Battle of the Family Sedans: Avalon vs. Taurus

by The Car Family

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The new large Ford sedan shouldn’t really be called a Taurus because it is so totally different in every way. The fact that is is a much better looking, handling, and performing than the previous model also adds weight to our recommendation. To top off this dramatic change, the five passenger Taurus delivers excellent fuel economy and significant safety ratings while undercutting the price of some of the competition. In other words, forget the past, this is the Ford of the future as the company has left behind its legacy of stodgy vehicles. Indeed, only the slightly more fuel efficient Toyota Avalon can challenge it in the full size affordable family sedan field. And, we use the word affordability with caution because the Avalon breaches the $30,000 mark while the Ford can be nicely equipped for five grand less while offering more electronic options from communications to music.

Not to that the Avalon is a slouch. It is a great highway cruiser and holds the the edge in real world performance and utility. The Toyota comes in essentially one flavor with a 268 horsepower 3.5-liter V-6 engine mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. The Toyota’s fuel economy ratings is at the top of its class with 20/29 mpg. The Ford is nearly as powerful, but gets about a mile per gallon less. If you are feeling deprived the Taurus SHO model is turbocharged and produces 365 horsepower. We tested the standard model and averaged nearly 25 mpg in mixed driving. But what was more impressive with the Ford were the standard features. The base Taurus SE come with a six speaker stereo and CD player with MP3 playback and an auxiliary audio port, a fully adjustable steering wheel, alloy rims, and power locks, windows and mirrors. If you want more the SEL offers leather and satellite radio and a more sophisticated climate control system. You can also get a rearview camera, rear parking sensors, and the Sync electronics interface system with Bluetooth and an iPod interface.

In real world driving the Taurus is more eager to be frisky off the line, but the Avalon is more powerful when passing. Both vehicles have large fuel tanks that can easily make 400 mile trips without refueling.

 

The Ford design team gave the driver a high seating position and added a large trunk and also offered available all wheel drive. In other words, this sedan is as close in feeling to driving a SUV as they could make it. This is a trend for most larger sedans, however, it does create some headroom issues for those who are long waisted and drive these four doors equipped with a sun or moon roof.

In terms of interior room the Toyota does not sacrifice as much as the Ford do its exterior styling limitations. The Taurus rear passenger space has more restricted head and leg room. You can also order the Avalon with seating for six by offering a bench front seat.

On the road the Avalon is a bit noisier than we expected and the handling was set for comfort whereas the Taurus was quite impressive for a large sedan. The electronic steering provides good feedback and the suspension does not have the floaty feel of the previous generation. Brake pedal feel is still a bit to soft compared to the Avalon. For long hauls the Toyota wins.

The front seats of both cars are spacious and provide sofa like comfort. The Ford is a little more cramped as its new dash layout and center console are quite wide. The Avalon looks more dated. Both cars have an abundance of readouts and displays, and buttons, and switches, and stalks. In other words, don’t leave the dealership without a thorough walk-through.

We always recommend you order any new car with every safety option. That said, the Taurus has good safety crash-test scores and you can order a collision warning system and adaptive cruise control, the highly desirable Blind Spot Information and Cross Traffic Alert systems, and air bags just about everywhere. The Avalon offers the more traditional options, although the rear view camera mounted in the rear view mirror on cars with navigation is interesting.

Mom’s view: Believe it or not I found the Avalon a tad old in styling, interior, and driving manners. When we tested the previous generation it very much reminded us of a Lexus and was one of our favorite vehicles for long trips. This time it reminded me more of a large Camry, which essentially. Make that a very large Camry as it is nearly eight inches longer. I thoroughly enjoyed the engine’s performance. When you nudged the accelerator pedal is was like waking a sleeping giant. Eager to please and the transmission was world class. I liked the Ford better, but its rear view mirrors were too small and the view to the sides and back were limited by the high trunk. Nevertheless, this is the best Ford Taurus ever.

Dad’s view: These aren’t spirited drivers, although the SHO version might be well worth the price if you need a little fun doing your daily chores. The Avalon was typical Toyota and that manufacture has remained consistent with its design, quality build, and frugal strategies. However, there are some excellent alternatives in this market segment now including new models from Chevrolet and Chrysler clawing at the buyer’s wallets as well as Ford, Kia, Hyundai, and, of course, the Honda Accord. I liked the Ford, but I wouldn’t kick the Avalon out of my garage for long distance traveling.

Young working woman’s view: Both of these are far more nimble than their size would indicate. However, the Avalon appealed to me more. The Taurus was more interesting to look at, but the Toyota felt more comfortable.

Young working male’s view: Since I work daily with technology at http://www.eracks.com building American made open source computes and servers I favor the Taurus because it is loaded with electronic features that place it at the forefront of the industry with a plethora of options that the Toyota did not offer. I also liked the large trunk and the Ford styling was more intriguing.

Family conference: In reality, the Toyota Avalon has stayed remarkably consistent as a larger version of the Camry. Today, the performance, handling, and interior room are still the same high quality, but the completion from Ford, Buick, Kia, Hyundai, Chrysler, and Chevrolet have been nipping at its heels. The result is that the Avalon is a superior family sedan that can hold six in comfort and offer a sedate ride with admirable fuel mileage. The Ford is more modern in looks and has more updated options. It is not as roomy inside, but the trunk is huge. It does have restricted vision to the back and sides, but offers drivers a more involving feel. Both are at the top of the large family sedan class.

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