I continue to be puzzled as to why this car doesn't sell better. I suspect the answer has more to do with internal Ford politicking (an age-old problem at that company) than with the car's merits.
The family-friendly package - with genuinely usable third row seats - is just about perfect. At the same time, this isn't some bloated, high-riding off-roader that's a pain to climb into and out of and that can't be maneuvered in the supermarket parking lot without help from a phalanx of cameras and beeping proximity sensors.
The styling isn't bad, either, although you shouldn't have to buy the most expensive model to get your car painted all one color (rather than having gray along the bottom). The interior could be more refined - one hopes that the Flex will be better in this regard. I find the seating position weirdly high; I understand Ford is trying to provide that "commanding" driving position people used to bang on about, but it would be nice to at least have the option of lowering the power seat.
Except for those who need to tow a heavy trailer, nearly every Ford Explorer owner - and quite a few Expedition drivers as well - would be well served by switching to a Taurus X (although it would be nice if, in so doing, they could enjoy a more substantial bump up in gas mileage). This vehicle should have been the Explorer replacement, but at the time Ford was clinging to the notion that Explorer buyers needed a body-on-frame vehicle. Now the company is finally working on a unit-body replacement for the Explorer, and the Flex will soon supplant the Taurus X.
-Joe Lorio, Senior Editor
I agree with my colleague Joe Lorio, who has written both within the pages of Automobile Magazine and on this Web site of his surprise that the 2008 Ford Taurus X (which used to be known as the Freestyle) does not sell better than it does. This vehicle should be on the shopping lists of people who cannot abide the thought of a minivan but who do not need the bulk, weight, and thirst of a large SUV.
This is especially true now that the 2008 Ford Taurus X is equipped with a decent engine, Ford's new, 263-hp, 3.5-liter V-6, which is mated to a modern, six-speed automatic transmission. When the Freestyle debuted back in 1994, it and its sibling, the Five Hundred sedan (which is now known as the Taurus), were saddled with a 200-hp, 3.0-liter V-6 mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT). This powertrain simply was not up to the task of propelling a fully loaded people mover, although Ford bragged at the time that it offered good fuel economy. (Back then, no one really cared.)
I think the 2008 Ford Taurus X is a handsome vehicle, with a quite nice, if imperfect, interior. The faux wood trim is a bit too shiny, but the plastics and the trim in general are pleasing enough, and the interior panel fits are good. Our loaded Limited AWD model, naturally, had a power-operated liftgate and a ceiling-mounted DVD player. Both items, in my book, are required in any modern, three-row family hauler.
The Ford Taurus X's trip computer said that, over the space of several hundred miles, our test vehicle averaged about 18 mpg. That isn't great, but with official EPA ratings of 15 city, 22 highway, I would bet that a careful driver could eke out at least 20 mpg on a freeway trip, not bad for a vehicle that can carry six or seven people. (Our test car had optional bucket seats in the second row rather than the standard bench.)
Our Ford Taurus X Limited AWD's price was on the high side, however. The base price is $32,185, and our test vehicle totaled $39,700 with options, including $1995 for a navigation system, $695 for chrome wheels (an option I would certainly skip, as I find them slightly gaudy), and $995 for the aforementioned DVD entertainment system. A power moonroof is $960. Of course, the base Taurus X SEL with front-wheel drive starts at a much lower price point, $27,830.
The good news is, I'd be willing to bet that there are lots of deals to be had on the slow-selling Ford Taurus X, especially now that the Flex is going on sale soon.
-Joe DeMatio, Executive Editor
Wow. I know it's de rigueur to bash Ford these days, and I try to avoid it, if only because I want so badly to see them succeed. But seriously: The Taurus X/Freestyle? What were they thinking? This is essentially a Taurus/Five Hundred station wagon, only with little more utility than the base sedan and a much more bumbling, top-heavy personality. I can barely see the reason for its existence, given how little utility you gain (and the fuel economy you lose) compared with a similarly sized mini-SUV. The list of complaints could fill a book:
-Lackluster, uninspiring powertrain. The transmission is sluggish, and if you're changing gears under full throttle, the soft shocks and springs send the whole car pitching and heaving. As on the regular Taurus, highway-speed downshifts cause the nose to rise what feels like a foot in the air. What is this, 1972?
-Poor ergonomics. How does a car this big--and obviously targeted toward Joe Everyman--not fit a 5'10", 170-pound guy like me? And how does it end up feeling cramped? The wide console, the low wheel, the narrow footwell, the floompy seats...it's remarkable.
-Dowdy looks. I like station wagons. Love 'em, in fact. Grew up with a handful of Volvos, and some odd part of me always loved cars like the Caprice, the Vista Cruiser, and the Roadmaster. This doesn't look wagon cool. This looks like wagon cool's fast-food-loving, chunky, D-student younger brother.
What's wrong with me that I'd rather have a Crown Victoria?
-Sam Smith, Associate Editor
Sam, I'm not quite sure what's wrong with you, but I mostly agree with the Joes who commented above: I like this vehicle quite a bit because it's a pretty darn good choice for the legions of SUV owners who've suddenly started paying attention to the prices at the pump. (Granted, 16/24 mpg--as the EPA has rated the front-wheel-drive version--isn't phenomenal, but for a vehicle of this size and capability, it's not bad.)
Even though the name change is an indication of a marketing misplay, I do like the new, chromier look of the TaurusStyle X. There, I said it: I like the current face of Ford, no matter what my colleagues have to say about my bad taste or poor eyesight. I do agree with Sam that the Taurus X's chunky height undermines any chance it had at being labeled "cool wagon." I've seen the new Flex on the road, and I think that box has a good chance at becoming the cool wagon that the FreeTaurus X was going for. Plus, the Flex offers slightly better fuel economy (17/24 mpg for FWD models).
Still, with a growing family on the horizon, I could definitely see a Taurus X in my driveway (for my wife, of course: I need something more fun to drive!), particularly if the Flex's launch results in significantly slashed prices for the Taurus X.
-Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor