2010 Ford Taurus SHO: First Drive

It’s SHO time for the Taurus

2010 Ford Taurus SHO: First Drive

Enticing eye candy debuting at the 2009 Chicago Auto Show included Ford Motor Company’s 2010 Taurus SHO, a high-output version of the smartly redesigned 2010 Taurus sedan- revealed a month earlier at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The Taurus SHO (Super High Output) first appeared in 1989; soon, a cult following developed until 1999 when the SHO went on hiatus… until now!

FAST FACTS

1. After an 11-year hiatus, the SHO is back with Ford’s new twin-turbo EcoBoost V6 making 365hp and 350 ft-lbs of torque.

2. Fuel-economy isn’t bad, but not as good as the EcoBoost title suggests with 17/25 mpg (city/hwy).

3. The SHO model stickers from $37,995.

4. Optional tech gadgets include Ford’s voice-activated SYNC system, a blind spot monitoring system, adaptive cruise control, a backup camera and massaging seats.

A key aspect to the SHO’s future success is that it’s based on the newly re-engineered 2010 Taurus. The storied Taurus has gone from the car that many claim saved Ford in the mid 1980s to the Jelly-bean, ‘styled by committee’ miss-hit of the mid 1990s, to the miss-named Five Hundred in 2006. Give Ford credit; it brought back the Taurus name in 2008 and brings back a car worthy of that name in 2010. Maybe the Taurus can save Ford again.

This 2010 entry marks the sixth-generation of the Taurus with plenty of forward thinking that helped make the first generation so desirable. Ford actually moved up the introduction by one year. Originally it was slated as a 2011 intro. A 2010 Taurus SHO starts at $37,995 (including destination charge) versus a standard Taurus with a $25,995 for an entry SE trim.

ECOBOOST TRUMPS UP HORSEPOWER

A major gripe against the 2006 and 2007 Five Hundred sedan was Ford’s frumpy 203 horsepower V6. The SHO’s standard 3.5-liter, twin turbocharged, direct-inject, EcoBoost gas V6 cranks out an impressive 365 horses (100 more than the standard Taurus with the 3.5-liter V6 Duratec engine) and 350 ft-lbs of low-end torque grunt.

EcoBoost directly injects fuel into the combustion chamber of each cylinder rather than mixing it with air prior to entering the chamber. Along with dual turbochargers and a high compression ratio, EcoBoost helps improve torque and engine efficiency.

The EcoBoost engine is another short-term fix to improve gas mileage and reduce carbon dioxide while retaining engine power. Not a bad combo, but no Prius driver I know will find EcoBoost’s 17 miles per gallon in the city something to cheer about.

Make no mistake, EcoBoost is more about “Boost” than “Eco.”

Premium fuel is recommended for peak performance, although 87 octane can be utilized. When refueling, don’t reach for the fuel cap though as all 2010 Taurus models, including the SHO, come with ‘cap less refueling’ where the nozzle breaks a barrier and directly inserts into the tank lead; no more excuses for misplacing a wayward cap. We think it’s a great touch that’s long overdue. Smart thinking Ford.

All SHO models come with all-wheel drive, while regular Taurus models are offered in AWD or front-wheel drive. A six-speed automatic transmission comes standard in all Taurus models, including the SHO, a notable departure from 1989 when a manual transmission was offered. However, the SHO does come with dual steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters.

I found the paddle shifters awkward to use because they were counterintuitive to others recently tested. When pressing either paddle forward the transmission would downshift a gear. I’m more in tune to pushing forward and having the gear up-shift a notch. I found myself thinking too much about changing gears to enjoy the ride. The SHO’s paddle shifters certainly are more responsive than the standard Taurus, but I eventually ended up slipping back into “drive” and letting the automatic transmission do the work.

Ford promotes the SHO’s EcoBoost engine as having the power of a V8 with the fuel consumption of a V6. Preliminary estimates have city mpg at 17 and highway at 25. According to Pete Reyes, Chief Engineer for the Taurus SHO, 90 percent of Ford nameplates will have EcoBoost by 2013.

SPACIOUS AND LUXURIOUS INTERIOR

The SHO has a great looking interior thanks to brushed aluminum enhancements around the instrument panel’s three deep-set gauges and the square region above the medium-sized glove box. Other 2010 Taurus models choose faux wood in those areas, that truly does look fake.

The Taurus SHO has one of the largest trunks of any class of sedan (20.1 cubic feet). In this segment, 18 cubic feet is considered good. This trunk could handle a week’s worth of vacation gear to Aunt Martha’s cottage (and Aunt Martha as well).

As with the previous generation Taurus, three riders fit comfortably in back thanks to generous legroom. SHO exclusives include leather-trimmed seats with Miko suede inserts, far more welcoming than the cloth found in the entry level Taurus. Rear seatbacks fold down on the cushion in a 60/40 split making the large trunk even more versatile.

The SHO comes with all the standard equipment found in the top-level Limited trim of the standard Taurus. In a bow to younger owners, there is an ambient interior lighting system allowing folks the opportunity to choose from five different interior backlighting selections. I found that ‘cool blue,’ was easiest on the eyes.

The SHO edition also comes with push-start/stop ignition. With a key fob in a pocket or purse, the engine purrs to life with a push of a dashboard button. Push start is great, but be forewarned when valet parking. You can’t forget to give the fob to the valet.

Other touches exclusive to the SHO are aluminum brake and accelerator pedals, electronic power actuated steering, a very noticeable sports tuned suspension, a perforated leather wrapped steering wheel, dual chrome tipped split exhaust tips and a rear spoiler.

HIGH TECH GADGETRY AVAILABLE

SYNC, Ford’s hand’s free communications and entertainment system (developed by Microsoft) comes standard. Like many technologies, when it works; it’s great, when not, it’s not so hot. I’m uncomfortable giving voice commands out loud. I like talking to people, but conversing with a device when other folks are in the car makes me feel silly. Talking out load to the radio when no one is in the car makes me feel psychotic. I’ll just push the button, thank you. Audio systems and cell phones can still be used without SYNC so if one gets flustered, the radio will still turn on and off.

The SHO incorporates many options usually found in up-scale, premium sedans including a power sun roof, heated and cooled front seats, a blind spot information system (BLIS) with cross traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, multi-contoured front seats with active motion, a voice activated navigation system, reverse sensors and a back-up camera. A couple option packages are available (combining many of these systems).

The blind spot information system combines radar technologies in a simple, easy-to-understand manner, and should be standard on every car made. If a vehicle is traveling in the SHO’s side blind spot, amber icons illuminate in the side view mirror alerting you not to make a quick lane change. The active motion front seats include massaging motions in both the cushion and backrest making long hours behind the wheel a pleasure. Set your cell in your pants pocket on vibrate, and who needs a date?

OUTSIDE LOOKING IN

The SHO edition does not brag overtly that it’s something special, which may or may not go over well when somebody is spending nearly 40 grand on a Taurus. Near the taillights on the trunk lid’s right side sits the diminutive ‘SHO with EcoBoost’ logo, the only indication of the special features of the car. On the other hand, it may make the cop question the reading on his radar gun when he sees the family sedan streak by. Ford wanted this to be a driver’s car where the difference was felt behind the wheel.

One of the other small clues to the car’s potential is the standard 19-inch wheels. A set of 20s is optional.

Ford positions the 2010 Taurus as its flagship vehicle and the SHO as the premium choice of the flagship. At 202.9-inches in length, the Taurus SHO competes with the Chevrolet Impala, Chrysler 300 and the Toyota Avalon.

Interestingly, however, Ford is has few competitors for the SHO as Chevrolet recently announced plans to discontinue production of the 303hp front-drive Impala SS.

DRIVING IMPRESSIONS

Ford did a good job with insulation points as this is a very quiet-riding vehicle; not quite to the extent of a Toyota Avalon, but creeping ever-so-much closer.

An independent multi-link rear suspension creates a sportier ride, and the SHO corners well. This, along with a stiffer chassis and power-actuated steering, make the SHO driving experience precise and sure-footed. On the road it feels lighter than its 4,368 pounds would lead one to believe.

While the SHO doesn’t deliver horsepower numbers generated by the Chrysler 300 SRT8; it provides excellent performance and a civilized ride.

THE VERDICT

The Taurus SHO seats five in comfort, yet offers plenty of fun-to-drive qualities. And no domestic rival comes close to offering as many advanced electronics as the SHO. It doesn’t breathe fire, but offers ‘sleeper performance’ and lets drivers enjoy extra get-up-and-go while being a bit friendlier to the environment. All-wheel-drive keeps the car planted, but does not provide the performance of a rear-drive platform. If you’re looking for a family sedan, and want to please both the practical and playful sides, the SHO is worth a look.

PLUS

  • Offers advanced electronic options usually reserved for higher-priced sedans
  • EcoBoost engine supplies more horsepower than engine in the outgoing Impala SS
  • Huge trunk

MINUS

  • No manual transmission
  • Bevy of higher-tech options can add up quickly
  • Rear and side view visibility could be better

RELATED READING

2010 Ford Taurus: First Drive – Bigger, Smarter

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