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MSRP Range: $26,615 - $32,600
Fuel Economy: 15 MPG city / 22 MPG highway

Crossover SUV features host of improvements.

If you've never heard of a Taurus X before, it's only because this is a new name for an existing product, the crossover SUV that used to be called the Ford Freestyle.

However, the 2008 Ford Taurus X offers host of improvements inside, outside and underneath when compared to the old Freestyle. So it's ready to compete in the hotly contested crossover segment with a whole bunch of new arrows in its quiver.

Like the Ford Taurus and Mercury Sable sedans, the Taurus X is loosely based on the same architecture as the Volvo S80 luxury sedan and Volvo XC90 SUV and it uses the same Swedish Haldex all-wheel-drive system as the Volvo on AWD versions. The Taurus X offers some detail changes to the suspension, however.

Last year's 3.0-liter V6 engine has been dropped in favor of a new, 3.5-liter, 24-valve V6 that makes a full 30 percent more horsepower and more load-pulling torque. Likewise, last year's continuously variable transmission has been replaced by a new 6F six-speed automatic.

This new powertrain makes the 2008 Ford Taurus X a whole lot more fun to drive than the Freestyle crossover was. The new engine makes more power, and accelerates the truck much quicker (Ford says up to 44 percent quicker), but it also gets about 10 percent better fuel economy, even after adjusting for the new, stricter 2008 fuel economy rules that the EPA is using for fuel economy numbers on the window sticker.

The Taurus X fits into the product lineup above the five-seater Ford Edge crossover SUV that's built on the same platform as the Fusion, and under the upcoming 2009 Ford Flex, a larger, more luxurious, square-cornered family truck.

The Taurus X is designed to compete with the Nissan Murano, Mitsubishi Outlander, Buick Enclave, Saturn Outlook, and GMC Acadia, among others.

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