Versus the competiton:
Performance returns to the Ford Taurus for 2010 in the form of the all-new Taurus SHO. Wait a second … “performance” and “Taurus” in the same sentence? Indeed; while its performance moniker isn’t as widely known as “Shelby” or “Cobra,” many Ford enthusiasts have equal respect for the “Super High Output” Taurus-turned-sports-sedan that was introduced in 1989 and phased out in 1999. Much of the equation that made the original SHO a cult favorite is back for 2010, including a powerful engine, a sport-tuned suspension and subtle interior and exterior enhancements.
Cult status aside, the SHO is a heavy car, and it doesn’t give the feeling of a well-rounded package. What’s special about it is entirely under the hood: a 365-hp, twin-turbocharged, direct-injection V-6.
For our review of the non-SHO 2010 Taurus, click here.
Ford’s combination of turbocharging and direct injection is called EcoBoost, and it’s good. Very good. Unlike most turbocharged engines, the SHO has gobs of power available low in the rev range. I was never left waiting for acceleration at any speed. Whether at a dead stop or already going 55 mph, punching the gas yields the same pinned-to-your-seat acceleration that doesn’t taper off throughout the rev range.
Ford says the SHO’s EcoBoost engine has V-8 horsepower with the gas mileage of a V-6, and the numbers back it up. The turbo V-6 makes a V-8-like 365 horsepower and 350 pounds-feet of torque, and with its impressive 17/25 mpg city/highway, the SHO’s mileage matches that of the non-EcoBoost 3.5-liter V-6 — and it doesn’t require premium gas. So basically you get 102 more hp while using the same amount of gas. Sounds good to me.
Many enthusiasts like to hear the whistle of a turbocharger, and you won’t get that in the SHO. I picked up a few faint whistles during initial acceleration with the windows down, but otherwise the no-nonsense EcoBoost power plant gives little indication of its impressive power — other than the speedometer needle swiftly arcing forward.
The new SHO does not come with a manual transmission, which the first few model years had exclusively. I talked with a group of first-generation SHO owners, and they’re bitter about it. To them, the SHO name is synonymous with “manual transmission.” When asked what they would like to see improved in future model years, all three said a manual transmission needs to be added.
The current SHO’s six-speed automatic works well teamed with the EcoBoost engine, and the steering-wheel-mounted paddles shift the transmission quickly. It’s no replacement for a manual, but I sense that adding a manual transmission would be difficult because of the Taurus’ massive center console. Imagining trying to grab a gearshift on the elevated, wide console put me off.
Unlike the original SHO, which was based on a midsize sedan, the new Taurus is a genuine full-sizer, weighing in at a portly 4,368 pounds. Despite having been upgraded, the suspension has a hard time keeping up with the car’s heft. What’s good is that the car never feels sloppy or uncontrollable. Body roll isn’t significant, but it doesn’t long to be thrown into corners like a good sports sedan should.
The standard all-wheel drive plants power to the ground, preventing wheel slip, but it doesn’t feel as effective as some all-wheel-drive systems in terms of helping the SHO’s handling. In contrast, Acura’s Super Handling All-Wheel Drive system, which is used in the similarly priced TL SH-AWD, does an amazing job controlling the car and rotating it around corners. Bonus: The TL SH-AWD is available with an authentic manual transmission for 2010.
Like the suspension, the SHO’s brake pedal didn’t feel up to the task. Its family-sedan roots were apparent every time I hit the soft, mushy brake pedal. With a performance car, you typically want a solid, firm brake pedal that communicates well how the car is reacting.
There’s little to distinguish the SHO from a Taurus Limited in terms of outward appearance. Stepping up to the SHO gets you unique 19-inch wheels, a deck-lid spoiler, dual tailpipes and a few SHO emblems. There aren’t any scoops, ground effects or obnoxious wheels included. The SHO manages to look aggressive without being flashy, which it owes mainly to the fact that the new 2010 Taurus is already an aggressive-looking sedan. The reception would have been a lot different if Ford had tried to turn the previous, 2009 Taurus into an SHO.
On the inside, the Taurus’ interior is already an impressive execution, and little is added to the SHO. It’s much more upscale than most would expect a Taurus to be. When I took the SHO guys out in the car for a ride, the most-repeated remark was “This is a Ford? Really?”
The SHO package adds bonus pieces to the already classy interior, including suede seat inserts, an aluminum appliqué over the instrument gauges and dash, and aluminum covers for the brake and accelerator pedals. There’s a sole SHO badge on the passenger-side dash, plus floormats with SHO branding.
Sitting at the top of the Taurus hierarchy, the SHO’s pricing starts at $37,170. Our tester had an optional voice-activated navigation system ($1,995), 20-inch wheels (replacing the standard 19-inchers) ($695), multicontoured seats ($595), and an optional equipment package ($2,000) that added a moonroof, an upgraded stereo, and heated and cooled front seats. The grand total was $42,455.
Looking at the SHO as a sports sedan, there’s a lot to be desired. The EcoBoost engine is by far the sedan’s best asset; from a performance-to-dollar standpoint, there are cars with rear-wheel-drive balance and more brute acceleration for the same price. The 2009 Pontiac G8 GXP ($37,610) and 2010 Dodge Charger SRT8 ($38,180), for instance, are genuine muscle sedans, and even the less-powerful GT and R/T versions of each offer similar performance to the SHO for less money.
What the SHO does offer is an unparalleled interior experience, with quality and style the others can’t match. In the end, the SHO is a better fit for regular Taurus buyers who are looking for more get-up-and-go, not buyers who want a performance car. Would I have chosen to call it an SHO? Definitely not. “Ford Taurus EcoBoost” has a better ring to it, and far less history to live up to.