When the SHO version of the Taurus debuted a couple of years ago, it was a big disappointment, mainly due to its inferior brakes. You cannot put a powerful engine under the hood of a big, heavy sedan and market it as a sport sedan, encouraging prospective owners to take it to track days, if you don't equip the car with adequate brakes. Well, actually, you can do that, because that's exactly what the Ford Motor Company did with the last Taurus SHO. Every enthusiast media outlet, including Automobile Magazine, called them out for it, and rightly so. I recall driving the Taurus about 5 miles on a straight stretch of two-lane, never going more than 70 or 80 mph, and applying moderate to heavy braking three or four times. When I got home after this brief drive, the brake pedal was soggy and the brake pads smelled horribly. I got out of the car in disgust and never had a kind word to say about the SHO thereafter.
That problem, as senior editor Eric Tingwall revealed in his recent drive of the 2013 Taurus SHO was addressed with the $1995 performance package and its more aggressive brake pads and stainless steel pistons with silicone seals, but our tester here at the editorial office wasn't equipped with the performance package. Still, its brakes were markedly better than the last SHO's, as all Taurus models have improved brakes for 2013.
What's more, the 2013 Taurus SHO feels tighter, lighter on its feet, and, in general, more of a solid piece than it did before, all the better to enjoy its smooth, powerful turbocharged V-6. You can make some serious time on the freeway in this car.
Yet I'm still not in love with the Taurus SHO. I got out of the driver's seat this morning, walked around the car to the passenger's side, and was struck by how ridiculously large it is. It's tall. It's bulbous. It's big. There's nothing about its visual mass that makes you think "sport sedan," although I liked our tester's optional twenty-inch wheels.
One other complaint: I found that the driver's seat was canted inward to the right, toward the center console. I adjusted it multiple times but it still felt not quite symmetrical. I consoled myself with the fully electric tilt-telescope function for the steering wheel and the fact that, on a hot, 83-degree summer day, the air-conditioning was performing beautifully.
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
The Taurus was redesigned for 2013 with an eye toward giving it a "more muscular stance," and the SHO adds some sport to the masculinity with a black mesh grille, black sideview mirror housings, a rear spoiler, HID headlamps, and larger wheels, all of which make for a vehicle that is more likely to catch a bystander's eye than the previous, rather staid-looking Taurus.
Having said that, the Taurus SHO doesn't necessarily seem like a sport sedan when you get behind the wheel. For one thing, this is a very large vehicle. The high seating position means that you're eye-to-eye with crossover drivers at a stoplight. It has a massive trunk (20.1 cubic feet of cargo space) that can hold four sets of golf clubs plus room to fit in several bags of groceries.
What differentiates the SHO from lesser Tauruses is its engine: Ford's 365-hp 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6, which delivers power quickly and smoothly through a six-speed automatic to all four wheels. When you're driving the SHO, you don't necessarily forget that it's a large vehicle, but it never feels ponderous or overly heavy. But it's still a mild sport sedan, as it never beckons you to really drop your foot and test its limits. For that, you'll have to shell out $1995 for the Performance Package, which includes summer performance tires, a sportier suspension, upgraded brakes, a track mode that gives the driver the ability to turn off stability control, and faster off-the-line acceleration due to a 3.16:1 final drive ratio, among several other performance-oriented enhancements.
Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor
A brief overnight with the Taurus SHO didn't tell me a lot about the SHO, but it was enough to convince me that I would never buy a car with MyFord Touch. Despite whatever fixes have been visited upon the system, it's still an unmitigated disaster. About the only action with the stereo that can be safely done while driving is adjusting the volume, and that's because it uses a knob (gee, isn't that so old-fashioned?) rather than some tiny, flat-panel dots that you have to stab repeatedly. Ford/Sony then wastes the big spaces on either side of the knob, which are the only other areas that are easily accessible, by using one to select the audio source and the other to bring up the sound adjustment menu--because, hey, that's something you use all time. Meanwhile, jumping around among the radio presets--something that people are likely to do far more often--is accomplished via small faux-buttons on the touch screen (provided it's not in use with the map, the phone menu, or the climate control menu; if so then you first have to select audio), or via the steering-wheel controls (but even they require two steps to change a station where most cars only need one). And speaking of steering-wheel controls, why have a four-way physical switch with an OK button in the middle? Why not put a mini flat panel on there too, since flat panels are so awesome? Because you couldn't operate it by feel? My point exactly. For the HVAC, for instance, adjusting the temperature or the fan speed by repeatedly touching a tiny circle on a featureless flat panel is so much better than the dumb old method of turning a knob, right?
Oh, I know. You're really just supposed to use the voice controls. But isn't that kind of admitting that the physical controls are so bad that you should bypass them altogether? It is. Instead, I think I'll just bypass MyFord Touch altogether.
Joe Lorio, Senior Editor
The original 1989-1995 Ford Taurus SHO was unquestionably a sport sedan. It was based on the stock Taurus but was powered by a 220-hp Yamaha-designed V-6 mated to a Mazda-designed five-speed manual transmission. It may have looked like your mom's grocery getter, but it drove like a BMW, and enthusiasts took notice. Fast-forward 23 years, and the new Taurus SHO is 15 inches longer and 1442 pounds heavier than the 1980's version that birthed the Super High Output badge. The power-to-weight ratio may be much better in the new car--12.0 pounds per hp to the original SHO's 14.9--but the old car's sport sedan magic is gone. So much of the original SHO's charm came from its engine, a high-tech masterpiece that, thanks to a dual-stage intake with polished runners, looked as good as it performed. Today's SHO isn't powered by an exotic, low-volume, purpose-built engine; instead, Ford gave it the EcoBoost V-6, which powers numerous family haulers and even the F-Series pickup. No, the 2013 SHO isn't a sport sedan and it shouldn't be criticized as an attempt to be one. Instead, it's a true-blue muscle sedan that offers as much space as it does speed. It may stretch 202.9 inches long and weigh 4400 pounds, but the SHO hustles to 60 mph quicker than many sports cars (an estimated 5.2 seconds). It has incredibly plush seats (perforated suede with leather bolsters, heated and cooled) and a soft ride. It feels like a California King bed powered by an Air Force-surplus jet engine, and that's what I like about it.
Ben Timmins, Associate Web Editor
Sorry, Ford, but this ancient platform is well past its expiration date. The hard points are all wrong for a vehicle that's supposed to be at all sporty, and it feels decidedly XXL in an era where even medium-sized sedans have more than enough room for four adults. The SHO may be the ultimate evolution of this platform, but it was never a great platform to start with.
I would much rather see the performance group create a hotter version of the Fusion than keep polishing the Taurus. With Ford's global product strategy, there might even be enough volume to justify a high-strung Fusion with this same 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6. Perhaps the V-6 won't fit in the engine bay now that the 2013 Fusion is going four-cylinder-only like most mid-size sedans, but Ford is doing good things with the 2.0-liter EcoBoost in other products and it could probably produce enough power to make the Fusion entertaining when combined with a firmer suspension and stickier tires.
Like Joe DeMatio, I was pleased with the brakes on this car. The first time Ford tried to make a SHO out of this generation of Taurus, the brakes were horribly inadequate. Now the brakes on even the base SHO are up to snuff. I will never understand why Ford offers a performance package on SVT/SHO vehicles since these are supposed the be the highest-performing vehicles you can buy at a Ford dealer, but the upgraded brakes that come with the performance package are supposedly even better.
I don't mind MyFord Touch, but as Joe Lorio points out, something as simple as skipping one or two radio stations actually takes longer with this system than it would with an old fashioned knob. Sync is accurate enough at interpreting voice commands, but the chime and "please say a command" rigmarole was annoying the second time I used it. Just a chime would be enough to let me know the system was ready for a command. I appreciate technology as much as anyone, but it needs to make life better; just making life different doesn't justify the mission creep of technology in cars.
Overall, the Taurus SHO is a nice big sedan. There's strong power delivery and a smooth-shifting automatic transmission. It just isn't a sport sedan.For a true large sport sedan, head over to a Dodge dealer. The Charger offers similar interior space and cargo capacity with better styling and rear-wheel drive.
Phil Floraday, Senior Web Editor