The term “mid-size,” when used to describe an automobile, is a bit misleading these days.
Today we take a look at a pair of recent “mid-size” sedans we have driven recently. One is celebrating a half-century of production this year and the other is a rebadging that should have been done several years back. Both fall into the EPA interior volume classification of large car but both are marketed as mid-sized.
2008 Chevrolet Impala
Chevrolet is celebrating 50 years of the Impala moniker this year. Unfortunately they are not celebrating by giving the old gal a proper upgrade as they did Malibu recently. Don’t get me wrong, the 2008 Impala is a fine vehicle (Impalas are a best-seller for the brand), and does sport some powertrain and cosmetic upgrades. It’s just not on par with the game-changing shift that Malibu is bringing about.
By comparison, Impala is a bit larger than Malibu, even though both are considered a mid-size sedan. It is still front-wheel-drive (although the NASCAR version that Dale Jr. races on Sundays most certainly is not) and offers a pair of V-6 engines under the hood including the new E-85 3.9-liter model with active fuel management technology (that stuff that turns off half the cylinders under light operating loads).
A four-speed automatic transmission still backs the engines (which we would like to see upgraded to the five- or six-speed variety) and our LTZ trim grade tester features four-wheel disc brakes with ABS standard as well as Stabilitrak stability control. LTZ models also get standard 18-inch aluminum wheels with performance rubber at all four corners riding on a sport-tuned suspension, and fog lamps and rear spoiler are included to enhance the sport appeal.
The sport equipment does add a bit of road noise to the interior however, and rough road surfaces are a bit, well, rough. Safety equipment includes tire pressure monitoring system and head curtain side air bags in addition to all of the required content.
Leather trim and seating surfaces come standard at the LTZ grade as does tilt steering wheel with cruise and audio controls. And thank goodness for that XM Satellite radio on the long road trips to out-of-town playoff games.
On top of a full list of standard amenities, Chevy added a power sunroof and upgraded audio system to our Impala tester, and while I could not find any documentation on it, our Impala was treated to tinted windows to reduce the impact of that bright Texas sun. There were also hidden storage compartments underneath the flip-and-fold-flat rear seat.
Back to that 3.9-liter V-6 powerplant: it produces 233hp and 240 lb. ft. of torque, is FlexFuel E-85 ethanol capable and comes with active fuel management that shuts down three cylinders under lighter operating demands for a fuel savings of up to 12 percent. Fuel economy ratings for the new Impala are 18 mpg city and 28 mpg highway.
The latest generation OnStar technology is standard on Impala and features advanced automatic crash notification as well as hands-free voice-activated phone calling and turn-by-turn navigation with optional “directions and connections” service.
Pricing for our tester Impala begins at $26,830 and comes to a final sticker of $28,810.
2008 Ford Taurus
Since the day Ford introduced us to its new larger mid-size sedan Five Hundred we kept asking, “Why is this not the new Taurus?” We repeated this even louder when they rolled out the new smaller Fusion midsizer.
For 2008 they finally got us to shut up by rebadging the Five Hundred as the Taurus. Bravo. Only now Ford has added to the confusion by renaming the Freestyle crossover wagon as the new Taurus X. Hmmm, me thinks you shoulda’ left that one alone.
Anyway, the new Taurus gets a facelift and new powertrain to complement the name change. The front end is modern Ford and under the hood is the new 3.5-liter V-6 backed by the slick six-speed automatic transmission. In fact, Ford touts some 500 improvements to the platform for the new Taurus.
“Customers will find the 2008 Taurus delivers more of what they are looking for, including a strong design, high-quality interior, power and performance, must-have features like Ford Sync and a great safety reputation,” said Cisco Codina, Ford’s group vice president, North America Marketing, Sales and Service.
The 2008 Taurus features Ford’s 3.5-liter Duratec V-6 that delivers 263 horsepower — an increase of nearly 30 percent from the previous engine — and 245 pound-feet of torque. It is mated to the same smooth shifting, 6-speed automatic transmission as the new Ford Edge.
Importantly to customers, even with more power and performance, the 2008 Taurus delivers nearly a 10-percent fuel economy improvement than the outgoing Five Hundred and an increase of roughly 2 mpg on the highway thanks to advancements in powertrain technology.
Seating is still arranged in theater-style format with rear seats slightly elevated for a better view of surroundings and front seat occupants are still treated to a more commanding view of the road thanks to their higher-than-segment-normal seating positions.
Our test model Taurus was the AWD version in Limited trim, meaning loaded with all the bells and whistles including leather and wood trim packages.
I want to stay away from calling the driving experience “forgettable” (given the negative connotation that may have) so let’s just say it is understandable why Ford and Carl Edwards use the Fusion model as their racing application. Taurus is the car for folks who play the slots while Fusion is more for the “all-in Texas hold ‘em” crowd.
On top of just about every amenity Ford offers, Taurus also features the new Sync voice-activated technology developed in partnership with Microsoft. One of the coolest features of Sync is the ability to read text messages to drivers (for hands-free driving) while also translating dictation into outgoing text messages.
Taurus’ trunk also offers one of the highest body counts on the market today – sorry, golf bag count. You can carry more golf bags than you can golfers.
Our 2008 Ford Taurus Limited AWD tester begins at $29,080 with a final sticker of $34,180 that includes navigation system, Sirius Satellite radio and DVD rear seat entertainment system. Fuel economy is rated at 18 mpg city and 24 mpg highway.