Ford is one of the most historic brands in America, but it has entered what may be the most challenging period in its long history. While Ford continues to dominate the truck market, its inattention to some key products in years past has been hurting it in the rest of the marketplace. Not only does Ford have to worry about a resurgence of products at its chief rival, GM, but also the success of full-line Asian automakers like Toyota, Honda, and Nissan.

Ford has addressed one sore area by releasing a significantly reworked Focus compact car. The 2008 Focus sedan and coupe wear new styling inside and out. All Focus models feature a 2.0L four-cylinder rated at 140-bhp. With prices starting below $15,000, the fuel-efficient Focus could end up on many shopping lists in this value-conscious and competitive segment.

The Escape is another key vehicle that Ford reworked for 2008. The Escape wears mostly new sheet metal, but the overall styling change is more of an evolution of the prior model. Most importantly, the Escape retains its comprehensive powertrain offerings, including a hybrid version that is unmatched in the segment.

The Ford Taurus returns for 2008. A name change and a minor styling refresh to the Five Hundred sedan and Freestyle crossover result in the new Taurus sedan and Taurus X crossover. A 3.5L V6 now provides 260-bhp, but Ford has dropped the CVT transmission in favor of a six-speed automatic transmission. The net result is two products that are far more competitive than they were last year.

One interesting change to the Ford lineup for 2008 is the SYNC system. SYNC is a technology developed by Microsoft to ease the inclusion and use of consumer electronics like mobile phones and mp3 players in the automobile. The SYNC system is an inexpensive option, and it is only available on Ford products in 2008.

The Ford Crown Victoria and Freestar minivan are gone from the lineup. Next up for Ford will be an all-new F-series truck, and a new crossover vehicle dubbed Flex.

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