2008 Ford Taurus X Review
By Igor Holas with Melissa J. Sanchez
Vehicle Details: 2008 Taurus X Limited AWD. MSRP: $39,000
The day we received the Taurus X was miserable with cold rain and strong winds. As a complement to the awful weather, everyone in Philadelphia forgot how to drive. In the first mile of driving the Taurus X, I had a chance to test many of the features – emergency stopping, emergency lane change, full acceleration, and absorption of potholes. Luckily, for the rest of the week of driving the Taurus X, the weather cleared up and we had a chance to get to know this big wagon from Ford a little better.
Melissa and I drove the car together and shared thoughts on it. We approached this review from a very down-to-earth point of view. We did not pretend that this four-thousand-pound crossover was a sports car, so we did not bother trying to carve canyon roads, drag race it, or test its skid pad limits. Instead we took it on a shopping trip, we drove it to the mall, we took it to the park for a family trip; and most importantly, Melissa used it to drive to and from work for the whole week.
The car provided by Ford was a Taurus X Limited AWD with almost every option added. We had the pleasure of enjoying power memory driver seat, mirrors and pedals, heated front and second row seats, power lift gate, navigation, SIRIUS satellite radio, navigation, SYNC, rear DVD system, and many other features that make life with any car easier. Looking through the options list for the Taurus X, the only option lacking from the test vehicle was the sunroof. As equipped, the vehicle’s suggested retail price was just below $39,000, but the base SEL FWD model begins below $27,000, and one can certainly option out a well-appointed Taurus X below $32,000. At the time of this writing, there was a $1,500 rebate available on all Taurus X models.
While there is nothing economical about our tester’s $39,000 price, using TrueDelta.com’s Price Comparison, the Taurus X is several thousand dollars cheaper than any other comparable vehicle besides Kia Sedona. For comparison, a comparably equipped Highlander, Acadia, or Odyssey will cost you around $6,000 extra.
The exterior of the car is not very exciting, but it is utilitarian. The car sports a wagon/SUV look but with lower stance. The roof above the rear seats is raised to increase headroom, and the rear hatch is almost vertical to maximize the cargo space. The Taurus X is between the size of a mid-size crossover like Toyota Highlander or Honda Pilot, and the size of a minivan, like the Honda Odyssey, or Toyota Sienna. However, compared to both, the Taurus X sits several inches lower. The new-for-2008 face with Ford’s ubiquitous three-bar grille and stylized headlamps is mildly aggressive, and makes it easy to spot the car on the road. The overall shape of the car is decidedly more wagon-like than any of its competitors, which is unfortunately not a positive attribute for most American buyers.
The interior is a very pleasant place to be, and all the optional features of our tester did a good job of spoiling us as drivers. The interior design may not win any design prizes, but it is elegant and functional with a nice solid feel to most materials and the overall assembly. The memory seats function was very appreciated, as Melissa and I have very different preferences in seating position, and mirror settings. Of course we enjoyed the SYNC system; I was able to link my phone within five minutes and hook up our iPod even faster. I did have to read the manual to set up the system to my full liking, but for basic use, it was ready out of the box. We have to admit that with the touch screen in the navigation, we did not bother with the voice commands; the visual touch screen interface was easier to use and did not misunderstand our commands.
The navigation was also surprisingly easy to use, we enjoyed the interface and the system of chimes and voice prompts Ford programmed in. Unfortunately, we did not find the system without its faults. Ford’s decision to split navigation interface between three hardware buttons creates a slight learning curve during the first encounter. Moreover, we felt the screen was positioned a little too low. Finally, at one occasion the map failed to recognize a median-divided street proudly proclaiming “your destination is on the left,” and we were left to our own devices to figure out how to actually make it there. (our standalone GPS from TomTom usually gets these situations right).
The most enjoyable part of owning a Taurus X is its packaging. The vehicle is very spacious inside. The third row seating position is actually quite natural and while the legroom and foot space is limited, unless the second row seats are all the way back, it is not uncomfortable. We have previously ridden in the 1999 Expedition, and the 2004 (previous generation) Honda Odyssey, and the Taurus X has the best third row seats out of all of them, with the most space, and the easiest access. Relative to the Highlander and the Pilot, the Taurus X bests them with several extra inches of third row space in most directions, but falls short of the space offered by the leading minivans.
The second row, by comparison, lacks nothing in space or luxury. Our tester was equipped with heated, sliding, and reclining captain’s chairs separated by a nice center console with cup holders. We were a little disappointed that in the otherwise well executed cabin, the second row center console was quite cheap with hard plastics and “yank here” opening mechanism. Instead of the captain’s chairs and the console, one could opt for the three-passenger split-folding bench seat. The tester was also equipped with rear DVD entertainment system. It comes with a flip down screen, two wireless headphones, and a remote, and like the front system, it was linked to SYNC.
For a car this size probably the biggest compliment for its drive train and ride can be “gets out of its way nicely.” When pushed, the engine pulled very nicely from any speed, and the transmission shifts were almost imperceptible. The car was also surprisingly agile in curves, and extremely smooth on the highway. The driving position was decidedly car-like with the butt-to-road distance several inches shorter than SUV, crossover, or minivan.
During Melissa’s commuting, the mileage was a miserable eleven miles-per-gallon, but it is an extremely challenging duty. For comparison, our Mazda3 with a manual transmission usually averages only 19 mpg on the same use. Once we took the Taurus X on the highway, the mileage quickly climbed. Without cruise control and at speeds around 70 mph we averaged about 20 mpg (we usually get about 27 from the Mazda).
Living with the Taurus X
Despite this capacious cabin, and actual footprint, the Taurus is surprisingly easy to maneuver and live with in the everyday urban hassle. Most of this manageability comes from the aforementioned lower floor and seating position. Unlike an SUV or a minivan, you are at the same level as other cars and can clearly see their position and distance. This might not be a big factor for people with their own driveway, but we parallel parked this car at least twice every day and deeply appreciated this “feature.” Thanks to its lower stance, Taurus X might just be the easiest car to own in the city if you need a useable third row.
With all this praise we have for the Ford, the car was not without flaws. We were disappointed with Ford’s decision to make the outside rear-view mirrors look more interesting by cutting out the bottom inside corner This corner is crucial for “sensing” the curb, and this design element made parallel parking more of a chore. This shortcoming could be easily fixed by a stick-on convex mirror, but I was surprised by such a bad design decision.
Another bad decision by Ford is more serious and substantial in nature. Despite capable platform and engine, The Taurus X is not offered with a towing package, so its towing limit is 2,000 lbs. That is not only less than every one of its competitors, it is less than even compact crossovers like Ford’s own Escape, all of which offer towing up to 3,500 lbs. Most people do not need that kind of towing on a regular basis, but many will likely perceive the 3,500 lbs mark as a reasonable maximum need, and 2,000 lbs as insufficient.
Despite its shortcomings, the Taurus X is a very well executed car that leaves us very satisfied. For families with children, or planning children, the Taurus X offers great combinations of features and amenities. This is especially true for those who can appreciate the value of the Taurus X’s easy to live with size, well sorted ride, comfortable cabin, and lack of SUV pretense. Unfortunately, without effective marketing from Ford, the Taurus X seems to be simply viewed as another “uncool” wagon, and sales reflect that. We definitely feel that the low sales are undeserved.
As this review was being edited and finalized, media outlets confirmed that the Taurus X will not be produced past the 2009 model year. The main descendent of the Taurus X will actually go on sale this summer as the Flex. The Flex builds on the wagon qualities of the Taurus X, but adds some much needed visual flair, updated interior, additional upscale features, and a towing package. It seems Ford will also finally invest in marketing the vehicle’s qualities to the public, and hopefully higher sales will follow.
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