2010 Ford Taurus (© Ford Motor Company)Click to enlarge picture

A Taurus is tested Tuesday during Ford's 2010 product preview in Dearborn, Mich.

Ford's big stars for the 2010 model year are obviously the Mustang and Taurus. But less flashy — and perhaps nearly as important — are more subtle improvements throughout its product portfolio, including nicer interiors and a fine-tuned version of Sync that could help the Blue Oval win customers and improve its image in the marketplace.

The idea is to fortify its lineup with refinements "experienced immediately in a five-minute test drive," said Derrick Kuzak, Ford's group vice president of global product development.

This means things such as nicer paint finishes, more pleasing materials for interior parts and a smooth, quiet demeanor on the road all got renewed attention this year. They supplement existing features, such as ambient lighting and an "easy fuel" cap to improve quality and perception. The company thinks it's paying off, pointing to improvements in consideration by consumers.

This attention to detail comes from a streamlining of Ford's product offerings. The company has reduced the number of nameplates from 92 in 2004 to 59 in 2008, and it expects almost 80 percent of its volume will be built on just eight core platforms by 2012.

Under the hood, Ford continues to rework its powertrains, moving away from V8s to smaller-displacement engines, augmented by turbocharging. In addition to the V6 EcoBoost motor, a four-cylinder version of the technology will be added next year. All told, the company plans to offer EcoBoost on about 90 percent of its lineup by 2013.

On the opposite end of that spectrum, a 6.2-liter V8 making about 400 hp will arrive later this year in the F-150 SVT Raptor.

This year, Sync was updated with traffic, turn-by-turn directions and business-search applications. The new features launch for 2010 on the Ford Fusion and Taurus, the Mercury Milan and the Lincoln MKZ and will roll out across the rest of the line by 2011.

"It's almost like having Yellow Pages all available by voice," said Mark Scalf, a Ford product manager.

Ford also reiterated its plans to have four electric vehicles on the road by 2012, including versions of the Transit Connect and the Focus.