The Truth About Cars » SHO The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 23 Jul 2014 18:25:17 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » SHO Piston Slap: SHO me My Next Car? Mon, 21 Jul 2014 12:01:42 +0000 (photo courtesy:

(photo courtesy:

Bob writes:


Thanks for all the wasted ti…,er reading enjoyment you and TTAC provide. My Q has to do with “plan on keeping, or start looking for a replacement?”

Bought my ’93 SHO in 1996, a 5-sp w/28k miles. It just rolled over 140,000 (I’m an over-the-road truck driver). Has been a great, fun car. Only major problem was a radiator leak & attendant CPS failure.

Downers: Headliner and driver’s seat uph need replacing. Clearcoat peeling. Worried about parts avail, transmission (no problems so far, but “maintenance-free ATF?”). Still has original clutch. Car is 22 yrs old. Etc…

Upside: Just had front susp renewed, doesn’t burn oil, still drives great. Etc…

So: used Crown Vic, or used Miata, when the time comes?

Sorry this is so wordy/rambling, but hate to think of you & that cymbal.

Sajeev answers:

Oh yes! The Edelbrock cymbal is still on my drum rack, but I’ve had no time to “work” on it.  And that’s thanks to folks like you!

You have a two-part question, and the first answer is you need a newer car.  While an SHO has a tricky motor (timing belt and valve lash work every 60,000 miles IIRC), any old Taurus won’t be relaxing and reliable: it will always need work, even if it may never leave you stranded without days/weeks/months of advance notice.  You’ll shell out big bucks on the paint and clutch alone.

About your next ride: some will consider the Miata vs. Crown Vic suggestion as insane, but I get it. The SHO is almost halfway between in size, number of cylinders, etc.  And when you’ve already done the middle ground, it’s now time to go to the extreme!

Question is, which extreme?

I’d go for the Miata if you can keep the SHO around to carry people/cargo.  Depending on where you live, a FWD sedan with a solid roof helps in bad rain/snow. If you go Crown Vic, the SHO is pointless.  Which is a problem.

Think about it: the SHO is essentially worthless and the next owner is likely to kill it.  I reckon it will be Chinese scrap metal less than a year after the sale.  Not cool: cars with intrinsically fantastic yet obscure design like the Taurus SHO deserve to live. Having owned this car for almost 20 years now, are you dumb enough to see it my way? To restore this future classic?

If so, you will also be dumb enough to buy a Crown Vic to make a collection of cool yet understated American sedans!  And for those that find this notion silly, I suggest watching this video about 10 times.

Click here to view the embedded video.

What was that about not wanting a collection of Ford sedans? #pantherlove

Send your queries to Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.


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Piston Slap: SHO-in off the MetSHO! Mon, 18 Mar 2013 11:00:59 +0000

TTAC commentator crabspirits writes:

I stumbled upon your Lemons Z34-fiero article.  My brothers both had LQ1 Cutlasses and whoever designed that engine was a sadist. They both blew the headgaskets and were impossible to work on. FYI: we run the SHO-swapped, mid-engine Geo Metro in the 24 Hours of LeMons. I had some good battles against that LQ1 Fiero, some captured on my helmet cam.

Thought you might find it interesting. I could’ve had him on the straights easy, but our clutch was slipping badly, and I didn’t want to divebomb him. Still, a worthy opponent.

The Metro has an ongoing track diary attached to the build thread. You can probably glean a lot of material from it. 

The car feels like a 200hp MR-S with better brakes. The suspension is built with all warranty returns from a local suspension company’s dumpster. It feels fine for what it is, but every now and then, a corner of the car will feel “weird” and you get an unpleasant surprise. When something fails on the MetSHO, it is always a case of “I can see it, but I can’t reach it”. It basically sucks to work on.

The main thing on the car that holds us back is tires. Good sized wheels for the taurus bolt pattern are hard to find, then you realize you can’t fit them when you factor in the coilovers and Geo real estate. We recently managed to squeeze some good rubber in the rear, but the fronts are still plastic-like. The brakes are good, but nearly everyone in the top 10 has big aftermarket setups. We usually get a best lap time in the top 5-10, but with our talent, we can’t seem to hold that kind of speed in this car without getting into trouble eventually. Fortunately, we are all drifters, so when trouble happens we usually know what to do. There have been many pleasant and unpleasant experiences with this car. Lemons has taught me a lot about car prep, tech stuff, driving, planning, and priorities (#1 is have fun).

Looking forward to such an article. I’ve never gotten the chance to meet with the Fiero team. I’m sure we share a lot in common. Same with the team that brings the Alfa 164-swapped Fiat X1/9.

Sajeev answers:

Z34-powered Fiero, SHO-Metro.  Fiat X1/9 with an Alfa motor. My goodness…every time I judge a LeMons race I am thankful for at least two things:  the free shit you cheaty-cheaters are obligated to give me, and your ability to make me look normal.  I sincerely appreciate both.

A friend of mine (using the term loosely, since all you people are certifiable) once mentioned that making a LeMons car is like freebasing on automobiles.   So if a freebasing (admit it!) gearhead such as yourself has such information proving the LQ1′s complete terribleness, it must be right.

What else is there to say?  You made a fantastic machine, you certainly don’t need my advice…though I will say one thing: Thunderbird Super Coupe or Lincoln Mark VIII. Ditch the 6.5″ wide wheels and get a set of 16×7″ inchers from the big Ford coupes.  They are dirt cheap so they work in a LeMons budget. The extra .5″ will get you a slightly wider tire, and every bit counts. But since wheels/tires are considered a safety(?) item, you can go nuts and buy the aftermarket 9″ wide rims.

I have faith that you can make a 9″ wide rim fit in the rear.  And why not? Then again, talk to Jay Lamm before doing so…as citing me as a source might be the dumbest move on your part.  Dumber than freebasing cars, that is.

Best of luck, I wish you and your team well this year in LeMons.

Send your queries to Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.


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Junkyard Find: 1996 Ford Taurus SHO Wed, 10 Oct 2012 13:00:56 +0000 The Ford Taurus has been among the most numerous of junkyard inmates for nearly 20 years now, and a sprinkling of Yamaha-engined SHO versions show up among the bread-and-butter commuter Taurii. However, the third-gen Taurus SHO, with its 235-horse V8, is much rarer than the earlier V6 SHOs; in fact, this weirdly purple car I found in Denver is the first V8 SHO I’ve seen in the junkyard for at least a few years.
The 1989-95 Taurus SHO was very quick, if fragile; we’ve even seen several SHOs win 24 Hours of LeMons races over the years. The V8 SHO was also quick, but engine problems fed most of these cars to The Crusher a long time ago. On top of that, you couldn’t get this car with a manual transmission, presumably because Ford didn’t have a non-slushbox transaxle that could survive behind the Cosworth/Yamaha V8.
Sure, it blew up early and often, but just look at that engine!
Ford took a big gamble with the oval-centric restyling of the 1996 Taurus, and it didn’t really pay off; it wasn’t long before the Taurus got the rectangular back window of the Sable and went through a general appearance de-radicalization program.
Should we miss the odd vehicle colors of the early-to-middle 1990s?

17 - 1996 Ford Taurus SHO Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 01 - 1996 Ford Taurus SHO Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1996 Ford Taurus SHO Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1996 Ford Taurus SHO Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1996 Ford Taurus SHO Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1996 Ford Taurus SHO Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1996 Ford Taurus SHO Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1996 Ford Taurus SHO Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1996 Ford Taurus SHO Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1996 Ford Taurus SHO Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1996 Ford Taurus SHO Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1996 Ford Taurus SHO Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1996 Ford Taurus SHO Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1996 Ford Taurus SHO Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1996 Ford Taurus SHO Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1996 Ford Taurus SHO Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 1996 Ford Taurus SHO Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]> 88
Super Piston Slap: This LeMons Fiero Gets Revenge on FoMoCo Mon, 03 Oct 2011 16:17:57 +0000

Since there are multiple TTAC Hacks on assignment here at the 24 Hours of LeMons, you’re getting into the mix from multiple angles. And, here in the Piston Slap corner of the world, the Cars are the Stars! But some whips simply have too much going on: feats of engineering superiority, a collection of creative/rare parts and a dump truck full of historical irony. That’s right, historical irony…with a touch of revenge!

Enter the Chevy Lumina Z34 powered Pontiac Fiero here at LeMons Houston. And a little Ford vs. Chevy history: from the viewpoint of Mr. Goodwrench and the average Joe.

If you were a Mr. Goodwrench back then: do please accept my heartfelt apology. Much like cramming 10 pounds of shit into a 5-pound bag, the Lumina Z34 was a hot mess to service: the double-overhead camshaft “wannabe Yamaha V6” conversion made servicing the spark plugs, timing belt, tensioners, etc. a nightmare. Buried in the frame of the less-than-Taurean Chevrolet Lumina, more skilled wrenches curse the name “Twin Dual Cam” compared to the Yamaha SHO motor. Moot point in this day and age, but I remember the chatter on car forums back in the late 1990s.

Let’s say you aren’t a Mr. Goodwrench:
the (1991) Z34 was a (cobbled up) competitor for the critically acclaimed 1989 Ford Taurus SHO. Much like the Lumina’s relative lack of success, the Z34 didn’t stand a chance against the SHO. Aside from less power, the SHO always rated higher because of the vehicle wrapped around the hot engine. Short of being an aspirational vehicle for Chevy Beretta owners or rabid fans of GM’s 60-degree V6 motor, the Lumina Z34 flopped.

So why on earth should you care about the mating of a Lumina Z34 and a Pontiac Fiero?

Continuing with the Ford vs. Chevy thing, the Yamaha SHO motor was originally intended for a Pontiac Fiero type of mid-engine sports car. Which was stillborn. Hence the need for the Taurus SHO to exist. So what’s a GM fan to do? Get the ultimate “Z34 revenge” by making your own Ford SHO-like mid-engine sports car!

And by that logic, you’d be a damn fool to NOT put a Z34 mill in a Pontiac Fiero!

The first thing that tips you off to this car’s “Screw You Ford” mantra are those wheels. Sure, the fronts are proper lacy affairs for the Pontiac Fiero. But what are those rear wheels? Is that really a Chevy Lumina back there?

Did Dearborn just get served? Peek a little closer, and there it is. Do yourself a solid and dig through the photo album, because you rarely see things quite this awesome.

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And the Winner Is… Mon, 03 Oct 2011 08:22:39 +0000 There are some fast LeMons cars that suffer from a single glaring weakness that knocks them out of the running after maintaining a lead for hour after hour. For example, the Acura Integra and Honda Prelude and their fragile head gaskets, or the Toyota MR2′s chronic engine-cooling/oiling woes. The Ford Taurus SHO, however, is constructed entirely from weaknesses; the transmissions explode, the engines throw rods (when they aren’t too busy spinning bearings and/or burning valves), the brakes overheat, and the suspensions crumble like pretzel sticks in a trash compacter. Wheel bearings, electrical components, you name it. But when a well-driven SHO doesn’t fall apart, very few LeMons-priced cars can catch it on a race course.
That’s what happened with the SHOTime “Rat Patrol” ’92 Taurus SHO over the weekend of the 2011 Yeehaw It’s Texas 24 Hours of LeMons. The Rat Patrollers did everything right: no mechanical problems, quick pit stops, no black flags, super-smooth driving for hour after hour. In the end, the SHO kept the Blue Goose VW Rabbit at bay, taking the checkered flag with a two-lap lead over the very quick Volkswagen. The other two cars on the SHOTime “SHO Mafia” team came in fifth and twelfth (out of 59 entries), which annihilates the previous record for most total SHO laps without a nuked engine or scattered transmission in a LeMons race. Congratulations, SHOTime!
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Yeehaw It’s Texas LeMons Day One: Rabbit Breathing Down SHO’s Neck Sun, 02 Oct 2011 04:37:00 +0000 After a grueling all-day battle of thrown rods, car fires, and busted suspensions at MSR Houston, we never expected to see a Ford Taurus SHO with a Rat Patrol roof gunner on the same lap as a bar-sponsored ’84 Volkswagen Rabbit. That’s how things sorted out after the first race session of the fourth annual Yeehaw It’s Texas 24 Hours of LeMons.
There’s something of a SHO Mafia in Texas, for reasons that go beyond my understanding of geo-cultural factors, and so we’ve got three SHOs on Team SHOTime. One of them won two races in the ’10 season, but that car now sits in seventh. The leading “Rat Patrol” 1992 SHO hasn’t had a single black flag today, and (as far as I know) not a single mechanical problem as well.
It’s good to be the leader, but the SHOTime Rat Patrol guys can’t be feeling very comfortable with the perennially contending Blue Goose Rabbit a few seconds behind them.
The Blue Goose VW is one of those LeMons cars that everybody knows is going to take an overall win one of these races; it came within a couple of laps of the win at the North Dallas Hooptie and has been near the front of the pack at race after race. Right now, all the Geese need is the smallest stumble by the Taurus— say, a transmission scattered all over MSR’s Turn Six (a depressingly common SHO occurrence) or something as mundane as a slow refueling stop— and the VW will leap into the lead.
Thing is, the Blue Geese are themselves being sweated by the only 280ZX ever to have won a LeMons race, Team Z-Wrecks. This 29-year-old Datsun is a mere lap behind the Rat Patrol and the Blue Goose, and its best lap is quicker than both its competitors. No black flags, no mechanical problems.
As if the SHO guys weren’t already stressed enough about their escape-risk connecting rods and glass transmission, the BenzGay Mercedes-Benz 300E (winner of the Garrapatas Peligrosas 24 Hours of LeMons in June) cruises a mere three laps behind the Z-Wrecks car.
And, because you can’t have a LeMons race without a BMW 3 Series in the heart of the drama, the Hello Dead Kitty Racing E36 lurks a single lap back of the Benz (they’d be tied with the Z, were it not for the four BS laps handed out by the LeMons Supreme Court yesterday). That’s five cars within a five-lap spread, and a whole day of racing Sunday to sort things out.
Meanwhile, the toll on the competition’s running gear has been even harsher than usual. Toyota MR2s like to eat 4A engines, as was the case with this rod-throw victim. The team has a new (to them) engine on the way, and an all-night thrash should get them back on the track by the time the green flag waves tomorrow morning.
This Nissan Sentra SE-R engine suffered one of the most spectacular failures we’ve ever seen in a LeMons race, with a wayward connecting rod punching holes in both sides of the block and the oil pan, spraying oil all over the exhaust header and turning the engine compartment into a sea of fire. The driver got out of the car safely, the rescue crew put out the fire (including the infield grass fire that spread from the burning car), and the team is even now installing a replacement engine.
The MetroSexuals Suzuki Swift GT-engined Geo Metro (1,300 screaming CCs of twin-cam power!) suffered a catastrophic rear wheel hub failure, which resulted in a three-wheeled off-road adventure. End of the race? Not at all!
That’s because the MetroSexuals’ pit neighbor offered the hub assembly off his daily-driver Metro. That’s how they race, deep in the heart of Texas.

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SHO Me The Differentiation! Wed, 20 Apr 2011 14:43:23 +0000

Ford fans, rejoice! The Blue Oval Brand has been promising to do more to differentiate its “all go, no SHO” 365 HP Taurus SHO since the fall of 2009 (shortly after it debuted). After all, why drop nearly $40 large on a Ford if nobody realizes that it’s the high-po Ecoboosted version? Sure enough, Ford has updated the regular Taurus for the 2013 model-year, and its gone and visually differentiated the SHO while it was at it. But though the SHO now looks different from the standard car, can you actually tell which is which? (Hint: it’s the Kia-looking one) It’s one thing to simply differentiate the SHO… but does a mesh grille and some black trim justify the SHO’s high price or represent its potent power? Q-ships are cool, but they don’t have a great sales record.

04-2013-ford-taurus-sho Which is which? 02-2013-ford-taurus 13-2013-ford-taurus 03-2013-ford-taurus-sho 04-2013-ford-taurus 01-2013-ford-taurus-sho 02-2013-ford-taurus-sho 01-2013-ford-taurus Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail 03-2013-ford-taurus ]]> 37
Review: 1989 Ford Taurus SHO (LeMons Racer) Sat, 04 Dec 2010 16:34:28 +0000

A top speed of over 140mph. Zero to sixty in less than 7 seconds. A composed suspension and jellybean-sleek sheet metal that still looks handsome after all these decades. That’s the 1989 Ford Taurus SHO, but Sergio Perfetti’s example is more than the sum of its historically relevant parts. And not just because it’s won two consecutive endurance races in the 24 Hours of LeMons on a $500 budget.

This LeMon-y SHO is never trailered and 100% street legal, with current Texas tags to prove it. Adding insult to injury, this SHO passed two LeMons Judges staff on the way to the track, cruise control set at 80+MPH. Why so fast? It has a full complement of creature comforts: heating and ventilation, power windows, a heavily padded race seat and a complete dashboard. Wear a cool suit (LINK:, hit the road and this Taurus not only lives up to it’s billing as the “Car That Saved Ford”, it’s SHOs (sorry) why Alan Mulally’s sees the original Taurus as case study for his turnaround plans.

Once the aged mechanical bits are fully sorted out. Starting off as a project car that sat for years in a backyard with a tree through its windshield, Sergio’s SHO has seen mechanical failures aplenty, but (most of) that is in the past. Perhaps the Taurus gets better with age?

The answer is both obvious, and not. Given the Yamaha V6’s reasonable (220hp) power, somewhat accurate gearbox and no Big Brother nannies, this SHO is fun on Road or Track. But here’s the kicker, it has the “good” stuff missing after 1989: heavy (but vague on-center) steering and an imposing rear anti-roll bar. Like every non-Mustang Ford since Don Peterson’s tenure, those not interested in understeering off the road must buy the Dearborn’s initial public offerings for true hoonability.

Not all was perfect in 1989. The LeMons SHO grabbed the larger front brakes from the 1993 Lincoln Mark VIII. There are race-spec pads, a NACA duct for the intake, larger wheels with (LeMons-spec) street tires, a quartet of used aftermarket shocks along with that heavy roll cage. But these changes don’t detract from the experience of cruising down the highway, windows down, on a summer afternoon in a…Taurus.

Which I did through the first three gears at full-tilt, reaching speeds far superior to most (cheaty) LeMons cars of the non-V8 persuasion. But too bad the SHO’s performance is merely admirable by today’s 250+hp family car standards. While third pedal’s long travel implied there was a paper-thin clutch afoot, the LeMons SHO had no problem passing SUVs on the highway. Blip the throttle, do a quick 5-3 downshift and whiz by. But do try and wave to the SHO’s adoring fans, as a raced prepped Taurus is rare on public roads, turning as many heads as a Ford GT. Just not for the same reasons, so smile extra big to compensate.

Back to the heart of the matter: handling. Unless you need active handling nannies as a CYA measure, the LeMons SHO is easy for anyone to drive. Mid-corner torque steer is minimal (yes, really) and triggering understeer is difficult in urban driving. I took a few clean curves and was impressed with the SHO’s flatness going in, and sheer rev-ability on the way out. I was delighted by its composure in early apex and heavy throttle situations: in plain English, drive like a moron and/or attempt to pass in a corner and the LeMons SHO won’t kill you.

Which equates to a nose that pushes when pushed, but adds the reassurance of trailing-throttle oversteer when needed. In LeMons speak, the SHO has the grunt of V8 muscle cars, but induces oversteer when you lift off the throttle, not the other way around. Which has distinct safety advantages in this zero-barriers-to-entry, positively looney Motorsport series.

I should reiterate: this SHO won two LeMons races in a row, using (mostly) OEM-spec parts and without the benefit of a trailer. Credit Sergio and his sharp-witted yet modest team. They, like any SHO owner, know when the stock 18-gallon fuel tank needs a pit stop, and are one of the sharpest crews around. That explains the multiple top ten finishes on track, and the number of well wishers in the pits.

While LeMons is full of cheaters, my SHO experiences over the years failed me, as I cannot find anything “cheaty” on this Taurus. Considering the amount of money spent to R&D a screamin’ sports sedan for daily commuting demands, it makes sense. The 1989 Taurus SHO is still an attitude adjusting, benchmark beating sweetheart. Adding a bunch of nice guys to this SHOroom (sorry) stock Ford sedan and it makes sense: reliably winning on the track over two decades after the Taurus’ introduction is a multi-generational homerun. When Detroit does something right they really, really nail it.

Sergio Perfetti provided the vehicle reviewed, and more of Tony G’s Taurus photoshoot is here

Readers who follow TTAC on Facebook had the opportunity to ask questions about the LeMons SHO. If you would like to ask questions of reviews in progress, check out our Facebook page. Fans, here are your answers:

Patrick: Racing brake pads aside, LeMons teams insist that regular maintenance is all you need, on a more frequent basis. Tony: Passengers have plenty of legroom, they merely lack a seat. TTAC’s Steven Lang: if you like well-done engine hot dogs, because it’s on track for at least an hour at a time. TTAC’s Megan Benoit: If I can pick up a chick in this Bull, I will marry her on the spot.

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Review: 2010 Ford Taurus SHO Fri, 16 Jul 2010 17:23:35 +0000

Reviving a legendary nameplate inevitably invites comparisons. As is often the case, those for the new 2010 Ford Taurus SHO have not been favorable. Judging from reviews, forum postings, and (I’ll predict) the comments below, the 2010 lacks whatever made the original legendary. Well, I drove the original SHO back in 1989. And now I’ve driven the 2010 for a week. For better or worse, the similarities outweigh the differences. So, what’s missing in the SHO’s revival?

Yes, the 2010 Taurus SHO, while strikingly handsome, is notoriously BIG. At a glance it looks large. Then you walk up to it and realize that the unusual height of the car—like its Five Hundred antecedent essentially a crossover in sedan form—disguises just how large it is. The new Taurus is even larger than it looks. The 1989 SHO was far smaller, about the size of the today’s Fusion. And yet the old SHO was larger than imported midsize sedans back in the day. The 2010 SHO isn’t easily distinguishable from a Taurus Limited. Guess what? The 1989 was similarly criticized.

The interior of the 2010 SHO is the most stylish yet in a Taurus. Faint praise, perhaps, but the center stack sweeps cleanly back into a prominent center console much like it does in some very upscale sedans…and the new Buick LaCrosse. Unconvincingly faux upholstered door panels—they’re hard to the touch, and look it—leave room for Lincoln. Because of this and some other sub-premium details, the 2010’s interior isn’t quite that expected inside a $38,000 (and up) car. And yet it comes closer than the 1989’s did. The original SHO’s shoddily assembled, disjointed interior was less competitive aesthetically even by the much lower standards of its era. On the other hand, the layout and design of the 1989’s various controls approached ergonomic perfection. The dramatic center stack in the 2010 places the buttons towards the top well out of reach.

The 1989 SHO’s relatively large exterior enabled a roomy interior. Too roomy for my taste—I couldn’t quite connect with the car partly because it felt a little loose around the elbows. The 2010 Taurus’s absolutely huge exterior enables…sportier styling. Those seeking an expansive interior should hunt down the far more space efficient 2008-2009 Taurus. The prominent console, bunkerized beltline, and rakish C-pillar all rob the interior of perceived roominess. Yet a personal connection with the new SHO also proves elusive. As in many recent GM products, the instrument panel and base of the windshield are simply too far away. Adding injury to insult, the telescoping wheel is also overly distant even when fully telescoped, forcing a slightly knees-wide driving position.

Befitting the car’s all-around performance aspirations, the original SHO’s front seats were endowed with large adjustable side bolsters. Ford put in less effort (and investment) this time around. The seats differ little from those in the regular Taurus. They’re far too soft and formless for a sport sedan. In turns, the squishy side bolsters give way at the slightest provocation. The SHO’s faux suede center panels help, but do not sufficiently substitute for effective bolsters.

The new SHO’s moderately soft, underdamped standard suspension tuning further suggests that handling was a lower priority this time around. The driving position accentuates the car’s size. The large diameter typical of Detroit’s steering wheels makes the feedback-free steering seem slower than it actually is. On top of this, the chassis feels vague, indecisive, and unresponsive through the seat of one’s pants, as it does in all Fords and Lincolns that share this platform. Fit for family sedan duty, even luxury sedan duty, but not for aggressive driving in anything but a straight line. Roll and understeer aren’t excessive, and grip is decent, but there’s little joy to be had in the twisties. I certainly tried, to the tune of 5.7 MPG during my handling test loop. (The firmer suspension in the optional Performance Package should help, but the 9 to 20 percent changes probably aren’t large enough to make a dramatic difference.) In the 2010 SHO’s defense, it does provide a smooth and quiet (if sometimes insufficiently settled) ride.

The 1989 SHO felt much firmer, though still short of agile. Its 1980’s Detroit-style oversprung sport suspension was blessed with all of the finesse and refinement of a sledgehammer in turns and over bumps. (Ford softened the SHO up in later years.) You paid dearly for the original’s extra firmness, and the car still didn’t handle all that well.

Steering feel? Even two decades later Detroit can’t find it without the aid of a European subsidiary, and 1989 was just a few years out of the Dark Ages when spinning the wheel with a single fingertip was the ideal. The steering in the original Taurus was far better than any Ford had offered in a North American sedan before, but its feel and weighting were both somewhat odd.

The 2010 can be paired only with a six-speed automatic, albeit one shiftable via paddles (but not via the lever). The 1989 was offered only with a Mazda-supplied five-speed manual transmission, a sure sign of its superior purity. Unfortunately, in practice the shifter and clutch were even less congenial than the suspension.

So why the mystique of the original? Let’s recall what the letters SHO stand for: “super high output.” To earn this moniker, a car needs neither efficient packaging nor agile handling. In fact, it needs only one thing: a stonking powerplant. Ultimately, the SHO’s plot was simple: decent car, outstanding engine. The year the wall fell 220 horsepower from a 3.0-liter V6 easily qualified. After all, the “H.O.” V8 in that year’s Mustang GT cranked out only five more. The regular Taurus got by with 140.

Does the new car’s powerplant qualify? The turbocharged 3.5-liter V6’s 365 horsepower, a 102-horspower bump over the regular Taurus, would seem to render it worthy. At 4,400 lbs., the 2010 SHO might be over a half-ton heavier than the original, but the nearly lag-free “I can’t believe it’s not normally aspirated” engine’s additional oomph more than compensates. After a slightly sluggish start (first gear should be shorter) the new SHO feels very quick, and it’s even quicker than it feels. The standard Haldex-based all-wheel-drive system lacks a rearward bias or active rear differential, so it doesn’t help the car feel more agile. Much more could be done here. But AWD does nearly eliminate the torque steer that afflicted the original SHO. Fuel economy is high teens in typical suburban driving and can reach 25 on the highway, quite good considering the car’s power and mass.

So, with the engine’s output suitably high, what’s really missing from the 2010 SHO? Well, to start with, the quality of power delivery. Back in 1989 the zing of a fine DOHC engine was still fresh, and they didn’t come finer or zingier than the Yamaha-developed and –supplied V6 until Acura introduced V-TEC in the far more expensive NSX a year later. This was a sweet, sweet motor. In contrast, the new SHO’s EcoBoost V6 shares the regular 3.5’s pedestrian soundtrack and languid reactions to throttle inputs. Count on Ford to make the experience of 365 horsepower seem almost ordinary. I’ve never been more bored driving such a powerful car. The far more engaging (but also far more punishing) Acura TL SH-AWD suggests what might have been if the SHO had been gifted with a singing voice, handling-oriented AWD system, and razor sharp responses.

Then there’s the appearance of the engine. Ask a 1989 SHO owner for his favorite photo of the car, and it will likely be one of the engine. Crowned with a dozen interwoven satin silver-finished metal (yes, real metal) intake runners, the 1989’s engine looked even more special than it felt. A relic of the engine’s originally intended destination amidships a canceled sports car? Certainly an engine this beautiful couldn’t have been created with the Taurus in mind. Imagine discovering the legs of a dancer beneath a nun’s habit. (No, not a real nun, you’re not that sick.) Finding this beauty beneath the hood of a Taurus was even more of a pleasant surprise. Open the hood of the 2010 SHO, and you’ll also be surprised, but in the opposite direction. Black plastic abounds. You’ll find more visual thrills beneath the hood of an Aspire. (No, not a pink Aspire, you’re not that sick.)

So, mystery solved. The 2010 Ford Taurus SHO is huge, and it doesn’t engage or entertain on a curvy road. But Detroit ruled with this “stylish, big, quiet, soft, and fast” formula in the past, and Lexus has found that a healthy market continues to exist for such a car. What’s more, the original SHO achieved automotive sainthood despite larger sins. So what does the 2010 truly need that it doesn’t have? An engine that can smile pretty for the camera and sing, and not just dance.

Ford provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.

Michale Karesh owns and operates TrueDelta, an online source of automotive pricing and reliability data.

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Ford’s Whiz Kids Adjust Their Models For Enthusiasm Mon, 21 Dec 2009 15:14:17 +0000 Show me the model mix (

Ford’s pointy-headed crew of sales forecasters have been compared to the original “Whiz Kids” and credited with a major role in Ford’s (relative) success in the last year. But you can’t calculate everything through statistical analysis, and it seems the models coming out of Ford’s Global Lifecycle Analytics Department failed to take irrational enthusiasm into account. Which is frankly, fairly understandable. The $37,000+ Taurus SHO starts at a full $12k more than a base model, making it a 365 hp halo more than a legitimate sales threat, and yet Ford’s forecasters seem to have underestimated demand for the turbocharged model, with at least one dealer reporting an 80 day wait on a sold order. “It’s a problem for our dealers,” Ford’s Jim Farley admits to Automotive News [sub], “we’re definitely catching up on the demand.” Mid-range SEL trim levels have also been underproduced, says Farley, along with F-150 double cabs. “If you don’t call it, you miss that opportunity and customers don’t see what they want to buy.”

But forecasting human behavior is never easy, and determining production mixes will always be a matter of trial and error. One of the few ways to improve the models is to increase the amount of data flowing to them, which is where programs like Ford’s Fiesta Movement come in. By giving 100 potential consumers access to the vehicle prior to US production, Ford claims it has gained valuable insight into the model and trim-level mix needed for production. “We have 100 customers and they all have friends and they told us exactly what they would buy,” explains Farley. Similarly, the Fiesta’s pre-production reservation system allows the Whiz Kids to plug data into their models right up to the last minute, theoretically creating the most accurate production mix. And they need all the help they can get: at 60-70 days supply across all models, Ford’s inventories are hardly too low. Refining the production mix remains a crucial task as Ford struggles out of its hole.

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Review: 2010 Ford Taurus Wed, 24 Jun 2009 11:48:33 +0000

Don’t believe the hype. The 1986 Taurus was not “the car that saved Ford.” Trucks saved Ford in the late Eighties and early Nineties, as consumer tastes moved away from the one-sedan-fits-nearly-all market in favor of the newly popular SUV. Nor can the 2010 Taurus save a Ford beset by problems on all sides. There are no longer enough potential mid-sized car buyers to make a huge impact on the company’s bottom line, and most of those buyers are really better candidates for the smaller, more affordable Fusion.]]>

Don’t believe the hype. The 1986 Taurus was not “the car that saved Ford.” Trucks saved Ford in the late Eighties and early Nineties, as consumer tastes moved away from the one-sedan-fits-nearly-all market in favor of the newly popular SUV. Nor can the 2010 Taurus save a Ford beset by problems on all sides. There are no longer enough potential mid-sized car buyers to make a huge impact on the company’s  bottom line, and most of those buyers are really better candidates for the smaller, more affordable Fusion.

No, the Taurus is neither Ford’s savior nor the vanguard of an American sedan renaissance. Instead, it’s a return to that quaintest of quaint American ideals: that of the premium Ford, primus inter pares in the millions of tract homes and leafy streets in that oft-derided “flyover country.” The original Taurus was notable for its unabashed futurism; the 1996 model, for a tragically ovoid miscalculation of the importance of price versus product in the market. This Taurus is something new and old at the same time. It’s intended to be a car that people want to own.

Our exposure to the 2010 Taurus took the form of a press introduction in Knoxville, Tennessee, followed by a long drive to Asheville, North Carolina, in conditions that could best be described as “forty percent chance of loading pairs of animals into a homebuilt ark.” The particular vehicle we drove was a white front-wheel-drive Taurus Limited with a reasonable but not comprehensive selection of the available options. Although the Taurus SE starts at $25,995, same as its predecessor, expect real-world stickers to range between twenty-eight and thirty-four grand for “popularly equipped” lot stock.

The alert reader will note that this price range is not really “Camcord” territory. The vast majority of the Japanese-brand mid-sizers sold are automatic-transmission four-bangers which leave the lot for a price well south of the base Taurus. This is fine with Ford; those buyers will be shown a Fusion. Instead, the Taurus is aimed upmarket. The media kit mentions the Audi A6, Lexus GS350, Chrysler 300, and Toyota Avalon. The first two comparisons can be dismissed as fantasy, the third is likely to be increasingly irrelevant, but the fourth is critical. There are plenty of older people in America who like the idea of buying a large sedan with a few gadgets on it, and those people are very fond of Toyota’s big Camry derivative.

Towards that end, Ford’s made no fewer than ten killer-app gadgets available on the Taurus, including radar cruise control, a surprisingly effective blind-spot warning system that can also notify the driver of cars approaching from the side in a parking lot, and the Orwellian “MyKey” that allows a top speed to be set for the valet key. Presumably this last feature is aimed at overprotective parents.

The MyKey setting on our car was turned off, so we headed for the hills to engage in a little bit of the old ultraviolence. Seated behind the Ford corporate steering wheel and fiddling with SYNC to our hearts’ content, we mercilessly tortured the charmless Duratec 3.5 for every last pony. This is not a fast car by any means—the SHO (in a forthcoming review) will address this—but it can be driven very hard in lousy weather. Stability is outstanding, steering feel is usable, and the chassis provides a sound ride while preserving a modest ability to be turned in on the brakes, should some irresponsible Boomer try it.

Over space and time, the new Taurus proved itself to be a quiet, comfortable vehicle with plenty of useful features. The exterior styling is up for debate, but the interior really does satisfy, providing ninety-five percent of the Lincoln MKS experience for about sixty percent of the price. Lon Zaback, Ford’s Interior Design Manager, waxed eloquent to us on the terribly complex process by which the absolutely convincing-looking faux-stitched leather doors were produced. The doors deserve a story all by themselves, but for now just consider it emblematic of the effort put into the Taurus by all hands.

The last Ford sedan to have this kind of whole-hearted effort devoted to it was the 1996 Taurus, and we all know what happened to that well-intended but ultimately star-crossed effort. It was a premium product and design statement masquerading as a family car, but the 2010 suffers from no such mission confusion. Comparing this very competent and interesting big sedan to the aging Impala or Chrysler 300 is bringing a gun to a knife fight. Against the Maxima, Avalon, and Azera, the Taurus offers size, styling, unique features and perhaps the most focus on the driver to be found in the segment. Don’t expect it to save Ford, but don’t expect it to fail, either.

[Ford provided the vehicle reviewed, gas, insurance, transportation, lodging and food.]

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