Some cars are so powerfully meh that it’s almost like they have a supernatural ability to disappear from human awareness entirely. This week’s meh car seems to have that power, because even though it went through two names, I have trouble remembering it ever existed in either form. I try to picture one, and my mind just comes up with a memory of the broken image icon. The car I’m talking about is the crossover named the Ford Freestyle or, later the Ford Taurus X.
I think I had completely forgotten the Taurus X name ever existed. In fact, the strange name only existed because when Alan Mulally became CEO of Ford in 2007, he informed everyone to knock it off with trying to name every Ford car with a name that started with “F,” because unless Ford was going to commit to selling a Fustang, that’s never really going to work.
So, the Freestyle became the Taurus X, because Ford was replacing the Five Hundred (also a meh car!) with the Taurus, but they were no longer going to make a Taurus wagon, so instead they re-cast the watered-down SUV they called the Freestyle as the Taurus X.
There was very little “X” about the Taurus X, at least in the sort of connotations the letter “X” appended after something usually is: edgy or dangerous or radical or dirty—the Taurus X was none of these things, except it could maybe get dirty, but that’s not the same kind of dirty.
The Taurus X was built on the Volvo-derived D3 platform, the same platform the Ford Five Hundred and Mercury Montego were built on. It was a car platform, and the Freestyle/Taurus X was never intended to do any offroading more serious than driving over an LL Bean catalog, if the weather was good.
Ride height wasn’t appreciably higher than a normal sedan, but the car did feature “command seating,” meaning the people inside were sat high enough that they could pretend that such a thing mattered.
Mechanically, the Freestyle/Taurus X committed to their forgettableness by being some of Ford’s first vehicles to use a CVT, mated to a 3-liter Duratec V6 that made a respectable 203 horsepower, all of which the CVT would make its personal goal to never once possibly excite you.
Later, the Taurus X offered a 263 horse 3.5-liter V6 and a six-speed auto, but I still can’t believe anyone exists who actually really got any visceral pleasure from driving one of these.
Styling-wise, you can’t get much more bland than the Freestyle. Maybe if you were able to find a young, talented poet in love and supply him or her with enough hallucinogens, they might describe the look of the Freestyle as “fine.”
When the Freestyle became the Taurus X, the styling improved, with Ford’s then-trademark three-bar grille and some more interesting lighting equipment. Still, it was nothing to write home about, unless your letters to home were actually encoded spy documents and you wanted to be sure that the letter itself was absolutely unremarkable in any way.
Interestingly, or, more accurately, not that interestingly, when Ford changed the name from Freestyle to Taurus X in 2007, sales dropped by a big chunk. Maybe some people remembered when Taurus wagons were actually fascinatingly weird things that looked like this
...and were appalled at the painful mundanity of the Taurus X.
The marketing for the Freestyle/Taurus X is so empty of feeling and desire that it leaves you feeling awkward and unsettled, a bit. Here, watch this ad for the Freestyle:
See what they did there, at the end? It seems like a happy family vacation, then at the end it’s revealed that the dad is a sad-sack divorced dad, waving with regret and some pretty apparent sadness as his wife and kids drive off in their Freestyle.
It’s like the Ford marketing team felt the car just didn’t really deserve to have an unencumbered ad displaying just happiness; they had to reign it in with a little bit of melancholy just to remind you that life is complex and messy and happiness is often elusive, so best tell your dreams to fuck off and settle for this forgettable crossover whatever, asshole.
I mean, I’m sure these things were, you know, good enough, but once again, despite every time I’ve been proven wrong about this, I simply cannot make myself imagine that somewhere out there is a Freestyle/Taurus X cultist who’s going to tear me a fresh, new one for besmirching the reputation of these forgotten, forgettable mobile human filing cabinets.
Cue the angry emails.