– Pretty darn fast
– Nicely trimmed cabin
– Fairly comfortable ride
– Overbearing gadgets
– Handling could be tighter
– Not as spacious as you’d think
The Ford Taurus has always been a ground-breaking car for Ford. It was first launched in the mid-1980s, and by some accounts, it saved the company back then. Over the years, there were a lot of missteps, but till the late 1990s, there was one constant — a SHO model was always offered. While that badge doesn’t ring a bell for anyone in the Middle East, the “Super High Output” models were some of the fastest midsize sedans in their time, with Yamaha-tuned engines and subtle body mods. The SHO nameplate had died out until it was revived again for the latest top-spec Taurus. And it’s a whole other beast.
For one, it isn’t a midsizer any more. It’s a proper full-size car, as long as most luxury flagships, and almost as tall as most crossover SUVs. It’s massive, but it is hard to distinguish it from the regular Taurus, unless you know what to look for. The facelifted-for-2013 SHO gets a mesh front grille, unique 20-inch wheels, a decklid spoiler, and dual chrome exhaust tips, as well as a few “EcoBoost” and “SHO” logos. It’s handsome, yet understated.
The front is now more aggressive, with HID headlights and LED “lines” in the bumper, while the rear has square “rings” of LEDs as tail lamps. It’s all nice, but the HIDs aren’t as white as we’d like them, while the LEDs in the back don’t line up by a few millimetres due to an ever-so-slightly misaligned boot lid. However, that latter issue was the only build-quality flaw we found in an otherwise solid-feeling car.
Stepping into the cabin, Ford seems to have gone all-out with the interior design. That aluminium-trimmed rake on the dash-face is the most extreme we’ve ever seen in a non-supercar, while a high centre-console holds the MyFord Touch computer, with a piano-black panel of touch buttons underneath. There are leathery soft-touch surfaces everywhere, on the dash, on the doors, and even along the centre-console sides. You’ll find more hard plastics in a pricier Audi A5 than in this Ford.
Cabin space-management remains a weak point with Ford though. While the exterior is humongous, the interior offers no more space than any midsize sedan. It feels even less spacious thanks to that high centre-console. However, don’t get us wrong, most people will have no issues with the cabin volume. That stylised console also makes more sense in the sporty SHO than it does in the regular Taurus. And the front seats are barely bolstered, so they feel like sofas anyway.
In terms of storage space, the Taurus does not disappoint. The boot is pretty big, made even bigger when the split-folding seats are folded down. There are several covered cupholders, bottle-holders, door pockets, seatback pockets and an armrest-cubby.
In terms of tech, the loaded Taurus SHO is second to none. The voice-controllable SYNC computer boasts a customisable touchscreen interface for the CD/DVD/USB-compatible stereo, as well as a Bluetooth phone with contacts management, and settings for several vehicle features. Below the screen is a touch panel for direct access to common a/c and stereo controls. In the gauge cluster, there are two full-colour screens on either side of the central speedo, controlled by separate button-pads on either side of the steering wheel, so you can control everything from the trip computer to the a/c using your thumbs, let alone the usual stereo and phone.
But while all that sounds cool as a sales-pitch, the complicated controls are really annoying on the road, especially when you don’t know the commands for the voice controls, you have to scroll through menus even in the gauge cluster just to change radio stations, and you have to look down to see what you’re touching to change the a/c fan speed. Things that should take half-a-second end up taking several seconds with your eyes off the road. Even the virtual “buttons” on the touchscreen have a tiny font, so you have to really stare at it to read some of the text.
While we are complaining about the unnecessary complexity, the computer systems are actually pretty intuitive, so you’ll always find the options you’re looking for. Ford also got all the basic tech right, with the well-performing a/c, the excellent stereo, the power ventilated front seats, the dealer-installed rear-seat DVD screens, the rear camera with guiding lines and sensors, the smart key with remote start, the self-braking adaptive cruise control and the cavalcade of safety systems, ranging from multiple airbags to blind-spot monitoring. We also appreciated the little details, like the USB port that can charge the phone, and big traditional knob to control the stereo volume. Heck, the car can even parallel-park itself if the space is big enough.
Before driving it now, we never took the SHO seriously. A front-biased 1974-kilo heavyweight of a car with a boosted V6 was never our cup of tea. We expected it to be slow, with “only” 365 hp at 5500 rpm and 474 Nm of torque from 1500 rpm all the way up to 5000 revs. The turbocharged 3.5-litre “EcoBoost” V6 is mated to a 6-speed automatic and all-wheel-drive. We press the accelerator pedal for the first time, and it takes off like a rabid dog! The initial kick is hard, and we then knew this was going to a fast car. In fact, we clocked the 0-100 kph run at 5.8 seconds, that too with “Special” RON95 petrol, an engine with only 70 km on the clock, and hot September weather. Going by our tests, that’s quicker than the BMW 550i, the Chevy Camaro SS and the Chrysler 300C Hemi!
The SHO is definitely a straight-line bruiser, with a ride that’s mildly firm thanks to the low-profile 245/45 tyres on the 20-inch wheels, but is largely smooth and compliant. It is comfortable and silent inside the cabin upto 110 kph, with some rushing noise gradually becoming obvious as the big car cuts through the wind at even higher speeds. We burned 15.7 litres/100 km thanks to our spirited driving, pretty much like a regular V8, but we saw numbers as low as 12 litres/100 km when weren’t pounding on it about town.
It isn’t particularly a corner-carver though. Moderate body roll is noticeable on the sharpest manouevres. However, traction from the entire setup is rather excellent, as the car seems to turn impossibly harder than the body roll would suggest, aided by a very active all-wheel-drive system. There are no awkward rebounds from the suspension once the turn is over, but the drive isn’t the sportiest. The brake feel is good, with decent stopping distances. But the mildly-weighted steering offers little feedback, while the paddle-shifters on the automatic aren’t as quick as we’d like. Basically, this car turns hard, but you’ll never feel completely confident throwing it into corners.
Still, there is something truly endearing about a car that is obviously a well-trimmed luxury car, but can do crazy things like outrun muscle-cars on the highway or chase down incompetently-driven supercars on the curves. The tech is over-the-top, but one can work around it. And for the price they’re offering it, it doesn’t seem too expensive compared to the premium competition. As we said before, we didn’t take this car seriously before. Now we do.
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