2010 Ford Taurus SHO Review
SEE ALSO: Compare 2010 Ford SHO Specs
DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD
WITH CAREY RUSS
2010 Ford Taurus SHO
The SHO car is back, with a vengeance. True to its roots as Ford's executive express, the 2010 Taurus SHO, like the two generations before it, builds on the strengths of the basic Taurus platform and adds both performance and luxury in a high-tech manner. And there's serious performance capability - 365 horsepower worth from a direct fuel-injected, twin-turbocharged variant of the 3.5-liter V6 found in the regular 2010 Taurus. But power and performance are not the only goals of Ford's new technological showcase.
Efficiency is, also.
Enter EcoBoost. Ford EcoBoost engines are gasoline engines that combine direct fuel injection with turbocharging as much for increased efficiency as for increased power output. Direct injection allows a higher compression ratio, which improves engine efficiency and power output. Turbocharging further improves efficiency, and allows use of a smaller engine, which will require less fuel than a larger one in the light-throttle operation that is most common in everyday driving. Variable cam phasing also improves both efficiency, power output, and emissions. Ford's stated goal with EcoBoost is to provide most of the fuel efficiency and torque benefits of a diesel engine to a spark-ignition engine.
You may be excused for being a bit doubtful about this. But Ford is making it work, as I discovered during my week with the SHO. When acceleration is needed, or desired, it's there -- figure on about six seconds for 0-60 in standard trim, or less with the optional Performance Package. But in normal driving, I saw 18+ mpg around town and over 24 on the highway, not bad at all for a full-size sedan with a curb weight over two tons. Especially one that's as quick and well-mannered as the Taurus SHO.
Note that "full-size sedan" description. The current Taurus is a considerably larger car than its predecessors. It was such a departure that it was originally given a different name, Five Hundred. Then people started asking dealers for Tauruses... and as what was released as the Five Hundred was originally supposed to be the third-generation Taurus, it soon was just that.
All 2010 Taurus models have gotten significant revisions. Exterior styling, mostly shared with the SHO, is the most apparent, and the spacious interior is new as well. There have been chassis improvements as well. Power, 263 horses worth, is from the naturally-aspirated version of the 3.5-liter V6, matched, as in the SHO, to a six-speed automatic, and driving either the front or, optionally, all four wheels. The fully-independent suspension has been revised to make the regular Taurus models more driver's car; the SHO takes that a step or three further. Features once limited to premium luxury cars, including adaptive cruise control, a collision warning system, navigation system, push-button start/stop, the radar-based Blind Spot Information System (BLIS®) with Cross-Traffic Alert, the SYNC® electronic connectivity and assistance system, the MyKey™ vehicle programmability system, are available or standard, depending on trim level.
All very nice, but how does the new SHO work? After a week with a well-equipped example, I can say very well, thank you. Although the EcoBoost V6 and six-speed transmission are the key performance (and economy!) features, the chassis is balanced well to take the power in stride. It's not a hooligan hot rod aimed at the sport-compact set, it's very much a grown-up machine for the successful executive with a need for speed, comfort, and contemporary connectivity.
APPEARANCE: Ford's designers have done a fine job of minimizing the Taurus's size. By today's standards, it's a large sedan, but the 2010 restyle visually slims it. More rounded than its immediate predecessor, chiseled character lines on the sides and separations between the "power dome" hood and lower fenders keep it far from the round extreme of its 1996 ancestor. Although sharing most of its sheetmetal with other Taurus models - a good stealth factor - the SHO has a unique three-bar grille, projector-beam headlamps, chrome trim around the lower intake, rear spoiler, and 19- or 20-inch wheels.
COMFORT: It may not have the cachet of an executive jet, but there's likely more head, leg, and hip room in the SHO, or any Taurus. Its size is a plus here, as it's one of the few sedans in which the center position in the rear seat is not cruel and unusual punishment. But while passengers are given comfort and space, the SHO is primarily a driver's car. And the driver's office is a fine place from which to conduct the business (and pleasure) of driving. Styling is tastefully contemporary, and standard equipment includes the usual power accessories, push-button start/stop, and leather seats with Miko Suede inserts, made from recycled material. The high-quality front seats are power-adjustable; the steering wheel is manually-adjustable for both tilt and reach, and optional power-adjustable pedals complete the suite of adjustability that should place any driver perfectly for the business at hand. Instruments are backlit for easy visibility, with a useful trip computer included. The available navigation system has a simple touch-screen and hard button interface, and a backup camera. The Sony audio system plays AM,FM, and Sirius radio, CDs of most varieties, and MP3 players or iPods through a minijack or USB port in the console box. Luggage capacity is unlikely to be a concern, as the trunk is huge, with a large opening for a sedan, and the rear seat can fold 60/40.
SAFETY: Safety was paramount in the new Taurus's unibody design, with a stronger, stiffer main structure and front structural parts designed to direct crash energy away from or around the passenger compartment in the event of a crash. A full complement of, front, front side, and full-length "Safety Canopy"® air bags is standard, as is the Personal Safety System™ of sensors, the AdvanceTrac® electronic stability control system, and SOS Post-Crash Alert System™. Among optional safety systems, the most innovative is the BLIS blind-spot system with Cross Traffic Alert. Based on radar, rather than the camera of earlier systems, and with warning lights in the outside mirrors and a buzzer, it alerts the driver not only to vehicles (as small as a motorcycle) in the blind spots, but also to oncoming traffic when backing from a visually-impaired parking spot. Such as between two Excursions...
RIDE AND HANDLING: While the SHO shares its fully-independent MacPherson strut/multilink suspension architecture with the standard Taurus, here it's tuned more firmly. Much more firmly, with little roll in normal use and very good manners for a two-ton primarily front-wheel drive car. The ride quality is appropriate for its refined performance mission, supple enough for comfort especially on smooth surfaces. The all-wheel drive system works as front-drive in most circumstances, and transfers torque to the rear when necessary. Which means that under hard acceleration, especially uphill with weight further transfered to the rear, there will be a twinge of torque steer (350 lb-ft will do that...) which quickly disappears.
PERFORMANCE: The EcoBoost promise is V8 power from a V6, with V6 fuel economy. I've heard such claims before, but surprisingly this time it's true. With maximum horsepower of 365 (at 5500 rpm) and, more significantly for actually driving, maximum torque of 350 lb-ft from a low 1500 rpm through 5250 rpm -- virtually all the time -- the 3.5-liter twincam 24-valve aluminum alloy V6 has plenty of muscle. Direct fuel injection allows a high 10:1 compression ratio, for maximum efficiency. The engine is on boost nearly all the time, and there is no, repeat no turbo lag, just instant torque Right Now! That wide, strong torque curve tells all. Except under hard acceleration or climbing a long, steep hill, the engine rarely has to work hard -- so it rarely has to be near peak power. And since power is created from air plus fuel, it rarely has to gulp fuel. At sustained Autobahn speeds or at a track day, fuel will get used, likely profligately. But in normal driving, I easily saw 18 mpg around town and nearly 25 on the highway, with an overall average of 20 -- not bad at all for a vehicle this size. Credit for both acceleration and economy is also due to the six-speed automatic transmission, with lower low and higher high gears than possible in a four- or five-speed. It can be manually shifted via paddles on the steering wheel, but with the available torque and the box's smooth, quick shifting this is never a necessity.
CONCLUSIONS: The newest Ford Taurus is very much Ford's land-bound executive jet.
SPECIFICATIONS 2010 Ford Taurus SHO
Base Price $ 37,170 Price As Tested $ 44,275 Engine Type twin-turbocharged dohc aluminum alloy 24-valve V6 with direct fuel injection, variable cam phasing, Engine Size 3.5 liters / 213 cu. in. Horsepower 365 @ 5500 rpm Torque (lb-ft) 350 @ 1500-5250 rpm Transmission 6-speed automatic with manual-shift mode Wheelbase / Length 112.9 in. / 202.9 in. Curb Weight 4368 lbs. Pounds Per Horsepower 12.0 Fuel Capacity 19 gal. Fuel Requirement 91 octane unleaded premium gasoline recommended, 87 octane unleaded regular permissible Tires P245/45R20 99V Michelin Primacy mxv4 m+s Brakes, front/rear vented disc / solid disc, twin-piston front calipers. ABS, AdvanceTrac® stability and traction control standard Suspension, front/rear independent MacPherson strut/ independent multilink Drivetrain transverse front engine, on-demand all-wheel drive PERFORMANCE EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 17 / 25 / 20 (18/24) 0 to 60 mph est 6.0 sec OPTIONS AND CHARGES Rapid Spec Package 402A - includes: heated & cooled front seats, power moonroof, 12-speaker Sony audio system, adjustable pedals with memory, rearview camera, rain-sensing wipers, automatic high beam, blind spot monitoring system, rear window power sunshade, heated rear seats $ 3,000 Red Candy Metallic Clearcoat paint $ 295 20-inch aluminum wheels and Michelin tires $ 695 Voice-activated navigation system $ 1,695 Multi-contoured seats $ 595 Destination charge $ 825© Carey Russ 2009