2013 Ford Taurus SHO Road Test Review

Trevor Hofmann - CAP staff
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There's something about sliding behind the wheel of a full-size car that brings back memories of my youth. I'm sure I'm not alone amongst boomers. Big American sedans were as common back in the '60s and '70s as compact and midsize models are today (and today's midsize cars were the size of domestic compacts in my day), so forgive me for feeling right at home in Ford's recently updated 2013 Taurus SHO.

Of course, while there were some brilliant examples of styling in the days of yore, nothing from by-gone Detroit ever looked as sophisticated on the inside as the SHO. This car has style galore backed up by a new level of quality equal to the flagship sedan that it professes to be. Soft-touch plastics join sumptuous leather and Miko Suede upholstery in my tester, with the regular Taurus' faux woodgrain giving way to nicely textured matte plastics, acres of treated aluminum, glossy full-colour displays, and thankfully no faux carbon fibre trim anywhere. It looks like a premium sport sedan through and through, and no surprise here, drives like one too.

No surprise because the Taurus shares underpinnings with Lincoln's flagship sedan, the MKS. The Lincoln's an impressive sport-luxury ride on its own, but the SHO adds an element of out-and-out performance the MKS purposely eschews. Along with more top-tier standard features than the majority of sport sedans from premium brands, the Taurus SHO is ultra-quiet except for those noises Ford wants you to hear, like its snarly 3.5-litre EcoBoost V6. The twin-turbocharged direct-injected beast stirs up 365-horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque as quickly and easily as your right foot can meet the throttle thanks to full thrust from only 1,500 rpm, launching the car from zilch to 100 km/h in just over 5 seconds. That's fast! It's partly due to an efficient 6-speed automatic with paddle-shifters, while standard torque-vectoring all-wheel drive with a limited slip diff and sport-tuned traction control make sure there's no wheel spin. Likewise, electric powered steering featuring something Ford calls "drift control" joins a performance-tuned stability control system and a lowered sport suspension along with my tester's gorgeous 20-inch painted alloys on sticky 245/45VR20 summer tires to make sure the SHO can manage the speed no matter the curves thrown in its path, while bigger, fatter rotors haul the SHO down from a blistering pace quicker than you could ever dream 2,000 kilos can stop, and it'll do it over and over again with barely any fade.

I should mention that my tester had the SHO Performance Package that upgrades the brakes with larger more powerful front and rear calipers plus performance friction pads, stiffens the suspension with special springs and shocks, adds a quicker 3.16 final drive ratio, and improves steering feel while modifying the stability control with a track mode featuring "true-off" capability… power slides here we come!

I would've loved to have wagged its tail through every backcountry road I know, but reality had me driving more for business than pleasure. Good thing that Ford hasn't forgotten how to pamper its owners on the brand's way to europhication. The 10-way powered seats with their 4-way adjustable head restraints are fabulous, the perforated suede-like inserts on my test car both grippy and cooler on a hot day, without regular leather's usual tendency to get sticky and clammy. Of course, the ventilated coolers up front do an even better job of keeping backsides from sweating, although they could use slightly stronger under-seat fans. The seat heaters work without complaint though, front and back.

Yes, the Taurus SHO isn't short on features. Most impressive is the car's user interface that makes up most of the centre stack, as well as the primary gauge package that borders on sensory overload. I like it, don't get me wrong, it's just that I'm not used to so much colour displayed in such vivid clarity from anything in a car. The SHO's bright blues, rich reds, vibrant ambers and deep greens will be eye candy to anyone who regularly has their face plugged into a smart phone's high-resolution screen, a clear example of how Ford is doing a better job designing cars for a younger more connected generation than most of its rivals.

Those graphics do everything from monitor your car's mechanicals to finding your way to your destination via an easy-to-use optional navigation system. Tune in your radio, with AM/FM or satellite, or if you're like more than 50-percent of adults, connect your smart phone via an auxiliary or iPhone jack before scrolling through your song list by category, artist or genre, just like you would on your mobile device. Even better, forget using your fingers to control the touch-screen, just click a steering wheel-mounted button for voice activation and ask Sync to find your favourite song, connect your phone, go wherever you want to go, and while you're at it, set the temperature exactly how you like it. Even the seat heater and cooler controls are housed within the infotainment system, a state-of-the-art technology dubbed MyFord Touch that's been significantly revised for 2013 with a simplified display layout, larger touch-sensitive controls that don't need as much pressure to operate, bigger fonts for better legibility, and control labels that are easier to understand.

I mentioned earlier that the Taurus SHO is ultra-quiet, and I have to say that this is a big improvement over the last one I tested. For 2013 Ford has added more sound deadening materials such as wheel-well liners, acoustical sealing, and they've even fabric-wrapped the roof pillars, adding to the car's premium cachet.

Less ambient noise helps to improve stereo sound quality, and the Sony audio system is brilliant. No less than 13 speakers and a digital signal processor make for superb sound, and the clear black plastic interface reminds me of something McIntosh would have created in the '70s, other than its touch-sensitive backlit controls.

Lighting up the road ahead are standard auto-dimming HID headlamps, just like the premium brands offer as an upgrade, while there's a standard rear window blind for shading rear passengers, or if the lights from behind become more bothersome than the auto-dimming rearview mirror can handle. And don't worry about what's behind you as the SHO's standard blind spot monitoring system can sense cars coming up alongside even if you can't see them, while forward vision is enhanced by rain sensing wipers.

I'm only scraping the surface of all that comes standard with the SHO. Other notable features include a heated steering wheel that will also tilt away automatically when you get out via memory settings that additionally can adjust the seat and powered pedals. Those pedals are finished in aluminum to add sporting flair, while a powered moonroof sits overhead. And the SHO's remote key fob is proximity sensing to unlock the doors automatically, after which all you need to do is push a dash-mounted button to start it up. Of course the SHO gets exterior upgrades to distinguish it from regular Taurus models, such as a blacked out mesh grille, some body-colour details instead of chrome, and a number of aero bits including a tasteful rear spoiler, all coming together with the other 2013 Taurus' updates such as a new hood design, wider grille, new lower front fascia, and revised LED taillights, to form a styling statement that speaks mature muscular masculinity, rather than boy racer.

I don't know how rough and tough you're going to feel while your back and butt are getting massaged, so you might not want to up the option ante by $600 to include a massaging driver's seat, but the $1,500 adaptive cruise control with collision warning is a must-have if you ever drive long distances. And at only $700, the aforementioned voice activated navigation is worth it too.

Speaking of worth it, the 2013 Taurus SHO, with its many refinement and performance upgrades is a supreme deal for less than $50k. You've got to compare it to full-size premium sedans from European and Japanese manufacturers to see how well it stacks up, and while you're at it see if they can pull off 11 L/100km combined city/highway mileage, what I experienced during my test drive. The actual claimed Canadian rating is 12.4 city and 8.1 highway if you want to compare it to other manufacturer estimates, while none of those pricey alternatives will allow cheaper regular fuel.

Yes, the Taurus SHO is a well-priced practical alternative to a sport-luxury ride from a premium brand, and it'll get you street cred too.
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Sport Sedan, Ford, 2013, Taurus SHO, $40,000 - $49,999,

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