1992-1995 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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