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2010 Ford Taurus SHO — Review

This 2010 review is representative of model years 2010 to 2015.
By Tom Wilson of MSN Autos
Rating: 9.6

Bottom Line:

Performance and value are Taurus SHO hallmarks fully realized by the latest version. An exciting balance of technology, luxury, fuel efficiency and grippy twin-turbo power now joins this iconic performance-sedan nameplate.
Pros:
  • Seamless twin-turbo power\
  • AWD traction
  • Great performance value
Cons:
  • Heavy at 4,368 pounds
  • Shift paddles rotate with steering wheel
  • We miss the immediacy of the early SHO

View Pictures:  2010 Ford Taurus SHO

Best labeled a luxury sport sedan, the SHO is the performance black sheep in the all-new Taurus family. It couples the near-luxury trim of a high-end Taurus Limited with outstanding turbocharged power and tautly athletic handling. It also draws a line in the powertrain sand with the introduction of Ford's all-new EcoBoost engine, a fuel-efficient combination of direct fuel injection and turbocharging. This is Ford's critical near-term strategy to handle the fuel-economy, emissions and power maelstrom — and it works.

Model Lineup
As the performance offshoot of the all-new 2010 Taurus, the Taurus SHO is a stand-alone model. Minimal badging identifies the SHO, which will be spotted only by those in the know. Outside, minor brightwork details are found in the grille, along with SHO badges in the quarter windows, a small rear spoiler and twin tailpipes. All sheet metal is shared with the standard Taurus.

Already stuffed with premium materials, the SHO offers but three option packages. The first we expect to find on nearly all SHOs. It includes a moonroof, a 390-watt 12-speaker Sony sound system and heated and cooled front seats for $2,000.

The second option package is luxury-oriented at $3,000 and offers a power rear sunshade, heated rear seats, adjustable pedals, auto headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, the trick radar-guided Blind Spot and Cross Traffic Alert functions, along with a rearview camera — not many excuses for backing into a pole with this.

Most to our liking is the Performance Package. Built around higher-grip Goodyear F1 summer tires on unique 20-inch wheels, the Performance Package delivers improved brake pads, sport tuning on the suspension, electric steering assist, an off switch for the traction control and a lower 3.16:1 final drive ratio. Enthusiast drivers will definitely want the Performance version, since it sharpens response and glides on smooth pavement. But frost heaves mean a mandatory test drive to ensure an acceptable ride — it's a firmer ride than the standard SHO, which is in turn firmer than the standard Taurus.

Under the Hood
The heart of the SHO is its high-tech twin-turbocharged direct-fuel-injected 4-valve 4-cam 3.5-liter V6. Belting out 102 more horsepower than the Taurus' rank-and-file 3.5 liter, the SHO engine whips up a horse a day: 365 horsepower. Even better, its boost "curve" is actually a massive 350 lb-ft shelf that magically punts the SHO into motion, and its fuel economy is a mile or two better per gallon than the competition's, at 25 mpg on the highway. Credit the low fuel burn to direct injection, which squirts fuel directly into the cylinders, allowing a higher, more efficient compression ratio.

All SHOs are full-time all-wheel drive, too. This squelches all traction worries, either from power-induced wheelspin or nasty weather. Another given is the 6-speed automatic transmission. Both center console and paddle shifting are provided.

Noteworthy as well is the stiff unibody chassis. This supports the extra precision provided by the SHO's electrically assisted power steering, along with the sport sedan's stiffer suspension tuning. Performance all-season 255/45VR-19 tires are standard, with 20-inch summer tires on the Performance Package.

Inner Space
Ford designers pressed for a dramatic, twin-cockpit interior for the new Taurus, and they got it. With its dramatically sloping dashboard and strong detailing, there was little need to amp up the interior spectacle for the SHO. Compared with the regular Taurus, the SHO's standard leather seats sport suede inserts, as does the steering wheel. Finally, the SHO pedals wear aluminum pads. That's about it for SHO interior perks.

SHO seating is comfortable, if not overly bolstered against cornering loads. Generous tilt and telescoping steering, plus no-excuses seat travel, seat massage and seat heating and cooling accommodate nearly everyone in comfort. Rear-seat room is also better than expected, and trunk room is spacious in this full-size car.

On the Road
SHO owners love surprising the unwary with unexpected speed and stability, both highlights of the new car. Throttle response is immediate and torque generous, so the heavy SHO feels lighter and more dexterous than it should. And yes, it's downright fast. Pleasant mechanical sounds emanate from the engine compartment at full throttle, but turbo noise is nonexistent. In fact, with the turbos hidden low against the engine and invisible during underhood inspections, there's little chance of guessing the engine is turbocharged.

The paddle shifters — of limited usefulness on the standard Taurus — feel natural and are put to constant use on the SHO because the responsively tuned chassis encourages driver engagement. We wish the paddle shifters didn't travel with the wheel, because they get lost to the driver in tight turns, but generally they work well. Almost all downshifts and lightly loaded upshifts are butter smooth, but hard-charging acceleration brings on distinct shift feel. Left in automatic mode, the 6-speed transmission selects gears intelligently and quickly.

Steering precision is good and the chassis is stable. The quiet cabin provides something of a detached driving experience, and a 4,300-pound sedan can be only so agile on twisting country lanes. Still, the enthusiast driver feels rewarded on challenging roads because of precise steering, never-ending traction and ample, torquey power. High-speed cross-country jaunts are the SHO's natural habitat, and with its coddling interior, it makes a good, albeit large, commuter.

Thanks to the AWD, the SHO provides tenacious, reassuring grip on wet roads and even more grip when the sun comes out. The feel is of a well-balanced rear-drive sedan with high limits. It takes racetrack antics to lose traction, and there are plenty of electronic aids to help should things degrade that far.

Ride quality is better than expected, the important variable being the road. Smooth pavement definitely is smooth, and little jitters are ably dampened, but sharp-edged imperfections will undeniably distract.

Right for You?
Abstain from the option sheet and the $37,995 Taurus SHO is an especially good performance-car buy. But splurge on all the options and your bargain performance sedan arcs into the $45,000 troposphere. That price excludes many enthusiasts, but compared with its Audi A6, Cadillac STS and perhaps Chrysler 300C or Lincoln MKS competition, the SHO is either tens of thousands of dollars less expensive or offers so much performance, style and fuel economy that there really is no comparison. Like its V6 and V8 predecessors, the SHO cuts its own niche, appealing to those who have an appreciation for nicer things, but who also revel in hearty performance and don't want to spend a bundle or attract undue attention in the process.

Longtime Road & Track contributor Tom Wilson's credits include local racing championships, three technicalengine books and hundreds of freelance articles.

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BB01 - 8/21/2014 3:26:16 PM