VMR Canada
1992-1995 Ford Taurus

 1994 Ford Taurus


Bargain Family Sedan

Note: This article first appeared in the Winter 1998 issue of Used Cars

Most people don't realize that the first Taurus ushered in a new era in styling for the automotive industry. And many would be surprised to learn that the 1986 Taurus will probably go down in history as one of the postwar era's most significant automobiles. For in addition to introducing a bold new look that changed the way cars are styled, the Taurus program reinvented the way Ford Motor Company designed and built cars. Old Henry himself was probably turning over in his grave.

Not wanting to mess with success, the first Taurus redesign for the 1992 model year under-whelmed most people. The interior was freshened, and the front and rear fascias were redone somewhat. Ford called it the evolution of a great original design. Others called it timid. Regardless, people kept buying them and along with plenty of help from rental companies and fleet buyers, the redesigned Taurus eventually edged out the Honda Accord to recapture the sales crown as the biggest selling car in America.

Strengths

Weaknesses

- Good handling/ride balance
- Strong highway cruiser
- Comfortable
- Good reliability
- Low service costs
- Interior room
- Large Trunk

Engines not as refined as Japanese competition

Somewhat noisy around town

Low resale value now means low resale value later

As a used car, the 1992-95 Ford Taurus, and its mechanical twin the Mercury Sable, are a tremendous bargain. A clean, low mileage Taurus can readily be bought for very cheap money. The reasons for the low prices are three-fold: There is a tremendous supply of them, most were originally sold at large discounts, and a new Taurus usually carries substantial incentives and discounts. These discounts depress the resale value of used examples.

The front-wheel drive Taurus came as a sedan and a wagon and was available in two trim levels: GL and the fancier LX. A "sporty" SE model (actually an equipment package for the GL) was marketed in '94 and '95. It came with a rear spoiler, aluminum wheels, crystal lights and a bucket seat interior. Two engines were available: a 3.0 and 3.8 Liter V6, both making 140 horsepower. Neither is a standout power source, but they move the car adequately. The 3.8 has more torque, making it somewhat quicker from a standing start and at low speeds.  An automatic transmission was standard on all models. A manual transmission was not available. All models could be loaded up with a myriad of equipment. Make sure you check the price listings in this guide to distinguish between standard and optional equipment on each model.

Exterior Design

While the first Taurus made a huge design statement, the second one made hardly any at all. Of course, beauty is all in the eye of the beholder, but in our eyes the 1992-95 Taurus evokes little emotion. Its bland styling does fit in with the rest of the mid-size segment, however. Initially, lower trim level models had ugly gray bumpers. The look improves greatly with body colored bumpers, which became standard on all models in '94. The trunk has a high liftover height. Fit and finish are good, although not up to the standards of some of its Japanese competition.

Interior DesignTaurus SHO dash

The controls and layout of the Taurus are terrific. Many automotive reviewers complained about the lack of so-called "harmony" and about the number of different interior panels and textures. But it all works well, with clear, easy to read knobs, buttons and gauges. One omission is a fold-down rear seat, somewhat negating the advantage the Taurus has in trunk size over its competition. The dashboard (cowl) and beltline (door sills) are higher than most of its Japanese competition. Some people like the sense of security it imparts, others would rather have the visibility a low cowl affords them.

Ride/Handling

A strong point of the Taurus has always been its ride/handling compromise. Its comfortable, controlled ride on the highway is particularly impressive. Handling remains fairly crisp and responsive up to and somewhat beyond reasonable speeds under a variety of conditions. Don't expect to take a Taurus autocrossing, however.

Taurus SHO - Not Your Everyday Taurus

With a top speed of over 140 mph and acceleration that'll embarrass many sports cars, the old Taurus SHO may be the ultimate Q-ship of the automotive world.

Q-ships, of course, were developed by the British Navy in W.W.I. Disguised as cargo ships, the big guns would be cloaked until attack was immanent. The most likely outcome was a surprised German captain and one less submarine in the German Navy.

Although the SHO has some extra body cladding, fog lights, a rear spoiler and special alloy wheels, it's difficult to distinguish it from your everyday Taurus. That's just how SHO owner's like it. Looking like the 3 million other Taurus' on the road means it doesn't attract the attention of the speed police.

Mechanically, the SHO gets bigger tires, a firmer suspension and the availability of a 5spd manual transmission. And when it uncloaks its big gun, a 24-valve double overhead cam 220 horsepower V6 screamer, many unsuspecting drivers don't know what hit them, either.

Comfort

The Taurus could be ordered with either a bench seat and six passenger seating, or with bucket seats and a floor mounted transmission and five passenger seating. Room and comfort for four is very good. The middle passenger in the rear does ok; the middle passenger in the front does not. Consider the Taurus a five passenger automobile, regardless of the seats.

At idle and low speeds, the Taurus is somewhat noisier than it should be. Extra sound insulation on the LX helps somewhat. Once cruising at highway speeds, the Taurus is fairly quiet.

Safety

The Taurus received a very good safety rating as a result of its performance in government crash tests. Dual airbags became standard in 1994. Previously, a driver bag was standard with the passenger airbag an option. ABS brakes were optional in all years.

Although front-drive vehicles are inherently good performers under adverse traction conditions such as slush and snow, the Taurus has proven itself to be exceptionally capable.

Reliability

Most readers we talk to report 100,000-plus miles with few or no problems. Some sources have indicated a high incidence of problems with the electronically controlle transmission, which was introduced in 1991.  We have not been able to confirm this as a problem with all Taurus', but we've heard enough through our customer support lines that suggest this is a sporadic but not unusual problem.  If you are looking at a Taurus it would behoove you to specifically ask about the transmission and pay particular attention to it on your test drive.  UPDATE 3/05/2000 - Ford has announced a generous repair allowance and/or buyback program for owners of 1994 and 1995 Taurus' with the 3.8 liter engine.  Over 700,000 engines are believed to have faulty head gaskets.  Ford will reimburse for past repairs, replace the engine or buy the car.  Letters will be sent in March to owners outlining the program. Contact Ford Motor Company (or 800-392-3673) for details. 

The Taurus came with a 3yr/36,000 mile transferable factory warranty, so if you are looking at a '95 model you may have some coverage left on the factory warranty. The original owner may have purchased Ford's excellent ESP (Extended Service Protection) plan that stretches coverage one or two years, so make sure you ask about it.

Service

Low service costs are a strong suit of the Taurus. Prices for normal wear items such as struts, brake pads, filters, belts and hoses, pumps, etc. are below average, no doubt due to the economies of scale and competition among aftermarket suppliers for the business of all those Taurus owners.

All Taurus' come with a full stainless steel exhaust system. These systems are good for at least 100,000 miles, and often many more. Unlike many of its competitors, it's a good bet you won't have to pay for an exhaust system.

Both V6 engines on the Taurus (except the SHO) are older pushrod designs. One advantage to this design is that you don't have a timing belt to change at the 60-90,000 mile mark as you would on an overhead cam engine. Depending on where its done, this is another $300-$500 charge you needn't worry about. The timing chain on a well maintained Taurus should be good for 150,000 miles.

Summary

So, is it a good car? Unquestionably, the answer is yes. It handles and drives well, is comfortable with plenty of room, has good reliability and is relatively cheap to service. Not a standout in any one area, its combination of goodness in all areas adds up to a family sedan that unobtrusively goes about its business, doing all the things a family sedan should. No, it's not exciting, but it is a great used car buy.

 

General Specifications

General Mechanical Safety
Trim Levels: L ('92), GL, LX Layout: Front-engine, front-wheel drive ABS Brakes: Optional, includes front & rear disc brakes
Body Styles: 4-Dr Sdn, 4-Dr Wgn Engines: 3.0L V6 140hp Std., na LX Wgn.  3.8L V6 140hp - Std. LX Wgn., Optional others

Brakes: Front disc, rear drum

Air Bags: Driver std; psngr optional '92-93, standard '94-95
Dimensions & Capacities Performance NHTSA Crash Rating:
Weight: 3245lbs

Length: Sdn: 192"; Wgn: 193.1"

Height: Sdn: 54.1"; Wgn: 55.5"

0-60mph: 10.7 seconds 1/4 mile: 17.8 seconds Top Speed: 115mph

Driver **** Passenger *****

Key:

Best: ***** No or minor injuries probable

Worst: * Serious injury probable

EPA Class: Mid-size EPA Mileage: 3.0L-20/30 (city/hwy) 3.8L-19/28 (city/hwy) Original Warranty: 3yr/36,000 mile bumper-to-bumper
Cargo Vol: Sdn: 18 cuft Wgn: 45.7 cu ft
Fuel: 16.0 gal.

 

Safety Recalls

1992 wagons - Child could lock himself in rear storage compartment or footwell area of rear facing third seat. Have dealer replace latch assembly with a key operated one.

1992-95 models w/3.8 Liter V6 - Cruise control cable could freeze due to water in cable, preventing the driver from disengaging cruise control. Recall limited to cold-weather states. Have dealer install cable boot to prevent water from entering the cable.

1993 models with antilock brakes - Incorrect parts may have been installed. Only affects 212 cars with a build date in Jan. 1993. Have dealer install correct parts.

1995 models built in 9/94. Affects 1500 cars. Brakes could fail. Have dealer check brake linkage and install a special retainer clip linking the master cylinder to the brake pedal.

1992-95 models - Snow could block engine cooling fan and make it overheat, creating a possible fire hazard. Recall limited to AK, IA, MN, NE, ND, and SD. Have dealer install harness with circuit breaker.

 

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