Taurus SHO a scrappy heavyweight

T’was a time when 220 horsepower was a big deal, at least if it was powering something with four doors.

Such was the allure of Ford’s original SHO, a regular Taurus people mover infused with liberal doses of Yamaha motorcycle technology in the form of a high-revving, multi-valve V6. The year was 1989 and the SHO was big news.

Today, 220 hp wouldn’t be considered enough for even the lowliest of V6 family sedans. Indeed, odds are that an original SHO would be hard-pressed to show its heels to a milquetoasty Toyota Camry and, my God, a top-of-the-line RAV4 boasts more ponies.

Time savages all myths, not the least of which is Ford’s one previous attempt at a European sports sedan. But Ford is back on a roll and looking to broaden its customer base, so it polished the rust off its once-storied SHO brand and this latest Taurus once again boasts it can take on the Europeans.

It’s taken a novel approach to the whole performance thing, however. Rather than depend on Yamaha for yet another rorty, high-revving V6, Ford is looking to boost the street cred of its recently released EcoBoost line of engines. Essentially a V6 puffed up by two turbochargers, the idea is to achieve V8-like power with some semblance of V6 fuel economy.

For SHO use, the EcoBoost formula gets pumped up with a little extra huffing and puffing power, the SHO’s twin turbos churning out 12 psi of cylinder-filling boost. It’s good enough for 365 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque, commendable numbers for any engine regardless of the number of pistons.

In most situations — indeed, perhaps in all situations depending on who actually buys the SHO — that’s more than enough power. Also exemplary is the delivery of all those pound-feet of torque. Thanks to the relatively light rotating inertia of those two smallish turbochargers, there’s precious little turbo lag and the blown 3.5-litre V6 again does an admirable job of emulating a V8, all instant throttle response from impressively low revs.

And, if you’re looking for a sporty, but not bonafide sports, sedan, the new SHO is more than up to the task. Quiet, smooth and refined, not to mention powerful, it provides a little more oomph for those who want a little more from their Ford. Most impressive is the throttle response when you want to gun past a tractor-trailer on the highway.

It is not, however, a true descendant of the original SHO. As wimpy as those 220 ponies sound now, they were the bee’s knees back in the day, out-accelerating all four-door sedans save some top-of-the-line Bimmers and Mercedes. And not only was the original SHO rambunctious, it also played the part, all high- revving throaty exhaust and whirring camshafts. It may not actually be quick any more, but an original SHO still sounds fast. Not so the 2010 version, which sounds as unassuming as a normal, 3.5L Duratec-powered Taurus. Civil it may be, but a few liberties with the exhaust plumbing and even a tiny bit of turbocharger whine might add to the authenticity.

The other problem for the new SHO is that all that turbocharged goodness is weighed down by, well, weight. The Taurus, in case you hadn’t noticed, is a big car. In SHO guise, we’re talking 1,985 kilograms of big, which is enough to blunt even two turbochargers at least a little. It also doesn’t do fuel economy much good as you can be sure the SHO’s official Transport Canada-evaluated fuel economy (12.3 litres per 100 kilometres in the city and 8.0 L/100 km on the highway) would be noticeably better if it shed 200 or 300 of those kilos. As it is, the SHO is almost as heavy as those SUVs enviro-weenies never get tired of lambasting.

The one benefit of that analogy is that, like a true SUV, the SHO drives all four wheels, a much more realistic proposition than trying to muster 355 hp worth of traction from the front tires alone. So, while the SHO might not be the fleetest of sports sedans in the summer, in a recent snowstorm, for instance, it was quite the Flash (and I am dating myself greatly with my Scarlet Speedster metaphor) when the roads were greasy. Traction was abundant and the suspension well damped. Again, think of it on the sporty, rather than true sports, end of the spectrum.

That’s what the new SHO is all about. It has traded the original’s attempt at BMW M Division nastiness for something a little more sensible; think of it as a marriage of performance and family values. As much as Ford might be right for thinking that combination a surer road to fiscal success, I can’t help but wish it would plunk this very same engine into the lighter (and decidedly sportier-looking) Fusion. Now, that would be a worthy successor to the original SHO.


Type of vehicle All-wheel-drive sports sedan Engine 3.5L DOHC twin turbocharged V6 Power 365 hp @ 5,500 rpm; 350 lb-ft of torque @ 3,500 rpm Transmission Six-speed manumatic Brakes Four-wheel disc with ABS Tires P245/45R20 Price: base/as tested $48,199/$49,799 Destination charge $1,350

Transport Canada fuel economy L/100 km 12.3 city, 8.0 hwy. Standard features Power door locks, windows and mirrors, dual-zone air conditioning, Sony AM/FM/CD/MP3 player with in-dash six-CD changer and 12 speakers, Sirius satellite radio, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, Sync voice-activated in-vehicle communications and entertainment centre, cruise control, power glass sunroof, power rear sunshade, power adjustable foot pedals, tilt and telescopic steering wheel, leather seats, eight-way power driver’s seat, heated and cooled front seats, auto headlights, dual front air bags, side curtain air bags, front-seat side air bags, tire pressure monitoring system.

Photograph by: Graeme Fletcher, Canwest News Service