2009 Ford Taurus X
2009 Ford Taurus X Expert Review: Autoblog
Click on the Taurus X for a high-res gallery of the latest Ford CUV
Before the Honda Accord and then the Toyota Camry took over the top of the sales charts, the Ford Taurus was the number one selling car in the United States. During the final years of its lifetime the Taurus became the darling of daily rental fleets, with the bulk of its still-prodigious sales going there rather than to retail customers like its competition. This also meant in part that residual values for Taurus were the lowest in its class. As the Taurus era came to an end, Ford decided to make a clean break and split the previous sedan/wagon lineup into three distinct vehicles with new names. Thus was born the smaller, lower-cost Fusion sedan, the larger Five Hundred sedan and the Freestyle crossover wagon. The latter two never made much impact on the market thanks in large part to bland styling and underpowered engines.
Shortly after launch it became known that the Five Hundred and Freestyle would be quickly restyled with the new three bar Ford grille and a bigger engine. Just before their debut at the Chicago Auto Show in February, new CEO Alan Mullaly made the decision to revive the Taurus nameplate for the revamped models and the Freestyle became the new Taurus X. Just a week after production launched at the Chicago assembly plant, Taurus X serial number 70, a Limited AWD model with the new 3.5L V-6 and six-speed automatic was turned over to Autoblog for a week of evaluation.
Find out what it's like to live with the Taurus X after the jump
Going from Freestyle to Taurus X involved more than than just slapping on a new grille and taillights, although that's the aspect that most passers by will immediately notice. And notice they did. People actually stopped to take a look at the big wagon in the Whole Foods parking lot and asked what it was. The new chrome face has utterly transformed the character of the Freestyle by actually giving it some. The overall angular look of the Taurus X is more like a traditional car-based wagon than an SUV, which is fitting since it's based on the previous Volvo S80 platform. The Taurus I drove had the titanium green paint without the two-tone finish that was prevalent on the earlier model to give it that faux SUV look popularized by the Subaru Outback. Two-tone is still available, but to my eye the single color is a more handsome, upscale look. The Saturn Outlook still has a more modern and stylish appearance overall, but the Taurus finally wears the face it should have had from day one.
On the inside the style is carryover, but that's fine because the design is attractive and functional. The plastic wood trim has been changed to simulate a different style of wood, but it's still plastic. If you're not going to use real tree parts, please don't bother. There's plenty of storage space throughout the interior, including deep, wide pockets in all four door panels with Ford's now customary cup holders molded in. The door cup holders will easily hold a half liter bottle of your favorite beverage. A decent sized compartment in the the dash above the center stack can hold the usual assortment of electronic toys including iPods , phones and assorted other gear. A roof mounted console has a compartment suitable for glasses or garage door openers. The front and second rows each have a center console with a deep bin that easily holds all manner of cameras, DVDs, books and other detritus. The front console has A/C vents for the second-row passengers on its back end in addition to the roof-mounted ones.
The standard seating configuration accommodates seven passengers in a two-three-two layout, although the test unit had the six-seater setup with the second row console. Getting into the back row is relatively easy thanks to the one-touch flip and fold second row seats. The raised rear roof allows for theater-style seating with the third row elevated to allow the rear passengers to see out the front. The third row seatbacks are pretty short and best suited to juveniles, although headroom was plentiful for my 5'10'' frame. The middle row seats offer plenty of room and feature both fore-aft and recline adjustments.
The front seats proved to be comfortable for a run from Ann Arbor to Muskegon to retrieve our young camper, although as with the Escape, the bottom seat cushions were a little short on thigh support. Many vehicles, including the Taurus X, offer heated front seats. In the X, the second row seats are also heated and perforated center inserts on both of the front two rows provide some ventilation on hot days.
Taurus X's interior offers a number of configuration options that allow drivers to take advantage of the middle name in CUV. The third row seats can individually flip forward, leaving a deep luggage well in the back, or flip back around into the well leaving a flat load area for larger loads. The second row and the front passenger seatbacks also flip forward, allowing for objects up to nine feet long to be carried on one side while still leaving seating for three people. Accessing the cargo area is easy with the remote power liftgate. Unlike the Outlook, the tailgate always opened and closed consistently with a double press of the button on the key.
Our Taurus X was loaded with every option except for the moonroof, including the satellite navigation system and the rear seat family entertainment system. That latter option includes a roof mounted DVD player with flip down screen and auxiliary inputs. Although the manual specifically states that the player can handle DVD-r/DVD-rw discs, the test unit failed to read any of the half dozen burned discs I tried, but played all the commercial discs without issue. In spite of the MPAA's aversion to consumers' rights, it seems to perfectly logical to take a backup copy of a DVD on road trip and leave the original at home, especially if the kids in the back are the ones actually loading the discs. The entertainment system does have auxiliary inputs that allow you to plug in a video iPod or game console and play that on the screen. Given the problems playing burned discs, the $1,000 price tag might be better spent on a portable DVD player with two screens and a couple of iPod Nanos for the kids. At least the portable player will usually play burned discs, and you can also take it on a plane when needed.
Driving the Taurus X was actually a more pleasant experience than the Saturn Outlook we tried recently. It's amazing what a difference eight hundred pounds makes in a vehicle. While the Taurus is by no means nimble at 4,200 pounds, it certainly didn't have any of the ponderous feel of the Outlook. The Taurus is similar in length but narrower and not as tall as the GM crossover and definitely has more carlike ride and handling characteristics. When equipped with the towing package, the Taurus can drag 2,000 lbs compared to 3,500 for the Outlook and has a maximum seating capacity that's one less as well.
The new 3.5L engine is a huge improvement over the old 3.0L in both the Taurus sedan and this wagon. It feels much stronger and never seems to strain itself. Dipping into the throttle brings effortless acceleration and pulling out to pass triggers smooth quick downshifts from the new six-speed which has replaced the discontinued CVT. That transmission was a joint effort between Ford and GM and also finds a home in GM's Lambda crossovers. Unlike the GM application Ford doesn't offer a manual shift mode, but frankly it isn't needed in a vehicle like this anyway. The steering effort is nicely weighted but pretty devoid of feedback. Accelerating through freeway on-ramps demonstrated mild but sustained understeer but merging with traffic wasn't a problem.
The suspension does a good job of keeping Michigan roads at bay without feeling mushy, a trait which unfortunately doesn't apply to the brake pedal most of the time. Under normal braking, the Taurus stoppers provide good deceleration but the pedal has a spongy feel. Stepping on it when sitting at a red light usually provides a sinking feeling. There were at least two exceptions to this during the evaluation when hitting the brakes resulted in a hard pedal, which was quite disconcerting. Some lane changes on gravel roads showed smooth, seamless operation from the stability control system. Unlike the Toyota Tundra, the Taurus system doesn't jerk the wheel around in your hands or make any unnecessary racket, it just feels like a big hand guiding the vehicle where you wanted it to go.
A lot of Ford's engineering efforts on the Taurus and Taurus X for 2008 went into NVH improvements, with a great deal of detail tweaking throughout. The top surfaces of the outside mirrors were sculpted to reduce aerodynamic drag and wind noise, and the change worked. On the road, the Taurus X was nicely hushed -- not quite Lexus-quiet but much better than the Freestyle. Wind noise was almost nonexistent and the sounds that did come through from the engine compartment were muted and never felt strained. A day-long round-trip across Michigan proved to be an effortless run with plenty of room for four to stretch out and no one feeling cramped or particularly cranky at the end.
A week of mixed urban and freeway driving yielded fuel economy of 18.7mpg and the long freeway trip brought that overall average up to 19.3. The Taurus X makes a fine family hauler for those with an aversion to minivans who don't need to do any serious towing. If you need capacity for eight bodies or a heftier towing capacity you'll need to look elsewhere such the Expedition or the various GM choices. With the options on the test vehicle the bottom line price comes in at $37,682 ,although the base SEL front wheel drive model starts at $26,615.
All Photos ©2007 Sam Abuelsamid/ Weblogs, Inc.
New Car Test Drive
Crossover SUV features host of improvements.
If you've never heard of a Taurus X before, it's only because this is a new name for an existing product, the crossover SUV that used to be called the Ford Freestyle.
However, the 2008 Ford Taurus X offers host of improvements inside, outside and underneath when compared to the old Freestyle. So it's ready to compete in the hotly contested crossover segment with a whole bunch of new arrows in its quiver.
Like the Ford Taurus and Mercury Sable sedans, the Taurus X is loosely based on the same architecture as the Volvo S80 luxury sedan and Volvo XC90 SUV and it uses the same Swedish Haldex all-wheel-drive system as the Volvo on AWD versions. The Taurus X offers some detail changes to the suspension, however.
Last year's 3.0-liter V6 engine has been dropped in favor of a new, 3.5-liter, 24-valve V6 that makes a full 30 percent more horsepower and more load-pulling torque. Likewise, last year's continuously variable transmission has been replaced by a new 6F six-speed automatic.
This new powertrain makes the 2008 Ford Taurus X a whole lot more fun to drive than the Freestyle crossover was. The new engine makes more power, and accelerates the truck much quicker (Ford says up to 44 percent quicker), but it also gets about 10 percent better fuel economy, even after adjusting for the new, stricter 2008 fuel economy rules that the EPA is using for fuel economy numbers on the window sticker.
The Taurus X fits into the product lineup above the five-seater Ford Edge crossover SUV that's built on the same platform as the Fusion, and under the upcoming 2009 Ford Flex, a larger, more luxurious, square-cornered family truck.
The Taurus X is designed to compete with the Nissan Murano, Mitsubishi Outlander, Buick Enclave, Saturn Outlook, and GMC Acadia, among others.
The 2008 Ford Taurus X comes in three models and each offers all-wheel-drive versions: SEL ($26,615), SEL AWD ($28,465); Eddie Bauer ($29,355), Eddie Bauer AWD ($31,205); Limited ($30,335), Limited AWD ($32,185). (All NewCarTestDrive.com prices are manufacturer's suggested retail prices and do not include the destination charge ($750). Simple math tells us that makes the Haldex all-wheel-drive system an $1850 option on all models.
SEL comes with cloth upholstery, manually controlled air conditioning, AM/FM/CD, six-way adjustable driver's seat, power windows, power locks, and 17-inch aluminum wheels.
The Eddie Bauer edition adds leather upholstery, dual-zone automatic temperature control, power adjustable pedals, 6CD, front consoles, eight-way adjustable driver's seat with memory, woodgrain applique trim. Eddie Bauer carries a distinctive two-tone paint job, plus 18-inch five-spoke alloy wheels and tires, wiper-activated headlamps, and Eddie Bauer logos inside and out.
Limited adds premium audio system with subwoofer, second-row consoles, chrome interior trim, auto tilt-down in reverse for outside mirror, heated front seats.
Options for the Taurus X include voice-activated DVD navigation system ($1995), reverse sensing system ($295), power liftgate ($475), auxiliary HVAC system ($650), DVD entertainment system ($995), AdvanceTrac electronic stability control ($495), power moonroof ($960), heated seats ($240), Sirius satellite radio equipment ($195), and 18-inch seven-spoke chrome wheels ($695).
Safety features include front, side and curtain airbags, ABS and traction control. Taurus X has been awarded five-star ratings in all four crash categories and a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). All-wheel drive is optional. LATCH child seat anchors and rear safety locks are standard.
In the design change from Freestyle to Taurus X, Ford has completely redone the front end, with a large three-bar horizontal grille that fits in better with the Ford family look of the Focus, Fusion, Edge, and the coming Flex. The hood, fenders, headlamps and driving lamps are all new, with a bit more bling around them here and there. From the dashboard rearward, though, it's pretty much carried over from the Freestyle, because it was a pretty solid package to begin with.
Likewise, the Edge-clone taillamps, rear quarter panels and decklid have been redone, and the rear bumper has been rejiggered to feature exposed dual exhaust tips. The roof rack has been strengthened and reinforced to carry more load.
The Ford Taurus X cabin has a light and airy feel, an important feature. Inside are bucket seats front and rear, each with center consoles, offering roomy accommodations for four, while large windows everywhere lend an open feeling. EPA-rated passenger volume is 146 cubic feet. Taurus X seats up to seven people.
Cargo capacity is generous, with a 15 cubic-foot space behind the third row, 47 cubic feet behind the second row with the third-row seats folded, and 86 cubic feet with all the seats folded down, according to EPA measurements. The power liftgate makes loading easy. And the Taurus X has a relatively low load height when compared with other crossover SUVs, which makes loading and unloading heavy objects easier.
The second- and third-row seats are very easy to flip, fold, and reset. The second-row seats slide fore and aft and recline for an extra measure of flexibility.
Overall, the interior ambience is modern, nicely laid out and, the materials are reasonably good throughout. The well-crafted seats, panels and other accommodations have a quality feel, as do the instruments, controls, shifter, seats, console, and dashboard. The wood applique on the center stack looks like a slapped-on afterthought, and it's particularly noticeable because it's the only wood-like material inside the vehicle's front compartment.
An auxiliary plug for iPods and other MP3 players comes standard and is located inside the center console.
The Motorola Sync system offers integration with all Bluetooth-enabled phones and music players, including iPods, via electronic and USB 2.0 connections. This system has received positive reviews from everyone we've talked to who has learned how to use it. The Sync system has the ability to have text messages read aloud, voice recognition for control of both phone and music functions, and phonebook transfer. The system is upgradeable for future players and for additional functionality down the road. Sync is optional, but if you're into wireless connectivity, we highly recommend opting for it.
The Taurus X is quiet. It moves down the road with a minimum of wind and tire noise for a vehicle in this price class, and the absence of noise allows you to better enjoy its in-car entertainment and communications features. We liked that, and took it as a mark of quality.
Overall, we found the Taurus X to be very comfortable, easy to use and get familiar with, and very flexible in terms of its interior layout, space utilization.
The 3.5-liter engine and six-speed double-overdrive automatic transmission in the Ford Taurus X have really put some performance in the package. That's especially true when compared with the old 3.0-liter engine and CVT transmission, which was awful.
The 2008 engine is quiet and smooth at idle, with a pendulum mounting system that separates its motions and vibrations from the rest of the car. It sounds healthy, powerful and smooth at full throttle, and the Taurus X has very good acceleration for passing. And, as mentioned, the Taurus X is very quiet inside at freeway speeds.
No complaints on the steering and suspension. The Taurus X has pretty good steering feel for what it is, a family hauler, with plenty of steering assist for easy driving around town and decreasing assist at highway speeds so it doesn't wander or get sloppy.
The ride is soft and compliant, with plenty of suspension travel and damping to soak up bumps and potholes. There's not much body roll (lean) in the corners. We'd prefer to have one size wider tires for more aggressive cornering, but that would probably eat into the gas mileage.
The brakes are very solid and nicely progressive from top of pedal to bottom. We never felt the standard ESP system go on, but it's always there, and now it's standard on all models.
The Ford Taurus X is a much better vehicle than the Freestyle. The acceleration, shifting performance, powertain smoothness, and fuel economy are of a much higher order now. The instrument panel is more interesting and prettier to look at. The space, and use of space, is excellent. Taurus X is a solid crossover SUV, it's practical and it's affordable. Loaded with navigation, satellite radio and the DVD entertainment system, the Taurus X is a really good long-distance traveler as well as an around-town family hauler.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Jim McCraw filed this report from Dearborn.
Ford Taurus X SEL ($26,615); Eddie Bauer ($29,355); Limited ($30,335).
Options As Tested
power liftgate ($475), auxiliary HVAC system ($650), DVD entertainment system ($995), DVD navigation system ($1995), Sirius satellite radio equipment ($195) includes six-month subscription.
Ford Taurus X Limited AWD ($32,185).
2009 Ford Taurus X Information
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