After losing its mantle as most popular sedan to the Toyota Camry in 1997, the Ford Taurus went through a bit of an identity crisis, but it's back with a vengeance for the 2010 model year with a whole new platform. Right out of the gate, Ford is showing confidence in the model by simultaneously releasing the SHO, or super high output, version. The 2010 Ford Taurus SHO is a big sedan, packed with the cabin tech that currently sets Ford apart from the competition. Also, it features a whole new drivetrain: Ford's V-6 EcoBoost engine comprised of a direct injection V-6 and twin turbochargers.
With extraordinarily high sides, the Taurus SHO, a big, beefy sedan, embodies American muscle. Externally, it doesn't differ from the standard Taurus, sharing details such as the notched bars in the grille. Only an aficionado will notice the SHO badges that indicate this Taurus is built for speed. That sleeper status makes the SHO fine for an everyday commute yet able to blast to 60 mph in 5 seconds.
The cabin of the Taurus SHO, although lacking a real luxury feel, is covered in quality materials. The dashboard is made up of soft plastics with patterned metal insets. The shifter, with its meaty handle, suits the nature of the car, but feels a little last century. The steering wheel holds the buttons we would expect from a Sync-equipped vehicle, and a touch-screen LCD sits front and center, showing the home screen we've grown familiar with over the past year. The screen shows the map, audio system, and climate control all in their own little windows, but it's the last time we will look at it because we prefer the full-screen map for everyday driving.
Out on the road, the Taurus SHO feels comfortable. Its plush seats feel like overstuffed easy chairs, complete with heating and cooling in front. Ford also makes what it calls multicontour seats available, basically massage chairs, but we didn't have that option. The Taurus SHO does a very good job of insulating against external noise, helping with the impression of quality. We're used to dropping the height adjustment on seats down low, but the high sides of the car make it hard to judge the space around it, forcing a higher seat position.
As a fuel-saving measure, Ford fits the Taurus SHO with electric power steering. The steering is tuned well, providing enough resistance to feel like we are in control. Over time, that power unit proves to limit road feedback to the wheel, but around the city it feels just fine. Likewise, the power delivery from this new power train comes on smoothly, with no turbo lag evident. Of course, in the city we're only asking the turbos for occasional bursts of speed to get around another car or squeeze in a traffic opening. The six-speed-automatic transmission, also tuned for fuel-saving, goes to the highest gear possible, keeping the engine revs at 1,500rpm to 2,000rpm.
A blind-spot warning system called BLIS, technology lifted from Volvo, is present on our car. Our favorite safety tech, BLIS lights up a warning in the side view mirror if a car is in the lane next to the Taurus SHO. Ford is just starting to incorporate this type of driver aid technology, and also makes adaptive cruise controls available as an option, along with automatic high beams. We experienced the latter on the Lincoln MKS and were impressed by their utility.
Of even more utility is the hard-drive based navigation system that serves as an onboard information system. It's very easy to enter an address while underway with the voice command system, which recognizes full city and street names, providing good feedback every step of the way. The touch-screen-entry system is equally easy with its direct inputs. The system shows maps in 2D or 3D, while route guidance graphics indicate upcoming turns. Voice guidance has text-to-speech, reading out the names of streets.
But what really sets this system apart from the competition are its external data sources sent through satellite radio. Its live traffic feature shows incidents and traffic flow information, but it only offers detours around bad traffic when a route is programmed into the system. We've got into the habit of programming a destination even when we know the way. Out roaming California's highways in the Taurus SHO, we got stuck in a few traffic jams; however, that was the fault of the local traffic authorities not providing updated reports, as the navigation system showed clear sailing. As they say, garbage in, garbage out.
Another key feature of this navigation system is its integration with local gas prices. Using the Sirius Travel Link feature, the car shows a list of nearby gas stations complete with their current price per gallon. Touch any item in the listing, and the car offers to set the gas station's location as its destination. Sirius Travel Link also includes weather reports, a nice feature for travel in less sunny parts of the country. Of more niche usefulness are the movie times and sports scores data feeds.
When we get into some easy freeway cruising, the Taurus SHO starts to remind us of the BMW 750Li we tested the previous week. These cars, vastly different in price and luxury, both get up to ridiculous speeds without the driver realizing how fast they are going. The Taurus SHO and 750Li share very good noise and vibration engineering, along with engines willing to accelerate easily from 65 mph to 85 mph. Of course, this willingness to get up to excessive speeds means the driver needs to pay attention to the speedometer, or at least have a very good radar detector.