I am probably not the best person to review the 2013 Ford Taurus SHO. Yeah, yeah, I know -- as a reviewer I'm supposed to remain objective and unbiased, but I just can't help myself. My problem is that I vividly remember the original 1989 Taurus SHO, with its Yamaha-sourced 24-valve V6 and its 5-speed manual transmission. The performance wasn't any better than a modern-day Camry, but at the time, it was exotic stuff -- and in a buttoned-down family sedan from an American manufacturer? The SHO wasn't just cool, it was surreal.
When I reviewed the new Taurus SHO in 2010, I lamented the fact that the car had grown up. Yes, it was fast. Yes, it handled exceptionally well. But it struck me more as a very nice Taurus, rather than an extreme Taurus. So when I heard the car would get a round of improvements for 2013, I allowed myself to get a little excited. Maybe that raw edge would come back.
Spoiler alert: It hasn't.
Let's talk about what Ford has done. First, they've tweaked the styling a bit, with a new, angrier face clearly designed to mimic the 2013 Ford Fusion. The SHO gets a unique black mesh grille to set it off from the regular Taurus, although it doesn't quite pull off the baby Aston Martin look the way the Fusion does. Taillights and interior materials have also been tweaked a bit, and the SHO gets improved sound insulation (too bad, as this car needs to be louder, not quieter). They've improved the paddle shifters; you no longer need to move the shifter to "M" for them to work. (It's nice to see the engineers triumph over the lawyers.) And the Taurus is now available with the MyFord Touch system, which allows control over climate, nav and stereo from the steering wheel (nifty, but a bit complicated and distracting to use).
But what about the important stuff -- the stuff that makes the SHO go? Yes, there are some changes: Bigger, better brakes, updated steering and suspension, and a new electronic limited-slip differential function that uses the brakes to prevent any single wheel from breaking loose and spinning. The 365 hp EcoBoost twin-turbo V6 is unchanged, as is the standard all-wheel-drive system.
Most notable is the new $1,995 SHO Performance Package -- a concept to which I fundamentally object, as every car wearing the SHO badge ought to deliver maximum performance. The extra two grand buys stiffer suspension, steering and brake tuning, track and full-off modes for the electronic stability control system, lower final-drive ratio for better acceleration, a heavy-duty cooling system, and 20" wheels with summer performance tires.
Truth be told, it's pretty darn good
I'm going to set aside my bias for a moment to complement the Taurus SHO on its driving dynamics. For such a big car, the Taurus SHO is a remarkable performer: It's very quick and the steering response is excellent -- next to Honda and Acura, Ford makes the best electric power steering system. The SHO grips and hustles every bit as well as an all-wheel-drive Audi, and does so with the same lack of drama. By the numbers, this is a remarkable car.
Bias back on: If they called this car the Taurus Sport, I'd be praising it to heaven and back. But I still don't think this Taurus deserves the Super High Output badge. Okay, a twin-turbo V6 is a bit exotic -- or at least it would be if you couldn't get the same engine in an SUV and a pickup truck. The real problem is that even with the Performance Package, the SHO is still biased towards comfort. If you're going to give the car such a special name, why not give it truly special performance? A rock-hard ride, oversteer-biased handling, and a properly loud exhaust note in place of this car's wimpy full-throttle growl?
These things are all within Ford's engineering abilities -- look no further than the Mustang Boss 302. Ford could easily rip out the mufflers (turbochargers usually muffle the exhaust just enough to be legal), tie down the suspension, and stiffen up the rear end enough to make the Taurus as tail-happy as a BMW. Maybe they could even find a manny tranny that could be beefed up to handle the EcoBoost's 350 lb-ft of torque. That, my old darlings -- that would be a Taurus SHO.
That would also be a car that only a few hundred people would buy -- certainly not enough to justify its existence. And that's the reason Ford hasn't done it.
For whom is this car right?
Fact is, there are plenty of people who will appreciate the Taurus Sport -- sorry, Taurus SHO -- as it is. If you're a big-car guy (sorry, ladies, Ford isn't marketing this one to you) who wants the acceleration of the muscle car you drove when you were young, but the comfort of your mother's Lincoln, and a suspension just good enough to remind your Audi- and Infiniti-owning friends that yes, the domestics can build cars that handle, then the Taurus SHO is probably perfect for you. But it isn't perfect for me. The original SHO was lean, energetic, and idealistic, just like I was back then. The new one is older, fatter, and a bit jaded. True, I too am older and fatter, but I'm still idealistic. If the new SHO was the same way, maybe I would be the right guy to review it. -- Aaron Gold
What I liked about the 2013 Ford Taurus SHO:
- Lots of power with reasonable fuel economy
- Agile and well-composed in the corners
What I didn't like:
- Boring exhaust note
- Boring demeanor
- Back seat isn't as roomy as it ought to be in such a large car
- SHO (Ford pronounces it "show") is the hot-rod version of the Taurus
- Price range: $38,995 - $47,100
- Powertrain: 3.5 liter twin-turbo V6/365 hp, 6-speed automatic, all-wheel-drive
- EPA fuel economy estimates: 17 MPG city/20 MPG highway
- Best rivals: Dodge Charger R/T, Buick Regal GS, Hyundai Genesis R-Spec