2008 Ford Taurus X
2008 Ford Taurus X. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Greg Wilson

Discuss this story in the forum at CarTalkCanada

Find this vehicle in Autos’s Classified Ads

Photo Gallery: 2008 Ford Taurus X

Second opinion: Chris Chase

North Vancouver, British Columbia – Whether or not you agree with Ford’s decision to re-name the Five-Hundred sedan and Freestyle crossover/wagon the Taurus and Taurus X, there’s no doubt that the mechanical improvements made to these vehicles have drastically improved performance and value for the money.

The Five-Hundred and Freestyle, first introduced in 2005, were both based on the last generation Volvo S80 luxury sedan platform. The biggest complaint about these cars was their relatively underpowered 203-hp 3.0-litre ‘Duratec’ V6 engine and continuously variable transmission. That simply wasn’t enough power for vehicles weighing over 1800 kg (3968 lb) and a lot of people didn’t like the “shiftless” CVT either. So it’s welcome news that 2008 Taurii receive Ford’s 263-hp 3.5-litre V6 engine and six-speed automatic transmission, the same powertrain found in the Ford Edge.

Fortunately, even with this extra power, the Taurus X’s fuel consumption is only slightly worse than the Freestyle, according to Ford’s official figures – averaging 11.5 L/100 km (25 mpg) – and it still uses Regular gas.

2008 Ford Taurus X
2008 Ford Taurus X. Click image to enlarge

Styling changes for 2008 reflect Ford’s new corporate ‘face’ – the chrome three-bar grille and large Ford logo being prominent up front. To my eyes, the new design seems to work better on the Taurus X than it does on the taller Ford Edge. As well, the Taurus X has new taillights that look like the Fusion’s, chrome dual exhaust tips, and a new tailgate design.

As well, the Taurus X has some features that the Freestyle didn’t, notably electrically-operated flip and fold second row bucket seats that make it easier to access the third row seats; power rear tailgate; and Ford’s Sync voice-activated, hands-free system for cell phones and music players.


Pricing and standard equipment

2008 manufacturer’s suggested retail prices for the Taurus X are between $200 and $1,000 higher than the 2007 Freestyle: SEL FWD $33,999; SEL AWD $35,999; Limited FWD $39,999; and Limited AWD $41,999. Though these prices might seem high, they are still competitive in the mid-sized “crossover” category.

2008 Ford Taurus X
2008 Ford Taurus X. Click image to enlarge

Standard features on Taurus X SEL FWD models includes the 3.5-litre engine and six-speed automatic transmission, fully independent suspension, new electric power assisted steering, 17-inch all-season tires and alloy wheels, four wheel disc brakes with ABS; traction control and stability control with roll-over sensor; power heated outside mirrors; and front fog lights.

Inside is standard six passenger cloth seating with two second row buckets that fold flat, and two third row seats that fold flat into the floor (a three passenger split folding second row bench is optional); front, side and curtain airbags; dual zone automatic climate control; AM/FM/single CD/MP3/XM satellite radio with steering wheel controls and four speakers; power windows with driver’s one-touch up and down feature; power driver’s seat and manual lumbar adjustment; power door locks with remote unlocking; leather-wrapped tilt steering wheel, variable intermittent front wipers and fixed interval rear wiper; tachometer, compass and outside temperature display.

2008 Ford Taurus X
2008 Ford Taurus X
2008 Ford Taurus X. Click image to enlarge

The SEL AWD model adds a full-time four-wheel drive system similar to the one on the Ford Edge crossover. It uses an electro-mechanical centre coupler to vary torque front to rear by up to 100 percent to either axle. Under normal driving conditions, 100% of torque is transferred to the front axle, but during slippery conditions, 100% of the torque can be sent to the rear axle if the rear tires have more grip than the front tires, e.g. if the front tires are on ice or snow and the rear tires are on dry pavement. If all of the tires have traction, the torque transfer to the rear is limited to the weight distribution of the vehicle, ie. under hard acceleration, more torque will go to the rear axle. The system is fully automatic and there is no low range gear.

The top Limited trim adds the following features to the SEL: 18-inch tires and alloy wheels; leather upholstery; simulated woodgrain interior trim; six-disc in-dash CD changer; three additional speakers; second row heating and air conditioning controls; power glass moonroof; eight-way power driver’s seat; driver’s seat two-position memory for seat, mirrors and power adjustable pedals; heated front seats; garage door transmitter; delayed headlights; and reversing sensors.

My test vehicle, a six-passenger Limited AWD model, featured $4,660 of options including a navigation system ($2,300), DVD entertainment system ($1,195), 18-inch seven-spoke chrome wheels ($595), heated second row bucket seats ($495), and block heater ($75). With a Freight charge of $1,250 and A/C tax of $100, the as-tested price of my tester came to $48,009.


Interior impressions

2008 Ford Taurus X
2008 Ford Taurus X
2008 Ford Taurus X
2008 Ford Taurus X
2008 Ford Taurus X. Click image to enlarge

The Taurus X is basically a tall station wagon, and comes as a six- or seven-passenger model: the six-passenger model has two centre bucket seats with an armrest/storage bin between them and two fold-into-the-floor third row seats; the seven-passenger model has a centre three-passenger 60/40 split bench seat.

The Taurus X’s cabin is very roomy – first and second row passengers have plenty of legroom and headroom; third row passengers sit higher than second row passengers for an improved view, but even so, headroom is generous because of a raised roof at the rear of the vehicle. As well, the second row bucket seats slide forwards and backwards, allowing more legroom for third row passengers if needed. My only complaint with the third row seats is that they are smaller and harder, the floor is a bit high causing knees to stick up, and the head restraints have to be adjusted upwards by about a foot to be in the proper position.

The Taurus X’s instrument panel is similar to the Freestyle’s with its four gauge layout, large air vents, covered storage bin on top of the dash, and a grab bar on the passenger side. The dash design is attractive but the quality of the plastic finish is less than you’d expect in a $40,000 vehicle. As well, the heater and A/C buttons in the lower centre console are small and difficult to read and operate at a glance.

The leather seats in the Limited model have attractive white stitching and a smooth leather surface and I found the power driver’s seat very comfortable. The Taurus X has a tilt (but not telescopic) steering wheel and (optional) power pedals. The second row bucket seats are also very comfortable.

2008 Ford Taurus X 2008 Ford Taurus X
2008 Ford Taurus X 2008 Ford Taurus X

My car had the optional navigation system with a large touch screen. In addition to a map and real-time GPS locator, the screen can display route guidance instructions, audio functions, and information and set-up functions. My only complaint is that each time the ignition is turned on, the driver has to press an “I agree” button for a liability waiver.

A lot of in-car functions can be done without ever taking your hands off the steering wheel – the multi-function wheel features buttons for audio, cruise control, and trip information display.

2008 Ford Taurus X
2008 Ford Taurus X. Click image to enlarge

My car had the optional second row fan and temperature controls which are useful for rear passengers who need a blast of fresh air on a hot day, or warm air on a cold day. My tester was also equipped with the optional second row seat heaters, which on leather seats, are well appreciated in winter. My vehicle also had the optional DVD entertainment system which consists of a nine-inch flip-down colour screen, DVD player, wireless headsets, and plug ins for video and music players. This screen can be viewed by second and third row passengers, and is very handy for keeping rear passengers amused on long drives.

2008 Ford Taurus X 2008 Ford Taurus X
2008 Ford Taurus X 2008 Ford Taurus X

The new-for-2008 power-operated folding second row bucket seats make it easy to get into the third row seats from either side – just press a button (just inside the rear doors) and the second row bucket seats fold and tumble forwards leaving a wide gap for passengers to slip through to the third row. However, the ignition must be turned on for this to work and the second row seats must be pulled back into position manually.

The second row seatbacks can also be folded flat to create a flat loading floor from the tailgate to the front seats – the protruding second row centre armrest has a double hinged top that flips over to provide a flat cargo surface. This armrest has a deep storage bin, two cupholders, an open storage area, and a 12-volt outlet. In addition, the divider gives young children their “own space” and parents more peace.

2008 Ford Taurus X
2008 Ford Taurus X
2008 Ford Taurus X
2008 Ford Taurus X. Click image to enlarge

The two third row seats fold flat into the floor when not in use, creating a flat carpeted cargo floor. Even when upright, there is a deep carpeted well behind the seats which can hold five or six grocery bags. An optional power tailgate can be opened remotely from the driver’s seat or with the key fob, and can be closed by pressing a button inside the cargo area.

Behind the third row is 493 litres (17.4 cu. ft.) of cargo area, but it’s mostly vertical space, so not all of it is usable. Behind the second row with the third seats folded flat, there is 1342 litres (47.4 cu. ft.), and behind the first row is an enormous 2413 litres (85.2 cu. ft.). With all the rear seatbacks folded down including the right front seatback, there is up to 2.74 metres (9.0 ft.) of cargo length.


Driving impressions

The Taurus X’s 3.5-litre V6 engine makes 263 hp at 6,250 rpm and 249 lb-ft of torque @ 4500 rpm – that’s a 27% increase in horsepower over the Freestyle’s 3.0-litre V6 which offered 203 hp @ 5750 rpm and 207 lb-ft of torque at 4,500 rpm. Though a fairly heavy vehicle (1,865 kg/4112 lb), the Taurus X AWD sprints off the line with authority and rockets onto the freeway when prodded.

2008 Ford Taurus X
2008 Ford Taurus X
2008 Ford Taurus X. Click image to enlarge

The new six-speed automatic transmission, which replaces the continuously variable transmission in the Freestyle, is a paragon of refinement and is responsive to throttle input. It doesn’t have a manual shift mode but I don’t think many Taurus X drivers will miss it. There is an on/off overdrive button on the shift handle.

On the freeway, the engine speed in top gear at 100 km/h is below 2,000 r.p.m., and the Taurus X feels very relaxed. Official fuel consumption ratings for the Taurus X AWD model are 13.7 L/100 km (21 mpg) City and 9.2 L/100 km (31 mpg) Highway. That’s only slightly more than the 2007 Freestyle AWD with its smaller 3.0-litre engine which consumed 12.6 L/100 km (22 mpg) City, and 9.0 L/100 km (31 mpg) Highway. The 3.5-litre engine still uses Regular-grade gas.

Towing capacity is surprisingly low: 907 kg (2000 lbs). But remember, this is not a truck – it’s a car, and it doesn’t have the heavy duty truck frame necessary for serious hauling.

2008 Ford Taurus X
2008 Ford Taurus X
2008 Ford Taurus X. Click image to enlarge

Handling is quite neutral for a big vehicle – a fully independent suspension and beefy Pirelli P6 225/65R-18 all-season tires are standard on the Limited model – but the Taurus X feels heavy and has a rather wide turning circle of 12.2 metres (40.0 ft.). Visibility is good except for a rather wide C-pillar which, nevertheless, doesn’t seem to get in the way when shoulder checking. An intermittent rear wiper is very useful on the vertical rear window in bad weather. I really liked the audible rear parking sensors which alert the driver to objects behind the vehicle with an increasingly frequent series of beeps. It makes it easy to park within a foot of a concrete wall or other barrier.

Though it has all-wheel drive, the Taurus X is not an off-road vehicle. While it does have a generous 203 mm (8.0 in.) of ground clearance, it also has a very long wheelbase and long front and rear overhangs. The AWD system is mostly useful as a traction and stability aid on wet or icy or gravelly roads, and combined with electronic stability control and traction control, the Taurus X offers enough safety nannies to keep most people out of trouble. Four wheel disc brakes with ABS are standard on the Taurus X.

2008 Ford Taurus X
2008 Ford Taurus X. Click image to enlarge

In a crash, the Taurus X is one of the safest vehicles on the road. All Taurus X’s have front, side and curtain airbags, and it recently received five stars in frontal and side impact crash tests from the NHTSA (www.safercar.gov), and a “Top Safety Pick” designation from the IIHS (www.hwysafety.org)


Verdict

A more car-like alternative to an SUV or a minivan, the six- or seven passenger Taurus X has plenty of power, a roomy interior, and excellent crash safety credentials. Interior quality and ergonomics were my only concerns.


Pricing: 2008 Ford Taurus X Limited AWD


Related stories on Autos


Related stories on Autos

  • Buyer’s Guide: 2007 Buick Enclave
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2007 Chrysler Pacifica
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2007 GMC Acadia
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2007 Honda Pilot
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2007 Hyundai Veracruz
  • First Drive: 2008 Mazda CX-9
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2007 Saturn Outlook
  • First Drive: 2008 Subaru Tribeca
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2007 Suzuki XL7
  • First Drive: 2008 Toyota Highlander


Crash test results


Manufacturer’s web site

Connect with Autos.ca