The 2008 Ford Taurus X is a tall wagon. No, it's a mild version of a sport utility vehicle.
Whatever the description, the Taurus X is an easy-to-drive, nice-riding vehicle with room for up to seven people and flexible cargo space.
Its government fuel economy ratings of 16 miles per gallon in city driving and 22 mpg on the highway put the Taurus X among the top third of SUVs for gas mileage. And this five-door model earned five out of five stars across the board in U.S. government crash tests.
But in many ways, the name is the big news for 2008.
2008 Ford Taurus X
BASE PRICE: $26,615 for SEL 2WD; $28,465 for SEL AWS; $29,355 for Eddie Bauer 2WD; $30,335 for Limited 2WD; $31,205 for Eddie Bauer AWD; $32,185 for Limited AWD.
AS TESTED: $36,085.
TYPE: Front-engine, all-wheel-drive, seven-passenger, large wagon.
ENGINE: 3.5-liter, dual overhead cam, Duratec, 60-degree V-6.
MILEAGE: 15 mpg (city), 22 mpg (highway).
TOP SPEED: 111 mph.
LENGTH: 200.3 inches.
WHEELBASE: 112.9 inches.
CURB WEIGHT: 4,216 pounds.
BUILT AT: Chicago.
OPTIONS: Navigation system $1,995; power glass moonroof $960; Sirius satellite radio with six months of complimentary service $195.
DESTINATION CHARGE: $750.
The Taurus X was born after Ford Motor Co. officials renamed the slow-selling Ford Freestyle for 2008, while updating the Freestyle's V-6 engine and transmission, adding safety features and improving the ride and interior quiet.
The Taurus name was chosen because the Taurus was America's best-selling car for five straight years in the 1990s, and the name still has equity among many U.S. car buyers.
Officials add the "X" to this wagon model's badge to differentiate it from the Taurus sedan, which is a renamed Ford Five Hundred car for 2008.
Too bad that officials didn't adjust pricing downward, too - given that affordable pricing was such a key to the old Taurus' success.
The 2008 Taurus X has a starting manufacturer's suggested retail price, including destination charge, of $27,365 for a two-wheel-drive model. This is $695 more than the starting retail price for a 2007 Freestyle.
A 2008 Taurus X with all-wheel-drive starts at $29,215.
In contrast, some other tall wagons are priced lower, including the 2008 Chrysler Pacifica that starts at $25,365.
Even Ford's stylish, five-passenger, 2008 Edge crossover SUV that uses the same V-6 and automatic transmission as the Taurus X has a lower starting retail price of $26,035.
The Taurus X isn't an ugly duckling. It's just plainer in its shape and appearance than some popular crossover SUVs, though the Taurus X roof rack and, on some models, a two-tone body with lower-body cladding provide SUV cues.
Still, ground clearance underneath is about the same as for a Taurus sedan, so the Taurus X doesn't look at all like an off-roader. And it's not designed for wilderness travel.
Even towing is limited to a meager 2,000 pounds.
These days, a 2008 Toyota Highlander, with towing prep package, can tow 5,000 pounds.
The test Taurus X was the top-of-the-line Limited with all-wheel-drive and a few options, so total price passed $36,000.
Seats were covered in attractive leather, and except for the back two - where I had to sit on short cushions with my knees approaching my chin - were comfortable.
Note that third-row legroom is 33.4 inches, which is more than the 29.2 inches in the back of Chrysler's Pacifica but less than the 34.9 inches in the third row of the Ford Explorer SUV.
Taurus X buyers choose whether to get six or seven seats, depending on whether they select a three-person, second-row bench seat or two individual second-row seats. But all Taurus X models have three rows of seats.
It's easy to get in and out of the Taurus X, because there's no big climb to get inside.
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