By on December 21, 2007

08taurusx_04.jpgFord likes SUVs so much that they build five platforms for ‘em, many of which fight amongst themselves for sales in overlapping segments. Yet the most competitive, the most relevant of Ford’s sport-utilities is also the one no one— not even Ford marketing— seems to know exists: the Taurus X, née Freestyle. Question: if a terrific CUV falls in the sales charts and nobody in Dearborn notices, does it exist?

In 2005, while Ford’s PR team was busy blowing smoke about “Bold Moves,” the Freestyle slipped quietly into dealerships with a C.V. as impressive as a certain ex-Boeing exec’s. Sub-Highlander height? Check. Super-Highlander interior space? Check. Agile, rock-solid chassis derived from the previous-gen Volvo S80’s? Ja, that too.

08taurusx_03.jpgSo what’s caused this clever crossover to languish on dealer lots? Two little words: no marketing. Two years after its “soft launch,” the Freestyle was abandoned for the Next Big Thing (a.k.a. the Edge). As the Freestyle had less name recognition than the Explorer (or, for that matter, the Donkervoort S8AT), CEO Alan Mulally felt free to rename the model a Taurus X. By then the Freestyle was so far under the radar Ford could have called it the F-Up and no one would have noticed.

And yet, as TTAC proclaimed last time ’round, Ford’s crossover is well worth a second look. Despite a hasty application of Ford’s new Norelco nose, the Taurus X wears tidy, tallish proportions topped with a tastefully anonymous greenhouse. Call it a hemmed-out Outback, or a slim-fit Explorer. You could also call it anodyne. Narcoleptic or not, the Taurus X avoids the bulbous look blighting many vehicles in its class.

08taurusx_10.jpgThe X’s cabin exhibits similar restraint. It’s an easy step into the wide, elevated driver’s seat. The raised helmspot combines with thin pillars and a generous glass area to provide a widescreen windscreen. The no-nonsense dash is clean and conservatively curved, comprised of barely-pliable plastics and parts-bin switchgear. A thick, rubberized grab bar perches atop the glovebox, perfect for panicky co-pilots who brace themselves for every lane change (you know who you are).

Prefer to banish those passengers to the back? They won’t need much convincing. The Taurus X’s low, flat floor and tall ceiling provide van-like space in the second row, with two properly propped-up “captain’s chairs” ready to quell complaints on long trips. A cavernous console bin with two deep cupholders separates these comfy thrones; a conventional three-across bench seat is a no-cost option.

08taurusx_20.jpgThen there’s Taurus X’s piece de resistance: the third-row seat. Okay, this isn’t the sort of thing that gets pistonheads’ blood pumping. But the X’s “way-back” is a packaging marvel that offers a wide, easy step-through to a mini-bench sized for real, live humans. Even teenagers (who share over 99 percent of their DNA with humans) will find knee clearance uncontestable, with surplus space overhead for carefully-groomed manes and coifs.

It’s difficult to overstate the importance of a decent third row, as anyone who’s done much crossover cross-shopping can attest. In this class, only GM’s Lambda triplets offer such magnanimous space for seven, and the Enclave, Acadia and Outlook are nearly one thousand pounds porkier– each– than the Taurus X. The Toyota Highlander’s third row, by comparison, is a nicely-trimmed tuna can.

08taurusx_01.jpgThe Ford and Toyota go tit for tat when it comes to hauling familial detritus. Each offers huge floor space in back; the Toyota offers a bit more of it, while the Ford boasts a lower liftover. The Highlander shames the X’s weak 2,000 lbs, tow rating; the Ford busts a can of fold-ass on the front passenger’s seat.

Here’s another X feature that’s missing from the Toyota: steering feel! Now, don’t get too excited here. While offering more feedback than most of its rivals, the Taurus X’s power assisted helm still feels gummy and a touch light around the straight-ahead. But it carves linear, reassuring arcs in curves. And that means the X drives smoothly, easily, and, well, no differently than the four-door Taurus. It ought to, considering that the X sits only six inches taller than its sedan stablemate, with the same driver eyepoint.

08taurusx_ltd_02.jpgPerformance? Yes, there’s some of that, too, as the Freestyle’s badge and grille weren’t the only things Ford swapped out for 2008. There’s also a new 3.5-liter V6, weighing in at 263 horsepower, mated to a six-speed automatic. This combination provides a steady, seamless supply of oomph; albeit delivered in that distant, detached manner endemic to quiet, high-riding vehicles. The auto occasionally dithers when asked to downshift, magnifying the impression. But then, no three-row crossover is a street scorcher.

Even as Ford’s SUV stable swells to bursting, the mpg Taurus X is the best of the bunch: reasonably frugal, perfectly practical, wonderfully comfortable and thoroughly modern. But Ford’s stunning lack of situational and self-awareness condemns the Taurus X to obscurity. Thus the mighty have fallen.

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76 Comments on “Review: 2008 Ford Taurus X...”


  • avatar
    dwford

    It’s a crime that Ford lets this car go unnoticed. We have 5 on the lot and have sold only 1 since launch – to Consumer Reports no less! No one, I mean NO ONE comes in asking about it.

    It’s also a shame Ford sees fit to charge a $5000 premium over the equivalent Taurus sedan, but Ford does that on the Edge as well.

    The only flaw it has inside, besides the marginal plastics quality, is that the rear seat headrests are too low. They wrap over the top of the seat back when lowered, and they dig right into an adults back. You have to raise them up all the way for them to be useful.

  • avatar
    nehoc93

    The problem is that the slightly used versions of the Freestyle are so underappreciated that they make great used car bargains. Who’s going to go pay $25-$30k for a new one, when used versions are so inexpensive. For most families, the additional HP isn’t that important in a family vehicle to justify the additional cost over what is already a pretty good vehicle.

  • avatar
    phil

    this car is truly an excellent station wagon, complete with all the inherent advantages of that design as well as the associated stigma. it has floundered because of boring styling and the wagon personna. it also suffers with an EPA rating for the AWD version of 15/22, compared with the 17/23 for the new 4WD highlander (fueleconomy.gov). Hell, my E63 is rated 14/20, so Ford and the other manufacturers have a long way to go. the wonderfulness of the 30+ mpg mercedes/bmw/audi diesel wagons will eventually filter into other less costly vehicles (that are 50 state clean) and i truly believe diesel will be the next “big thing” in the US auto scene. A Ford TaurusX with a sweet 200 hp/300 torque 30+ mpg diesel would be a superb utility vehicle.

  • avatar
    starlightmica

    dwford:

    Oh, the irony! They did give it a good score (75/100) and a Recommend, if that’s any consolation.

  • avatar
    SCMTB

    I considered this vehicle about 3 years ago before our first son was born. Let me repeat that only "I" considered it and my wife gave it a big fat "NO". Her primary reason was that it was a Ford and it "looked" like a wagon. Of course she was stuck on the Denver, CO suburban requirement to own a SUV. I was looking at it prior to it being introduced. Once saw it in person I was shocked by it's size (too large for my liking). But without a doubt this vehicle is absolutely perfect for many families and is a much better alternative then say a Ford Expedition or Chevy Tahoe. It has great features and room and is very well thought out. The mpg's aren't that good and that is it's one drawback and of course when it was intro'd it was powerless and had the CV that I hated. Alas it is a TRUE CUV not like many of these other "CUV's". Not sure why Ford chose to ignore but it is typical of how they've handled many things. I'm sure the $5k premium over it's obvious sibling sedan doesn't help matters when it looks like a wagon (SUV/CUV's sell for a premium for some ridiculous reason and THAT is probably the reason for it being ignored by Ford – same reason we won't get the new Mazda 6 wagon/hatch because they're protecting high-margin CX-7 and CX-9). Finally, my wife and I bought a wagon anyway – Subaru Legacy GT LTD.

  • avatar
    crackers

    I think phil is on to something. Every time I look at this vehicle, I view it not as a CUV, but as a minivan – simply a successor to the Windstar. I wonder how many potential customers make the same connection, and considering how stellar the Windstar was, won’t touch it without a full hazmat suit.

  • avatar
    kornjd

    dwford :“The only flaw it has inside, besides the marginal plastics quality, is that the rear seat headrests are too low. They wrap over the top of the seat back when lowered, and they dig right into an adults back. You have to raise them up all the way for them to be useful.”

    They do this in the VW Rabbit too. It’s done for two reasons;

    1) to increase visibility out the back window
    2) to encourage rear passengers to adjust their headrest

  • avatar
    GS650G

    I wish car makers would just start making station wagon versions of sedans again and end this CUV madness. What most American families want is a simple station wagon type car that gets decent mileage and can hold a fair amount of goods when necessary.

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    a guy i work with has one – it is completely without bling – what a releif – no pretentions of rock climbing, real or imagined. Just a clean design and no pretense. It is kinda elegant in a past european sorta way. I like it. If i needed such a vehicle, i would buy this one.

    Also, if they just lowered it so it was closer to the ground, the mileage would improve.

  • avatar
    CSJohnston

    I think Phil is on to one of the main reasons the Freestyle/Taurus X struggles: it looks like a wagon. I do not understand the aversion to wagons but the average consumer would rather be caught driving an H2 in a Polar Bear coat than in one of these. Boo! Bad consumer! Bad!

    Other than that one thing, this car should be one of Ford’s darlings, it does everything a family wants it to and very well. It is most certainly on our list next time around… provided it is still around. Ford graces us with the Flex next year making the Taurus X completely irrelevant.

  • avatar
    CeeDragon

    I really like this vehicle too, but, as P.J. said, the marketing was sorely lacking.

    Even worse was the branding. Remember when the Freestyle came out it was meant to be perceived as a close sibling to the Freestar, a wretched excuse of a minivan. Then the Ford designers put the 2-tone vaguely-Explorer-like cladding on it as the Explorer sales started declining. They ran ads showing the Freestyle, Freestar, and Explorer side-by-side, as if they all came from the same genetic material, instead of highlighting the Freestyle’s Volvo roots.

    I wonder if the lack of marketing and poor branding were due to the Edge, a direct competitor to this vehicle despite what Ford says. Actually, I’m wondering if the Taurus X is a superior vehicle to the Edge, as some reviews have suggested.

  • avatar
    yournamehere

    there is a new Jetta Sport Wagon on its way shortly that will have there new TDI 2.0l engine in it. looks pretty good.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    There’s a part of me that would love to get this vehicle for my wife. She loves a higher seating position, it’s built on one of the best chassis foundations anywhere, and it wouldn’t pose too much of a risk to other vehicles on the road if an accident took place. That’s one of my pet peeves regarding today’s ‘height race’. Metal is meant to hit metal in an accident… Not glass.

    Overall though, I see this vehicle as too plump and too cheap interior wise. A well maintained Volvo V70 wagon would offer a far more luxurious environment with a comparable level of safety. It’s also a bit more sporting as well. Then you have the Subaru Outback, the Audi A6 Avant, a Passat Wagon, or even a classic Mercedes 124. All of these vehicles offer a far greater bang for the buck than the Freestyle/X.

    If you could price it new at the same level as the Taurus, I could see the value. But Ford choose otherwise and that means it will probably end up in a lot of rental fleets and fleet lease programs before the core customer base will reconsider it as a used car. For the family wagon it’s pretty good. But there are far better choices out there. As an enthusiast, I would even be willing to take the age hit for the other vehicles and I’m sure many consumers will think likewise.

    Then again, if you simply look at cars as an appliance the Freestyle/X is a fine choice… as a used car.

  • avatar
    kjc117

    The X is built off a Volvo platform. How is it a CUV and not just a wagon version of the Taurus/500? Because it looks like a wagon and I don’t understand why it is called the X??

    The car doesn’t have a identity and looks to separate it from all of the competition and other Fords.

    It’s just another Ford.

  • avatar

    crossover???! This thing is a station wagon. Lets quit using marketing speak!!!

  • avatar
    umterp85

    CSJohnston: I think the Taurus X goes away when the Flex arrives; the Flex will be heavily marketed and it will be Farley’s first big launch. Also, Chicago Assembly is getting the new Lincoln MKS—-so dumping the Taurus X will not hurt capacity and utilization rates.

  • avatar
    shaker

    I think that the “X” will go the way of the Pacifica; people who want a station wagon generally want a lower-profile vehicle that gets reasonable fuel mileage (Subie)– the “X” is OK for what it is, but 3-buck gas is going to hurt its sales.

  • avatar

    Even though I like its understatement and overall packaging, the proportions and styling are a huge dud with everyone who wants a CUV. Just like all its D3 chassis stablemates in their respective markets.

    Kind of a shame, but maybe the Flex will do better with its unique style…and that idiotic name.

  • avatar
    Jesse

    Those rear head rests look like they’re straight out of a Saab.

  • avatar
    N85523

    Looks like they vaulted the roof in the rear just a touch to give the 3rd row inoccupants a bit of headroom. Had they kept the roof-line flat, nobody could call this a CUV, it would be a wagon. I have little use for the CUV genre of cars, but I could see myself having lots of use for this. I like it and I echo the statements above that it is under-marketed. If Ford could, and they can, keep this kind of design mentality in cars, then they could easily bounce back. Will they? Who knows… If they do, will they market it correctly? It is critical to Blue Oval salvation that they do.

  • avatar
    guyincognito

    Why, if they gave this car no marketing support, and didn’t want it to compete with its similar siblings, did Ford spend the money to update it?

  • avatar
    lprocter1982

    Gee, Ford makes a vehicle that works well, is practical, roomy, comfortable and indeed rivals if not betters the competition. Ford then sees fit to not advertise said vehicle, and pretend it doesn’t exist, until it ceases to be, due to little sales, due to little (or no) advertising. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Crown Vic/Grand Marquis anyone?

  • avatar
    Orian

    Unless they changed some seating configuration from the Freestyle to the Taurus X I wasn’t exactly impressed by rows 2 and 3. My wife and I rode in one for a fairly long road trip and would prefer never to sit in one again.

  • avatar
    Mirko Reinhardt

    @phil
    “A Ford TaurusX with a sweet 200 hp/300 torque 30+ mpg diesel would be a superb utility vehicle.”

    Ford has such an engine – the 2.7 diesel V-6 co-developed with PSA. It’s in Jaguars, Land Rovers, Peugeots and Citroens and gets nothing but praise.

  • avatar
    shiney

    I think Ford would have sold more of these if they had just called it a Taurus wagon. Wagons are back in vogue to some degree, but the X misses selling on that trend while having proportions no CUV or SUV owner would accept. And no marketing. Somehow Ford really let the ball drop on the 500 and its derivatives. They are fine big cars, among the best American cars in 20 years, yet Ford let them get an image as slow (they really aren’t) and dull to drive (they are better than many). Hope they do better with the Flex…though the name is pretty awful.

  • avatar
    adam0331

    Here’s one problem, it’s ugly. I know many people in the key 25-40 year demographic that are considering the Edge because it has head turning style. The Taurus X is an ugly dud. I’d rather buy an old ’95 Taurus wagon. At least that I could excuse on price alone.

  • avatar
    umterp85

    Guyincognito: “Why, if they gave this car no marketing support, and didn’t want it to compete with its similar siblings, did Ford spend the money to update it?”

    Good question…I think they saw a need to keep a 3 row CUV alternative around until the Flex arrives and utilize capacity in Chicago until the MKS arrives.

    Sajeev—-if it is in fact you that gets one of the two TTAC NAIAS passes—-PLEASE PLEASE ask Ford why they need the Flex name….launch with Fairlane ! There has got to be some way to get their attention on this error.

  • avatar
    BEAT

    At least Ford has a working Hybrid Car out in the market today.

    Nice review P.J. but but no comment about trucks
    I don’t like them.

  • avatar
    Martin Albright

    What most American families want is a simple station wagon type car that gets decent mileage and can hold a fair amount of goods when necessary.

    How can you say that a wagon is “what most American families want” when wagon sales are dismal compared to CUVs and SUVs? The clearest indication of what people want is what they buy, as people generally do not buy things they don’t want.

    I’m as much of a wagon lover as anyone here on TTAC, but the harsh reality is that a huge segment of the population has a visceral and irrational dislike of them, hence the popularity of CUVs and SUVs. Does it make sense? No, not really but the choices people make in the marketplace often don’t make sense, they are driven by intangible factors like fashion and taste.

  • avatar
    Acd

    I know of at least two other reasons why the previous Free(was it star or style, I always get them confused?)style didn’t take off in the marketplace:

    1. Underpowered, wheezy old 3.0 litre V6 that made it feel underpowered.
    2. CVT transmission that was supposed to mask the engine’s lack of power.

    Now that those things have been fixed the new Taurus X deserves a place on people’s shopping list. If only Ford would let people know.

  • avatar
    Martin Albright

    I considered this vehicle about 3 years ago before our first son was born. Let me repeat that only “I” considered it and my wife gave it a big fat “NO”.

    Her primary reason was that it was a Ford and it “looked” like a wagon.

    It’s amazing how often I hear this. A few months back the GF and I were looking at cars to replace her old Chevy Lumina and I recommended she look at a Subaru Outback Wagon. She immediately wrinkled her nose at it and shook her head: “Looks too much like a wagon.” She also turned her nose up at other wagon-like vehicles, in favor of CUVs like the Rav4, the CR-V, and the Subaru Forester and SUVs like the Nissan Pathfinder and the Toyota 4Runner.

    I realize it’s a sweeping generalization to say that women are behind the SUV/CUV craze, but the more I hear this, the more I start to wonder. Is it the height of CUVs/SUVs that offers the perception of safety? Or is it the stodgy “mom-mobile” rep of the wagon that is a turn-off. I truly don’t know.

  • avatar
    starlightmica

    Martin:

    Quote from High and Mighty about the psyche of SUV owners

  • avatar
    taxman100

    My wife wants to own an SUV, but luckily she trusts my judgement on automobiles.

    We will be a minivan family – love the sliding doors.

  • avatar
    kph

    The Freestyle / Pacifica / Cadillac SRX is all about compromise. Compromise too much and you don’t please anybody.

    Let’s assume that most moms don’t care about the performance of a car. Saying a wagon handles better than an SUV/CUV doesn’t mean anything to them. If they don’t make the money in the family the price of gas may be a non-factor as well.

    Doesn’t Ford do any research on what kind of demographic actually ends up buying this? Men with three kids or more that want car-like characteristics? Isn’t that a compromise as well?

    And how are its sales compared to plain old wagons?

  • avatar
    peteinsonj

    Heck, my local Ford dealer only has 500′s ON THE SHOWROOM FLOOR!!!

    And you wonder why no one is buying any version of the Taurus/X!

    /p

  • avatar
    blautens

    I agree with others – this might be a good used car purchase – but to plunk down serious cash on a quickly depreciating vehicle just for the sake of…the Ford purchase “experience”?

    I wonder if the previous models with CVT aren’t even less valuable now that a conventional tranny can be had?

    Plus, what is it with Ford and the two tone paint jobs they’re slapping on most of these? Ugh.

    Maybe I’d buy a used, monochrome, 2008 model…in 2010…

  • avatar
    whatdoiknow1

    Ford actually had two products, FiveHundred and Freestyle that could have worked IF Ford had not screwed them up buy releasing them to market before they were ready. I have rented a 500 or two and can attest that these are rather nice, BUT COULD DO WITH SOME IMPROVEMENT. The one thing that did make me seriously dislike the car was the crappy underpowered engine and totally confused CVT.
    Simply put both of these vehicles entered production without a proper engine. The 3.0l Duratec was NOT up to the job and Ford would have been better off holding back on the release rather shipping out ANOTHER half-assed product to the dealers.
    Now that Ford has the engine right they go off and screw up the styling and change the name to something that the majority of American car buyers now associate with “el cheapo rento”.

    I LIKE MANY OTHER FOLKS WILL NEVER BUY A FORD TAURUS, PERIOD! The name alone means product DEATH! The Taurus name does not imply anything good like the names Camry and Accord. In all honesty “Taurus” is the anti-thesis of Accord!

    Today when I look at Fords entire lineup I get the impression that they are just throwing products out there without much thought.

    Explorer: Big and Doofy, much wasted $$$$ on IRS for a product that aint selling anymore! Styling is tooooo conservative, looks like modern day County Squire. “Hey Griswald we have a car for your next family vacation!”

    Edge: too small, yet jacked-up off the ground so it doesn’t handle well. Can’t enough carry people or stuff, but still sucks as a “personal” vehicle.

    TaurusX: perfect size, but looks like a Explorer dropped to the ground. WTF is with this played out Eddie Bauer styling? Aint too many folks out here that want to look like Ned Flanders while driving to work!

    So exactly who are these vehicles designed to appeal to? What focus group is still telling Ford that people desire tan plastic body cladding on their SUVs?

  • avatar
    dl_caldwell

    This car currently sits at the top of my new car list to replace my aging Subaru Outback. It’s a great vehicle for a family of 4 who carry LOTS of stuff. The Tribeca and Edge are too small and get the same or less MPG for the same money.

    Now when Ford starts offering some decent incentives to move these guys…

    –Dave

  • avatar
    jthorner

    Now if only they would take off the stilts and give it the same stance as a Taurus and call in a Taurus wagon I would be interested.

    I don’t need all wheel drive, and propping a car up on stilts is all wrong for wind resistance, handling and fuel economy.

    If this was a flop, why is Ford so lathered up about the “Flex”?

  • avatar
    jthorner

    “I considered this vehicle about 3 years ago before our first son was born. Let me repeat that only “I” considered it and my wife gave it a big fat “NO”.”

    I don’t understand why the majority of women in the US want nothing to do with a wagon. I guess it is true that even moms today don’t want anyone to know they are ….. a mom!

  • avatar

    Amen. Despite its glowing attributes, the Freestyle has been one of the most underrated (and misunderstood) cars since its launch, and in usual Ford fashion, marketing put it out to pasture to die 6 months after launch.

    Now with an adequate powertrain and a touch-up of the [penny-pinched] interior materials, the X finally has the chops to compete. Unfortunately, it’s 3 years late and launched with less hoopla than LG employs on a new dorm refrigerator. I fear the X will meet an untimely and unfortunate demise (plans for Lincoln/Merc spinoffs have already been scrapped).

    Shame… especially so since I helped launch it.

  • avatar
    blue adidas

    It’s clear that GM realizes that there is only one opportunity to introduce a new vehicle. If they botch the launch, then it’s going to be very difficult to get people to consider it in the future, even if it improves greatly.

    But Ford doesn’t realize this yet. They’ve botched the launch of the Freestyle/Taurus X, the MKZ/Zephyr, the Five-Hundred/Taurus, the Focus and all the others. A product introduction is when there is real marketing $ to spend, and that’s what people remember. The Taurus X a four year old car now, and it matured too late for it to be a success.

  • avatar
    whatdoiknow1

    I don’t understand why the majority of women in the US want nothing to do with a wagon. I guess it is true that even moms today don’t want anyone to know they are ….. a mom!

    Quite simply the big 2.8 spent the better part of 3 decades reducing the traditional Aemrican Station Wagoon into an object of scorn with stupid fake wood and other vestigal design queues. I guess popular culture and the movie Nation Lampoon Vacation also had a hand in the wagons demise in the USA.

    In all honesty the American Station Wagon just went the way of the traditional American car back int he 1970s, Nowhere! This was the time when Volvo, Peugoet, & MB, entered the US market with new mordern alternatives that were than right sized to fit the shrinking American family. Add into this mix a host of hatchbacks from just about every automaker and fuel crisis and you can see why the full-sized “Plywood Plymouth” went the way of the dodo.

  • avatar
    Zarba

    The Freestyle/Taurus X is a great primer on how NOT to sell a vehicle:

    1) Ford introduced it with almost no marketing support so it wouldn’t cannibalize Exploder sales. What marketing they did was lame. Remember the “Divorced dad hands over the kids” ad for this?

    2) Ford brought it out with the underpowered 3.0V6/CVT combination that seemed to be designed to perform well on EPA tests but poorly in the real world. Slow, wheezy, and with the CVT, it whined like a stuck pig.

    3) Faced with a dog, they changed the name to Taurus X. What the heck? They destroyed what little name recognition it had and saddled it with a nameplate that had lost any luster it once may have had.

    4) After making sure the market hated the vehicle, Ford finally improved it with a 3.5 V-6/6-speed auto like it should have had from the beginning. By now, it was on no one’s shopping list, so all that investment in improved hardware is down the tubes.

    5) Finally a competitive vehicle, Ford has yet to commit a significant marketing budget to it, in favor of the Edge CUV, which occupies the same price point as the X and Explorer.

    6) And for the final nail, they are introducing the Flex, YET ANOTHER SUV/CUV in the same price range. They now have Edge, Explorer, Taurus X, stripped Expeditions, and soon the Flex, all in the same 25-35K price range.

    The bland styling has never been a help, but at least it’s inoffensive. This is a very good, competitive vehicle now. Unfortunately, it’s damaged goods in the market, and will slowly fade out.

    How many millions did Ford waste on this? Ford’s product planning has been all trucks/SUVs/CUVs for the past ten years. With the exception of the Fusion, Ford has ZERO competitive automobiles. The Mustang is fading, Crown Vic is being euthanized, and we can’t buy a good Focus. And even the Fusion is doing only OK, and with a new Accord, a new, very competitive Malibu, not to mention the Camry, it’s barely holding it’s own.

    At least Ford is finally getting rid of Jaguar/Land Rover, and moving to kill Mercury.

    Maybe Big Al can put some effort to reviving the Ford brand.

  • avatar
    CarShark

    @whatdoiknow

    I don’t think the Edge belongs in the group. It sells better than most everything, and is right up there with the Highlander.

  • avatar
    umterp85

    CarShark: You are totally on point with the Edge. They launched it with a good deal of marketing support and have continued to support it. The sales numbers have been very good.

    Zarba: As far as Ford’s SUV / CUV overlap—-it is no more than Toyota’s (do you really need a highlander, RAV 4, and 4 Runner ?). I think all manufacturers are hedging their bets until the whole mix between SUV and CUV settles a bit more.

    This much I do know—there is no need for the Taurus X when the Flex arrives.

  • avatar
    Hoosier Red

    We have a 2005 Freestyle. I bought it despite the fact that I’m a GM guy and have always driven GM. I can’t say that I’ve been thrilled with the Ford dealership, but the Freestyle/X is a good package for the average family. The extra two seats come in handy when grandparents are visiting or we have one of the kids’ friends in tow. We’ve had the thing camping to Yosemite and driven it comfortably cross country with the dog in the back. Even with a car top carrier I was getting 24 mpg at highway speeds with the car completely loaded. We have the Duratec with the CVT and it’s really not a bad powertrain. People complained it’s underpowered. No – it’s perfectly fine for what most people need. But, but, but…..but nothing. It’s not unsafe for merging, passing, or any other traffic situation. My daily driver is a Corvette so I understand that my Freestyle is not a sports car. I don’t know why the Freestyle didn’t take off, but my guess is that it’s pretty simple – people don’t find it “cool.” That’s fine I suppose. It works for us.

  • avatar
    autoacct628

    I can remember in 2004 when the Ford buyer assigned to my company was “negotiating” (OK, back then, Ford didn’t negotiate….they dictated. Another story for another time.) Anyway, this poor misguided soul tried to convince me that Ford would be selling 305,000 units of the Freestyle/Five Hundred line. In their wildest fantasy, no doubt. I told him they wouldn’t sell more than 140k in any year tops.

    Wonder what he did with his buyout?

    Nice to read that it is a decent car…but at the price point, and without a scintilla of marketing support…..doom.

  • avatar
    SWA737

    You can get a nice certified preowned 2 year old one for under 20 grand. At that price it’s really worth looking at. New? Not really.

  • avatar
    coupdetat

    umterp85: Each of the cars you named has a distinctly different personality and target customer. The Rav4 and Highlander are very different in size, and the 4Runner is very different from both in terms of off-road ability.

    Of course, they do all get purchased by suburban soccer moms who ignore their actual automotive needs and practicality. They also buy Benzes, but you’re not going to say a G-wagen is the same as a M-class, are you?

  • avatar
    jurisb

    What does each segment of car types present?
    Coupe- I am sporty, agile ,rich, available( not married), unpractical.
    sedan- I have a family, could be rich could be medium. i am practical, pragmatic, value oriented.
    SUV- i am strong ,robust,I want to be noticed. I want to look impressive.
    CUV- I want to be suv, but don`t have money or conscience for it. I am practical.Hope people will mix me up with suv.
    Truck- I am practical, don`t care of style, proud of my rural roots.
    wagon- i compromise between style and practicality.
    hatch- hope people will mix me up with sedan and not notice my practical instincts. i have style but after value.
    minivan= Big value oriented asylum, i am proud of having children and want everybody to see it.
    And now what is taurus x?
    DOes x denote cross-dressing?
    who wants a car with a watered audi style, ford reliability, mazda domesticness, wood rich interior for a family hauler with cats and kids scratching chrome , leather and wood veneer?

  • avatar
    jerry weber

    What the American market needs, another boxy overweight crossover. At 4500-5500 pounds these crossovers have proven that even when you take the truck platforms out of them and go unibody the mass remains. You can lower the profile and somewhat improve driveability but the thing is still a pig. When they publish an epa number of say 15 to 17 city, thats what you can expect. In hilly and mountainous terain you will not see the upper (usually low 20′s) in your driving. Stop and go is the worst. 2.5 tons stop and start all the way across town to the next gas station. In the real world you need a product that will give you 20plus mpg city to at least stay ahead of the $4.00 gas in the future. What can do this, Passat wagon, honda crv, mazda m5, etc.

  • avatar
    umterp85

    coupdetat: “Each of the cars you named has a distinctly different personality and target customer. The Rav4 and Highlander are very different in size, and the 4Runner is very different from both in terms of off-road ability. Of course, they do all get purchased by suburban soccer moms who ignore their actual automotive needs and practicality.”

    Don’t disagree with your statement at all. Just saying to Zarba that Ford with the Escape (RAV 4), Edge (Highlander), and Explorer (4 Runner) are no more loaded with very similar (read Marketing Nuanced) vehicles than other manufacturers such as Toyota.

  • avatar
    Terry

    Hello! A question was raised as to why women don’t like station wagons. Real easy answer–RIDE HEIGHT.
    My wife, for example,relatively short in stature went from a Corolla DeLuxe Liftback to a Mazda MPV..and LOVED it. “I CAN SEE!”, and “OTHERS CAN SEE ME!” is what she always used to say. It pertained to safety, a feeling of control, and the utility of a minivan.
    She now has a Mazda5, gets 30 mpg highway 25 around town, and likes it power and handling, braking and features even more than the MPV. As was posted earlier, the sliding doors are a huge benefit.
    Like others, the 2nd and 3rd row headrests will his you in the back unless you raise them, but 98% of the time she is in the M5 by herself. When others ride with us, 2 seconds and the headrests go up, not a big deal.
    Note to the other poster with a Mazda5: we just got the ’08 M5 in, now with a 5-speed auto trans, armrests at each seat, but no more cover for the center console.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    There is only one opportunity to make a good first impression. Ford belatedly sorted out the Freestyle with a decent engine and transmission, and now nobody cares.

  • avatar

    A long lingering look at the profile of the Taurus “X” ( not to be confused with the Lincoln mk “X”) CUV reveals that one of the nifty innovations in its design is the theatre seating. This is what gives it the bustle back end. By raising that back end an inch or two to give actual people actual headroom the designers cost themselves the svelte descending roofline of say the Arcadia. An effort was made to disguise this obvious flaw in the new design freshening by lowering the roof rack into the sheetmetal and raising the front end of said rack a fraction to change that angle back there. It did not succeed. A talent for making 18 inch tires look like they are really 13 inch from that same side view invokes the look of the Country Squire wagon for most attuned buyers as well. I have never heard of a product from any manufacturer that has been so neglected like the Taurus and its sister the (now) Sable. Here in the Midwest where the plant is that builds them even the Ford employees themselves will not touch it. They would rather buy Milans from Mehico than their own bread and butter product. I’m no designer but even I can see the blandness that is the result of the paralysis
    at or near the top that “designed” this successor (in looks) to the Checker Marathon. It was spewed out FIVE YEARS LATER THAN INITIALLY SCHEDULED. The original plan was a 2000 model year launch, alongside the old Taurus. Would it have been an innovative look and a killer entry then in the time of lower gas prices and big window designs? Who knows. The old axiom of ‘a thin “C” pillar is not attractive’ still holds true today.

  • avatar
    rudiger

    So this is the vehicle that Ford thinks is going to carry the torch from the late, lamented Turdstar minivan. Leave it to Ford to build a ‘crossover’ (yeah, right, it’s a station wagon) that makes a minivan (any minivan) look sporty.

    That’s the thing that really kills the Freestyle/Taurus X. If someone is in the market for a practical vehicle with no regard to its appearance, why would someone spend minivan-money for a vehicle that’s not as useful? Even the Chrysler Pacifica, the Taurus X’ closest competitor, has a little style. In comparison, the Taurus X is downright plain.

    It’s yet more proof that 23 years after the first successful minivan was introduced (and that after Henry Ford II had the idea from Iaccoca but fired him instead), Ford still hasn’t figured that market out.

  • avatar
    Macca

    Actually, rudiger I disagree about practicality. To me, the comparison is not minivan versus Taurus X, but Edge versus Taurus X. The X offers 15 cu. ft. greater cargo capacity, along with a 3rd row that isn’t available in the Edge. The X might not be wrapped in “sexy” crossover garb, but it seems to actually pack quite a bit of functionality in its package. Now if something could be done about the abysmal fuel economy (15/22) then this vehicle could be a viable replacement for hulking SUVs for the average soccer mom who’s too cool for a minivan.

  • avatar
    P.J. McCombs

    I’d argue that something was done for the abysmal fuel economy at this vehicle’s inception: the 3.0-liter V6. All the buff books panned it for its ~9 second 0-60 run, but sheesh; we’re talking about jacked-up wagons designed to ply malls and 35 mph subdivisions. I don’t see why it’s necessary for such vehicles to be any quicker, especially since their owners rarely venture anywhere near the throttle’s kickdown detent. Today’s HP pissing contests can’t end soon enough, IMHO.

  • avatar
    mongoose

    The mistake Ford made was to make this vehicle look like a truck. They should have simply made a station wagon version of the sedan, just like they did with the former classic Taurus. I still say the station wagon Taurus is one of the best looking wagons that was ever penned. The Accord wagon wasn’t bad either.

  • avatar
    BEAT

    MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE

  • avatar
    MiniMaks

    X is a clear example of a company not understanding its core constituents. And it’s yet another proof point that even a solid product needs to be complemented by solid service (by both the dealerships and the company).

    Having lived in Midwest, South and both coasts I observed a clear delineation on what is considered ‘cool.’ Whereas Corvette nets you max cool points in da U.P., Michigan, it’s downright a liability on the left coast. Wagons are just the opposite. Where the Mustangs roam, Wagons do not fly.

    But there is another problem. Customers who are comfortable with Wagons are likely driven by knowledge and less by vanity – they understand that Wagons provide most of SUV functionality with less weight and hence better mileage and agility. (Sure there is always some vanity and there are legit needs for SUVs, but in general I think these trends hold.) Since I’m on a roll, I’ll also make a claim that dealerships peddling domestic brands don’t know how to cater to people who are armed with knowledge and expect certain level of professionalism and excellence in service. (Detour: back in the college days I drove Chevy cavaliers, ford escorts and the like, but once I experienced BMW/Audi vehicles and the service I haven’t switched. Every once in a while there is a domestic vehicle that stirs my interest but I’ve never gotten far enough to drive it – for example, when I wanted to drive CTS-V, dealer told me I’d have to buy one if I wanted to drive one; I went back to my BMW dealer, drove an M3 and bought one).

    I do a lot of skiing and my Audi A4s, whereas excellent in slippery conditions, would too often bottom out in deep snow and rutted-out parking lots up in the mountains. So, when I looked at something that is not too heavy (<4200lbs), has higher clearance 6+in, AWD and three-pedal manual transmission and ideally turbo for high elevation performance, my options quickly narrowed down to Subaru Outback and Audi allroad. (I went with the allroad and love it). I saw the X (Freestyle) then and thought the shape was good, clearance and weight OK, but the anemic engine and CVT transmission knocked out of the running. But, a bigger question looms: even if X came with a solid engine, manual transmission, higher quality interior and excellent gizmos (like the Sync), would I be able to close the deal at the dealership given horrific service? The Death Watches point this problem out; not sure the not-so-big 2.8 get it though.

  • avatar
    ash78

    I guess I’m one of the lucky few whose wife actually WANTS a wagon (soon, when the first kid arrives). But she’s stuck looking at overpriced Volvos and questionable VWs, since that’s almost all we have to choose from. She doesn’t like Subaru’s styling and we don’t need the AWD and its hit to fuel economy.

    Every time I point the Freestyle/X out to her, she responds with a “meh.” This car occupies NOBODY’S mindspace, apparently. Despite having been partly designed by the highly-lauded J. Mays (of VW Beetle/Passat, Audi TT, and latter-day Ford T-bird fame), somehow the styling is completely bland and lacking. Or is it “timeless”?

    Maybe it’s time for an eye opening new campaign…or at least a massive discount. “Taurus X: By Any Means Necessary”

  • avatar
    rudiger

    Macca: When the 1984 Chrysler minivan was introduced, it’s dimensions were just right and it was a huge sucess. Personally, I think the original minivan dimensions are still ‘just right’ but I’m apparently in the minority since the final two minivans that were closest to the original in size, the SWB Chrysler and Mazda MPV, just didn’t sell very well and are now gone.

    Now, what is considered a ‘minivan’ is really more like a ‘midivan’, actually much closer to the size of a full-size van. So, to fill the gap, car companies are coming out with tall, conventional rear-door, ‘crossovers’ that are between the size of a regular station wagon and the old, SWB minivan, i.e., Taurus X, Chrysler Pacifica. Mazda, especially, is trying to cover all bases with the Mazda 5, 7, and 9, all of which seem inferior to the old MPV in terms of practicality.

    I don’t think people in the market for something like the Taurus X are going to cross-shop quasi-SUVs like the Edge. The real market for vehicles like the Taurus X are the people who used to buy the old SWB minivans in great numbers which, to me, are still emminently more space efficient than any ‘crossover’. The inherent efficiency of the original, two-box minivan package was the whole reason they completely wiped out the entire station wagon market in the first place.

  • avatar
    y2kdcar

    rudiger:
    I don’t think people in the market for something like the Taurus X are going to cross-shop quasi-SUVs like the Edge. The real market for vehicles like the Taurus X are the people who used to buy the old SWB minivans in great numbers which, to me, are still emminently more space efficient than any ‘crossover’.

    Amen to that! My wife and I had a sequence of minivans — Ford Aerostar, Ford Windstars and Mazda MPVs — that perfectly suited our family’s needs. She especially liked the space efficiency, flexible seating and nimble handling of the MPV. When Mazda decided not to export the ’07 MPV to the States, we listened to the Ford marketers and leased a Freestyle instead of buying a minivan from another manufacturer.

    BIG mistake. She hated it.

    She complained about poor access and tight space in the third row, a lack of cargo space behind the third row, a load floor that was too high with the second and third rows folded, and narrow footwells and an intrusive center console in the front row. She repeatedly pointed out that the family dogs didn’t even like to sit in the third row.

    When I offered her a choice between a 2008 Taurus X lease and a used minivan, she jumped at the chance to get back into a minivan and is now the happy owner of a 2003 Dodge Caravan SWB with a 3.3-liter V6. Despite the lack of Stow-and-Go seating, she likes the Dodge much better than the 7-passenger Ford crossover, and I’m pleasantly surprised at how spacious and comfortable the Caravan is and how well it drives. I doubt she’d even look at another crossover after her experience with the Freestyle.

  • avatar

    I’ve always been a fan of this vehicle because of the outstanding packaging, and because it doesn’t feel as bulky as others in this class.

    I’m not a fan of the styling revisions.

    Introducing a “Freestyle” a year after introducing a “Freestar” was sheer marketing stupidity.

    I might pick up a used Freestyle myself. As others have noted, they are great used car values.

    Phil–your E63 rates 12/19 on the 2008 EPA test cycle, not 14/20.

    Reliability has been very good so far:

    http://www.truedelta.com/results0907.php

    I am wondering how the CVT in the Freestyle will fare as those age. The Taurus X has a conventional automatic.

  • avatar

    I have been aware of the Freestyle since C&D first reviewed it back in the day. Friends of our in Miami have one that we experience on a visit, and it is a wonderful family hauler. Behind the wheel, yeah, it is not a BMW, but the steering was as Phil says and the ride had a tautness the whispered “Europe”.

    Of course, Ford did not market that car, and when they go and fix the big issue in the motor/trans, they still don’t market it. Truly puzzling.

    Now I have two kids and my wife remembers her friend’s Freestyle, so I know we will be looking at the T-Rex. If only it could tow more than 2000 lbs, but then it would be nipping at the CX-9.

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    Ya know, I must admit, I was one of the Freestyle haters. 200hp engine. Block on wheels. Blech.

    Then I drove one a bit during a weekend visiting family in Detroit. Brother and sis-in-law of the (formerly) significant other bought one of these. I figured they just had a kid and since they got employee pricing, just decided on the FWD, CVT 200hp Freestyle.

    I spent probably 150 miles driving this thing. Around town. On the highway. I actually REALLY liked it. It was really comfy, had a lot of room, yet was really easy to manage in traffic and around town. The power was weak, but I surprisingly didn’t mind the CVT much. Even with 200hp, it seemed more than adequate to move the thing. Then I put gas in it and was surprised at how little it took.

    I was seriously sold on it. Not for myself, but when people have asked, I have mentioned the car as worth the look. I don’t think anyone has actually done it though. A Pacifica was another one I liked, but the Ford got the job done better (though less style).

    It isn’t the highest quality piece out there, but overall a really really really solid car for what it is intended to do. The only other car I have driven in the past 2 years where I had the same bad-image going in and a very good one coming out is the Chevrolet Impala. Excellent car. Pretty well done interior. Good power, excellent economy for the size, lots of space, and really really well priced.

    I try not to dismiss anything anymore without driving it first….

  • avatar
    tirnaog

    I bought a AWD version in 2005. Mostly because we were getting a new dog, Irish Wolfhound. Their BIG, so our suzuki AWD Aero was not gona work.

    Wife found it on the internet. It has been a big surprise. For such a big car the MPGs are great. I get around 24-27 going to work each day. About 45 miles one way.

    I highly recummend this car to anyone. Very capable. Pity my wolf hound decided to grow too big for it. He now rubs the roof when he stands on all fours. Had to go order a expedition for the little guy. :)

  • avatar
    jwalkna

    The styling is nice. The ride is nice. The interior is nice. The handling is nice. But in the current market environment, nice isn’t good enough. And the car is just too large. Reduce the size by 25% and you have a winner.

  • avatar
    revolver1978

    I didn’t care for these much when they came out, but I’ve grown to appreciate them more. Someone above mentioned a used XC70 offers “far more luxury” but I would disagree. Maybe the leather in the Volvo is tad better in quality, but the interior is less spacious than the ‘X and the Volvo’s materials are of marginally higher quality. You can get nearly identical options on both. The mileage is essentially a wash. I think you can get an ‘X with Navi and Sync; a used XC70 won’t have either, and when comparing used prices, the ‘X will be newer and still have some factory warranty left.
    I am looking for a wagon, and have no need for a third row. However, the ‘X offers decent thigh support and loads of legroom in the second row, while the Edge’s rear cushon sits curiously close to the floor. The ‘X has a lower liftover height. It’s not a pretty, but I like the stark functional aesthetic to it; kind of like how Subaru used to design wagons.

  • avatar

    This is one of the best cars Ford has right now for the job it does.
    I have about 50K on mine and other then a break change its been great.
    Most of all I got it on the 2nd year of the model. Still called the Freestyle back then and came with the CVT. AWD and on my 40 mile drive to work I get between 24 – 27 mgps.
    really do like this car.
    Got plenty of room in there. Got it to haukl our two muts around but our big fellow decided to grow too tall for the back area. :)

  • avatar
    geo

    I just bought a 1999 Taurus X Limited for my family. My wife hates hates the Flex, and I dislike the new Explorer due to its mass and bulky feel (and the prices, which haven’t fully depreciated yet).

    This is a fantastic vehicle, and it’s a little sad that it never caught the attention of the market due to the “station wagon” looks.

    Believe it or not, my wife was hesitant at first because it was a “Taurus”. I think resurrecting the name for this vehicle was a mistake (there should have been the Galaxie and the Galaxie X).

  • avatar
    jesserogers72

    I owned a 1999 Windstar for 8 years. It was a great vehicle but I was never a minivan person. In 2005 the Freestyle came out, I fell in love with its simple utilitarian design that didn’t look like a minivan.
    I haven’t had any issues with the CVT with almost 116000 miles.
    My opinion is that this is an awesome car that I am thankful was underappreciated by everyone.
    I purchased this one $6000 under book value.

  • avatar
    Matzel

    Following three Dodge Caravans over the last 13 years, we just bought an ’08 Taurus X SEL AWD for my wife. Personally, I have always hated driving a van but with two kids and a medium sized dog it is a very practical vehicle.
    I must say that I was very positively surprised with the driving experience and the road feel. Granted, it’s no BMW and you won’t take it out for pure driving enjoyment. That said, it’s a very capable people hauler with tons of gizmos and a very attractive price tag.


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