Earlier this summer I had the opportunity to take a test drive in the new Ford Taurus during a special product launch.

Although my time behind the wheel was limited, I was impressed with the new full-size sedan that is also rated the safest large car in America.

This week I had the opportunity to take an extended, week-long test drive in the Taurus and I have to say, the extra seat time has only enhanced my impression.

Available in either front or all-wheel drive configurations, the 2008 Taurus is powered by a 3.5-liter Duratec V-6 engine that delivers an impressive 263 horsepower and 245 lb.-ft. torque. Mated to an equally impressive six-speed automatic transmission, the Taurus delivers responsive performance while achieving an EPA fuel economy rating of 18 mpg city, 28 mpg highway and is certified as a Low Emissions Vehicle.

There are so many “stories within the story” to tell about the Taurus that it is not possible to include all in this limited space.

Certainly, one of the main Taurus stories is safety.

Earning five-star ratings in all categories in crash testing conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the five-passenger Taurus is equipped with Ford’s most advanced safety technology, including standard Safety Canopy side curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes, traction control and optional AdvanceTrac stability control system. It has also earned “Top Safety Pick” designation by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety.

For those who didn’t already know, Ford made the decision to bring back the “Taurus” nameplate earlier this year by renaming the Five Hundred full-size sedan platform, which has been completely redesigned for the 2008 model year.

By incorporating more than 500 engineering changes into the new Taurus, the 2008 model not only has a new look, it is quieter, faster, safer and is absolutely loaded with technology.

As I mentioned earlier, ride and handling — as well as interior comfort — are extremely impressive.

However, what you may not expect is the level of appointments, the craftsmanship of the interior and the range of high-tech features which are available.

Due to space limitations, I’ll just mention one — Ford Sync, designed in conjunction with Microsoft. The state-of-the-art system is Ford’s fully-integrated, voice-activated in-car communications and entertainment system for mobile phones and digital music players. It answers and dials calls, selects music and even reads text messages for you with simple voice commands while you drive.

For those in the market for a full-size sedan, the new Taurus is absolutely, positively highly recommended for a test drive. Best of all, it has a base price starting below $24,000.

Neal White has been covering the automotive industry for more than 15 years and is affiliated with the Texas Auto Writers Association and the Midwest Automotive Media Association. Comments may be sent to Neal at neal.white@waxahachiedailylight.com.