“Strong like bull.” Character actor Hans Conried coined that catchphrase in the 1950s, more than 30 years before the 1989 Ford Taurus SHO appeared as its automotive manifestation. Packing a Yamaha-engineered “Super High Output” 220-hp V-6, a Mazda-supplied five-speed manual, and front-wheel drive, Ford’s virile four-door was always game for a good romp. But by the time the 1996 V-8–powered SHO arrived, it had lost the plot. Hobbled by an automatic transmission, average brakes, and a nose-heavy chassis, the Taurus’s brightest star faded out in 1999.
If we’ve learned anything from recent history, it’s that abandoned automotive nameplates and Hollywood clichés are always just one internet meme or nostalgic reference away. As Conried’s Make Room for Daddy TV tag line reemerged after a brief sabbatical, so did the SHO for the 2010 model year. The car pictured here, in Green Gem Metallic, is the updated-for-2013 SHO.
Today’s Taurus is no small vehicle, the badge having migrated up one class from mid-size to large. The SHO we tested tipped the scales at an overfed 4358 pounds, almost a half-ton more than the ’99 version (3398). So when Ford revived the SHO for this decade, it wisely endowed it with the 365-hp twin-turbo EcoBoost V-6. The engine and transmission remain essentially unchanged since, but our 2013 model had the SHO Performance package ($1995), which adds an improved cooling system, high-performance brake pads, 20-inch aluminum wheels wearing Goodyear Eagle F1 SuperCar 245/45 rubber, specially calibrated electric power steering, a “true off” track mode for the electronic stability control, and a 3.16:1 final-drive ratio (standard issue is 2.77:1) to improve acceleration.
This SHO loves to hunt for the redline, and it’s not particular about whether you shift the six-speed automatic via the wheel-mounted paddles or let the tranny handle the action. Either way, the twin turbos get on the case early, as evidenced by the broad torque band, with all 350 pound-feet available from 1500 to 5000 rpm. But on the skidpad, our testers found throttle response to be so slow that gradually accelerating the SHO to its limit of adhesion was difficult.
On-demand all-wheel drive and a brake-based torque-vectoring system keep owners who are bent on exploring cornering limits from receiving an involuntary crash course in physics. The recalibrated power steering shows a marked improvement, transparent when cruising and aggressive when summoned. Despite these measures, torque steer is evident under hard acceleration, the wheel pulling to the right like Dennis Miller during a trouser fitting.
Brake hard, and you’ll find an easily modulated pedal with linear response but no feedback. The new hardware—larger master cylinder, revised booster, performance pads, and 67 percent more swept front rotor area—shaves only six feet (168 versus 174) from the stopping distance we measured on the ’10 SHO, though the severe fade noted before has been eliminated.
A new chrome-ringed black hexagonal grille, a decklid spoiler, and fender badges set the SHO apart from lesser Tauri; the entire 2013 herd gets a new lower fascia, a barely noticeable new hood, and LED taillamps. Comfortable—if not overly supportive—leather-trimmed sport seats and adjustable pedals make finding a suitable driving position easy for 95 percent of the public. The 5 percent who buy their suits off the big end of the rack will develop an intimate relationship with the B-pillar.
Ford’s efforts to keep its four-door fleet-sales superstar in fighting trim are commendable, and the company says 10 percent of all Tauri now wear the SHO badge. While it’s far from being the only two-ton four-door sedan with sporting aspirations, it is—as measured by the pound—about the most bull for the buck.
VEHICLE TYPE: front-engine, 4-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door sedan
PRICE AS TESTED: $46,380
BASE PRICE: $39,995
ENGINE TYPE: twin-turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 24-valve V-6, aluminum block and heads, direct fuel injection
Displacement: 213 cu in, 3496 cc
Power: 365 hp @ 5500 rpm
Torque: 350 lb-ft @ 1500 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed automatic with manual shifting mode
Wheelbase: 112.9 in
Length: 202.9 in
Width: 76.2 in Height: 60.7 in
Curb weight: 4358 lb
C/D TEST RESULTS:
Zero to 60 mph: 5.2 sec
Zero to 100 mph: 13.0 sec
Zero to 140 mph: 32.3 sec
Rolling Start, 5–60 mph: 5.6 sec
¼-mile: 13.8 sec @ 102 mph
Top speed (governor limited): 141 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 168 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 0.86 g
EPA city/highway driving: 17/25 mpg
C/D observed: 16 mpg
TEST NOTES: The brakes are improved in terms of stopping distance and fade resistance but not feel. Throttle response is criminally slow.
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