For those of us who've been around long enough to witness the entire history of the Ford Taurus brand, from its seminal mid-1980s debut as a modern American design icon; to its mid-1990s battle for sales supremacy with the likes of the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry; to its millennial malaise as its maker kicked it to the curb in favor of SUVs; to its recent renaissance at the hands of Ford's make-it-happen CEO, Alan Mulally, the 2011 New York Auto Show is a bit of a mind-blowing experience. Ford brought in dozens of members of the nation's automotive media corps and staged two consecutive nights of events at a huge venue in Chelsea, including a live performance of the rock group Train to showcase its alliance with Sony, all in the name of promoting the Taurus, a car that until recently was synonymous with "rental car" in the minds of many, many Americans.
Yes, indeed, Ford is serious about the Taurus. The current car was introduced only in August 2009, and here we are less than two years later, and Ford's entire New York Auto Show message is about the 2013 Taurus which is still an entire year away from showrooms, set to go on sale in spring 2012. The exteriors of both the base Taurus and the high-performance SHO models have been mildly redesigned, and the tweaked interiors will be offered with Ford's MyTouch touch-screen interface, but the most significant changes are on the powertrain and performance fronts. Both front- and all-wheel drive will continue to be offered.
• The Taurus will be newly available with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder EcoBoost (turbocharged) engine making 237 hp and 250 lb-ft of torque and delivering "at least 31 mpg on the highway," promises Derrick Kuzak, Ford's group vice-president for product development. It will, like all Taurus engines, be mated with a six-speed automatic transmission.
• The current standard 3.5-liter V-6 engine adds variable valve timing and gets a power boost of 27 hp, to a total of 290 hp, yet should provide better fuel economy than the current figures of 18/28 mpg city/highway.
• Active grille shutters, first seen on the new Focus, open and close automatically to either bring air into the engine compartment or to make the front end of the car more aerodynamic, thus improving fuel economy.