ASHEVILLE, North Carolina - Way back in 1989, Ford unleashed a high-performance rendition of its Taurus sedan, which had then been on the market for only a few years: since 1986, to be exact. SHO sedans attracted a considerable following over the next decade or so, powered by a Yamaha-developed dual-overhead-cam engine. Ford produced its last SHO sedan for the 1999 model year, but fans of the potent sport have kept the name active. Many SHO enthusiasts wanted a new one, said chief engineer Pete Reyes at the media presentation for the 2010 model.
Those fans had one recommendation, Reyes explained: "Just make it subtle. Make it about the go."
SHO is "the ultimate sleeper performance sedan," said Frank Davis, executive director of product development. Marketers came up with a simple theme: "The thrust of a V-8. The thirst of a V-6."
With its potent EcoBoost V-6 engine cranking out 365 horsepower, the SHO yields the same fuel-economy estimate as a regular Taurus with all-wheel drive: 17 mpg in city driving and 25 mpg on the highway. Ordinary Taurus sedans use a 263-horsepower V-6.
EcoBoost engines also are used on the Ford Flex, and Lincoln MKS and MKT. A four-cylinder EcoBoost engine also is in the works at Ford.
Specifically, the twin-turbo engine generates 365 horsepower at 5500 rpm, and 350 pound-feet of torque between 1500 and 5250 rpm. It's a "torque plateau now," Reyes noted, rather than a typical torque curve. A Performance Pack is optional. The turbochargers are engineered to rotate as fast as 170,000 rpm. Reyes advised that the suede-like upholstery is actually made from used soda pop bottles.
Offered only with all-wheel drive, the 2010 Taurus SHO rides on 19-inch wheels with luster nickel finish, but 20-inch tires are optional. Subtle SHO badging is visible, along with a modest rear spoiler.
In order to reduce body roll even below that of a regular Taurus, the SHO gets thicker anti-sway bars and stiffer springs. Electric power-assisted steering is used, rather than the regular Taurus's hydraulic setup, promising a more "connected feel," according to Reyes. Shift times for the six-speed SelectShift automatic transmission are much quicker than usual, Reyes adds. Aluminum paddles permit manually-selected gear changes.
Like the original Yamaha-engined version, the 21-century SHO is one masterful machine. Ride quality is utterly supreme, despite the SHO's firmer springs and other suspension components. Handling qualities are hard to beat on twisty two-lane roads. Virtually no body lean is evident through fast curves, as the SHO stays solidly planted regardless of pavement conditions. Steering feel is surprisingly satisfying, too.
Except for an energetic engine whir when pushed hard to eke out the quickest acceleration, the SHO is even quieter than a regular Taurus.
Sticker-priced at $37,995, the SHO is in the same price class as Chrysler's 300C, which holds a Hemi V-8 engine. Ford also compares the SHO against the far more costly Audi A6 sedan, as well as the more moderately-priced Dodge Charger R/T and Pontiac G8 GT.
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