Re-posting an old review from 2009 here, to mark the end of North American Taurus production this month and with it the final end of the Taurus SHO – and this time forever. As you’ll see below, at one point the Taurus was considered as a replacement for the Australian Falcon, a dated and imperfect car – but to Australian driving enthusiasts a far better offering.
Here are our original words. Note the plan to bring the Mondeo into the United States, which indeed happened as the Fusion.
The current Australian Falcon has a long and beloved performance history, supports local preferences with a rear wheel drive (RWD) architecture, and all importantly – to the Australians – is home grown. The XR6T version (4 liter inline 6, with turbocharger) is the current high water mark of performance – even bettering the version of the same car equipped with the 5.4 liter DOHC V-8 (roughly similar to the SVT Cobra R 5.4 engine, although with some differences). The XR6T is an attractive and desirable car…. although somewhat dated by European standards.
The current Falcon is a “top hat” update to the previous car, retaining a fairly old architecture and suspension. The new body shell and minor updates were conceived as a short-term and inexpensive fix, until a new RWD platform comes to fruition around 2012 (or likely later) that would meet worldwide standards.
The Falcon platform had been briefly considered for export but had too many technical issues for worldwide use (safety, crash standards, etc). Little Billy Ford flip-flopped the product plans for a North American RWD architecture several times after canceling the DEW platform as well as a planned smaller RWD platform in the early part of this decade. A more recent plan for an all-new RWD platform for both Ford and Lincoln was permanently canceled about 2 months ago. It was believed that this new RWD platform was to be shared with the Australians. So this leaves the Australians out of luck in the longer term, and North American with only the out-dated and architecturally stone age Mustang platform.
The latest competition to the Falcon from Holden (exported to the United States as the Pontiac G8) is a clean-sheet design with a far more modern and capable architecture. It was conceived from the start as a worldwide platform, and designed to easily enable several variations of length and width. In North America, we’ve seen it already as the Pontiac G8 and in a slightly updated form as the new Camaro. Given the worldwide economy as well as the renewed focus on emissions and fuel economy, we apparently won’t see any further uses of this platform. Note that the Pontiac G8 has almost a years supply sitting on dealer lots and has had it’s production cut by 97%. That’s a “Lutzian” disaster.
Ford of Australia and Holden were never able to create a viable export market for their home-grown RWD cars. This leaves them with orphan platforms that have no use beyond a shrinking home market. The expense of maintaining – much less updating (as Ford has found with the top-hat Falcon) – platforms that can only be used in a single market and are supported solely by limited (and shrinking) sales is quickly becoming impossible to support. What will the Australians do?
With the Falcon, one idea was to replace it with a locally built variant of the new Taurus. That idea has not been well received by the performance community in Australia… although given economic and market realities it may be fact. European Fords (Fiesta, Focus, Mondeo) have been very well received in Australia for the same reason the Europeans love them: chassis dynamics, great engines, world-class dynamics and superior ergonomics. The current Falcon does not measure up to those same dynamic standards, but the Taurus might come close.
The 4 liter turbocharged inline 6 engine used in the XR6T has been enthusiastically received by the Australian performance community. The plan for the past few years has been to replace this engine with the “EcoBoost” twin-turbo DOHC 3.5 liter V-6. This plan has been moved out a few years due to the platform question. The EcoBoost V-6 makes as much as 365 HP in transverse form, and over 400 HP in RWD form – so power really isn’t the question as much as acceptance is. It’s already known (thanks to a slip from the head of Ford Australia) that the new 5 liter V-8 from North America will replace the Australian 5.4 liter engine in the next few years. Whether it will be locally assembled or not (an important criteria for Australian performance enthusiasts) isn’t yet known. But it is vastly superior to the 5.4.
CARADVICE.com.au covers the introduction of the 2010 Taurus SHO here: http://www.caradvice.com.au/22460/2010-ford-taurus-sho-272kw-awd/. Their Australian readers weigh in on the idea of bringing the Taurus to Australia as an eventual replacement for the Falcon. The idea does not go over well. But note that the statistical sample set of the readers of that site are focused on performance and don’t represent the average Falcon buyers. For them, RWD is not the issue it once was. Competent FWD or AWD platforms have already been very well accepted thanks to the European Ford imports as well as Japanese imports that are taking increasing shares of the Australian market.
Some CARADVICE readers do correctly point out that the Taurus is too large and too heavy, with too little HP. And some even go so far as to indicate their attraction to the Mondeo (even though it is FWD). With the Mondeo coming to North America in the next 4 years, and given the very aggressive emissions and fuel economy standards to be implemented in North America over the next ten years, perhaps a stretched Mondeo will replace the Taurus chassis in the long term. All speculation at this point… but with alternative powerplants and especially electric power coming into the norm late in the next decade it’s a reasonable likelihood.
That still doesn’t leave a RWD platform for the Australians (or the rest of us). It’s very difficult to see where one would come from, and it’s also difficult seeing the current Falcon survive on it’s present form for another ten years. We’ll also add that architecturally the high-water mark for mass-produced RWD platforms is the Nissan/Infiniti FM platform. The Holden comes the closest to this (but does not match it), and the Fords are nowhere near. The FM platform supports a variety of products, in supports an upcoming gas/electric hybrid, and it’s got world-class dynamics. Ford almost had a match in the DEW platform, but they wasted their opportunity by letting it go. Nissan/Infiniti has proven that it can built in quantity at a reasonable cost – and Ford would build it in an even higher quantity and enjoy even better cost savings. This is what’s needed by Ford… and it appears that we’ll never get it.
Meanwhile, let’s enjoy the Australian Falcon for what it is, and what it has been.