Ford Taurus SHO: Subtle Showoff or SHO Stopper?

2014 Ford Taurus SHO

2014 Ford Taurus SHO

 

2013 Taurus SHO: Medicine for the mid-life crisis or subtle SHO-off?

BY GERRY MILES

It’s been a while since I was first spirited around Road Atlanta in high pursuit of the other cars with Bill Elliot behind the wheel, recreating what it had to feel like to ride along in a midnight moonshine run down south.

With every corner he cut, sure to make a rider squirm in the front seat, the down-home boy took delight in kicking up the revs from the 220 hp Yahama motor and a 5-speed manual as much as he kicked up dirt during the hot laps. As much as the ride showed the driver’s prowess in a production showroom car, one could only imagine his talent behind the wheel of his stock car in a NASCAR race. He had to know something to earn the monicker “Awesome Bill from Dawsonville” Georgia, that is.

The original edition had a 220 hp Yamaha engine V-6 engine stuffed under the hood mated to a 5-speed manual that had trouble withstanding the 200 lb-ft of torque the engineers created in that midsized sedan.

SHO stands for Super High Output and the work of another acronym department – SVO – Special Vehicle Operations that became SVT – or Special Vehicle Team – which is now relegated to the Blue Oval’s Raptor and Tremor sport trucks. It was almost redundant to use Cobra, Mustang and SVT in the same sentence years ago, but that’s how it went down.

Recently a well-heeled Taurus arrived and like the original, except for a few SHO badges, no would be the wiser that underneath the hood of a sedate sedan sat the DNA of a boy racer ready to rock.

The journey from a plastic interior that defied my attempts to imprint my fingers into the dash with Awesome Bill from Dawsonville at the wheel, whipping around Road Atlanta’s 12 turns to the present day is impressive.

The new, aka fourth generation and current SHO returned from an extended hiatus in 2010 at the Chicago Auto Show with 145 more horses under the hood than the original offering, to keep Taurus bullish on the mission of high-speed motoring.

There’s a single motor: the 3.5-liter, twin-turbocharged, 365 hp, EcoBoost V-6 that mates to a 6-speed automatic and all-wheel-drive all the time.

Although the original SHO, which was supposed to run for a year but continued due to demand, had a five-speed stick future versions tried automatic transmissions. Asked why Ford was going with automatics in a performance car, then-CEO Alex Trotman replied, “It doesn’t matter what (transmission) we put in. You guys (autowriters) will say we should have the other, so we’ll always be wrong, right? We’ll do what makes the most sense and most people buy I suppose.”

Thus the current SHO also bears paddle shifters for visceral involvement if a desire to turn the caffeine commute into a road course seems right or an open ribbon of road beckons you to hit the upper limits of the speedo’s top mark of 140 mph you dare reach. Tachometer watchers will need 20/20 vision or the Hubble telescope to find the smaller numbers inside the speedo’s numbers, however.

That the instrument panel and center stack of slick, hard to use touch surfaces looks like it’s straight from a Fusion or Edge hints that the SHO isn’t a hard and fast muscle car despite its twin-turbocharged engine.  And perhaps that’s the brilliance or the confusion depending upon your preference. The original SHO didn’t scream race car while serving as a daily driver and neither does our tester, yet it’s able to serve a dual purpose.

Equipped the package’s sport-tuned suspension, stiffer springs, 18-inch brake calipers and an advanced trac ESC that can be switched off, a 3.16-to-1 final drive ratio, and enhanced cooling system this Taurus is ready to SHO off on the track.

However, I suspect most will find it easier to run down Route 128 in the left lane easily eclipsing the slowest to dart in and out with the greatest of ease. One second it’s a sedate sedan keeping pace in the caffeinated conga line that is a long commute. In the next, it’s Walter Mitty jabbing the pedal to produce a roar from the engine and scuttle down the road to the next open spot, moving like a two-ton lineman that benefited from off-season yoga and Pilates and diet of leafy greens instead of fried foods.

Underway the car is library quiet, comfortable, has a huge trunk, split-folding rear seat and reasonable spare tire under the trunk’s floor.  The rear seat is roomy and fold in a 60/40 setup to augment cargo carrying. Trunk is cavernous. It’s also the daily driving that turns up some niggles. Taurus’ length (202.9”) and width (76.”) make it almost unwieldy to park at the mall. Practice your k-turns or you’ll be performing them to dock this boat. Its size contributes to a rather large 39.7-foot turning circle.

SHO ecoBoost engine

SHO ecoBoost engine

All that power and two-ton heft comes with a price at the pump. Despite the EcoBoost engine and 17/25 EPA numbers I could produce no better than 21.2 mpgs over 381 miles consuming 17.9 gallons in mixed city and highway driving.

Maybe that’s the conundrum. If you’re going to spend over $40K for a car with nearly 400 hp, should it not feel like it behind the wheel instead of coming really close to it? Should there be more interaction, a more raucous reaction from the motor instead of a geriatric growl and stronger stiffer seating, things that sell the feeling that you can run moonshine to Marblehead from Melrose if desired?

The Dodge Charger and its variants come perhaps closest to the SHO in size, price and performance but provides a more visceral interaction that speaks to the history of those who owned and loved them then and still do today.

The Taurus SHO is a relative newcomer that has the power pedigree and DNA at its disposal. Ford has to find a better way to deploy it as either a strict SHO stopper or middle of the road Walter Mitty mobile.

2013 Ford Taurus SHO

THE BASICS

Price as tested (with destination): $39,995. Fuel economy, EPA estimated: 17 city, 25 highway. Fuel economy, Globe observed: 21.2. Drivetrain: 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6, 6-speed SelectShift automatic transmission, all-wheel-drive. Body: 4-door sedan.

THE SPECIFICS

Horsepower: 365. Torque: 350 lb.-ft. Overall length: 202.9 in. Wheelbase: 112.9 in. Width: 76.22 in. Curb weight: 4,343 lbs.

THE GOOD

This sedan can hurry without being harried with all-wheel-drive for year-round fun.

THE BAD

Wide turning radius, heavy car.

THE BOTTOM LINE

This is a daily driver that packs a subtle punch.
ALSO CONSIDER

Dodge Charger

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