First Drive: 2010 Ford Taurus SHO

Don Sherman
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Jim Fets
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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.

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