Editorial: Taurus Taurus Taurus! Or . . . SHO Me the Money!

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
editorial taurus taurus taurus or sho me the money

Our president recently hit the late-night talk show scene, giving all a taste of the “Washington Bubble.” He’s not alone: Judging by the comments around the Interweb, every red-blooded American automotive journalist totally hearts the 2010 Taurus SHO. But does the journos’ wish for a reincarnated SHO jibe with the harsh reality of Ford’s market demographics? Or to paraphrase Norm MacDonald, “while the SHO may not prove anything, it certainly does nothing to disprove the theory that Volvo-based Fords are a waste of money.” Yeah, it takes brass balls to knock a car you’ve touched, but haven’t driven. But the circumstances around the all-new Taurus give me pause . . .

First off, how often to you hear about the regular Taurus? One key to the SHO model’s original success: The bread-and-butter version stood on its own for three years before the SHO’s arrival. But the average 2010 Taurus is almost old hat: We’ve seen this story unfold the past five years and nobody (with an open checkbook) cares one way or the other. Just like its 2005 counterpart, the latest version of the Taurus will be a respectable car. But this does nothing to disprove my theory that Volvo-based Fords are a waste of money.

Second, what makes lightning strike twice? Styling. Much of the first model’s interpretation of the Euro-Sierra worked. The 2010’s “kinetic” energy comes from the Mondeo. Only not so much. In pictures and in person, the Taurus fails to inspire. It’s no flying jellybean: There’s a Subaru-ish nose and a host of sheetmetal adaptations of the badass Ford Interceptor concept on the dorky hard points of the D3 chassis. Yet Peter Horbury, Ford’s North American design director, proclaims, “like the 1986 original, the new 2010 Taurus differentiates by combining style with substance.”

Too bad about that. There’s an obvious difference between a clean-sheet creation and a quickie conversion of a (failed) platform. Even worse, the 2010 Taurus redesign loses the previous model’s quarter window for black C-pillar trim, giving the illusion of a sleeker profile from a longer DLO (daylight opening). Which almost works—if you ignore the fat-assed beltline and tacky faux ventiports. No surprise, cash is tight and the basic badness of the D3 must remain intact.

The first two generations weighed around 3,300 lbs.; the engine put out torque-steer-free 220 hp; and there was a readily available manual transmission. The Taurus SHO was stupid fun in any dynamic event. Plus, the previous 100 percent American chassis scored safety ratings on par with Volvo sedans of the time.

The latest SHO is the Fat Elvis of sport sedans. The engine stumps up 365 hp, there’s mandatory all-wheel drive and automatic transmission, and a curb weight around 4,300 lbs. (300 lbs. over the Pontiac G8). The safety is stellar (because it is a Volvo). Given the feature creep of the Ford Flex, the SHO could sticker north of $35 large. With options, maybe over $40 grand. How great is that? I’ve voiced these concerns to pistonheads around the web and one answer comes back: Nobody pays sticker for a Ford, just wait for the discounts. So maybe this is a Taurus after all.

And if taking the Ford Taurus up to a dee-luxe apartment in the sky was bad enough, Ford didn’t learn from others’ mistakes. The Toyota Cressida/Avalon and Nissan Maxima prove that unique platforms for poser luxury sedans are out of the question. Mulally loves the Taurus, but he forgot its intrinsic appeal. The four-door was the go-getter working late nights in a cubicle, not an endowed trust-fund baby overdressed in a tuxedo at a garden party.

Not to mention the critics were proved right when calling out Ford’s decision to split the original Taurus’s market with two nameplates on two foreign chassis. It was a colossal falure in 2005. And 2008.

Come 2010, it will be three strikes against Ford’s great experiment. And even with the SHO’s halo, the market for Volvo-Fords over $30K is not promising. Which spells doom for the company spending millions (billions?) supporting a unique platform that’s yet to justify its existence to a fully leveraged Blue Oval. And with Volvo on the chopping block, what exactly does Ford expect to gain from billions of dollars in sunk cost?

If this “cut and run” attitude sounds unpatriotic, consider what Dearborn’s finest could’ve done with the money spent on the Taurus’s three generations of continuous improvements. With Mulally’s blessings, the Blue Oval Boyz could have used the money to make a Camry-killing sedan by now. But the saving grace now belongs to the Ford Fusion and its Hybrid halo. The writing is on the wall: Nobody gets a free ride. If the 2010 Taurus fails to SHO up with some cheddar, this dead weight has gotta go.

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  • Sajeev Mehta Sajeev Mehta on May 04, 2009

    Sleeper: this trans won't be used in a Mustang or F150 because its based on a FWD transaxle and comes the limitations we've all seen in the world of Turbo Hondas. They already have a great 6-speed in the trucks and Explorer/Expedition, too. In theory, a transaxle is a terrible idea for high boost applications, but since Ford actually took the time to upgrade this one, we shall see if they learned from their mistakes with the 1995-2002 Lincoln Continentals.

  • Bugo Bugo on Oct 01, 2010

    My problem with the Taurus is it's too tall. It's basically a CUV with a sedan body. I like a car that is low to the ground and has a low center of gravity.

  • Scott ?Wonder what Toyota will be using when they enter the market?
  • Fred The bigger issue is what happens to the other systems as demand dwindles? Will thet convert or will they just just shut down?
  • Roger hopkins Why do they all have to be 4 door??? Why not a "cab & a half" and a bit longer box. This is just another station wagon of the 21st century. Maybe they should put fake woodgrain on the side lol...
  • Greg Add me to the list: 2017 Sorento EX AWD w/2.0 Turbo GDI 68K miles. Changed oil religiously with only synthetic. Checked oil level before a rare long road trip and Ievel was at least 2 quarts down. That was less than 6 months after the last oil change. I'm now adding a quart of oil every 1000 miles and checking every 500 miles because I read reports that the oil usage gets worse. Too bad, really like the 2023 Tuscon. But I have not seen Hyundai/Kia doing anything new in terms of engine development. Therefore, I have to suspect that I will ony become a victim of a fatally flawed engine development program if I were to a purchase another Kia/Hyundai.
  • Craiger 1970s Battlestar Galactica Cylon face.