2013 Ford Flex, Taurus Hit Portland

The new Flex and Taurus prove they can handle the worst of winter conditions.

John Scott Lewinskiby John Scott Lewinski

When Ford Motor Company recently invited automotive journalists to trendy Portland in the beautiful Pacific Northwest to test drive the 2013 Ford Flex and Taurus, they no doubt envisioned happy car writers cruising through the beautiful, curving roads with maybe little more than a few drops of high altitude mist and a but of misplaced moss to worry about along the way.

What they ended up with a surprising early spring blizzard and an unexpected chance to test the performance capabilities of the two new vehicles under fairly challenging conditions.

The journalist gathered at downtown Portland’s recently renovated hotel, The Nines, to depart from an urban environment and set out into the mountains and coastline. The full day’s drive split into two halves with teams of two drivers taking a either a Taurus or a Flex out in the morning into the wild, with the other vehicle bringing all parties home to the hotel again.

A heavy, wet snow greeted us as we head out in the morning. So, we were fortunate to end up in the 2013 Flex. That’s not a swipe at the Taurus – as though we’re claiming that the big, powerful sedan is some kind of snow monster death trap. It’s not at all. But, the Flex – with its added weight and all-wheel drive plowed through the snowy mountain roads with reassuring stability.

With the new Flex, Ford seems to be going ahead with its stated plan of deliberately separating it from the rest of the Ford line. Good luck finding the traditional large blue oval badge you see on just about every other Ford car. You’ll only find “Flex” spread across the grill in big, friendly letters.

Ford evidently thinks Flex buyers are independent – proud of owning a Flex, but maybe not so hot to advertise their domestic SUV. Is it any wonder why Ford sells so many Flex (“Flexes?” “Flexi?”) in California. Snob appeal is an ugly phenomena out there. It’s one of the only times Ford promoted model over make – with the legendary Mustang serving as the other prime example. You’ll find the pony logo emblazoned on that performance car, but not the blue oval.

The Flex’s old base 3.5 liter, V6 engine has evolved with twin independent variable cam timing for 2013, increasing engine capacity by 20% to 285 bhp. There’s also an Ecoboost version that cuts down on weight and increases fuel economy.

As for the 2013 Taurus, the SHO edition stole the – well, sorry – show. The Super High Output edition of the Taurus completed the car’s evolution from four door family sedan to Ford’s second tier performance car. There was a time when the Taurus seemed a safe, presentable, but not overly desirable car in the “cool factor” department.

But, that’s all changed in recent years. While the Mustang – whether in GT, Boss 302 or Shelby setups – is still the top of Dearborn’s performance car line following the departure of the super-car Ford GT, the Taurus is now the next step down as a legitimate performance sedan.

The 2013 Taurus comes in SE, SEL, Limited and SHO editions starting at $26,600 and topping out at $39,200. All versions come setup with a 3.5 V6 engine and an automatic transmission averaging around 20 mpg. You can get a four cylinder Ecoboost engine to squeeze out more fuel efficiency with a slight reduction in performance. Still, the star of the program (I won’t use the lame pun again…) is the SHO with its twin turbo power.

The snow stopped before I got into the Taurus SHO, so I was able to open up the throttle a little but on the way from the Oregon coast back into Portland. It’s a little heavy in the nose, but it’s very smooth and sufficiently throaty for a V6. If you find yourself looking or feeling a little too respectable for the more aggressively styled Mustang, you can seem more responsible in a Taurus and still get a thrill from a Ford.