The Ford Taurus is an automobile manufactured by the Ford Motor Company in the United States. Originally introduced in the 1986 model year, it has remained in near-continuous production for more than two decades, making it the fourth oldest nameplate that is currently sold in the North American Ford lineup. It has had a more upscale Mercury branded version entitled the Sable (1986–2005; 2008–2009), as well as a performance variant, the Ford Taurus SHO (1989–1999 and 2010–); in addition, it served as the basis for the first-ever front-wheel drive Lincoln Continental (1988–1994). It was a front-wheel drive mid-size car until 1999, and has been a full-size car since 2000, and available in front- or all-wheel drive since 2008. It has been built on the D3 platform since 2008.
The original Taurus was a milestone design for Ford and the entire American automotive industry, as well as a very influential vehicle that brought many new features and innovations to the marketplace. Since its launch in 1986, Ford had built 7,519,919 Tauruses through the 2007 model year, making it the fifth best selling North American nameplate in Ford's history; only the F-150, Escort, Model T, and Mustang have sold more units. Between 1992 and 1996, the Taurus was the best-selling car in the United States, eventually losing the title to the Toyota Camry in 1997. The 1986–1995 Taurus was built on the DN-5 platform, 1996-1999 Taurus was built on the DN101 platform. The 2000-2007 Tauruses were built on the D186 which was a modified DN 101 platform.
First generation (1986–1991)
The first-generation Taurus was launched in 1985 as a 1986 model to strong fanfare and sales, replacing the slow-selling mid-size Ford Granada-based Ford LTD. (The full-size Ford LTD Crown Victoria remained as part of the Ford line up.) The release of the Ford Taurus was one of the most anticipated ever, mostly because it was a first in-car design and also the start of new quality standard for Ford. At the time of the Taurus's debut, Ford had been producing mainly rear-wheel drive cars and Chrysler and General Motors were offering more front-wheel drive vehicles up to midrange including the Chrysler K platform and A-body Chevrolet Celebrity. With the introduction of the Escort and Tempo, Ford was making a transition to front-wheel drive. The Taurus displayed a rounder shape than its contemporaries, often likened to a 'jelly bean' or 'flying potato', inspired by the design of the Audi 5000 and Ford's own Tempo. Instead of a grille, the Taurus mainstreamed the smooth grille-less 'bottom breather' nose. The aerodynamic design of the Taurus made the car more fuel efficient, allowing Ford to meet more stringent corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standard applied by the United States government. The Taurus's success ultimately led to an American automobile design revolution; Chrysler and General Motors developed aerodynamic cars in order to capitalize on the Taurus' success.
The first generation was available with either a V6 or an inline four-cylinder engine and came with either a manual or automatic transmission. (The Taurus's twin, the Mercury Sable, has never offered a manual transmission in either of its incarnations.) Like its exterior, the Taurus's interior was ahead of its time, and many features originating from it are still used in most cars today. Its interior was designed to be extremely user-friendly, with all of its controls designed to be recognizable by touch, allowing drivers to operate them without taking their eyes off the road. For example, the switches to the power windows and power locks were designed with one half of the switch raised up, with the other half recessed, in order for its function to be identified by touch. To further enhance this quality, the car's dashboard had all of the controls in the central area within reach of the driver. The left side of the dash curved slightly around the driver to make controls easily accessible, as well as creating a "cockpit" feel. However, it wasn't curved enough to prevent the passenger from easily identifying and using the vehicle's main controls as well.
The interior of the Taurus was highly customizable to fit buyers' needs, with a large number of options and three different configurations. This meant that the interior of the Taurus could be spartan or luxurious, depending on the buyer's choice of options. On models with an automatic transmission, the Taurus' interior was available in three different seating configurations. The interior equipment depended on model. The most basic model, the L (see below), came standard, with just an AM radio and a front cloth bench seat, while the LX, the more luxurious model, came with a greater number of features as standard equipment.
The 1986 Taurus was very well received by both the public and the press. It won many awards, most notably Motor Trend's car of the year for 1986, as well as being named on Car and Driver's ten best list for 1986. Over 200,000 Tauruses were sold during the 1986 model year, and in 1989, the millionth Taurus was sold. When production ended in 1991, more than 2,000,000 first-generation Tauruses had been sold.