It’s been a while since I was first spirited around Road Atlanta, the 2.54-mile race course in Braselton, Georgia, by NASCAR champ Bill Elliot. Behind the wheel, he was cutting corners and generally making me nervous in a 1992 Ford Taurus SHO, kicking up the revs from the 220 hp Yamaha motor and a 5-speed manual. As much as the ride showed off Elliot’s prowess in a production showroom car, one could only imagine his talent behind the wheel of his stock car.
SHO stands for Super High Output and that original car suffered from generating too much torque that overpowered the transmission. Recently, a well-heeled Taurus arrived at my door, similar in many ways to the one I’d driven with Elliot a few years back, but with a difference.
This new (aka fourth generation) SHO has returned from an extended hiatus with 145 more horses under the hood, keeping the Taurus bullish on its mission of high-speed motoring.
There’s a single motor: the 3.5-liter, twin-turbocharged, 365 hp, EcoBoost V-6 that mates to a 6-speed automatic and all-wheel-drive all the time.
Although the original SHO had a five-speed stick, subsequent versions tried automatic transmissions. Asked why Ford was going with automatics in a performance car, then-CEO Alex Trotman replied, “We’ll do what makes the most sense and most people buy, I suppose.’’
The current SHO also bears paddle shifters for visceral involvement if a desire to turn the caffeine commute into a road course seems right and you are tempted to hit the upper limits of the speedster’s top mark of 140 mph.
That the instrument panel and center stack of slick, rather confusing touch surfaces look like they’re straight from a Ford Fusion hints that the SHO isn’t a hard-and-fast muscle car despite its twin-turbocharged engine. And perhaps that’s the brilliance of the brand. The original SHO didn’t scream race car while serving as a daily driver and neither does our tester, yet it’s able to serve a dual purpose.
My ride was equipped with a sport-tuned suspension, stiffer springs, 18-inch brake calipers, AdvanceTrac electronic stability control (ESC) that can be switched off, a 3.16-to-1 final drive ratio, and enhanced cooling system, proving that this Taurus was ready to “SHO off’’ on the track.
However, I suspect drivers will find it easier to run down Route 128 in the left lane, eclipsing the slow pokes with the greatest of ease. One second you’re in a sedate sedan, keeping pace in a long commute, and the next you’re Walter Mitty, jabbing the pedal to produce a roar from the engine and hasten down the road to the next open spot.
Underway, the car is library quiet, comfortable, has a huge trunk, split-folding rear seat, and reasonable spare tire under the trunk’s floor. The rear seat is roomy and folds in a 60/40 setup to augment cargo carrying. The trunk is cavernous.
There are some negatives, though. Taurus’ length (202.9 inches) and width (76 inches) make it almost unwieldy to park at the mall. Practice your k-turns; you’ll be performing them to dock this boat. The car’s size contributes to a rather large 39.7-foot turning circle.
All that power, and two-ton heft, come with a price at the pump. Despite the EcoBoost engine and promised 17/25 EPA numbers, I could produce no better than 21.2 mpgs in mixed city and highway driving.
Maybe that’s the conundrum. If you’re going to spend over $40,000 for a car with nearly 400 hp, shouldn’t you feel it behind the wheel? Shouldn’t there be more interaction, a more raucous reaction from the motor instead of a geriatric growl?
The Dodge Charger and its variants come perhaps closest to the SHO in size, price, and performance, but provide a more visceral interaction that speaks to the history of those who owned and loved them then and still do today.
The Taurus SHO is a relative newcomer that has the power pedigree and DNA at its disposal. Ford has to find a better way to deploy it as either a strict SHO stopper or middle of the road Walter Mitty-mobile.
2013 Ford Taurus SHO
Price as tested (with destination): $39,995. Fuel economy, EPA estimated: 17 city/25 highway. Fuel economy, Globe observed: 21.2. Drivetrain: 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6, 6-speed SelectShift automatic transmission, all-wheel-drive. Body: 4-door sedan.
Horsepower: 365. Torque: 350 lb.-ft. Overall length: 202.9 in. Wheelbase: 112.9 in. Width: 76.22 in. Curb weight: 4,343 lbs.
This sedan can hurry without being harried and provides all-wheel-drive for year-round fun.
Wide turning radius, heavy car.
THE BOTTOM LINE
This is a daily driver that packs a subtle punch.