Now a Safer Family Station Wagon
What happened to the family truckster like the old Ford Galaxy wagon with three rows of seating? Remember the venerable family taxi wagons like the Oldsmobile Vista cruiser or the Chevrolet Impala wagon?
For the most part, automakers have cut out building wagons to force you into minivans and SUVs. Minivans and SUVs are classified as trucks and thereby do not have to meet the same safety or pollution laws as do passenger cars. As a rule, passenger cars offer the most safety, efficiency, and pollute the least.
As you might imagine from the high center of gravity, SUVs are more prone to rollover. While passenger cars have a much lower propensity and while stability control may aid somewhat in the avoidance of rollover, it will not eliminate rollover in the case of extreme erratic moves you might make in crash avoidance.
Ford’s Stability Control & Unit Body Equals Safety
When antilock brakes became popular, rear-end impacts increased because many drivers thought they could stop quicker than they imagined. Stability control and traction control like that available on the Ford Taurus X model is so good that it can make a bad driver look better. But don't get overconfident with this or any other SUV.
The safest cars in the world today are built with unit body construction. The unit body is supplemented with a sub-frame that supports the engine transmission and front suspension and a second sub-frame supports the rear suspension and axles. This is the way most passenger cars are built today. Many SUVs are built on truck frames which are great for heavy towing and brutal off-road, but they haven't been achieving the highest safety ratings.
The Ford Motor Company is a very special and dynamic American corporation. It has pulled many rabbits out of hats like the Thunderbird, the Mustang, and the original Taurus. The Taurus used to be the number one selling car in the US; ahead of import models like the Accord and Camry.
Recently, Consumer Reports insulted Toyota for losing ground in reliability, simultaneously complementing Ford for their noticeable increase in quality and reliability. The new head of Ford is a brilliant resourceful, creative technologist and capitalist. He has a winning manner and is a thoughtful communicator. When it comes to product and design, it'll take another two to four years to see the brilliant exercise of Alan Mulally in production.
Comfort in Ride, Size, and Pleasing on the EyeFor now you'll just have to settle on what may be the safest family station wagon. The Ford Taurus X is built on an extremely similar floor pan as a Taurus sedan, hence comfortable car like ride. The Taurus X is about 200 inches long, which is about 9 inches longer than an X5 BMW yet 2 inches shorter than the Chevy Tahoe. The X is more fun to drive than the 5 or the Tahoe. The complete car and its controls feel lighter, quicker in response and more nimble than most the competition. Urban and suburban driving is more fun, because the Taurus is not as wide as the Tahoe or the X5. The width is important to space judgment at highway speed and parking. Who wants to park a Hummer in Manhattan?
We found the design of the new Taurus X to be pleasing and easy on the eye. It’s not an outstanding design, but can be made more so with the Eddie Bauer package that comes with a traditional two-tone truck paint job. The Ford people are getting their look together with all vehicles finally having a similar corporate identity. The front of the X has three strong chrome colored bars and a pleasing headlight array with intelligently designed and placed fog lights (everybody should have fog lights.) The air management around the car is well done, creating low wind noise and a unique roofline that rises up in the rear so as to create more interior space for the third row of seats. The awkward roofline looks natural with the aid of an intelligently designed roof rail.
The door openings are generous—you don’t climb up into a big truck or bend over into a little sports car. This is a great car for people who have low back or bending issues when getting in and out of vehicles. There is a generous use of glass with a very low beltline making driving more enjoyable for small passengers and drivers. Toward the rear is plenty of glass and a big blind spot created by structurally important C pillar. The pillars of this vehicle are managed very well so as to create lesser blind spots from the inside, and the more European tighter look on the outside.
Substantial bumpers are meaningful to this vehicle’s safety. Look at the rear and you’ll be impressed by the bright high mounted tail lights and the large rear opening. There is a purposeful, flat step up into the vehicle’s rear or up to the roof. Twin tailpipes carved out of the bottom of the driver’s side bumper are a pleasant giveaway to the power under the hood.
AWD or FWD, Economical, Strong Six
The steel fuselage is a front-engine, front-wheel drive package or an all-wheel-drive package. At the head of the driveline is a new V-6 power pump, which can run on less expensive 87 octane fuel.
The 3.5 L V-6, engine has four valves per cylinder and a variable intake valves. The exhaust valve train is fixed. Peak torque is 250 lb.-ft. at about 4500 rpm. The all-alloy aluminum engine is built in Lima, Ohio, and has a nice red line of 6700 RPM. Idle speed is a fuel sipping 620 smooth RPMs.
The 6-speed transmission is right where you want it to be most of the time. When it isn’t where you want it, good luck, we wish the transmission offered a more manual mode. The accelerator pedal is somewhat responsive for gear changes. The six gears are well spaced and proportioned. Vehicle gear shifting is smooth and definite and the elasticity of the driveline is satisfying. While we are an all-wheel drive kind of family, front wheel drive here offers a meaningful improvement of about two miles per gallon.
As an educated driver, you’ll probably get about 25 miles per gallon on the highway with front-wheel drive. The all-wheel drive system is most thoughtful instead of waiting for the front wheels to actually slip the drive system will put power to the rear sooner for more consistent traction. Do you need all-wheel-drive or better fuel economy?
Feel the Suspension; Test Drive the Brakes
There is a traditional independent suspension with McPherson struts up front on the X. A multi-link, with the spring wrapped around shock absorber at the rear of the suspension is really comfortable and not jarring. The long wheelbase adds good control and luxury. When you’re test driving decide if you like the way it leans in a turn. How does it feel during the emergency maneuvers? Are you comfortable at the limits? Yank it around during your test drive and you’ll see it’s no passenger car, but it’s quite close.
Try three real emergency stops in a row as this is a good judge of brake fade and allows you to get to know the car quickly. Make sure there’s no one behind you when you do this. You might try breaking first as fast as possible without engaging the antilock brake system on your demonstrator vehicle. Break as firmly as possible without feeling the pulsing back on your foot pedal as the anti-locks engage. Did you have to put a lot more effort into the third stop; did the pedal go to the floor or hold up?
Thoughtful Interior Touches
Getting in the X feels most car-like and comfortable and once behind the wheel you wouldn’t think you’re in a truck or maybe you might think so because of a big grab bar directly in front of the passenger where an instrument panel might be. Everybody loves this big grab bar as it allows you the kind of body adjustment and movement you just can’t get alone by using your legs or the armrests. Those with a leg or mobility issues, or those assisting found that most helpful.
All the controls are nice, adequate and work, yet we found them disappointing compared to other navigation systems. The housing and graphics seem so old-square and rigid. The touch screen is sensitive and quick to operate; we just didn’t enjoy the graphics. Frankly, the look of the instrument panel and center console seems tired, but if you haven’t seen a Ford in a decade it may look fresh to you. More importantly, it’s direct, easy to interpret, and still has a temperature gauge, indicating engine condition.
This vehicle is loaded with interior ergonomics comfort features; touch a button and release, then watch the third row of seats theatrically fold into the floor. If you need to get in the back watch as an electronic quick fold feature allows easy access with another clearly mounted button high on the inside of the C pillar. To make your SUV more minivan-like you can have a second row of captain’s chairs and no center console, allowing you to easily walk through from second to third row seats.
Many vehicles of this size will force you into an eight cylinder engine or give you only rear-wheel drive; so the Ford Taurus X is the premier family wagon of today. So many of us are turned off by minivan styling right now and want the ultimate in safety and the Taurus X returns enjoyable consistent reliable driving with minivan characteristics in a hardy adventurous package.
During the week we spent driving the Ford Taurus X we were slowly surprised at how consistently it performed and how versatile the interior was especially with the passenger fold flat seats. When you’re shopping you can compare size, fuel economy and safety against price. This is an outstanding value, all things considered at this time. Best comparison vehicle with a touch more luxury: the Buick Enclave.
Ford Taurus X: Fast Facts
4,033 lbs & 4,203 lbs
FWD & AWD
Hp @ rpm
263 @ 6250
Ft-lb @ rpm
249 @ 4500
15/22 & 16/24 mpg
Base model FWD $25,000,
Loaded AWD $34,000
*www.informedforlife.org in top 1% safest