Ford’s Chinese Taurus: spacious, affordable and ready to compete with its rivals

The Taurus, along with the upcoming Citroen C6 and Volkswagen Phideon, are bringing a flush of new competitors to the market

PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 September, 2016, 12:48pm
UPDATED : Friday, 16 September, 2016, 10:25pm

Although it’s a global powerhouse, Ford has not done so well in the Chinese market, trailing sales by Volkswagen, General Motors and even Hyundai.

In the past this was partly due to the limited range of vehicles it offered compared to competitors. The Ford Taurus is the latest addition as the carmaker attempts to build a range that covers most market segments.

Surprisingly the Ford Escort based on the last generation Focus’ platform, the company’s first attempt at a car specially designed for China, has done well particularly in lower-tier cities. Ford hopes it can get it right again with the Taurus, which despite the name bears no relation to the US model, and was specially designed for the Chinese market.

While in most countries large saloons from non premium manufacturers have gone the way of the dodo, in China they still hold impressive market sway. For many years the Buick LaCrosse pretty much had the market to itself, but the Taurus, along with the upcoming Citroen C6 and Volkswagen Phideon, are bringing a flush of competitors.

Larger and better equipped than models by the German premium brands, they also offer cheaper prices to customers who are more concerned by size than badge, meaning you can get a BMW 5 Series equivalent for 3 Series prices.

In July, Ford added a 1.5 turbo to the engine line-up, which at launch consisted of 2.0T and 2.7T V6 Ecoboost engines.

We tested the 2.0T version in Titanium trim, the top level for this engine.

The centre of the dashboard is uncluttered, dominated by the touchscreen infotainment system, and underneath is Ford’s unique looking control panel. Similar to the one in the Mondeo, it has buttons for the Sony CD player, and the climate and seat temperature control.

There is liberal use of swathes of leather, soft touch plastics and wood trim, but they fail to achieve a German premium-level feel.

Below the climate control is a sliding opening marked SYNC, which really looks as if it should offer wireless smartphone charging but does not. Underneath are two USB ports and a standard 12V charger. An ashtray in the centre tunnel shows some of the obvious tailoring for the mainland market; there are also ashtrays in both the rear door handles.

There is liberal use of swathes of leather, soft touch plastics and wood trim, but they fail to achieve a German premium-level feel

Many buyers of the Taurus will experience the car from the back rather than the front. The panoramic sunroof makes the interior very light, while in the Titanium trim, heated and cooled seats make travelling comfortable to both front and rear occupants. On a hot day, the cooled seats really proved to be effective.

The two main rear seats can have their pitch electrically adjusted by controls on the fold-down armrest, which can also control the entertainment system. Headroom is reasonable and, thanks to the car’s 2,949mm wheelbase, the legroom is good, creating a comfortable rear cabin environment further helped by blinds on all the windows. While the boot is capacious and sturdy feeling, the seats do not fold down and there is only a ski hatch.

Despite paddle shifts and a sports mode on the six-speed automatic gearbox, the 2.0T never gives a very engaging drive, perhaps not surprising given the Taurus’s near 1.8 tonne weight. Nonetheless it is adequate and the sports mode does help liven up the drive a little.

While the steering is reasonably weighted it doesn’t feel particularly sharp. Given the large nature of the car, the blind spot warning indicators on the mirrors are a welcome addition. There is also a panel of red lights that reflect on the windscreen when you approach a car in front at too great a speed.

Adaptive cruise control is fitted, but Ford’s lane keeping alert system is only available on the 2.7T Flagship trim. The suspension is honed to give a comfortable ride, especially to rear passengers, but with largely straight roads it was difficult to really test the handling.

It comes equipped with the second-generation of Ford Sync, which is the company’s telematics solution allowing the driver to link their phone to the car. A button on the steering wheel allows voice-operated controls to play music, make phone calls, and input locations into the navigation or find places such as restaurants.

The Taurus is more of a Chinese cruiser than an American barge. Chinese, however, generally don’t have a very positive attitude to American cars – even though most of the ones offered in mainland China are from the world stable rather than necessarily American models.

Volkswagen and Buick have a semi-premium image in China, but Ford in most countries is viewed as a common workhorse.

Back in 2014, Ford launched the Lincoln brand in China to give it a more upmarket presence, and this car might have been more successfully marketed as the first locally produced Lincoln. As it stands it’s a reasonable looking, well equipped car. The German rivals are not going to lose any sleep over it, but buyers who are looking to enjoy a large car from the rear seat will like it, given that prices begin from 233,800 yuan.