First Drive: 2010 Ford Taurus SHO

The "ultimate sleeper performance car."

by on Jun.23, 2009

Is the 2010 Ford Taurus SHO "the ultimate performance sleeper sedan?"

Is the 2010 Ford Taurus SHO "the ultimate performance sleeper sedan?"

Maybe it’s a sign of age, but when I was first burning rubber down the Jersey Shore, the guys with the really hot-looking cars were as likely as not poseurs.  The folks you didn’t want to race – not if you wanted to hang on to your cash – were the ones with the “beaters,” often dented, occasionally rusted out, but always looking like they couldn’t get out of their own way until you lined up at the stoplight.

That’s much the idea Ford Motor Co. had in mind when it introduced the first Taurus SHO, back in 1989.  No, you couldn’t order the dents, but you could get what seemed like a plain Jane family sedan that packed an awesome Yamaha 220-horsepower six-banger under the hood.  Add a track-ready suspension and you were sitting behind the wheel of a SHO, a fearsome beast that could take down most of the muscle cars of the era.

Sadly, Ford seemed to lose interest in this wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing concept.  The last run was just plain boring and few even noticed when the SHO slinked off the streets, back in 1999.  But, with the launch of an all-new Taurus aimed at recreating the excitement of the original sedan, it seemed just so, well, absolutely right to bring back the SHO, as well.

Subscribe to TheDetroitBureau.comThink of the 2010 Ford Taurus as the “ultimate sleeper performance sedan,” suggests product program chief Frank Davis, with a fair bit of hyperbole, but it’s nonetheless a boast the new car can live up to.

A size class larger than the '89 original, the 2010 Ford Taurus SHO has a surprisingly intimate cabin, but that trunk will store enough for a long trip for five.

A size class larger than the '89 original, the 2010 Ford Taurus SHO has a surprisingly intimate cabin, but that trunk will store enough for a long trip for five.

Like those beaters that used to cruise through Asbury Park, waiting for an easy mark, there aren’t many signs to clue you in on what you’re about to square off against – a luster nickel, rather than chromed, grille, undersized SHO badges, a modest rear spoiler and larger aluminum wheels.  To figure out the rest, you’d need to get under the hood.

There you’d find one of the first applications of Ford’s new EcoBoost engine technology.  The basics are simple: direct injection and twin turbochargers fire up Ford’s 3.5-liter V-6 like a triple shot of Red Bull.  By the time you’ve hit just 1,500 RPMs, the engine I producing one of the flattest torque curves you’ve ever seen, and maintaining its 350 pound-feet all the way up to 5,000 revs.  (Redline comes at 6,250.)  On the horsepower side, you’ll be making a hefty 365, 50 more than the coming year’s Mustang GT, and 10 more than the new Lincoln MKS, which will be sharing a version of the V-6 Ecoboost.

The luster nickel grille is one of the few ways to tell the difference between the SHO and the standard, 2010 Ford Taurus.

The luster nickel grille is one of the few ways to tell the difference between the SHO and the standard, 2010 Ford Taurus.

Ford has big plans for the technology, which will be offered in 90% of the automaker’s products by the middle of the coming decade.  There’s good reason.  The automaker claims Ecoboost delivers “the performance of a V-8 with the fuel economy of a V-6.”  We’ll need more time in the car — and less of it with our right foot flat to the floor – to verify that claim, but rated mileage is 18 City and 28 Highway, the same numbers on the base 2010 Ford Taurus.  And we can assure you, that version won’t get you from 0 to 60 in something under 5.5 seconds.

SHO’s V-6 is mated to a beefier version of the 6-speed automatic found in the base car, power exclusively being driven to all four wheels.  Sadly, there’s no manual gearbox available on the 2010, a lamentable switch from the original which, ironically, made too much torque for any of Ford’s automatic gearboxes of the day to handle.

As with the mid- and top-line versions of the standard-issue Taurus, SHO puts a pair of paddle shifters at your fingertips.  One of our relatively few quibbles is with the decision to activate those paddles only when the main gear shifter is in the “M,” for manual, position.  Maybe that works on the base car, but on the SHO, we want to be able to do a quick tap downshift when we see the kid in the Mustang or Camaro creeping up in our mirrors.

Badges? We don't need no stinking badges -- well just a couple.  The 2010 Ford Taurus SHO is designed to take you by surprise.

Badges? We don't need no stinking badges -- well just a couple. The 2010 Ford Taurus SHO is designed to take you by surprise.

If you’re a serious boy – or girl – racer, there are several things to consider ticking on the options list, starting with the performance brake package.  The stock brakes will work, for awhile, anyway.  But after flogging the SHO through a 20-mile stretch of tight winding tarmac, in the North Carolina hills, near Asheville, we had them smoking by the time we eased up on the throttle.

The brake upgrade is part of the SHO Performance Package, which gets you a sport setting on the stability control system, adds 20-inch wheels, switches to a 3.16:1 final drive ratio and recalibrates the car’s E-PAS, Electric Power Assist Steering system.

Since electric power steer started showing up, a few years back, we’ve tended to turn our noses up, in favor of conventional hydraulic power assist.  Things are changing, thanks to newer systems, such as the rack, rather than column-mounted SHO E-PAS.  Where early systems were numb and often sloppy, SHO’s steering has a precise on-center feel and provides a good road feel, better by far than the base car’s hydraulic steering.

You need that precision considering the size of the 2010 Ford Taurus.  The original car was a midsize, the ’10 a full-size offering that left less than a foot on either side as we skittered down those narrow country lanes.  Even so, we were able to work up some significant speed, and while the SHO is no sports car, it should satisfy those who recall the original, ’89 edition fondly.

The 2010 Ford Taurus SHO is, like the base car, loaded with a wide assortment of high-tech features.

The 2010 Ford Taurus SHO is, like the base car, loaded with a wide assortment of high-tech features.

Like the base car, the new SHO has a surprisingly “intimate” cabin, far more so than one would expect of such a big car.  Taurus, in either form, is simply not meant to be a family car anymore.  Yes, you can fit five, though four will be a lot more comfortable.

As we noted in our review of the base Taurus, the driver has a cockpit-style gauge and control layout that puts everything within easy reach.  The overall interior is well executed, perhaps the best cabin finish, in fact, we’ve seen out of Ford.

All Taurus models, from the entry SE up to SHO, come with a number of surprise-and-delight features, starting with cool-lit switches and an ambient cabin lighting system that a driver can set to any number of different colors.

Forget aiming at big, mainstream imports, like the Toyota Avalon.  With Taurus, Ford takes a shot at the Japanese maker’s highline brand, Lexus, providing one of the most quiet interiors we’ve ever experienced, import or domestic.  Foot to the floor, you will hear the Ecoboost roar, though the engine has a slightly brittle sound to it, one of the few weak comparisons to a more traditional performance car’s V-8.

Taurus and SHO are electronic wonders, with a long list of standard and optional features, from the premium Sony sound system to the SYNC infotainment unit that will let you program destinations by voice, detour around traffic, check for the best local fuel prices and plenty more.

Much of the new technology is designed to improve safety, such as the radar-guided Active Cruise Control, that will allow you to match your speed to the traffic flow – and with the integrated collision warning system, it will apply brakes, if necessary, to help avoid a crash.  Ford, with Taurus and SHO, is the first mainstream maker with Cross Traffic Alert.  If you’re backing out of a spot, it uses a pair of rear fender-mounted radar modules to scan the road for traffic coming from either side.

SHO’s most direct competition is the Chrysler 300C.  While that Chrysler offering has a lot going for it, including the satisfying roar of its big V-8, it’s simply no match for the new Ford.  Meanwhile, the U.S. maker shows it’s willing to stretch, also making comparisons between the 2010 Ford Taurus SHO, at $37,995, and the Audi A6 4.2, which goes for $23,000 more.

The new Ford holds up far better, in comparison, than many folks might expect.  While it doesn’t have quite the shock value of the original, unexpectedly tempting sports sedan, the 2010 Ford Taurus SHO is solid, fast and fun to drive.  It could prove one of the sleepers of the upcoming model-year.

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One Response to “First Drive: 2010 Ford Taurus SHO”

  1. Al Rusca says:

    It’s a “guy thing” but you have to love a sleeper!
    I drove the Asbury “Circuit” in the mid 60′s in a
    56 Plymouth “beater” with a Chrysler 392 hemi under the hood. Great fun! I still enjoy smoking the kids with the “buzz bombs” in the wife’s S-60 Turbo.
    They don’t expect a “Volvo” to be driven like
    that….yes, us “old guys” still like to go fast at times. It’s in our blood! Who knows? A 2010 Taurus could end up in the garage….