The Ford Motor Company is on a bit of a roll, all things considered in the domestic auto industry. It didn’t take government bailout money, and it has the right products in its line to guide it into a more prosperous future. Vehicles like the Fusion Hybrid, the upcoming Fiesta compact, and the iconic Mustang offer a nice mix of vehicles with strong appeal to a variety of buyers.
It’s also reinvented itself in the full-size sedan segment with the 2010 Taurus, a fresh take on an old name that once served Ford well and occasionally vied for the best-selling car nameplate in the country. The new Taurus will never enjoy that distinction, but it’s nonetheless a very nice large car that rounds out Ford’s portfolio of cars.
I recently got a chance to spend some time in a second version of the new Taurus, the model called SHO for “super high output.” This model is billed as a high-performance top of the model line, with impressive horsepower numbers and little touches here and there to distinguish it from the other trim levels of the Taurus.
The major departure from the regular Taurus is under the hood, where Ford’s new turbocharged 3.5 liter V6 resides. Ford calls this engine “EcoBoost” and it’s the first of a line of engines that will carry that label. The idea behind EcoBoost is that a smaller engine can be turbocharged in order to make more power, instead of using bigger displacement which will almost always mean an increase in fuel consumption.
So far, the 365 horsepower EcoBoost V6 is used in two Lincoln models, the MKS and MKT, and the Ford Flex crossover SUV. In those applications the engine is merely there to offer extra power to help propel a relatively large vehicle that’s likely to carry lots of people. It’s also the basis for the Taurus SHO, which is being marketed as a performance choice, since for just about anybody, the Taurus’ base V6 with 263 horsepower is plenty.
With the SHO, the engine is hooked up to a standard all wheel drive system in order to put all the horsepower to the ground. The standard Taurus is front wheel drive, and trying to get the EcoBoost’s 365 horsepower delivered with just the two front tires would be nearly impossible. In addition to the increase in power and all wheel drive, the SHO also gets a specially tuned suspension for better handling.
The whole package works very well, and the boosted V6 packs a pretty impressive wallop when the accelerator is tromped on. The SHO also provides the ubiquitous paddle shifters on the steering wheel to manually control the 6-speed automatic transmission. The only problem with that is that in order to access the manual feature, you first have to move the floor selector out of drive and into manual mode. Most of the better systems allow the driver to override automatic shifting by simply flipping one of the paddles.
So, functionally, the SHO is fine, delivering performance as promised. The problem is that Ford decided this was going to be a “stealthy” performance car. They may have dialed up the stealth quotient a little too much. It doesn’t sound any different from a standard Taurus, and it barely looks different. I just think that buyers forking over the extra money for a performance model want more distinction.
For example, the exhaust should make a nice aggressive growl when the engine is winding up. It doesn’t have to be intrusive or obnoxious, but it should sound like something is going on under the hood. The SHO just whooshes like the Taurus that Grandma and Grandpa will poke along in.
And yes, the SHO has a trunk lip spoiler and 19” or optional 20” wheels, but so many new car dealers add those things to their regular inventory these days to maximize profits that, again, the SHO doesn’t look that special. There are unique seats with a grippy faux suede down the center section in the SHO, but the seats in the conventional Taurus are just fine.
The modern Taurus SHO has roots in the original Taurus SHO that debuted in 1989. That car came with a wonderful high-revving V6 engine that featured cylinder heads engineered by Yamaha, as well as a 5-speed manual transmission. Yes, it was subtle too, but I think that in 2010 customers have higher expectations for their performance cars.
Base price for a 2010 Taurus SHO is $37,995, though it’s easy to add options and raise the price by nearly $10,000. Considering the performance, that’s actually a pretty good deal, as long as you don’t mind its overwhelming subtlety.
I’ll see you down the road.
Dave Kunz is the automotive reporter at KABC-TV Channel 7. He’s also a car enthusiast and owns several classics. Dave can be reached at TVCarz @ pacbell.net.