the first time with a 2-liter, EcoBoost four that nudges highway economy toward 30 mpg.
The adherence to fuel efficiency didn’t stop at the smaller, $995-optional mill; the bread-and-butter, standard 3.5-liter V6 gets tweaks in camshaft timing for a 5 percent gain in economy, the active grille shutters on most models adds a little more.
Those additions may have been a response to earlier gripes about fuel economy, and considering our return of 20 mpg in an AWD V6, there’s room for still improvement. There’s a nagging feeling that there might be more mpg to wring from a newer transmission, as a six-speed automatic fitted to both engines returns for a sixth year of service in this year’s Taurus. I thought eight was the new six? Or maybe that’s “40 is the new 25”?
What’s not getting old here is the interior of the Taurus, which was updated from 2010. A new steering wheel and instrument cluster bring the Taurus into the fold with the rest of the Ford lineup — the turquoise needles are lovely — in addition to softer materials on most of the touchable surfaces.
MyFord Touch makes another showing here, this time with refinements over the last iteration that was frustratiningly close to being hit with a sack of nickels. The redundant buttons below the 8-inch touchscreen are more responsive and the voice command system responds better, provided you don’t have a mouth full of Cool Ranch Doritos.
The interior of the Taurus remains handsome and anonymously modern, without being too over-the-top. Ford had a juggling act to consider when updating the interior this year: too much and the Taurus would become too specialized and alienate buyers altogether; too little and you risk making a rental car queen again that’s too bland to attract anyone. Ford’s efforts were well-placed here, with the inside attracting a lot of attention, but not too much to be distracting.
Despite having a nearly identical wheelbase to the Fusion, the Taurus is actually 11 inches longer, but gives none of that longer stride to rear passengers. Instead that difference is likely bestowed upon the trunk, which is, in a word: enormagantic. Up front, especially for the driver, the Taurus is cozy without being cramped and cruise-tastic, with noticeably quicker steering and active torque control for when roadways get hairy when the entire family’s in the back seat.
If I can point to a foible in the new Taurus, it’s that it carried on with the same amount of limited visibility as the older model. The sleeker body panels and high beltline come at a cost and rear visibility (without a backup camera) is just too limited for my taste.
At $26,700 to start, the Taurus is firmly in the wheelhouse of full-sized sedan money — the 2013 Impala is $840 less; the Charger, $705 less — but that would be putting a price on what the Taurus does differently now than it has in recent memory: Giving something worth looking at, not looking past.
Aaron Cole is a syndicated auto columnist. He knows he’s wrong, he’d just rather hear it from you. Reach him at email@example.com.