Georgia Lewis enjoys a comfortable saloon that offers cocky motorists a much-needed driving lesson.
2010 Ford Taurus Limited
It is easy to be cynical about safety features in a car. While anyone with half an ounce of intelligence should be able to comprehend the value of airbags, crumple zones, wearing seat belts and putting babies and young children into safety seats, it can be argued that features such as cars that slam on the brakes for you take responsibility away from drivers. Besides, a car is only as smart as the person behind the wheel and nobody has yet invented an idiot-proofing system that prevents drivers from speeding, tailgating, using their mobile phone while driving, getting windows tinted to 80 per cent or treating stop signs as a mere serving suggestion.
But after taking the new Ford Taurus on a real-world test drive through Abu Dhabi and Dubai's traffic, as well as the frequent madness on the motorway between the two cities, two of the car's safety features proved to be very useful. Sadly for a pigeon I killed when it bounced off my windscreen on the Al Ain truck road, there is no bird-life protection feature, but maybe that can be included on the next model.
The flashing orange lights that fire up in the wing mirrors when there is a car in your blind spot actually prevented me from having a nasty accident on the motorway somewhere around Shahama. I looked over my shoulder to change lanes and didn't see a Toyota Corolla. It had metallic beige paintwork, an entirely inappropriate and unsafe colour for the Middle East, and it was swathed in a sandstorm. Luckily the blind spot lights flashed, I suddenly realised how close the Corolla was and I hung back. Without the lights flashing I could have easily hit the car.
Another valuable lesson is offered courtesy of the Taurus's flashing orange lights. Even when you have spotted a car in the next lane and you think it is safe to move across, it is eye-opening to discover how often what you think is a perfectly safe manoeuvre is probably pretty risky. I have to confess I performed what I assumed were safe lane changes and I still set off the blind spot lights. Similarly, the Taurus's system to help prevent the driver from rear-ending another vehicle offers pertinent lessons for UAE drivers. When the sensors detect a possible rear-end collision, a loud beep screams at you, a row of red lights are projected from the dashboard to the windscreen and the brakes "pre-load" - that is, the pads move a bit closer to the discs - to make slamming on the anchors that little bit faster. While I didn't give myself a fright like I did with the beige Corolla, it was another eye-opener. I found that the red lights came on for what I would ordinarily perceive to be the usual distance between cars in UAE traffic. Instead, I was probably too close to the car in front of me.
If you think you are good at keeping a safe distance, test-drive a Taurus in busy traffic and think again. These two safety features alone make the Taurus well worth considering if you are in the market for a solid cruising saloon, especially if you spend a lot of time in traffic. For extra comfort, such as snug and spongy leather seats, a massage function and a centre console with much clearer controls than the base model, the Limited model is a better buy than the more basic SE.
The Ford marketing people will try and tell you that the new Taurus is a true driver's car. While the 3.5L engine and fairly stable all-wheel-drive give the bulky beast plenty of motorway power and a firm grip on the road, as I found driving the straight line to Liwa, the manual mode for the gearbox was not the car's best feature. The chunky gear shifter bursts from the centre console like Mike Tyson's fist and, when you drop it into the manual mode, you only have the option of changing gears using cumbersome and not particularly ergonomic paddle shifters.
Along with the solid lines of the exterior, the lumpy paddle shifters are better suited to large man's aesthetics and, I have no truck with certain cars being just for men while others are just for women, the Taurus, like its bullish zodiac namesake, has that "bloke's car" aura about it. The adjustable brake pedal, which raises it higher for people like me with short legs, struck me as a concession, "just in case the missus drives it".
Back in 1996, the third-generation Ford Taurus was reborn as a controversially curvaceous design that made the car look like a tadpole midway through morphing into a frog. But the latest model has ditched the kooky curves and it has a weighty looking rear end and a front which encompasses a little of the Ford Mondeo but a grille that seems to have borrowed heavily from the Chevrolet Lumina. The design is derivative to be sure, but if you want a decent amount of poke under the bonnet, comfort on long trips and aren't too bothered about changing gears, it's a good choice. But be prepared to find out just what a menace you are on the roads when the light-up safety features work their magic - and may, quite possibly, save your life. firstname.lastname@example.org