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by Steve Siler

Ford Taurus
2003 Ford Taurus

Ford's popular Taurus, once the leader in the mid-size segment, is starting to gray at the temples. Not that there's anything terribly wrong with it, but it's just not as fresh as some others in the group. This means, of course, that dealers may be dealing on this roomy -- if vanilla -- sedan, which is good news for anyone looking for solid five- or six-seat transportation for a good price.

What you'll get for this good price is quite a bit of metal, and quite a bit of features, too. There are lots of trim levels, too: the base LX, the nicer SE, the even nicer SEL and the somewhat sportier SES. Now, "sporty" is relative, and on the Taurus, the word only means that the SES gets alloy wheels, a rear spoiler and slightly different interior fitments. Mechanically, they are all the same.

Speaking of mechanics, the base engine is a torquey but wheezy V-6 that produces 155 hp, and honestly, it's not the smoothest in the world if you rev it high. The 200-hp Duratec V-6, on the other hand, produces plenty of thrust and smoothness without exacting a much of a penalty on fuel economy. All engines are flexible-fuel vehicles, so if you are eco-conscious and live near a gas station that offers E85 ethanol-based fuel, you put either type of fuel into the tank at any time and feel no difference in performance.

One area of importance to all of us is safety, and there the Taurus excels. Double five-star crash ratings have been achieved year after year, which itself is reason enough to go bargain-hunting at the Ford store.