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Since 1985, Ford’s Taurus has been one of the dominant family sedans on the market. It has eaten up market shares and brings uncommon features to consumers. One of these unusual aspects was an element of high performance, first seen on the 1992 Ford Taurus SHO. Sadly, due to flagging sales in the late 90s, Ford discontinued the Taurus SHO, leaving the more mundane Taurus models to blandly represent the nameplate to the world.
Happily, Ford resumed creation of the SHO in 2010, and oh what a comeback it was. Why would I be excited about Ford adding three letters to the name of one of their most popular people-movers? Because SHO stands for “super high output,” and yes, they’re referring to the engine. Now, in the 2014 model year, the basic Taurus makes an impressive 288 horsepower. In comparison, the SHO cranks out a heftier 365 horses from its twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V6.
Just a moment, though. Did you read that correctly? Twin turbochargers in a family sedan? Why yes, you did. And it’s fantastic.
We’ll start with the exterior of the car, since that’s where the Taurus begins to lure you in. The front fascia is slightly more sinister than what you would find on the other Taurus models. It has a black mesh grille, subtly hinting that something extra lurks in the engine bay. Standard HID bulbs gleam through narrow headlights and the hood continues in smooth creases that wrap around the SHO’s body. Standard 19-inch wheels fit in with the aggressive demeanor, while keeping the SHO in character. The side profile has nice creases and contours.
These make the SHO elegant enough for an appearance at a nice restaurant or business meeting, but it will also do double duty picking up the kids without losing its allure or sense of character. The back end has a short trunk lid with chrome-accented taillights on a slightly forward sloping trunk. The SHO’s overall aesthetic is a blend of oddly intimidating elegance and civility; it’s a bulldog in a tuxedo, if you will.
The look fits the SHO perfectly. The SHO isn’t built to be a toned-down sports car; it’s a pumped up family car. The beauty lies in its ability to appear completely normal to all but the best-trained eye. There’s something special about a car that can be truly quick without shouting its assets to the world.
How quick is it? In the case of the SHO, the zero to 60 sprint is 5.2 seconds. In the real world, that equates to being able to keep up with the significantly more expensive Audi A6 – even with a supercharged V6. It also means you’ll get a serious kick every time you commit to the go pedal, and that you’ll likely find a grin on your face soon afterward.
This all comes as something of a surprise because the SHO weighs nearly 4,400 pounds, which is quite a lot for a performance sedan. There’s no risk of burning your tires up with all that power; the SHO has a permanent all-wheel drive system to keep all 365 ponies in sync with the road.
Another thing one quickly notices when driving the SHO is that the suspension is decidedly sporty. There’s no wobble, it absorbs bumps nicely and there’s no body roll or bounce. The car just stays on the road, ignoring the small bumps that try to manifest themselves while absorbing the larger ones.
Because of the SHO’s muscular but civilized “bouncer in a business suit” stance, cornering is impressive and composed. There’s little drama and high limits. Though vented, the brakes are not quite as powerful as an initial tap might suggest, but they’ll handle everything short of a track day.
The interior of the SHO is elegant and dark; standard leather seats are all around, with the front seats getting standard heating and cooling. The center console is a large, dark expanse with white emblems for a touch-sensitive, illuminated set of controls. The material quality of the overall interior feels both solid and refined. There’s no offensive patches of bland or uncomfortable material.
The SHO starts at $39,900, but be careful: the options are enticing. Ford offers such luxury features as a 390-watt, 12-speaker system, a power rear window sunshade, rain-sensing wipers, voice-activated navigation with Sirius travel link, and Active Motion massaging front seats. These options can push the price up. A fully-loaded Taurus tops at $50,000. It’s a lot of money, but the Taurus SHO delivers a lot of car.
This makes a compelling argument for this domestic family sedan over many of today’s Stuttgart luxo-liners. Ford’s Taurus SHO is a bold automotive step that demonstrates that family sedans can sometimes avoid the mediocrity of being mind-numbingly boring appliances.