2010 Taurus pushed Ford’s virtual engineering

  • 29-Jan-2009 03:27 EST
2010 Taurus front 3quarter.JPG

The '10 Taurus's body-in-white benefits from extensive FEA development and use of high-strength and ultra-high-strength steels to provide greater impact strength. Side impact integrity is also enhanced by a hydroformed tubular crosscar beam embedded in the floor between the door frames.

The 2010 Taurus program was already about a year old when Pete Reyes took over as chief engineer, and he had to hit the ground running. Development had become increasingly urgent after Alan Mulally was named CEO in September 2006. The ex-Boeing boss had been critical of Ford’s rebadging of the lackluster Five Hundred sedan as the “new” Taurus, and he wasn’t satisfied with how its successor was shaping up.

On Mulally’s orders, styling and body engineering were reworked, setting the program back while the U.S. market was beginning its turn away from trucks. The original plan to carry over major elements of the Five Hundred’s exterior sheet metal was killed when focus groups were underwhelmed by early sketches.

Ultimately, the solution was essentially a complete redesign. Then the collapse of the truck market caused Ford leaders to pull the car’s launch ahead by a full year.

“Derrick Kuzak [Group Vice President, Global Product Development] set the course—the new Taurus was to be Ford’s flagship sedan and it had to be radical and different,” Reyes told AEI during the car’s media backgrounder in late December. “So the pressure was on and we had to move rapidly and deliberately. We had to really push the product-development system.”

Veteran program manager Reyes was tapped to take over Taurus midstream after successfully launching the ’08 F250/350. “I’d spent most of my engineering career in trucks and faced a huge learning curve on the car side,” he said. “I didn’t even know the terms ‘decklid’ and ‘package tray’!”

But his depth of experience made for quick learning. In getting the new Taurus to the production phase just 24 months from program approval, Reyes’ engineers had to work in closer cooperation with Ford designers than they had ever done before.

“We lived with the stylists,” he noted. “We had to go fast, which forced us to abandon many physical models that are part of the typical process. The extreme time crunch demanded we rely on digital 3-D virtual modeling instead.”

Their success allowed the program to commit to just one set of prototypes in 16 weeks, Reyes said. The fast-paced schedule included extensive wind-tunnel development, a key to reducing NVH and optimizing highway fuel efficiency, he added.

Ford hopes the 2010 Taurus will replicate the extraordinary success of the 1986 original, which brought curvaceous European sedan style to America and for years topped Honda’s Accord as the best-selling passenger car in the U.S. The new D-segment sedan is based on what Reyes calls an “evolution” of Ford’s D3 vehicle architecture and front strut/rear multilink suspension shared with the Lincoln MKS.

The new Taurus gets all-new sheet metal and, for the first time, there won’t be a Mercury version. Ford Car Design Director Moray Callum describes the styling as “a relaxed, glamorous, expensive, cruise-down-the-road look” that blends Ford’s European “kinetic” design language with muscular American cues influenced by the 2006 Interceptor concept. The body structure was given a lower roofline and shorter overhangs than the Lincoln’s—there will be no mistaking the two cars.

The underbody, B-pillars, roof structure, and cross-car bulkheads were also strengthened through extensive FEA and judicious use of high-strength and ultra-high-strength steel, with the goal of achieving U.S. NHTSA five-star crash ratings. The car’s front rails, tunnel rails, and “shotgun” front structural members are octagonal in cross section, intended to absorb and redirect crash forces away from the passenger compartment.

Side-impact integrity is also enhanced by a hydroformed tubular crosscar beam embedded in the floor between the door frames.

While AEI has not yet driven an example, the new Taurus puts Ford directly into Accord/Toyota Camry competitive territory based on close review of its technologies, powertrain, safety and feature content, interior design and materials, and pre-production craftsmanship. Maintaining the previous car’s pricing ($26,000 base) indicates the program team also held the line on development cost.

Reyes explained his team focused heavily on the car’s steering and handling characteristics. This was achieved with the body’s greater structural rigidity as well as using larger stabilizer bars and increased damping rates. The new SR1 suspension features the 1:1 rear shock absorber ratio as used on the 2010 Lincoln MKT to balance what Reyes describes as “crisp” steering turn-in and “impressive” roll stiffness with a composed ride.

At the time of the car’s summer ’09 launch at the Atlanta assembly plant, Taurus will be powered by the naturally aspirated 3.5-L Duratec V6 rated at 263 hp (196 kW) and 249 lb·ft (338 N·m). The base engine employs a two-speed fuel pump and Ford’s Aggressive Deceleration Fuel Shut-Off (ADFSO) technology for improved fuel efficiency.

Ford’s new EcoBoost turbocharged gasoline-direct-injection V6, which produces 350 hp (261 kW) from the same displacement, will be added later. There are two six-speed transaxles, one equipped with optional paddle shifters for semi-manual operation. All-wheel drive carries over from the outgoing model. The Taurus SE and SEL packages are fitted with a 2.77:1 final drive ratio to optimize fuel economy. Front-drive Limited models use a 3.16:1 ratio, while AWD cars get a 3.39:1 final drive for improved acceleration.

Innovation inside the new Taurus includes a unique urethane tooling process used to mold the door trim panels. The resulting part features a convincing “hand stitched” look and allows for two-tone color and premium surface textures. But it is the vast electronic feature content that should dramatically boost the new Taurus’s competitive appeal.

Standard and optional technologies include adaptive cruise control and forward collision warning with closing-rate alarms and brake pre-charging; blind-spot detection that even monitors pass-behind pedestrian traffic; seat cushions that continuously move to boost occupant blood circulation and comfort; a “smart” key that allows parents to set the car’s maximum speed and audio-system volume limits for teenage drivers; post-crash alert; and the ever-sophisticated Ford/Microsoft Sync with voice-activated navigation (via an 8-in screen) and Sirius Travel Link.

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