Generation 3 - 1996 to 1999

[ Compiled by: Bull Geek ]   [ First Posted: August 4, 2004 ]   [ Last Modified: February 17, 2010 ]

Thank you to everyone who contributed information for this section.

All Gen 3 Models

  • Taurus trim levels:
    • 1996-1997: G, GL, LX, SHO
    • 1998-1999: LX, SE, SHO
  • Sable trim levels:
    • 1996-1997: G, GS, LS
    • 1998-1999: GS, LS
  • The new Taurus and Sable featured a revised body and uni-body
  • The rear windshield was oval in the Taurus sedan, but the Sable sedan was rectangular, much like the previous generation.
  • All models (including SHOs) were now equipped with 4-speed automatic transaxle.
  • Hood struts were moved from the middle of the hood to the outer side.
  • The rear suspension was slightly tweaked to make for a softer ride
  • Redesigned rear nameplates using new font
  • Many objects inside the car are shaped like an oval such as the door handles, hood release, and the radio.
  • The rear license plate bracket was moved from between the taillights to the center of the rear bumper.
  • The exterior keypad was moved from above the door handle to under the door handle.
  • The layout was driver oriented. The all new ICP (Integrated Control Panel) was an all-in-one location that housed the radio and HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) controls for the car.
  • The dashboards for the column shift and floor shift models were different.
  • The front speakers went to a 6" X 8" elliptical shape, while the older models used a round 6.5"
  • Bucket seats with middle seat flip/flop console up front (6 passenger sedan/8 passenger wagon models only) replaced the previous 50/50 split bench front seat. The Taurus and Sable also featured a 60/40 split rear folding seat.
  • New style gauges and re-organized gauge placement on instrument cluster. The tachometer and the fuel/temperature swapped placed. Vulcans had a 110mph speedometer, Duratecs had 120mph speedometer, and the SHO had a 150 mph speedometer and an 8000 rpm tachometer.
  • All Duratec equipped vehicles have PATS.
  • New style column and floor shifter.
  • The all new center console, when equipped with a floor shifter, had improved fold out cup holders.
  • The interior hood release was made easier to operate, as were the door handles.
  • A new electronic push button trunk release was available for the sedan only. The rear windshield wiper/washer buttons took the place of the trunk release on the wagons.
  • The option for a remote fuel door release was discontinued. Now the driver had to exit the car and open the fuel door manually.
  • The Taurus headlamp was used for just the regular driving lights, but the Sable's housed the parking and the driving lights. The lights closest to the grille were the Taurus's turn signals, which doubled as parking lamps, while the Sable had separate turn signals (located in the grille opening).
  • The lightbar on the Sable was discontinued.
  • The Vulcan, Flex Fuel Vulcan, and the Duratec were the only Engines available. The Vulcan 3.0L Pushrod V6 was reworked and had a little boost in power. The all new Duratec 3.0L 24 Valve DOHC V6 entered the Taurus/Sable lineup. Both engines were coupled to a 4 speed automatic. The Duratec replaced the 3.8L Essex.
  • On Vulcan equipped vehicles, the shift quadrant showed P R N OD D 1. On Duratecs and SHOs from 1996-1998, the shift quadrant showed P R N OD 2 1 with an OverDrive Off (O/D off) button on the shifter.
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1996

  • The all-new Duratec was only available on the Taurus LX/Sable LS. There was no special badge to identify the Duratec except on the engine.
  • The Vulcan was the standard engine for the Taurus G/GL and Sable G/GS.
  • The Taurus LX/SHO and Sable LS featured 4-way headrests for the 1996 model year only.
  • Ford also released the Ford Taurus/Mercury Sable G at the same time as the SHO. The G's standard equipment included power and heated mirrors, dual airbags, tilt steering, AM/FM radio, rear defrost, and power windows and was only in sedan form.
  • In 1996, PATS (Passive Anti-Theft System) and Air Filtration were standard equipment on Taurus LX/SHO and Sable LS.
  • Even though the Taurus LX/Sable LS featured 5-passenger seating standard, there was the option for 6-passenger seating and a column shifter. Instead of the leather, premium cloth seating was provided.
  • The rear lamps for the Taurus had amber turn indicators.
  • The Taurus wagon had 4-wheel-disc brakes standard
  • The front of the Taurus had two large openings with a divider in the middle at the bottom of the bumper. There was also a small grille opening between the front turn signals/parking lights. The Ford logo sat above the grille opening.
  • The Sables had a small Mercury logo in the top part of the grille and turn signals embedded into the sides of the grille. There was a large opening on the lower part of the bumper.
  • 4-wheel-disc brakes and air filtration were standard on all Sable models.
  • The Flex Fuel Vulcan got a special gauge instrument displaying the fuel economy digitally. The Flex Fuel had the ability to use gasoline and/or ethanol.
  • Half way through the 1996 model year, Ford finally released the all new Ford Taurus SHO. The Yamaha V6 and manual transaxle were discontinued. It was heavily loaded down with:
    • A Yamaha 3.4L 32V DOHC V8 connected to a 4-speed automatic transaxle
    • EATC (Electronic Automatic Temperature Control)
    • Premium Sound from JBL with rear center subwoofer
    • Sport/Comfort seats
    • 16" chrome/painted on Z-rated tires
    • Sport tuned suspension and steering
    • Special body kit (ground effects and bumpers) and "SHO" badging
    • Visors from the LX Taurus, giving the driver and passenger a visor for the door and windshield
    • Upgraded 4-wheel-disc brakes for better braking performance
    • SARC (Semi-Active Ride Control) which is an electronic system that controls how stiff the ride is.
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1997

  • Two Flex Fuel Vulcans available for the 1997 model year. One could run up to 85% Methanol while the other could run up to 85% Ethanol.
  • As standard equipment, the 1997 SHO and Taurus/Sable wagons got 4-wheel-disc brakes. All other models received front discs and rear drums.
  • The outside front door handle that activated the interior dome light (illuminated entry feature) was removed. Remote entry equipped vehicles activated the interior dome light with use of keyfob or keypad. Vehicles without a remote entry had a dome light that would shut off when door was closed.
  • Rear seat fold-down armrest is no longer available on GL and GS models.
  • All models have the 2-way (up and down) head rest.
  • Lighted pull down mirror (in sun visor) has been replaced by a lighted flip-up mirror for LX/LS/SHO models.
  • Power lumbar on the passenger seat was removed.
  • Heated mirrors became optional.
  • On floor shift models, the P R N D 2 1 gear selector indicator located on the instrument cluster has been deleted.
  • The "Rear Lamp Out" and "Low Washer Fluid" indicators are no longer available.
  • The front door trim panel courtesy lamps have been replaced with a red reflector.
  • Rear seat fold-down (60/40 seat back) passenger compartment release has been deleted on the G model. The releases located in the trunk on the seat backs were still functional.
  • G series remote trunk release button is no longer available. Neither are the mesh pockets on the back of the front seats.
  • Leather wrapped steering wheel became standard on the LX.
  • The chrome tailpipes on the LX and LS were removed.
  • The interior front and rear door trim panels no longer have a plastic cap covering the screw.
  • The MACH Audio System replaced JBL sound system. The JBL system required a center-mounted sub-woofer under the package tray and was not compatible with CDs. The new MACH audio gave way for CD Changer buttons on the ICP. After November 1996, all audio systems became CD-compatible, with the CD controls in the ICP and RCU, except for the base model G.
  • The Sable illuminated Mercury symbol ("flying M") located at the front grille opening no longer illuminates with the headlights. This change occurred mid-May 1996.
  • The 1997 SHO gave way for the V8 badge, power antenna, and body color wiper fluid nozzles. The leather on the shifter and console door remained, as did the SARC.
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1998

  • The Taurus front end had a redesign; the front end had more of a SHO look too it. The previously rear amber turn signals were now red to match the brake light, even though the wiring and lighting stayed the same. The Sable had a slightly different grille, with the Mercury logo embedded into the grille. The trim badge style for the Sable also changed for this year.
  • 1998 models had "disco ball" style headlights. 1998 models also had the option of a center console w/the column shift models in fleet editions for 1998.
  • The Sable GS wagon was not available for 1998. The Taurus LX wagon was not available for 1998.
  • The Vulcan became standard on all models of the Taurus (except the SHO) and Sables. The Duratec was now optional on all models except the SHO.
  • 1998 gave way for the Duratec 24V DOHC badge on the fenders, just ahead of the front door jambs.
  • 2nd generation airbags replaced 1st generation. The 2nd generation air bags had a single sensor to trigger the airbags.
  • The keypad entry in the door handle changed its style, as did the style of the keyless entry remote.
  • The 1998 Sable LS introduced a "LS Premium" package which included Duratec, EATC, dual illuminated visor vanity mirrors, power antenna, and remote keyless entry. The 1998 Taurus SE also introduced a "SE Comfort" package which was equipped similarly. SecuriLock Anti-Theft came standard w/ the Duratec.
  • Taurus and Sables equipped with a floor shift had new built-in cup holders, instead of the old fold-out ones.
  • 1998 Taurus SE models had a "Limited" package which included a floor shifter and two-tone leather with "Limited" stiched into seats.
  • The Taurus SE now had a special sport package that included the Duratec, a spoiler, PATS, chrome sport wheel covers, 5-passenger seating, and a floor shifter.
  • The 1998 SHO had a few changes including:
    • Chrome wheels only
    • Washer nozzles went to black
    • Power passenger seat became optional
    • The door tweeters were revised
    • MAF went to black plastic.
    • SARC was updated for a better ride
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1999

  • The Duratec was not available as an option on the Taurus LX or Sable GS in 1999.
  • The 1999 Taurus models had a black housing for the headlamps. Sable models were not affected by the change.
  • Column shift models could have a center console as a no-cost option.
  • The keypad text had a subtle change in style.
  • The footwell lighting was deleted for the 1999 model years
  • New style of interior door handles for both the Taurus and Sable. The doors had two-tone plastic trim and molded door pockets. The Sable specifically had door panels which included wood-grain trim on inside door bezel.
  • The Sable GS Wagon was back for 1999.
  • Mid way into the 1999 model year, Ford made some more changes which included:
    • Folding Rear Seats - Changed from standard to optional equipment on some Sable models.
    • Flip-Fold Console - Changed from standard with a column shift to a no-cost option.
    • Instrumentation Illumination - Instrumentation lights are delayed upon headlamp switch activation.
    • Taurus models equipped with the Duratec changed in mid-year from dual to single exhaust. Sables were not affected by this change.
    • ABS and rear discs were only available on wagons and the SHO. ABS and rear drum brakes were available on the sedan only.
    • The "O/D OFF" button on the shifter was deleted. All models changed back to P R N OD D 1
  • At the same time as the changes, Ford deleted the following items:
    • Glove compartment light
    • Tint band on the top of the windsheild.
    • Low coolant sensor
    • Rear speaker grilles
    • SARC (SHO Only)
    • Rear sway bar (except on SHO and Sport models)
  • New 16" 5-spoke machined aluminum wheels standard on SHO, optional on SE Sport
  • 1999 had some more specific changes for the Sable that included changes such as 60/40 split-fold rear seat standard on LS (Optional GS), 16" chrome alloy wheels becoming optional, MACH audio standard on the LS Premium, fixed antenna replaced power unit on LS sedan w/ MACH, and leather seating was now included on the LS Premium.
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Misc. Pictures

Sedan:

Wagon:

Taurus:

Sable:

Misc:

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