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The Ford Taurus SHO: History, Generations, Differences

All things Ford Taurus SHO on Automobile.

Conner GoldenWriterManufacturerPhotographer

Ford Taurus SHO Essential History

Today, telling someone you own a Ford Taurus is a bit like forcing someone to slip on a pair of cold, wet socks. The past three generations of Ford's now-discontinued bread-and-butter mid-to-full-size sedan have been anything but cool, so it's easy to forget that when the Taurus launched in the 1986 model year, the smooth, form-fitting design proved both revolutionary and extremely popular, eventually moving over one million units in just three years.

Ford Taurus SHO: Yamaha V-6 Collaboration

Ford couldn't make enough of them to meet demand. Riding this success, Ford saw opportunity to position a performance variant of the Taurus at the top of model hierarchy, and subsequently cut a deal with Yamaha to develop an upgraded version of its staid Vulcan V-6 for the new performance Taurus called the Super High Output—or SHO. The resulting 3.0-liter V-6 was impressively stout and advanced for the era, with an iron block and aluminum heads, 24 valves, dual overhead cams, and a fascinating variable-length intake manifold that looks like a cluster of loosely organized snakes sitting atop the engine.

Ford Taurus SHO Power & Performance

Power was contemporaneously strong, with 220 hp and 200 lb-ft of torque on tap through a Mazda-designed five-speed manual transmission. During testing, the engine proved capable and durable enough for an 8,000 rpm redline, but driveline accessories reportedly couldn't handle this extra engine speed, so the redline was capped at 7,000 rpm. Performance was strong, with zero-60 mph taking 6.6 seconds and topping out at 143 mph.

Ford Taurus SHO Suspension Upgrades

To help the Taurus' working-class chassis keep up with this exotic speed, firmer dampers, stiffer springs, thicker anti-roll bars and harder bushings were fitted to the existing fully independent suspension, along with bespoke mesh wheels and slightly grippier tires. Inside, sport seats prevented passengers from slipping around as much with all this extra go.

Its pricey $20,000 tag and manual transmission kept it from being a sales superstar like the rest of the Taurus lineup, but the more than 15,000 sold between 1989 and 1991 convinced Ford a second-gen SHO was worth the effort.

Ford Taurus SHO: Second Generation

For the 1992 model year and the second generation of Taurus, the new SHO carried the same Yamaha-designed 3.0-liter V-6 with the same power, torque, and transmission. Starting in 1993, the SHO was available for the first time with an automatic transmission—a four-speed Ford AX4S box. All automatic transmission SHOs came equipped with a larger 3.2-liter version of the Yamaha engine, and while power remained the same 220 hp, torque creeped to 215 lb-ft to compensate for parasitic loss through the drivetrain. As was the case with the prior generation, the SHO was visually differentiated from the rest of the Taurus lineup with unique body cladding, bumpers, badging, and wheels.

Ford Taurus SHO: Third Generation, Yamaha V-8 Collaboration

The ovaloid soap-bar third generation that arrived for 1996 marked a significant departure for both Taurus and the SHO. Gone was the sweet, sweet V-6, supplanted by a 3.4-liter transverse V-8 co-developed by Ford and Yamaha; everything from the top of the block down was manufactured and designed by Ford, while Yamaha still handled the heads and valvetrain. Despite an exotic soundtrack and two extra cylinders, the result of this mishmash proved less compelling than the two prior generations: Power only hopped up to 234 hp, and torque to 230 lb-ft. Gone was the slick-shifting Mazda five-speed manual; the only option remained the four-speed automatic.

Even with a semi-active suspension and dynamic steering weight, the third-gen SHO was a bit of a dog, especially as significant mechanical woes surfaced with the V-8's camshaft sprocket that occasionally led to destroyed engines and outrageously expensive repair bills. Only 3,300 were sold in 1999, the final year of Taurus SHO production.

Ford Taurus SHO: Sixth-Generation Resurrection

The SHO nameplate remained dormant for a decade before resurrection on the sixth-generation Taurus for the 2010 model year. The new Taurus was a size larger than the mid-size sedan it began life as in the late 1990s, now occupying the full-size segment. It was heavier, cushier, and more technologically complex than ever before, so the new SHO needed to reflect that. No more high-revving naturally aspirated engines; Ford's 3.5-liter EcoBoost twin-turbo V-6 provided a strong 365 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque through a six-speed automatic, an all-wheel drive was standard equipment. For a two-ton behemoth, the fourth-gen SHO can hustle, with zero-to-60 taking a relatively scant 5.2 seconds onto a measly top speed of 133 mph.

Each sixth-generation Taurus SHO packed SHO-specific shock absorbers, springs, stabilizer bars, and strut mount bushings, and an optional Performance Package crammed better brake pads, revised steering, a sport setting for the stability control, oil cooler, transmission cooler, PTU cooler, a shorter final drive ratio, summer tires, an inflate-a-flat kit instead of the full-size spare, and an Alcantara-wrapped steering wheel.

Ford Taurus SHO: End of Production

The SHO nameplate stuck around right up until the Taurus line was discontinued in 2019, putting an end to Ford's fan-friendly sport sedan. If you're hoping for a new SHO in the future, don't hold your breath—it looks like the ST badge has replaced the SHO as Ford's go-to non-Mustang performance line.

Ford Taurus SHO Highlights

When the SHO debuted for the first time in the late 1980s, there really wasn't anything quite like it from other American automakers. If you wanted a high-revving, low-attention Q ship, you had to turn to the more expensive and more complex Germans. This was an out-of-character car for Ford, and it developed quite the cult following as the years went on. Many proclaim this to be one of the greatest sport sedans of all time; we're not sure if we'd go that far, but it's a damn fine example of what happens when one of the Big Three takes risks.

Nowadays, outside of established SHO fans, the SHO can be a bit of a hard sell to nascent enthusiasts. Every single generation of the SHO is rooted squarely in the era it's from, especially the first three generations. Unless you have a healthy dose of period-correct nostalgia coursing through your veins, it's unlikely a strange smooth-edged Ford Taurus with body cladding from the early 1990s will get your blood pumping.

However, if you're willing to make concessions for styling, a first-or-second generation SHO makes one hell of a first car. It's not too fast to upset overprotective parents, and it's unassuming enough to slip under most people's visual radar. Clean ones are dirt cheap compared to what other 1980s sports sedans go for, so get shopping.

Ford Taurus SHO Buying Tips

Considering these were hardly the type of car to be hermetically sealed in a garage, you're going to have a tough time finding an SHO from the first three generations without some wear and tear. For the most part, the majority of SHOs have odometers spun past the six-figure mark, so buy as low and clean as you can if you want as few problems as possible. As always, a pre-purchase inspection from a trusted mechanic is key.

Things get a little more problematic with the third-generation SHO. That 3.4-liter sounds good, but it suffers from a worrying amount of mechanical issues, the most significant of which is the detachment of the camshaft from the cam sprocket, causing the interference engine to grenade itself around the 50,000-mile mark. If you're dead-set on the V-8 SHO, make sure the camshaft is welded to the sprocket as a somewhat crude fix.

If the meaty fourth-gen is your goal, our advice is to buy the nicest, cleanest example with the Performance Pack that you can find. We wouldn't be surprised if there's a good number of 2019 SHOs still floating around with near-delivery miles. Snap 'em up before they go to a high-mileage home.

Here's a quick tip on that sixth-gen SHO—if pure straightline speed is what you're after in a Taurus, snoop around police auctions or surplus sales for decommissioned Taurus Police Interceptors. If you find one of the many outfitted with the EcoBoost engine and all-wheel drive, it puts down identical power figures to the SHO. It will be much more beat and less equipped, but hey—SHO-lite on the cheap.

Taurus SHO Recent Auctions

A Ford Taurus of any ilk isn't exactly the type of four-wheeled wonder changing hands at high-end auction houses, so we went with the limited SHO history on Bring a Trailer. If these prices seem amenable, take your time and look around for the right car. Don't worry about missing the boat—for the most part, prices aren't going anywhere.

Ford Taurus SHO Quick Facts

  • First year of production: 1989
  • Last year of production: 2019
  • Original price: ~$19,000 (1989)
  • Ford's cult-classic sport sedan
  • Essentially a sublime Yamaha engine wrapped in a Ford Taurus
  • Sleeper speed for not many bucks

Ford Taurus FAQ

You have questions about the Ford Taurus SHO. Automobile has answers. Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked Ford Taurus SHO queries:

Is the Ford Taurus SHO fast?

If by fast, you mean top speed, then not especially. The fastest of the SHO bunch were the original and second-gen SHOs, which pegged the speedo at 143 mph. If by quickest accelerating, the OG SHOs weren't the sharpest, but the final turbo AWD SHO was a smidge quicker to 60 mph than the contemporary Audi S6 at 5.2 seconds, and the Audi had a V-10.

Is the Ford Taurus SHO twin-turbo?

If you're referencing the final generation of SHO, yes, it is twin-turbo! That 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 is force fed by a pair of turbochargers.

Is the Ford Taurus SHO a good car?

This one's up to you. Since you can no longer purchase an SHO new, you'd have to come to terms with the upsides and downsides to owning a used car. If you're after the older ones, they're only as good as their maintenance and abuse history, so be sure to get a pre-purchase inspection by a qualified mechanic.

Will there be a 2020 Ford Taurus?

No. Ford ceased Taurus production in 2019.

2013 FORD TAURUS SHO SPECIFICATIONS

 BASE PRICE $39,995
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, AWD, 5-passenger, 4-door sedan
ENGINE 3.5L twin-turbo DOHC 24-valve V-6/365 hp, 350 lb-f
TRANSMISSION 6-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT 4,350 lb
WHEELBASE 112.9 in
LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT 202.9 x 76.2 x 60.7 in
0-60 MPH 5.2 sec (MT est)
EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON 17/25 mpg