Review: 2010 Ford Taurus SHO

Jack Baruth
by Jack Baruth

Not everything needs to come with a warning label. A bag of peanuts shouldn’t have “Warning: contains nuts” on it. You know what I’m talking about here. But when I shyly asked the infamous “Agent 001” of Autospies to be my co-driver for the next day’s 2010 Taurus SHO twisty-road press preview, perhaps I should have had excerpts from my “Maximum Street Speed” editorials stapled to the functional sleeves of my Gulf Blue Kiton linen jacket. Kind of a warning label, you see. It would have saved him more than a little worry the next day . . . to say nothing of the dry heaves. But don’t worry: Ford’s latest SHOmobile isn’t nausea-inducing. Unless, that is, you are sensitive to the odor of disc brakes when their pads catch on fire.

My time in the 2010 Taurus Limited had given me plenty of reason to hope that the twin-turbo “EcoBoost” variant would be a world-beater. The original 1989 SHO was a ass-kicking sedan that polished the big Ford’s faux-Audi-5000 demeanor to a razor’s edge. Applying the same treatment to the stock Taurus would create the perfect tool with which to humiliate Honda S2000 drivers on a back road or a particularly wide-open road course. A thirteen-second car with a family-friendly face and actual metal on the dashboard. What’s not to like?

Following an unusually comprehensive product presentation in the courtyard of Asheville’s brand-new Grand Bohemian hotel, we set off in our blood-red SHO—but not until the rest of the journalists were twenty minutes down the road. “Why are we waiting?” Agent 001 asked me.

“Cause we’re gonna catch ’em ten minutes into the backroad drive,” was the cocky response. Alas, it wasn’t cocky enough: the first of the poky journo-driven SHOs came into view after just five minutes of pedaling Ford’s stout-hearted turbomotor at full chat along North Carolina’s twisty lanes. This is one of the all-time great passenger-car engines. The standard Duratec 3.5 is a snoozer of the first order, but adding some beefier hardware and a pair of hairdryers pointed at the intake turns this Sleeping Beauty into a wicked witch.

Across North Carolina’s wandering countryside, the EcoBoost fired the big Ford past loitering traffic like the railgun in the new Transformers movie. Virtually no passing zone is too short for the fortified six-speed to snap down two gears and strain the four contact patches to their limit under acceleration. This is major-league thrust, enough to make a 335i owner feel slightly inadequate. Even better, the electric power steering is usable and efficient, allowing the inside tire to be placed within inches of the road’s edge time and time again.

Ford’s provided shifter paddles on the SEL, Limited, and SHO models. They are abysmal. I have never operated a worse manumatic shifter, period, point blank. Snapping a downshift requires placing one’s thumb on a tiny button above the steering spoke and pressing it hard enough to flex the plastic before the paddle actually rotates and makes the request. Everybody else I spoke to on the press drive gave up on them immediately, but I continued working with the wobbly paddles, just because the manual-selection mode works just as it’s supposed to, holding the EcoBoost at the limiter without an involuntary upshift.

You’ll want to hold those gears when you can, because after the first five corners you’ll want the engine-braking effect. Finally, someone has challenged BMW in the critical area of providing suck-tastic brakes on very fast cars. (They aren’t called the Bayerische Brake Werke, you know.) Ford’s aware of the problem and is offering an upgraded-pad “Performance Package.” But really, just unbolt the calipers and put something else on. A set of Boxster brakes. A set of Shelby GT500 brakes. A set of bicycle brakes. It doesn’t matter.

Had I been the only driver to smoke the calipers, I’d have put it down to my relentless and indefensible desire to use the road as my private racetrack. But I watched the other journos do it, and their pace, to a man (and woman), can only be described as “pathetic beyond reason.” This is a big problem and it spoils the usability of an otherwise outstanding performance sedan.

There’s that word: outstanding. This SHO truly is an outstanding car, but is it really a “SHO”? The answer, sadly, is “probably not.”

It’s fundamentally a Taurus Limited with the view through the windshield set to fast-forward. The iconic original SHO had a manual transmission, a suspension optimized for handling over comfort, and an aggressiveness that left no doubt in anyone’s mind as to its mission. This SHO goes but doesn’t stop, corners but doesn’t claw at the road, is fast but is never furious. It’s an engine in search of a chassis and a car in search of a mission. SHOgoers in search in a sequel to the 1989 original should read this warning label: “Should have been called Limited Ecoboost.”

[Ford provided Mr. Baruth’s travel, accommodation, meals, libations, the vehicle reviewed, gas and insurance.]

Jack Baruth
Jack Baruth

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  • Tundrasam Tundrasam on Oct 08, 2009

    Fords brakes have always felt soft in most of their product offerings over the past 3 decades. My 85 mustang gt had weakish brakes. My 91 SHO had fair but not fantastic brakes. My 2003 cobra mustang had decent brakes but over a short time they started feeling less firm and strong than brand new. Someone posted that Ford had some obligation to purchase engines from Yamaha. The story of the original SHO engine was told to me by ex CEO Donald Peterson. Originally a bank in Japan approached Ford on behalf of Yamaha to solicit business/projects. At the time of the orginal SHO development the initial plan was to take the Vulcan V6 and beef up the head based on engineering input from Yamaha. Yamaha took one look at the Vulcan V6 and offered to build a motor from a clean sheet of paper. The orignal engine had such excellent balance and construction that is could rotate at rpms much higher than any of the accesory components mounted to the front of the engine. At the time th 1989 SHO came out, the engine was one of the most advanced production engines in the world. Is the ecoboost an equal engineering advance from a relative standpoint? I am not certain. I do agree if you are going to unleash a bunch of psycho picky journalists testers the best suspension brake package is mandatory. Ford is not alone in this since Dodge and Chrysler often let their high performance sedans and coupes get tested with those miserable goodyear GA tires. Sadly these tests get carved in print with all the poor handling feedback and the true potential of these vehicles is not always appreciated. One thing I can say about the original SHO while it was FWD the suspnsion was tuned to create the impression the car was RWD even including a bit of lift throttle oversteer. The original SHO was an excellent handling car especially with the advent of the 16 inch tires in the 90 or 91 model? Further irony at the time of the original SHO, Ford had no automatic transmission to handle the SHOs power. The Chevrolet Lumina competitor had not manual transmission. I suspect the orignal SHO sold suboptimally because no decent automatic transmission was available. As usual these manufacturers work hard and can never win because someone will bleat there is no manual transmission but in terms of sales numbers few people are willing to buy that powertrain option.

  • Peachcreek Peachcreek on Nov 06, 2009

    I've owned a new SHO for about 4 weeks and I have 3000 miles on it. It is NOT the old SHO, it is a new road car that compares nicely to the Audi's and Beamers. The reviewer thaat didn't like the paddle shifters must be ham-handed. They were great as far as I'm concerned. The reviewer complained about the brakes. I've had no problems and I regularly drive the mountains of WV. Fit and finish is great. The black paint isn't black! In the sunlight it glitters with multi-color metal flake. Sounds tacky? Not when you actually see it. There is more room in the back than other similar sedans, but I'd still prefer the Lexus LS460L for long trips with four adults. I wanted a 4 wheel drive car with comfort and luxury. The only comparable vehicles were $15-25K more, and they werent American. One complaint. The cup holders are a disaster. You can't get a big cup into them without fouling the shift lever. You also bash your knuckles on the decorative cover when you try to put a small cup into the holders. The rear cup holder on the center console has two places for cups. You can't fit two cups in the space. The adaptive cruise control is outstanding. I drove over 150 miles without touching the gas or brake. You cannot believe how well it works! The blind spot indicators are excellent. Very few false hits. The NAV system with the weather map overlay on the route is neat and great in winter. The massage seats are cutsey. It feels like someone is poking you in the back where you don't want to be poked. Like all new cars the owner's manual is awful. All of the intformation is there but hard to find. This is a big, powerful road car with a ton of luxury features for a very good price.

  • Grg I am not sure that this would hold up in snow country. It used to be that people in snow country would not be caught dead in a white car. Now that white cars have become popular in the north, I can't tell you how many times I have seen white cars driving in the snow without lights. Almost all cars are less visible in a snow storm, or for that matter, rain storm, without lights. White ones become nearly invisible.
  • Douglas I have a 2018 BMW 740e PHEV, and love it. It has a modest electric only range compared to newer PHEV's (about 18 miles), but that gets me to the office and back each day. It has a small gas tank to make room for the battery, so only holds about 11 gallons. I easily go 600 or more miles per tank. I love it, and being able to take long road trips without having to plug in (it just operates like a regular Hybrid if you never plug it in). It charges in 75 minutes in my garage from a Level 2 charger I bought on Amazon for $350. Had an electrician add a dryer outlet beside the breaker box. It's the best of both worlds and I would definitely want a PHEV for my next car. 104,000 miles and ZERO problems with the powertrain components (so far).
  • Panther Platform I had a 98 Lincoln Mark VIII so I have a soft spot for this. The Mark VIII styling was not appreciated by all.
  • Grant P Farrell Oh no the dealership kept the car for hours on two occasions before giving me a loaner for two months while they supposedly replaced the ECU. I hate cords so I've only connected it wirelessly. Next I'm gonna try using the usb-c in the center console and leaving the phone plugged in in there, not as convenient but it might lower my blood pressure.
  • Jeff Tiny electrical parts are ruining today's cars! What can they ...