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2000 Ford Taurus wagon

Freshened inside and out for 2000, the Ford Taurus station wagon is proof that sporty performance is compatible with a hefty dose of utility.

Published June 17, 2000
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Freshened inside and out for 2000, the Ford Taurus station wagon is proof that sporty performance is compatible with a hefty dose of utility.

Up front, this mid-size segment leader offers an optional (for $1,495) 3.0 L 24-valve Duratec V6 with double-overhead camshafts.

Its frisky 200 horses guarantee that you won't be caught short in passing situations, even with a full load of people and stuff.

Low-speed responsiveness is impressive.

The base powerplant the 3.0 L Vulcan V6 is on the lowtech side, with pushrods and two valves per cylinder. It's rated at 153 hp.

A column-operated four-speed automatic is the only wagon transmission. Ford claims shifting has been "dramatically" improved.

Outback, the Taurus wagon has a generous, well-finished cargo hold that can accommodate 1,087 L. That's with the rear seatbacks up; flip then down and capacity jumps to 2,301 L.

The cargo area can be equipped with a rear-facing, third-row bench. That means this wagon can actually hold up to eight people, although how comfortably is open to debate.

Trick front seats have a clever flip-and-fold centre console standard on the wagon that somersaults forward to provide cupholders and storage. Closed, it looks like part of the seat.

The Taurus wagon comes in SE and high-posh SEL trims. I drove an SEL done in a luscious Harvest Gold clear-coat metallic with a beige cloth interior.

Standard SEL gear includes the usual power amenities, anti-lock brakes, leather-wrapped steering wheel and that third-row bench.

Among the tester's options: power moonroof ($1,250), a sizzling stereo with trunk-mounted six-disc CD changer ($1,050), traction control ($491) and side airbags ($463).

Exterior changes for 2000 include a redesigned nose featuring bigger, brighter headlights. But the designers have resisted the urge to tamper with the pleasing melange of curves and contours that has made the wagon a looker from Day 1.

(It's a different story with the 2000 Taurus sedan, of course. It traded the Starship Enterprise rear end for a conservative treatment that's finding favour with family sedan buyers.)

Inside, both Tauruses have lost the oval-shaped integrated control panel that had an amazing ability to arouse emotion usually negative among auto writers. One U.S. reviewer declared the panel, which I liked, "the biggest interior gaffe in recent memory."

It's history now, replaced by a more conventional, squarish layout. The arrangement looks good, but comes up short in user friendliness.

Temperature and fan settings, for instance, are run by thin bars with plus and minus markings. I found them labour intensive.

Other details underscore the aging design's occasional favouring of form over function. The rear arc of the side glass restricts outward vision, and the window only goes halfway down.

As well, the swoopy rear-roof styling results in a smallish back window. Your view of what's happening behind you isn't great. And in rain, the back wiper ignores the area on the driver's side.

Front forehead room is tight with the moonroof.

Several front-seat passengers carped about the lack of an overhead grab handle. I dismissed them as whiners, but then I had the steering wheel to use as an assist.

On the bright side, Taurus has impressive safety credentials. It holds the U.S. government's highest rating — five stars — for frontal crash performance.

And its dual-stage airbags can inflate at two different rates, depending on crash severity.

Two buttons on the left side of the driver's seat let you move the gas and brake pedals forward or back, even as you drive. This standard innovation is a boon for shorter drivers.

The Ford's rolling locks are more of a mixed blessing. Many times, I stepped out of the car and tried to open a rear door to fetch something on the back seat. The door, of course, was always locked.

Long story short: this feature is bad news for slow learners.

Standard power rack-and-pinion steering with variable assist doesn't disappoint when the going gets curvy.

The tailgate swings up and out of the way for easy cargo loading.

The glass window can be popped opened separately always a useful ability.

The zesty front-driver, built in Chicago, carried a bottom line price of $33,414, plus taxes.

That's fairly seemly by today's inflated standards.

Taurus shows why, despite the onslaught of minivans and sport-utilities, the station wagon remains a favourite of practical people with a taste for sporty motoring.

Why settle for car-like when you can have a car?

The 2000 Ford Taurus holds Consumer Reports' coveted Recommended rating.

Base prices/residuals*

* SE: $26,495/44

* SEL: $27,695/45

* Freight: $870

* Air tax: $100

*Residual percentage for a 36-month lease, as supplied by the current ALG Canadian Percentage Guide.