1998 Ford Taurus Reviews and Ratings

Sedan 4D LX

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1998 Ford Taurus
Mike Knepper

The big news about Taurus this year is that there are fewer versions of them. The base G and the GL sedans and

the GL and LX wagons have been dropped from the lineup. An SE sedan and wagon have been added and the LX sedan and

the high performance SHO are still there, although the LX has dropped from the top of the line to the bottom.

The idea, Ford says, is to make things simpler for everyone. Fewer models and the elimination of Ford's

previously dizzying array of options packages mean less confusion in the showroom and less manufacturing cost.

We think this is a better idea. Walkaround
The Taurus never fails to attract attention. Most people either like the styling or they don't. The current

model makes a bolder design statement than the previous model. The theme is oval. Close observation reveals some

subtle styling changes this year: Twin openings under the front bumper are now combined for one horizontal opening,

the grille opening now has a Ford oval on a horizontal chrome bar, the parking lamps have been redesigned, the

taillamps have a monochrome treatment.

The SE, intended for younger buyers looking for something sporty, has cloth bucket seats, a center console with

a floor shifter, a rear spoiler, chrome wheel covers and the base engine.

There are two engines available--three, if you count the SHO's V8 and four, considering a new flexible-fuel

version of the base engine that runs on gasoline, ethanol or methanol. The base, or Vulcan, engine is a 3.0-liter

overhead-valve V6 rated at 145 horsepower, which is standard on the LX and SE. Optional for both is a double

overhead-cam, 32-valve, 3.0-liter Duratec V6 that makes 200 hp and goes for a bargain-basement $495.

All engines work through a four-speed automatic. A higher stall-speed torque converter permits the Duratec to

rev more quickly to its most efficient operating range. This combines with a numerically higher axle ratio to produce

quicker off-the-line acceleration. Last year, Ford recalibrated the computer controls for its Taurus and Sable

automatic transmissions to provide smoother shifting. Shift quality was a persistent criticism of first-year

editions of the redesigned car. Now, with the new torque converter and axle ratio, the entire transmission package

is more efficient and unobtrusive.

The V8 in the SHO is rated at 235 hp. The SHO acronym stands for Super High Output, and this engine transforms

this mild-mannered family sedan into a fast touring car with extra long legs. Ford calls it an "executive express,"

a phrase that's appropriate for its excellent midrange response, performance-tuned suspension and $29,470 base price.

It has taken Detroit a while to come to parity with the Europeans and Japanese in the suspension department,

and the Taurus is a good example of getting it right. The front suspension is a MacPherson strut design with a

lower control arm and stabilizer bar. It's simple but effective.

The rear suspension is a bit more complicated with what Ford calls its Quadralink design; four links locate

the suspension. The advantage is a more precisely positioned suspension to maximize handling and response. Along with

the links are coil springs, shocks and a stabilizer bar.

Power steering is standard, of course, but Taurus adds speed-sensitive variable assist, which means at low

speeds there is more power assist for easier turning while at higher speeds there is less assist for more road feel.

There are disc brakes in front with drum brakes at the rear. The wagon and the SHO get rear discs. ABS is optional. Interior
The exterior oval theme is picked up inside on the instrument panel, vents, door handle recesses and elsewhere.

At first glance you may not care for the large oval in the center of the dash which contains the heating,

ventilation, air conditioning and sound system controls. But give it some time. In an era when most instrument

panels all seem to look alike, the one in the Taurus is a refreshingly distinctive change. It is especially

distinctive when compared to the instrument panels on the Accord and Camry, which are Japanese generic.

The instrument panel is also well organized. The buttons and switches run from lower left to upper right within

the oval for a double visual shock, but the arrangement is quite logical and it doesn't take long for a driver to

make adjustments by touch alone, without taking attention away from the road. We also liked the high-quality,

high-tech feel of the push buttons and switches.

A front bench seat is standard in all models, with buckets available as part of the Sport Package in the SE. The

Sport Package also comes with a rear spoiler and a console-mounted shift lever.

With seating for six, you can get a patented three-way flip-fold console seat. The center portion can be used

as a seating position, with its own safety belt, or it can be flipped forward to become an armrest, or it can be

folded open once more to reveal storage compartments for cups, tapes and coins. We found the center space too small

for even small people. But for organizing the small items that get scattered around in a family car, this is an

exceptionally inventive piece of design work.

Manual air conditioning is standard across the board, electronic climate control is optional. Electronically

controlled sound systems are also standard.

Last year's myriad selection of models, options and option packages was complex and confusing, requiring

knowledgeable salespeople and patient buyers. This year, as mentioned, things are much simpler.

Our LX sedan tester loaded with everything but leather and a moon roof, retails for $23,870. This year, if

you want the more powerful engine but don't want a lot of whistles and bells, you can order the engine without

taking an expensive options package. Driving Impressions
Reactions to the original Taurus were that Ford had made a giant gain in ride, handling, steering feel and

overall mechanical quality. The same is true for the current generation Taurus as it goes into its third season.

As good as the old Taurus had become--it had been in an ongoing refinement program for almost a decade--the new

Taurus was a leap ahead, a leap that started with one of the best chassis in the midsize class.

While the overhead-valve Vulcan V6 provides adequate performance, the best choice is the double overhead-cam

Duratec, which brings more merging and passing power and more fun. It is smooth, quiet and responsive. Ford's

Duratec engine feels good launching off the line.

The four-speed automatic is a very good match. Thanks to improved control chip programming, the shifts are

clean and precise.

A well-engineered chassis allows the suspension to perform well, keeping the car flat in corners and sopping

up bumps and bangs.

Visibility is good all around, with the sloping hood lending an IMAX feel to the view up front. Although

general seating comfort is good, we found the bench seat marginal in terms of lateral support. Even though the

cloth is somewhat grippy, it doesn't take much of a side load to scoot your bottom left or right. The bucket

seats are definitely more comfortable and secure. Summary
The Taurus is a success, because it is a dependable, roomy sedan with the standard features buyers are

demanding. Reducing the model count was a good move.

The Taurus faces strong rivals in 1998, particularly from its perennial nemesis, the Honda Accord, which

has been redesigned. Add to that a strong charge from the recently redesigned Toyota Camry. Pricing and

performance of the three are basically on a par. So when it gets to crunch time around the kitchen table, the

choice in many families may hinge on that controversial Taurus shape.

Model as tested
Taurus LX
Basic Warranty
3 years/36,000 miles
Assembled in
Atlanta, Ga., Chicago, Ill.
Destination charge
Gas guzzler tax
Base Price
Price as tested
Options as tested
3.0-liter Duratec V6, ABS, automatic climate control, keyless remote entry, premium AM/FM/cassette stereo

Model Line Overview
Model lineup
Safety equipment (standard)
Dual airbags
Safety equipment (optional)
3.0-liter ohv V6
4-speed automatic

Specifications as Tested
Automatic transmission, air conditioning, tilt steering wheel, AM/FM stereo, power driver's seat, power windows, power mirrors, cruise control

Engine & Transmission
3.0-liter ohv V6
Drivetrain type
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)
145 @ 5250
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy
Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm)

Brakes, front/rear
Suspension, front
Suspension, rear

Seating capacity
Head/hip/leg room, middle
Head/hip/leg room, front
Head/hip/leg room, rear

Fuel capacity
Trunk volume
Turning circle
Towing capacity
Track, front/rear
Ground clearance
Curb weight

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