Courtesy of: InsideLine.com
If you understand the limitless desire of Americans for personal space, then you understand the thinking behind the 2010 Ford Taurus Limited and 2009 Honda Accord EX-L V6 with Navigation. Taurus and Accord may be iconic midsize-sedan nameplates, but now the badges are on large-car rumps.
Officially, the 2010 Ford Taurus and 2009 Honda Accord each seat five. Realistically, neither of these large sedans will ever see more than four passengers. And nobody will so much as rub an elbow, shoulder, buttock or knee during the 15-minute drive to the sushi buffet.
As crossovers promise everyone a whole row of seating to himself, families are fleeing even the roomiest of family sedans like these. So you might be driving around by yourself in a Ford Taurus or Honda Accord. And you might care about something besides shoulder room and legroom.
In its previous life, the Taurus couldn't stand up to such scrutiny. It was a big lug, a slobbery SUV shaped like a sedan. However, the 2010 Ford Taurus Limited reflects a serious change of heart at Ford. This is a smarter Taurus with crisper handling, quality interior bits, and up-to-date but easy-to-use technology.
This is also exactly the sort of Taurus that should be able to do battle with the smarty-pants of the family car class, the 2009 Honda Accord EX-L V6 with Navigation.
Tuck in That Tummy
You'll notice we call both the Taurus and the Accord large cars. We don't kid you, though. The truth is, these two have gotten fat together.
Our 2009 Honda Accord EX-L V6 Navi tester weighs in at nearly 3,600 pounds. It outweighs the previous-generation Accord by 250 pounds. It outweighs a 1999 Accord EX V6 sedan by more than 300 pounds.
Although rivals like the Mazda 6 and Nissan Altima are close in size (and weight, in the case of the Mazda), only the Accord crosses the 120-cubic-foot interior volume threshold into the EPA's "large car" classification.
Built on a 112.9-inch wheelbase (2.7 inches longer than the Accord's), our 2010 Ford Taurus Limited stretches nearly 203 inches from nose to tail. It's 8.5 inches longer than the Accord, not to mention unnaturally tall (60.7 inches) and wide (76.2 inches) for a sedan.
The Taurus is certainly the hulk of the family sedan class. It draws fat jokes from strangers and outweighs the hefty Honda by 450 pounds. But at 122.3 cubic feet, its total interior volume only tops the Accord by a couple cubes.
Pounds of Gadgets
At least a few dozen of those pounds are accounted for by all the technology in our 2010 Ford Taurus Limited, which isn't even fully optioned. Notably, it lacks a sunroof, Ford's hard-drive-based navigation system and the multicontour seats that heat, cool and knead your backside. We'll live.
For a $31,995 base price, the front-wheel-drive Taurus Limited provides a leather interior, 10-way power front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, a USB jack, the Sync hands-free interface, wood-grain interior accents that may or may not be to your taste, and 19-inch wheels that definitely will not be to your taste.
Our test car also has Package 302A ($2,000), which adds keyless ignition, a blind-spot information system (Volvo's BLIS), automatic high-beams and a very decent 12-speaker Sony audio system. The blind-spot radar supplements the car's standard rear-bumper sonar by providing useful warnings on the trip computer display like "vehicle approaching from the left" when you have the Taurus in reverse.
Adaptive cruise control adds an additional $1,195 to the Ford's bottom line for a total of $35,190.
Most of these features simply aren't available on the Accord. However, our 2009 Honda Accord EX-L V6 comes with the high-quality Acura navigation system (stripped of the nav weather and nav traffic features), as well as Bluetooth, heated leather-upholstered seats, dual-zone climate control, a sunroof, and an unassuming set of 17-inch wheels.
We don't mind the lack of wood-grain appliqués in the Accord, but this car needs an iPod-friendly USB jack. Aux alone doesn't cut it in 2009.
Still, this 2009 Honda Accord EX-L V6 with Navigation can be yours for $31,615 — a savings of $3,575 over the 2010 Taurus Limited.
You wouldn't know the 2009 Honda Accord EX-L V6 Navi is the cheaper of the two based on how it drives.
Right away, the Accord establishes itself as the sportier of the two sedans, which isn't terribly hard to do when your opponent weighs 2 tons. Still, we wonder if Honda has subtly recalibrated this car's drivetrain for 2009, because this Accord V6 doesn't feel as shortchanged on low-end torque as the 2008 models we tested. In addition, its five-speed automatic transmission shifts crisply right at the 3.5-liter V6's 6,800-rpm redline instead of short-shifting. Good thing, because there's still no manual shift gate.
Honda has rerated the V6 sedan's output at 271 horsepower at 6,200 rpm (from 268 hp) and 254 pound-feet of torque at 5,000 rpm (from 248 lb-ft), but there's more here than meets the eye. Throttle response is downright snappy in the 2009 Honda Accord.
At the track, the Accord reaches 60 mph from a standstill in 7.2 seconds (or 6.9 seconds with 1 foot of rollout as on a drag strip) and hits the quarter-mile in 15.3 seconds at 93.1 mph.
The fact that our 2010 Taurus Limited breaks into the 15s at all borders is impressive considering its weight disadvantage. It runs a 7.8-second 0-60 time (7.5 seconds with rollout) and a 15.7-second quarter-mile. With a trap speed of just 88.9 mph, though, it has no hope of catching the Accord. The Ford's 3.5-liter V6 is rated at just 263 hp at 6,250 rpm, but its torque is accessible at lower rpm, with the peak 249 lb-ft available at 4,500 rpm.
Most of the time, our 2010 Ford Taurus Limited accelerates adequately in traffic. It's only when you hop into the Accord that you realize what you've been missing. Shifts from the Ford's six-speed automatic transmission often feel lackadaisical, too, even in manual mode. Plus, torque steer is an issue under full throttle.
Fuel economy ratings are close, with the V6 Accord earning a slight advantage with its 19 city/29 highway mpg figures versus a preliminary rating of 18 city/28 highway mpg for the front-drive 2010 Taurus. Both sedans return high teens in weekday traffic, though our Taurus test car's 2,500-mile road trip understandably pushes its two-week average above the Accord's, with its average during our test interval coming to 21.1 mpg versus 19.3 mpg.
Ordinarily, we don't give the current-generation Honda Accord a lot of credit in the handling department. Its steering is precise, but conservative suspension tuning, meek P225/50R17 Michelin Pilot HXMXM5 all-season tires and a few too many pounds rob it of it the usual Honda cornering character.
But it's all relative, and a 2-ton 2010 Ford Taurus makes the Accord look good on a back road.
It's not that the Taurus Limited is a terrible handler. There's just a lot of car to transition through corners, and Ford's legal team knows this, so the big sedan has a very aggressive and very non-defeatable stability control system. If it senses you're about to stuff the Taurus into a tight corner, it clamps down hard on that inside wheel. The steering ratio (17.0:1) also feels slower than it needs to be, and heavy inputs elicit moaning from the power steering pump.
At our test track, the 2009 Honda Accord EX-L V6 manages 0.83g on the skid pad and 64.1 mph through the slalom. With its stability control active, the 2010 Ford Taurus Limited can't do any better than 0.79g and 60.3 mph. When we run the Accord through these tests with stability control on, the numbers are closer: 0.79g on the skid pad and 62.2 mph in the slalom.
In braking tests, the Ford's wider P255/45R19 100Y Goodyear Eagle RS-A tires give it a slight advantage. The Taurus stops from 60 mph in 131 feet. This is 2 feet shorter than the Accord's best stop. Still, we prefer the Accord's firmer pedal. And notably, this is the first Honda we've tested in months — even years — that hasn't had an issue with brake fade (though there's still some smoke coming off the rotors after our testing).
The Comfort Argument
We're not sure how Ford's chassis engineers were able to get such a well-damped ride out of a car with a 19-by-8-inch wheel weighing down each corner, but they did. The 2010 Ford Taurus Limited has an exceptional ride quality. It's plush over most interstate freeways, yet highly controlled at all times. This is the family sedan you want to drive cross-country.
You could do the same in the 2009 Honda Accord EX-L V6, but it wouldn't be quite so comfortable. In Honda tradition, the Accord's ride is all about firm control. You might be fine with this as a driver, but passengers often give a different opinion.
We measure a higher decibel level in the Accord at a 70-mph cruise, and we blame it on characteristic Honda road noise, which detracts from cabin calm even when you're just running errands around town.
Better Packaged Accord
Yet you might put up with the extra noise, because the smaller 2009 Honda Accord EX-L V6 has a subtly more spacious cabin. The beltline is lower, the seats are wider and, whether you're driving or riding in back, the cabin has an airier feel. Here we are back at the personal space argument again.
But there's also cohesion to the Accord's cabin design that makes the car easier to live with day-to-day. All the displays and controls have an ergonomic design that feels instantly familiar, and there's a unity to how everything works. You and the car and all its stuff are part of one Honda life form.
That's not to say you can't live well in the 2010 Ford Taurus Limited, which feels more upscale than the Accord and offers many more conveniences for iPod and BlackBerry users. But somehow the tall chairs, deeply recessed gauge pods, pixelated radio displays and sophisticated Sync interface in this Taurus Limited feel more like a collection of stuff than elements of a whole.
Family sedans don't necessarily involve your family anymore, so most of us are looking for more than vast amounts of space on the cheap. We want quick acceleration; we'll take adroit handling if we can get it; and the cabin electronics had better play nice with our smart phone.
The 2009 Honda Accord EX-L V6 with Navigation wins this test by 2.6 points, largely because it's faster and more agile, yet less expensive. It's hardly a sport sedan, but of these two, the Accord is the driver's pick. A more space-efficient cabin design is another big point in the Honda's favor.
At the same time, the 2010 Ford Taurus Limited is more refined and personable than any Taurus to date. Its nicely resolved ride is no small benefit if you take long road trips, and we really do like Sync. Yet it's tough to justify paying $35K for a 263-hp sedan that needs almost 8 seconds to hit 60 mph.
There's a larger issue here, too, as we'd like to have an intervention with both Ford and Honda to talk about weight. From the standpoint of acceleration, handling, braking and fuel economy, neither the Honda Accord nor the Ford Taurus can afford to get any larger. If anything, make them smaller.