2011 Ford Taurus SHO Road Test Review

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Back in 1989, Ford partnered with Yamaha (yes, the piano, electronics and motorcycle company) to develop a high-performance 3.0-litre V6 engine to install in its mild-mannered Taurus sedan. The resulting car, named Taurus SHO (Super High Output) became an instant hit with enthusiasts and has become legendary as one of America's iconic performance cars.
For 2010, the SHO returned as one of the iterations of the revitalized Taurus lineup.  After a brief flirtation with V8 power in the late 1990s, the SHO once again returned to V6 power, this time utilizing Ford's new high-powered EcoBoost system to provide entertaining, yet economical performance. For 2011, the SHO continues forward virtually unchanged except for exterior colour options.

The 3.5-litre, twin-turbocharged V6 is hooked up to a six-speed automatic transmission feeding all four wheels. Direct gasoline injection ensures more complete combustion and better throttle response, as well as improved fuel economy. The new engine produces 365 horsepower at 5,500 rpm and 350 foot-pounds of torque at 3,500, but doesn't sacrifice fuel economy to obtain its performance. The transmission is Ford's SelectShift, with paddle shifters that enable manual gear operation and rev-matched downshifts. All-wheel drive is standard.

On the road, with 1,981 kilos (4,368 lbs) to move, the engine is capable of brisk acceleration, if not exactly awe-inspiring thrust. Throttle response is excellent though and turbo lag is not an issue at all. Aurally, the engine's note is quite pleasing to the ear, evoking a sophistication that might be surprising to those who have an unenlightened view of modern North American performance cars.

The SHO has always been about more than engine enhancements, so quite naturally, the suspension has been tuned to match. Electronic power steering and SHO-specific shocks, springs and stabilizer bars are used to provide sportier handling. In practice, the suspension system is firm but supple, and even though the Taurus SHO is capable of running quickly along winding mountain roads, day-to-day ride quality doesn't punish you in exchange for that capability. Steering is nicely weighted, turn-in is accurate and predictable, and the SHO exhibits a willingness to change directions that is very entertaining.

Overall, the car is balanced quite nicely and once the scenery starts whizzing by, the Taurus SHO gives the impression it is significantly smaller and lighter than it actually is. In sum, the car is both easy and delightful to drive vigorously. There is one soft spot in the SHO's performance portfolio however – braking.

After a rather spirited downhill run through a number of switchbacks and hairpins, we experienced brake fade, accompanied by smoke billowing from the wheel wells. Solid rotors won't cut it on a car with this much weight and power to contain, Ford needs to go to larger cross drilled and/or vented rotors for the SHO to dissipate heat more quickly. We discussed this with one of the engineers Ford had on hand, and was assured our recommendation would be taken under consideration.

The Taurus' new styling is only mildly enhanced for the SHO model. Ford's stylists have always kept the SHO's look low key and in keeping with that tradition, the changes are subtle. You'll have to know what you're looking at to spot a SHO Taurus. Key features are a unique grille, an integrated trunklid spoiler, and dual chrome exhaust tips.

In fact, the interior is more distinctive on the SHO than the exterior. A nice two-tone upholstery package is available. Miko Suede inserts for the leather seats help hold you and your passengers in place, and SHO trim on the pedals and door panels remind you of your place at the pinnacle of the Taurus pecking order. We like it overall, though a bit more thickness to the rim of the steering wheel would be nice. Also, the forward rake of the headrests intrude a bit too much, forcing an unnatural seating position.

As the top of the line Taurus model, many comfort and convenience features are standard on the new SHO, including pushbutton start, Ford's SYNC infotainment system with 911 Assist, and ambient interior lighting. Adaptive cruise control, Collision Warning and Ford's Blind Spot Information System with Cross Traffic Alert are appropriated from the standard Taurus options list, and like the basic Taurus, the SHO is also available with a reverse camera whose image displays in the rearview mirror if you opt out of the navigation system. The Taurus SHO can be equipped like a European luxury car, with available heated and cooled seats with a massaging function, voice-activated navigation system and a Dolby Pro-Logic sound system.

With accessible, economical high-performance (it's priced at $48,199 and boasts an estimated 12.4 city/8.8 highway L/100km rating) and a long list of luxury features on the roster, it's a good bet that the cadre of loyal Taurus SHO fans who lobbied long and hard to bring the nameplate back won't be the only people who are excited by this car.
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Sport Sedan, Ford, 2011, Taurus SHO, $40,000 - $49,999,

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