Midsize car; Built in USA
  • 4-door sedan
  • 4-door wagon
  • transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $1,500 – $3,400*

1997 Ford Taurus SHO 4-door sedan

1996 Ford Taurus 4-door sedan

1996 Ford Taurus 4-door wagon

1996 Ford Taurus interior

1996 Ford Taurus interior

  • Acceleration (LX, SHO)
  • Optional antilock brakes
  • Passenger and cargo room
  • Steering/handling
  • Automatic-transmission performance (G, GL)
  • Rear visibility
  • Ride (SHO)

Though not perfect, Taurus is roomy, well-built, and enjoyable to drive. Prices went up for this generation, but Tauruses remained a good value and an excellent choice, new or used.


America’s best-selling car earned its first full overhaul for 1996, adopting a stunning shape. So did the similar Mercury Sable. Both mid-sizes were larger and more rounded than their 1986-95 predecessors. Wheelbase grew by 2.5 inches, to 108.5, while overall length increased more than five inches on the sedan and nearly six on the station wagon. Both the 4-door sedan and 4-door wagon came in GL and deluxe LX trim. The GL held an overhead-valve 3.0-liter V6 engine, rated at 145 horsepower. The LX got a new dual-cam 3.0-liter Duratec V6, which produced 200 horsepower. Both used a 4-speed automatic transmission. Dual airbags were standard; antilock all-disc brakes optional on all models. An oval “integrated control panel” on the dashboard contained radio and climate controls.A low-budget G sedan joined during the 1996 model year, with the same engine as the GL. So did a new high-performance SHO sedan, holding a 235-horsepower, 3.4-liter dual-cam V8 and standard antilock braking.

Yearly Updates

1997 Taurus
Only a handful of changes marked the ’97 models. Mainly, a Mach Audio System replaced the former JBL setup as an option.
1998 Taurus
G and GL editions were gone, and an SE sedan and wagon arrived for ’98, as Taurus gained a more assertive front end. The more powerful V6 engine was now optional on the LX and SE.
1999 Taurus
All models got revised instrument cluster graphics and front bucket seats were standard on LX and SE (a front bench remained a no-charge option). Sluggish sales prompted Ford to reskin the Taurus for 2000, with a more conventional shape.


transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive

All Tauruses except the SHO had a 3.0-liter V6 engine: either an overhead-valve version rated at 145 horsepower; or a dual-overhead-cam V6, which produces 200 horsepower. Beneath the SHO’s hood sat a dual-cam V8, making 235 horsepower. All Tauruses had a 4-speed automatic transmission, but the one in G/GL models, with the less-potent engine, lacked electronic controls.

ohv V6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 3.0/182
Engine HP 145
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 170
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
4-speed automatic



dohc V6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 3.0/181
Engine HP 200
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 200
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
4-speed automatic



dohc V8
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 3.4/207
Engine HP 235
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 230
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
4-speed automatic



Road Test

An LX accelerates with greater authority than its less-potent G/GL siblings. That 200-horsepower engine is smooth, refined, and potent at higher engine speeds. Low-speed torque is lacking, however, so you must floor the throttle to achieve brisk passing. The LX transmission shifts smoothly.

Not only is the G/GL V6 engine less powerful, but it’s noisier, rougher, and slower. Its transmission often stumbles, shifts roughly, and is slow to downshift for passing. Low-speed power is also lacking in the SHO’s V8, though it’s plenty potent at higher speeds. You simply have to wait until engine speed reaches 3000 rpm or so before much happens.

Steering is light and precise. Both models corner with good grip and commendable composure. Ride quality has improved somewhat, but the suspension does not absorb bumps well and feels too stiff on rough roads. Beware: The SHO’s ride is stiff at all times. Wind and road noise have been reduced compared to previous Tauruses.

The modern-looking control panel for the climate and audio systems is easy to see and reach, but buttons are overly abundant and many look alike. With optional automatic air conditioning, that control pad gets packed full.

Interior space is better all around than before, especially in the rear, where leg room has grown substantially. Sitting three across, however, will crowd everyone–in both front and rear. The sedan trunk is roomy–wide, deep, and reaching well forward. The driver enjoys a clear view to the front and sides, but it’s difficult to see the trunk of the sedan.


Model Tested: 1996 Ford Taurus GL sedan

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.


Acceleration - 4
Fuel Economy - 5
Ride Quality - 5
Steering/Handling - 4
Quietness - 5


Controls/Materials - 5
Room/Comfort Front - 5
Room/Comfort Rear - 4
Cargo Room - 4


Value - 6

Total: 47


4-door sedan
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
108.5 197.5 73.0 55.1
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
15.8 16.0 6n1
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
39.2 36.2 42.6 38.9
4-door wagon
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
108.5 199.6 73.0 57.6
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
81.3 16.0 8n2
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
39.3 38.9 42.6 38.5
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: 1999 Taurus 4-door sedan


(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - 5
Front Passenger Injury - 5

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - 3
Rear Passenger Injury - 3


(A score of 100 is average. Lower is better)

Collision 84
Injury 86
Theft 65

Trouble Spots

Air conditioner
Description: The air conditioning may not cool properly because the lines leak at the spring-lock couplings. Larger O-rings are available. (1996-97)
Automatic transmission
Description: Vehicles with the AX4S automatic transmission may shift harshly from first to second gear. (1996-97)
Dashboard lights
Description: The check engine light comes on for a variety of reasons including bad gasoline, a wobbling accessory drive pulley, or bad spark plugs. (1996-97)
Engine knock
Description: Knock during heavy acceleration on 3.0-liter V6 equipped vehicle may be cured by reprogramming ignition from “no retard” to “retard.” (1999)
Engine misfire
Description: Frequent camshaft failures on V8 models leads to expensive expensive engine repair or replacement. A class action suit has been filed against Ford by SHO owners. (1996-99)
Heater core
Description: Installing a restrictor in the heater inlet hose may repair heater cores leaks. (1996-1999)
Steering problems
Description: The power steering gets harder to turn when decelerating from about 50 miles per hour or when shifting form reverse to drive requiring replacement of the control module and/or transmission range sensors. (1996)
Suspension noise
Description: The sway bar links wear prematurely causing a clunking noise. Revised parts are available. (1996-97)
Tire wear
Description: Rear tires wear prematurely due to incorrect rear alignment (toe and camber). (1996-97)
Tire wear
Description: Inner edge of rear tires wear excessively from camber problems corrected with a revised rear suspension adjuster kit. (1996-97)
Vehicle noise
Description: Rattling and buzzing from under the car is common due to loose heat shields on the catalytic converter and/or muffler. (1996-97)
Vehicle noise
Description: Noises from the front end (popping, clunking, knocking) result from worn sway bar links. Countermeasure links have been issued by the carmaker. (1996-97)
Water leak
Description: Water leaks onto the front floor because of poor sealing of the cabin air filter cowl inlet. (1996-98)

Recall History

Description: Vacuum diaphragm in fuel-pressure regulator was damaged during manufacture; if it tears or ruptures, liquid fuel could be released from air-cleaner assembly or exhaust system.
Description: Brake-fluid indicator can malfunction.
Description: “Park”-pawl abutment bracket has sharp edge, which can cause pawl to hang up and not engage gear; vehicle can then move, even though indicator shows “Park.”
1997 w/AX4S automatic transaxle
Description: Low/intermediate servo cover can separate while vehicle is moving, allowing transmission fluid to contact the hot catalytic converter.
Description: Headlamp-aiming instruction in owner’s manual is not sufficiently clear.
1998-99 w/manual seat tracks
Description: Front-seatbelt-buckle attaching stud may have been improperly heat-treated, resulting in cracks.
Description: Retainer clip can disengage from accelerator cable and fall into pedal-arm pivot area; engine may not fully return to idle, and insulator could interfere with cable.
1999 w/”California” Emissions
Description: Incorrect transmission-oil-cooler line was installed, which contacts ABS module bracket and, over time, can wear and develop a leak.
Description: Seatbelt retractor may have incorrectly formed pin shaft that could, in some circumstances, prevent seatbelt webbing from being extracted.
Description: Front coil springs on certain cars sold in specified states could fracture, due to corrosion associated with road salt used in winter.

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.


Used-car pricing varies widely depending on local market conditions. Therefore, we recommend visiting websites that list used cars for sale to get a better idea of what a specific model is selling for in your area.

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