Two Full-Sized Americans - 2013 Ford Taurus Limited and 2013 Chrysler 300S - Review / Comparo

Outside North America and certain Middle Eastern kingdoms, emirates and principalities, anything sized this large wears a luxury nameplate and works in livery service. Decades of piss poor American compact and (have mercy) sub-compact cars combined set their course. A simultaneous explosion in conspicuous tastes and waists cemented their appeal. We are speaking of the full-sized premium sedan. And boy does "Drive...He Said" have two doozies that will feed voracious American appetites.

Out of the box the 2013 Ford Taurus Limited AWD  speaks streamlined though staggering; the 2013 Chrysler 300S boxy but buxom. The 300S'  over-sized mirrored grille along with Dick Tracy huge  front fenders, rear quarters, and high belt-line should please more mature "hip hoppers."  The optional 20" wheels, with dark painted spokes, create a stance at least as ferocious than the 300 SRT-8. More genteel are prominent tail lamps and a gentler crease of the trunk lid. Not even the Taurus' honeycomb 19" wheels on 255 mm rubber can overcome its greater subtlety. That is until 'the family" introduces the unsuspecting to an enormous 20-cubic foot trunk. Such capacity deserves to be measured in terms of number of automotive writers  that can be fit rather than golf bags.  Jill Ciminillo , our princess of trunk exploration, gets to go first.

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Whether the Ford Taurus' front wheels are pulling and pushing (front biased AWD) or the Chrysler 300S' rear wheels are pushing both models rely on updates to DOHC V6 powertrains. Subtle differences include the Taurus' 100-cc deficit to the  300S' displacement of 3.6-Liters. The Ford motor is a continuation of the storied Duratec family. The Chrysler mill is from the newer Pentastar breed. Both powerplants feature dual variable valve timing. With its 100-cc advantage the 300S's power rating is slightly higher at 300-hp to 288 for the Taurus. Ditto the torque: 263-lb-ft @ 4350 rpm in the Chrysler to 255 @ 4000 rpm in the Ford.

This time the 300S gets Chrysler's new 8-speed ZF automatic gearbox, up two more cogs to the Taurus. And steering wheel mounted paddle shifters for sequential shifting. The Ford being a Ford makes do with "Thumb Shifting." Hearkening back to the recent DHS comparo review of the 2012 Dodge Durango and 2012 Ford Explorer the Ford Duratec motor feels lustier than the Chrysler Pentastar. The 300S transmission is but an eager upshifter with a taller final drive. The engine never bellows mellifluous notes expected from V6's.  The 4200 pound Taurus nails 60 mph in 7 seconds. The two-hundred pound lighter 300S does the feat a tick slower. It's a testament to the Taurus' all-wheel drive grip off the line. Where that eight-speed slushbox pays off is at the gasoline pumps. The 300S returned combined fuel economy of 21 mpg well up from the all-we-could-manage 18 mpg in the Taurus.

Steering and braking feel are another Taurus strong suit. Hydraulic steering assist is supposed to provide better feel compared to electric assist, right? Not always. Case in point: the electrified 15:1 rack ratio in the Ford is a tad quicker than the Chrysler's hydraulic rack. And it's better weighted to suit the slightly wider shoes: 255/45 Michelin Primacy's on 19" wheels versus 245/45 Firestone Firehawk GTVs on impressive 20" alloys for the 300S. Both sedans nominally feature brake rotors greater than one-foot in radius. However, the Taurus offers a consistently firmer pedal and more initial bite. The 300S is endowed with more linear pedal response.

Then there the advantages of the 300S' "double wishbone" front suspension, reproduced from the old Benz S-Class. The Taurus Limited's front strut / lower A-Arm set-up makes for a tendency to plow in corners. Moderately hard braking in the Ford reveals a tendency to dive. Not so in the Chrysler 300S. Only at the limits of apex physics does the tail in the Chrysler gets squirmy embarking on slight understeer. Apply throttle and the steamroller Firestone Firehawks demonstrate real tenacity. Luckily, before the tires in the Taurus can cry "Uncle," all-wheel drive diverts sufficient power rearward through the electronic differential. Despite the 300S' huge rollers you'll be hard pressed to find a road crater large enough to send anything greater than a slight quiver to the seats.

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On the inside its avante garde European styling vs traditional American lines. And it's the Italian owned brand which has the latter. If you seek Latin spicier you could try for the sister Lancia 300 on the Continent, with either of its diesel engines. Where the Chrysler is subdued, using premium enough materials, and sparingly applying simulated chrome, and faux carbon fiber appliques, the Ford has benefited from years of owning Volvo. Enter the Taurus and discover a thoroughly modern twin cowl themed cockpit. The only drawback may be a more constrictive feeling for drivers who prefer their space.

Is there a climate/ navigation /communication /entertainment function which My Ford Sync Touch cannot accomplish? Ford's soft touch controls are good enough to merit a patent infringement demand from Apple. Even if Chrysler's U-Connect touch screen and rotary climate dials are a helluva lot simpler to use. The Taurus' instrument cluster lacks the vibrant ice-blue glow present in the 300S. Yet it manages to be more informative and less cluttered. The center stack flows seamlessly into the center console in a Scandinavian way. While we could become accustomed to either interior we also know which of the two we would never tire of.

Beware of ad nauseum promoting of premium mobile audio systems. The 300S is inundated with visual cues broadcasting its "Beats by Dr. Dre"  system. Great for rap and atrial fibrillation. Memo to Chrysler: "You Should Have Got a Sony." It's vastly more musical.

The Ford's front buckets shine in areas of support and bolstering. The Chrysler thrones, draped in sublime hides, less so, while better suited to wider frames. In tourist class the Chrysler 300 improves on Taurus' more modest 36"-inches by a goodly 3"-inches. Sloping roofs eat into headroom. Sitting in the back of either of these full-sizers will simply never be mistaken for being in a pew at the Cathedral of Reims.

Then there is the almost eerie Chrysler 300S solitude on the road. From the umbilical-cord attachment to the former E-class come doors which close with such a satisfying thud. The Chrysler 300S is your short wheelbase limo, light years more capable than any Lincoln Town Car or Cadillac DTS ever was. But the Taurus is a man-with-machine affair, the more precocious, yet intimate of the two.

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Well contented neither the all-wheel-drive 2013 Ford Taurus Limited nor the rear-drive 2013 Chrysler 300S are inexpensive. Our Taurus lacked a moon-roof, though it came through with power adjustable driver's pedals and automatic high beams, worth their weight in xenon. All-wheel drive in the 300S probably would not have changed our driving impressions.  Coming in at $40,000, each of these "full-sized Americans" present their share of luxury touches not always offered in luxury imports costing $10,000 more. So, "Go ahead and Super-Size Us."

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  • Your references to hip hop and Dr. Dre, as well as all of Chrysler brand's advertising, indicates that Chrysler is marketing the cars solely to people whose parents bought pink or lavender Cadillacs in the late 60s (or maybe their grandparents).

    And the 300 certainly isn't an Italian car, but a 3 generations old German one (as you recognize in the E class reference) with which Daimler did not really want to associate.

    And to bring up a point I also raised with Jill today, there was no way I could see out the gunslit windshield or backlight (when comparing cars at the Auto Show).

    If I had to choose between the two, I would take the Volvo made in Hegewisch, but I don't think I'll take either (or the XTS or upcoming Impala stretch Mailbu),

  • In reply to jack:

    Jack:

    My dad had a white '69 Caddy Coupe De Ville with black top and red interior. I hope that excludes me out from the Beats fan-base.

    As to the paradox of the Italian-owned brand's styling which is less European" see http://www.lancianewthema.com/default.aspx

    More stringent crash-worthiness standards and demand for increased body stiffness will only increase roof pillar thickness. If the trend continues blind spot warning and rear cameras will become de rigeur. At least we're "seeing" huge glass roofs in several models.

    Since we haven't yet driven the 2014 Chevy Impala, we'll reserve judgment.

  • In reply to George Straton:

    Given many commenters on Chicago Now, I'll leave it as that it wasn't pink or lavender.

    Which reminds me that a high school debate coach had an about 1965 Cadillac (also white) which he let us drive once, but I couldn't figure out how to park it.

    As far as the gun slit windows, it isn't just the roof pillars, but, in the case of the 300, the faux Bentley high front end, which seems much higher than needed to meet [I guess European or Japanese] pedestrian impalement regulations. And the high bottom of the side windows don't help either. But I guess I would only be satisfied with a Volvo C30 with the glass rear end, although I heard reports that it was going out of production.

  • BTW, I just followed up your "As to the paradox of the Italian-owned brand's styling which is less European" see http://www.lancianewthema.com/default.aspx"

    No, it is an obvious attempt by Fiat to try to sell Chryslers under another name. Several articles mention the Thema is association with the Lancia Voyager, formerly known as the Plymouth Voyager.

    So, as the Dodge Dart raises the question whether Americans want to buy an Italian car, these cars raise the question whether Europeans want to buy American cars, as opposed to, say, VWs,

  • In reply to jack:

    Apparently Americans will swallow up Italian exotics and Europeans have an appetite for American mid-size SUVs and minivans.

    Better hurry up to get that C30. The absence of the model offering at the Volvo Cars Sweden site is ominous. The C70 convertible has been pulled as well.

    http://www.volvocars.com/se/Pages/default.aspx

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