Courtesy Annette McLeod
Small imports loom large as Mazda brings the roadster back to the masses with the Miata, Nissan brings out the 300ZX, every teen lowers his Civic, Tiburon puts Hyundai back on the post-Pony map, and VW brings back the Bug. GM is the first to mass produce an electric car, the EV1. Chrysler puts the two-seat hot rod Prowler and V10-powered Viper into production and Ford popularizes the SUV with the Explorer. Jeep volleys with the Grand Cherokee.
Hallmark: Ford Taurus
Every so often, an automobile company brings out a car that wins them new respect (or respect, period). When Ford introduced the Taurus (and fraternal twin Mercury Sable) in 1985 as a 1986 model, it hit one out of the park and won over thousands of new fans. Suddenly, Honda and Toyota had someone in their rearview mirror.
Taking a cue from Audi, Ford enveloped the Taurus with a smooth, jellybean-like body. The futuristic shape had no grille, just a body-color panel where the Ford oval resided between the headlights. The Sable went one better (or worse, depending on one’s taste in car styling) by having a full-width light bar in place of the Taurus’ panel. The Mercury’s light panel was mostly a styling gimmick as the lamps contained in it were of low wattage. Both cars had large glass areas with slim pillars, which granted excellent visibility. The Sable went for a more futuristic look in this area with all but the A-pillars blacked out, giving the glass a near wrap-around appearance. With an aerodynamic drag coefficient of only 0.29, the Sable was one of the slickest cars in the world.
The front-wheel-drive, midsize Taurus (and Sable) was available in either a four-door sedan or station wagon body style. The car weighed in at around 3,200 pounds and rode on a 106-inch wheelbase. Unlike its Japanese competition, the Taurus could seat six (or even up to eight in the wagon) as it was available with either a bench seat or bucket seats up front, as opposed to the strictly bucket arrangements in the Accord and Camry.