It took five years, but Ford finally got the SHO right for 1993. Unfortunately, in focusing on SHO`s go, Ford shortchanged SHO`s show. For the `93 model year, Ford`s performance sedan offers automatictransmission for the first time, a 4-speed companion to the 5-speed manualthat was the one and only transmission in the car since it first appeared inthe 1989 model year. What the automatic means is that the 85 percent of the population thatdoesn`t know how to drive a 5-speed, as well as those in the remaining 15percent who do but really don`t want to fight five gears in rush-hour traffic,can now get their hands on one very energetic sedan. With a little tweaking of the engine by the engineers, SHO now offers a3.2-liter, 220-h.p. version of the 3-liter, 220-h.p. 24 valve V-6 that hadbe en the only powerplant, and available only with 5-speed before `93. The 3-liter with 5-speed remains the standard engine, the 3.2 with automatic theoptional choice. We test-drove the `93 SHO with automatic and found it performs with thesame zest as the original Bonneville SSE when Pontiac came up with a sedanthat acted like a coupe. It does fairly well against a SHO with manual, too. Several 0-to-50 m.p.h. sprints performed in just about 4 seconds provedthe SHO with automatic won`t embarrass you dashing from the light or into the passing lane. Hit the pedal hard, and you`ll be nudged back into the wide,supportive bucket seat. To ensure you realize this is a performance sedan,Ford provides some tuned exhaust sound effects with just enough growl to call attention to the 3.2 V-6`s quickness. Perhaps the biggest loss between 5-speed and automatic is the 1 m.p.g. in city mileage the automatic gives up in saving you the time and effort inmaneuvering the clutch. The automatic, which comes with a switch on/offoverdrive, is rated at 17 m.p.g. city/26 m.p.g. highway to the 5-speed`s 18/26. The added money you`ll spend on fuel in a year`s time will be offset bythe money you`ll save on Ben Gay in trying to get your left leg muscles backto normal after spending a week with the 5-speed`s clutch. You don`t lose any of the SHO`s road-holding ability with eithertransmission. MacPherson struts with coil springs, nitrogen gas pressurizedshocks, stabilizer bars, speed-sensitive variable assist power steering, athick, sure-handed steering wheel, and 16-inch steel-belted radials maximizeyour grip of the road while minimizing sway, lean, bumping or bouncing. It`s acivilized suspension for the enthusiast without being too firm or too harshfor the everyday traveler. To complement the 220 h.p., the SHO comes with anti-lock brakes asstandard. We attempted several panic stops, and the car held a straight linewithout wavering. Our only gripe with the brakes was that the pedal travel wasa bit too excessive in the car we tested. We prefer a firm-feeling pedal that responds at once. In addition to the availability of automatic transmission and ABS, for1993 SHO offers a standard driver-side air bag and optional ($488) passenger- side air cushion. Performance yet safety in the same package. A car Mom or Dadcan tool around in and have some fun, yet not worry about the kid or twostrapped into the back seat. In other words, SHO is a family car that doesn`t have to act like one. Pontiac gave new meaning to the sedan when it came out with itsBonneville SSE in 1988. Pontiac showed that a sedan needn`t be stodgy and thattwo extra doors needn`t be a hindrance to performance. With the addition ofautomatic transmission and the added benefits of ABS and dual air bags, Taurushas moved Ford into that same league. The Bonneville and Taurus bring up another similarity. The original SSEwas a styling gem. I t looked sporty and was just about as appealing as mostcoupes on the road. Then came a major design change for `92, a look thatpersonally leaves us a bit cold. Sheetmetal, and especially head andtaillights, look ``pinched.`` The `93 SHO left us with the impression that Ford`s styling guru, JackTelnack, had an off day. There are body-color front and rear bumpers with the ``SHO`` lettering etched into the rear, ``24 valve DOHC`` (dual overheadcam) lettering on the fenders, low-slung front air dam with fog lights builtin, the floating Ford oval resting where the traditional grille had been, and a flat deck lid spoiler incorporating the third brake light. But give the car a quick, or even lengthy, look from the side or the rear and you temporarily have to stop and think: Is that a Chevy Lumina? Ford`s intent was to make SHO distinct from the regular Taurus sedan. Itdid, but that`s not to say it did a real great job of it. The SHO`s goodiesare mostly inside o r under the skin. Of those goodies worth noting, there`s a stowage bin with cassette andcupholder in the center console; tilt wheel, even though it houses an air bag (some cars offer bag or tilt, but not both); a second set of radio volume/seek controls on the instrument panel near the wheel; a handy yellowrelease button for ease of opening the hood; and an arrow on the instrumentpanel gas gauge pointing to the location of the filler door to help you avoid pulling into the filling station on the wrong side. Rear seat room is good and trunk space more than adequate. Power doorlocks automatically lock when you put the lever in gear and automaticallyunlock when you move back into park. Another nifty touch is the key fob with buttons you push to lock orunlock the doors and trunk. It also has a panic button to activate the hornand flash the headlights in the event a seedy character is spotted near thevehicle. One complaint was the leather seat. The leather rubs up against thecenter console and sounds like someone crumpling a cellophane bag. Base price of the SHO with the 3.2 V-6 and automatic is $25,400, or $640more than with the 3-liter and 5-speed manual. Standard equipment includes power brakes and steering, AM/FM stereo withpower antenna, power seats, electronic temperature control, rear-windowdefroster, side window de-misters, power door locks with child-proof rearlocks, power windows, intermittent wipers, dual power mirrors, digital clock, dual exhausts, illuminated entry system, trip odometer, cruise control, 18-ounce carpeting, floor mats, dual vanity mirrors and tinted glass. Ford has been selling about 6,000 SHOs annually, but Ford divisiongeneral manager Ross Roberts said he expects sales to climb to at least 20,000units in 1993 with the availability now of automatic transmission. He may beerring on the low side.
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