SONOMA, Calif. - Nine Ford engineers received the surprise of a lifetime when they arrived at the Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif. in January to shoot what they thought was a straightforward television commercial for the 2013 Ford Taurus.
Instead, they had a rare opportunity to experience firsthand how Ford’s flagship sedan performs under very extreme driving conditions with none other than famed NASCAR driver Carl Edwards behind the wheel.
All of the action and excitement was captured on tape and will air in the form of 30-second national television commercials beginning April 2. Longer digital versions of the spots and additional content will be featured at www.ford.com/Taurus.
Edwards was gunning a 2013 Taurus SHO – equipped with the 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine – to speeds up to 120 mph, smoking the tires around tight curves and tearing up the straightaway. Each of the engineers – prepared to speak about Taurus cross-technologies from EcoBoost to MyFord Touch – took turns in the passenger seat.
“Edwards reacted to the vehicle the way we want our customers to react. He was surprised that the Taurus was capable of doing everything he wanted to do with it,” said Lee Jelenic, US Car Marketing Communications manager. “The funny thing is it wasn’t just him who was surprised. Even the engineers who built this vehicle were amazed at what it could do out there on the track.”
Powertrain Calibration Engineer Mazen Hammoud says he was amazed at the way the Taurus handled.
“We were coming up to a very sharp turn going downhill at a very high speed and I thought there’s no way he can make this turn and sure enough he engaged the turn. I thought he was going to lose control of the car but he didn’t,” said Hammoud. “It was really remarkable driving skill on his part but at the same time the vehicle had to be extremely stable and well-tuned dynamically in order to be able to recover like that.”
Fuel Economy Engineer Omar Conteh was equally impressed.
“I’ve spent hours and hours over the last two years in the vehicle almost on a daily basis for evaluation purposes but I had never driven it anywhere close to those extremes before,” he said. “I know the Taurus has tons of torque and horsepower but I was completely blown away by what Edwards put the vehicle through because I had no idea the Taurus could do that.”
For Pete Reyes, who served as chief engineer for the 2010 Taurus and worked through half of the 2013 program before becoming chief engineer for forward-model F-Series trucks, the entire experience with Edwards and the Taurus was a thrill.
“I had a blast,” said Reyes, a self-described NASCAR fan. “I was really impressed with the cornering at high speed and the way that Edwards would just fly into a curve and then dig down into the brakes. The brakes are all-new for 2013 and they’re bigger, so I was paying a lot of attention to how much braking power he had.”
Human Machine Interface Engineer Jennifer Brace, who worked on the development of MyFord Touch, describes the experience as one of the most exciting days she’s ever had. She says she couldn’t get over how quiet the interior cabin remained while Edwards floored the Taurus.
“I have no idea how fast we were going, but the Taurus does a really good job of keeping the cabin really quiet,” she said, noting how important interior quietness is to voice-activated systems like MyFord Touch.
“Whenever you’re using voice commands the quieter the cabin is, the easier it is for you to talk at a normal volume level and have the microphone pick up what you’re saying,” she explained. “Even if you’re driving at high speeds on the freeway, you can still speak in a normal voice and have the commands recognized.”
After his experience with Edwards on the track, Hammoud says he’s more confident than ever that the team really hit the mark with the new Taurus.
“If the vehicle can perform like this at the extremes, then it will always meet the expectations of our customers when it is not being pushed to the extreme,” he said. “It’s the same philosophy we use in my line of work when we validate all the systems by taking the vehicle to testing in environments with extreme heat, cold and altitude. We have to make sure everything works well in any type of condition the customer may encounter.”
Reyes says Taurus’ ability to perform so well with Edwards at the wheel is the best reassurance for average drivers facing any type of emergency situation in the car.
“This whole experience shows that the likelihood of getting in trouble with this vehicle is greatly reduced. You can make any type of emergency maneuver because the car is going to go where you point it and it’s going to stop when you want it to stop,” he said. “It’s a real machine.”
One of the primary goals of the advertising campaign is to show consumers how very different the Taurus of today is from the Taurus of yesterday, says Jelenic.
“Taurus was an extremely successful product for Ford from the mid-80s to the mid-90s, but there was period of time before the all-new model launched in 2010 when Taurus became cemented in people’s minds as the prototypical rental car,” he said, noting that there are still more than 3.6 million pre-2010 Taurus’ on the road today.
“The 2013 Taurus is not what most of our customers think of when they think of Taurus. This is a vehicle that has an unmatched combination of innovation, performance, premium, and attitude,” Jelenic continued. “When people see this car, they’re going to say, ‘Wow, that’s a Taurus?’ And hopefully they will engage with our content online and learn more.”
For a sneak preview of the new Taurus television ad, please click here.