Rooted in legend, steeped in technology, and dressed to thrill, the Ford Taurus SHO is finally here to save the day for Ford if not the entire beleaguered domestic auto industry. Weighing heavily on the shoulders of this twenty-first century Hercules is the task of convincing reluctant buyers to open their hearts and pocketbooks for an American sedan with sporting intentions.
Ford has fingers and toes crossed hoping that lightning might strike thrice. Two decades ago, a Taurus fortified with a 220-hp Yamaha V-6 and decorated with a SHO (Super High Output) badge shared a locker room with the Audi 80, BMW 3-series, and Nissan Maxima. The second edition, which arrived with V-8 power in 1996, was less illustrious but good enough to sustain the Taurus SHO's avid fan club.
To create a revival worthy of this legendary nameplate, Ford equipped its new-for-2010 Taurus with a 365-hp, 3.5-liter twin-turbo V-6, a paddleshifted six-speed automatic, all-wheel drive, and extensive chassis, trim, and appearance upgrades. With a base price of $37,995 and window stickers that venture well into the $40,000 range, this is the Ford with BMW price, performance, and prestige aspirations.
Those not discouraged by the SHO's XXL build and over-two-ton mass will find a thoroughly modern sedan with a broad range of capabilities. There's ample elbow room for four, plus a fifth in a pinch, and more than enough cupholders to go around. The cabin is nicely appointed with leather, suede, and deco-metal trim. The trunk is huge, and the rear seats split and fold. The all-wheel-drive system is so sure-footed that we measured practically the same acceleration on wet and dry surfaces. The integrated dash and console is the Starship Enterprise's command center downloaded for road use.
In lieu of the honking V-8s that power such SHO rivals as the Dodge Charger R/T and the Pontiac G8 GT, the energy converter working here is a transversely mounted Duratec DOHC V-6 pumped up with what Ford calls EcoBoost. While that name is new, the technology behind the badge (slated for use throughout the Ford fleet) is nothing more than direct fuel injection combined with turbocharging.
Force-feeding combustion chambers with fuel at 2150 psi and air at 10 psi is an excellent way to squeeze the maximum power out of every drop of gas. Higher compression and expansion ratios are possible without risking detonation because of the internal cooling effect of the fuel's change of state from liquid to vapor. Side benefits are lower emissions and higher cruising fuel mileage with a medium-size V-6 doing the job of a larger V-8.
We clocked the new SHO's run to 60 mph in 5.7 seconds and the quarter mile at 14.2 seconds with a trap speed of 101 mph. Those results are very similar to those of the aforementioned rivals, as well as BMW's 550i. That said, the wheeze of this pressurized V-6 holds no candle to the guttural snarl of a hairy V-8.
Moving the SHO's T-handled shifter to its M (manual) position places two steering-wheel-mounted paddles in charge of gear changes. A yank back on either paddle cues the next higher ratio while thumbing a paddle forward orders a downshift. Unfortunately, the actual gear changes are far too polite for a sport sedan of the SHO's caliber.
The $995 Performance Package adds twenty-inch wheels and tires, sport-tuned steering, a numerically higher final-drive ratio, performance brake pads, and two extra modes for the electronic stability system. The suspension fortifications standard on all SHOs do an excellent job of limiting body roll, but there's too much dive during hard braking and hints of torque steer while accelerating aggressively out of tight bends.
Steering effort builds linearly off center and cornering limits are in the competitive mix, although the fashionable twenty-inch tires are harsh over expansion joints and textured pavement. Skip them if a plush ride is your preference. While the performance package's stouter brake pads are a good start, what any car this heavy and speedy needs to stop smartly are massive brake rotors gripped by opposed-piston calipers. They're missing.
Other lumps baked into the SHO's batter are what keep this Ford from posing any threat to BMW. The 7000-rpm tach has no redline, and a governor stops the speedometer needle at a Hyundai-esque 131 mph. The bucket seats' lower cushions provide minimal support, and their hard-plastic sides grate your behind during entry and exit. Your foot howls oatmeal every time it presses the brake pedal.
Note to Ford engineers: Get back to work on the SHO. With the right care and feeding, this car has the potential to fulfill its critical mission.
2010 Ford Taurus SHO
Engine: V-6 twin turbo
Displacement: 3.5 liters
Power: 365 hp @ 5500 rpm
Torque: 35 lb-ft @ 3500 rpm
Tires: Goodyear Eagle F1
Tire Size: 245/45YR-20
Weight: 4337 lb
Weight Dist. F/R: 60.3/39.7%
0-60 MPH: 5.7 sec
0-100 MPH: 14.1 sec
0-110 MPH: 17.2 sec
0-120 MPH: 22.0 sec
1/4-mile: 14.2 sec @ 101 mph
30-70 passing: 3.0 sec
Speed in gears (in MPH):
Cornering L/R: 0.91 / 0.88 g
70-0 braking: 175 ft
Peak braking: 0.63 g