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After losing its mantle as most popular sedan to the Toyota Camry in 1997, the Ford Taurus went through a bit of an identity crisis, but it's back with a vengeance for the 2010 model year with a whole new platform. Right out of the gate, Ford is showing confidence in the model by simultaneously releasing the SHO, or super high output, version. The 2010 Ford Taurus SHO is a big sedan, packed with the cabin tech that currently sets Ford apart from the competition. Also, it features a whole new drivetrain: Ford's V-6 EcoBoost engine comprised of a direct injection V-6 and twin turbochargers.
With extraordinarily high sides, the Taurus SHO, a big, beefy sedan, embodies American muscle. Externally, it doesn't differ from the standard Taurus, sharing details such as the notched bars in the grille. Only an aficionado will notice the SHO badges that indicate this Taurus is built for speed. That sleeper status makes the SHO fine for an everyday commute yet able to blast to 60 mph in 5 seconds.
This grille, shared with the standard Taurus, helps the Taurus SHO stand out amid all the other sedans on the road.
The cabin of the Taurus SHO, although lacking a real luxury feel, is covered in quality materials. The dashboard is made up of soft plastics with patterned metal insets. The shifter, with its meaty handle, suits the nature of the car, but feels a little last century. The steering wheel holds the buttons we would expect from a Sync-equipped vehicle, and a touch-screen LCD sits front and center, showing the home screen we've grown familiar with over the past year. The screen shows the map, audio system, and climate control all in their own little windows, but it's the last time we will look at it because we prefer the full-screen map for everyday driving.
Out on the road, the Taurus SHO feels comfortable. Its plush seats feel like overstuffed easy chairs, complete with heating and cooling in front. Ford also makes what it calls multicontour seats available, basically massage chairs, but we didn't have that option. The Taurus SHO does a very good job of insulating against external noise, helping with the impression of quality. We're used to dropping the height adjustment on seats down low, but the high sides of the car make it hard to judge the space around it, forcing a higher seat position.
As a fuel-saving measure, Ford fits the Taurus SHO with electric power steering. The steering is tuned well, providing enough resistance to feel like we are in control. Over time, that power unit proves to limit road feedback to the wheel, but around the city it feels just fine. Likewise, the power delivery from this new power train comes on smoothly, with no turbo lag evident. Of course, in the city we're only asking the turbos for occasional bursts of speed to get around another car or squeeze in a traffic opening. The six-speed-automatic transmission, also tuned for fuel-saving, goes to the highest gear possible, keeping the engine revs at 1,500rpm to 2,000rpm.
BLIS lights up this warning signal in the sideview mirror when another car is in the SHO's blind spot.
A blind-spot warning system called BLIS, technology lifted from Volvo, is present on our car. Our favorite safety tech, BLIS lights up a warning in the side view mirror if a car is in the lane next to the Taurus SHO. Ford is just starting to incorporate this type of driver aid technology, and also makes adaptive cruise controls available as an option, along with automatic high beams. We experienced the latter on the Lincoln MKS and were impressed by their utility.
Of even more utility is the hard-drive based navigation system that serves as an onboard information system. It's very easy to enter an address while underway with the voice command system, which recognizes full city and street names, providing good feedback every step of the way. The touch-screen-entry system is equally easy with its direct inputs. The system shows maps in 2D or 3D, while route guidance graphics indicate upcoming turns. Voice guidance has text-to-speech, reading out the names of streets.
But what really sets this system apart from the competition are its external data sources sent through satellite radio. Its live traffic feature shows incidents and traffic flow information, but it only offers detours around bad traffic when a route is programmed into the system. We've got into the habit of programming a destination even when we know the way. Out roaming California's highways in the Taurus SHO, we got stuck in a few traffic jams; however, that was the fault of the local traffic authorities not providing updated reports, as the navigation system showed clear sailing. As they say, garbage in, garbage out.
Gas prices are one killer feature of the SHO's navigation system and can help save you some bucks.
Another key feature of this navigation system is its integration with local gas prices. Using the Sirius Travel Link feature, the car shows a list of nearby gas stations complete with their current price per gallon. Touch any item in the listing, and the car offers to set the gas station's location as its destination. Sirius Travel Link also includes weather reports, a nice feature for travel in less sunny parts of the country. Of more niche usefulness are the movie times and sports scores data feeds.
When we get into some easy freeway cruising, the Taurus SHO starts to remind us of the BMW 750Li we tested the previous week. These cars, vastly different in price and luxury, both get up to ridiculous speeds without the driver realizing how fast they are going. The Taurus SHO and 750Li share very good noise and vibration engineering, along with engines willing to accelerate easily from 65 mph to 85 mph. Of course, this willingness to get up to excessive speeds means the driver needs to pay attention to the speedometer, or at least have a very good radar detector.
Interestingly, both cars have twin turbocharged engines, although the BMW's power train is based on a V-8 rather than the Taurus' V-6. The Taurus SHO's engine is new from Ford and will also get used in the Lincoln MKS. It's based on a 3.5-liter V-6 that uses direct injection and variable valve timing to increase its efficiency. But it's the twin turbochargers that make this engine worthy of the Taurus SHO. Although providing only 12 PSI of pressure, these turbochargers help get the power plant up to its peak of 365 horsepower at 5,500rpm and 350 pound-feet of torque at 3,500rpm.
Normally, that kind of power would mean a sacrifice in fuel economy. EPA numbers haven't been published for the Taurus SHO as of this review, but we saw the fuel economy rise to 21 mpg on the freeway. Our overall fuel economy during our review came in between 18 mpg and 19 mpg, numbers we've often seen with nonturbocharged V-6 engines.
More impressive is what you can do with this engine. We found a lonely, straight country road and set about doing some timed runs. For the first run, we left the car in its normal automatic mode and stomped the gas pedal. It took off without drama, the car's standard all-wheel-drive moving torque from front to back. The transmission let the tach needle brush 6,000rpm before each shift and the car hit 30 mph in 1.9 seconds. 50 mph only took 3.8 seconds, while the run to 60 mph came at 5.02 seconds. That is fast, and some time could probably be trimmed with a more rigorous testing procedure.
As the transmission has a manual mode, we attempted to best the automatic programming by using the paddle shifters to optimize the acceleration. For our first run, we shifted about 5,500rpm, but only ended up hitting 5.1 seconds to 60 mph. Another attempt, really pushing the boundaries, had us overshooting redline before a shift, resulting in engine cut out and a dismal 6.12 seconds to 60 mph. With this car, the automatic programming takes it up as close to redline as it's going to get, but we like the fact that its manual mode lets it run over.
We take the Taurus SHO out to some lonely roads for testing.
Taking the Taurus SHO onto a winding country road, we quickly get the feeling that the car is out of its element. Its high sides make it difficult to judge the narrower parts of the road, and how close the car is to the occasional cliffs dropping off the outsides of the turns. The SHO incorporates a special sport suspension, with unique springs and shock absorbers that does a great job of keeping the car composed in the corners. It doesn't wallow or lean, but the car shows a tendency to slide sideways, mostly from the back.
Of course, it doesn't help that the car masks its speed so well. After feeling that slide in a corner, a glance at the speedometer shows that we've come through the turn at a faster speed than we expected. This happens repeatedly, as it's difficult to get a visceral sense of speed from the car. A head-up display would help. Of course, more experience with the Taurus SHO would help, as we could better judge its sliding tendency and use it in the turns.
The transmission doesn't have a sport setting, so the manual setting is best for driving the twisties. Third gear almost works as an all-purpose gear, although its ratio is a little too high, not keeping the revs up enough for the tight turns. And second gear over revs too easily. However, in manual mode the gear changes happen quickly, responding to the paddle shifters with a minimum of hesitation. Standard drive mode seeks the highest gears to keep the engine revs low, and doesn't do any aggressive downshifting.
During this road testing, we're taking advantage of the Taurus SHO's audio system, which is identical to what you can get in the standard Taurus. Sony started a partnership with Ford last year, and the Taurus benefits from the partnership with a premium 12 speaker system. With 390 watts of power and 5.1 surround sound, this system delivers clear audio that almost seems too good for the car. The highs come through distinctly, with a clarity that would work well reproducing symphonic music. Vocals are good, but maybe not as defined as we would like. The big snag comes from the two subwoofers providing bass for the system. With some of our test tracks that emphasize bass, noticeable rattle comes from the rear of the car, as if the speakers and supporting areas weren't fastened together as well as they could be.
You can plug just about any kind of MP3 player into Sync, and it will let you access the music library from the screen.
With any Ford vehicle, we always look forward to using the Sync system that lets us plug in an MP3 player and get full access to its music library on either the screen or through voice command. Sync never fails to impress us as we request music by an artist or album name with voice command. The stereo also supports Bluetooth streaming, so we could bring an iPhone into the car and not even bother plugging it into the Sync port. Of course, with Bluetooth, the only control you get from the car is volume, play, and pause--you have to select music on the device.
Similar to the music hookup, Sync works well with just about any Bluetooth phone. We paired an iPhone up to the car and it made our contact list available on the LCD almost instantly. Voice command also works with that contact list, letting us say the name of any person we want to call to dial the number. The only system offering similar functionality is that coming out in the new Lexus RX 450h. One great thing about this Bluetooth implementation we found is that we could stream music from an iPhone to the stereo, then seamlessly use the Bluetooth phone application. If a call comes in, it pauses the music and the call comes through.
We found a lot to like about the 2010 Ford Taurus SHO, not least of all the impressive output from the new engine. Five seconds to 60 mph is a more than respectable number. Its suspension elements and all-wheel-drive have to fight against the overall weight of the car, and the keep it under control in the turns, but the Taurus SHO in no way feels nimble. The cabin tech is first-rate--we love the functionality of Ford's navigation, phone, and stereo systems. Other car companies are starting to get close to what Ford is offering, but none are quite there yet. The addition of driver aid technology, such as blind spot warning, make the cars cabin tech even better. The look of the car earns it points on design, as does the easy to use interface for the cabin tech. Although somewhat homogeneous with other sedans on the road, the Taurus SHO should prove recognizable with its notched grille bars and meaty look.
|Model||2010 Ford Taurus|
|Power train||EcoBoost twin-turbo 3.5-liter V-6|
|EPA fuel economy||not available|
|Observed fuel economy||18.9 mpg|
|Navigation||Optional hard drive-based with traffic|
|Bluetooth phone support||Standard|
|Disc player||Single CD/DVD, MP3 compatible|
|MP3 player support||iPod, Zune, many others|
|Other digital audio||USB drive, internal hard drive, Bluetooth streaming, auxiliary input|
|Audio system||Optional 12 speaker Sony system|
|Driver aids||Adaptive cruise control, blind-spot warning, rearview camera|
|Price as tested||$42,690|