Ford’s Taurus SHO updates the family car into one cool ride

CASEY WILLIAMS | Auto Reviewer

Taurus SHO

SPEED DEMON | Ford keeps the reliable muscle power behind the Taurus SHO but sweetens the inside.

Ford’s current Taurus is already a fantastic automobile that I called “the best Ford ever.” It seems I out-drove myself; the SHO is better.
Ford first conceived the Taurus SHO in 1989 as a sportier and more powerful version its most popular sedan. A high-revving Yamaha V6, connected to a Mazda-sourced 5-speed manual transmission, transformed the car. A second generation debuted after the Taurus’ 1996 re-design, boasting a Yamaha-engineered V8. More than 100,000 SHOs were sold in a decade.

To charm contemporary V8 levels of power out of the new SHO, engineers went for a twin-turbo EcoBoost 3.5-liter V6 to summon 365-horsepower — 102 more than the already potent 3.5-liter V6 in the base Taurus, and five HP more than the Chrysler 300C’s 5.7-liter Hemi. The only available transmission (a six-speed automatic) can be left to its own mind or controlled via paddles behind the steering wheel.

A big advantage of turbos (and why you’ll see more as fuel economy rules rise) is excellent efficiency. This full-size sedan, with as much interior space as a Crown Victoria, achieves 17/25-MPG city/highway.

Twin-turbo power is different than traditional high-torque Detroit muscle. Power surfaces more smoothly, not necessarily bolting you to the seatbacks, but it just keeps coming, and coming, and coming. At Interstate speeds, the turbos are reeling for a run and surge at the first indication that you and the throttle are ready to go. Power comes in a surge from 1,500-5,250 rpm, but is never abrupt.

Not much from the outside clues you into the SHO’s inner voraciousness. This car is about trolling for munchies in stealth. Oh, there’s the optional 20-in. wheels with Michelin high-performance tires, subtle decklid spoiler and twin chrome exhaust outlets that tell others “Back off!” A unique grille, SHO-specific parking lamp bezels, and a full range of Taurus colors make sure you get a whiff.

Designers took a similar stance inside, making enhancements for the SHO but leaving everything else alone. Heated and cooled front leather seats with Miko suede inserts (made from recycled soda bottles), perforated leather-wrapped steering wheel (no wood here), aluminum pedals, aluminum-look dash finish and special logos are about the only ways to ping your ride. That’s fine, because the raked twin-dash design, large analog gauges, piano black console finish and large gear selector look great while connecting Taurus to the Mustang.
As Ford’s flagship, engineers ensured it comes with the latest gadgetry. Push button starting, capless fuel filling, Bluetooth cell phone connectivity and reversing camera are but a start. The SHO is also equipped with blind spot detectors, adaptive cruise control that monitors traffic ahead to adjust speed and “collision warning” with brake assist. The latter detects stopping traffic ahead and will apply brakes if the driver does not take action.

Sony audio with full USB connectivity thumps the plastic bits to bits with 390 Watts and 115 dB of max bass boost. Ford Sync, developed with Microsoft, enables voice-activated calling, audio selections, and navigation. You can find almost anything. If Apple’s iPhone is supposedly the “Jesus phone,” then Sync is an apostle. I could do without the powered multi-contoured seats that have a complete mind of their own.

The body structure is stiff and engineered to improve safety. It also insures the SHO rides firmly on its four-wheel independent suspension system, settles in comfortably on the highway, and carves up corners like no car this big should. All-wheel-drive, electronic stability control, and four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes can do to slick roads what a pair of turbos does to dry asphalt.

The 2010 SHO may not wear its balls on the outside, but is clearly displaying them in a tightly packed box. SHO has become one of Ford’s most-coveted brands, not for its all-out power and performance, but for its Euro-style grace and balance.

If you want a fun weekend toy that gets junior to school or the family to Florida, this is way better. Makes you wonder how your buddy is going to feel when his prestigious sportster gets whooped by a steel blue metallic Volvo-based American family sedan, doesn’t it? Prices start at $37,995.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 18, 2010.