Thursday, June 10, 2010

SHO time: It's a Ford Taurus with lots of extras

This review originally was published in the May edition of the Northern & Central California Cruisin' News published out of Folsom, California -- mg

Sacramento, California -- Finally, MY car of the year.

Yes, I know that Motor Trend magazine’s closely watched 2010 Car of the Year award went to the fuel-sipping Ford Fusion, a politically correct move to be sure and somewhat ironic for a magazine that relentlessly has gas-guzzling, horsepower-laden cars on its cover.

But for me, the 2010 Ford Taurus SHO was the best of the latest new car lot.

Any doubts I had were blown away by the response of neighbors and strangers when I parked my Red Candy Metallic Tinted-colored tester. They’d come running up: “What is that? … Is that an Audi? … Wow, that is one sweet-looking car!”

Told it was a Taurus – albeit one on steroids, with the interior of a Lincoln – they looked at me in disbelief. Believe it, brothers and sisters.

Yeah, it looks good parked. The SHO – that stands for Super High Output, for those who don’t know – rides on 19-inch Goodyear Eagles (20-inch Michelin high-performance tires are an option), wears a stylish decklid spoiler and sports twin chrome exhausts. It has smooth lines and something resembling a hunched shoulders look over the top, like it’s getting ready to throw a punch. And it can deliver a punch.

The power plant is a is a turbocharged 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 with 365 horses and a top torque rating of 350 foot-pounds coming in at a relatively early 3,500 rpm. Power is delivered smoothly – 75 mph feels like 50 – but you can roast the competition with some more pressure from your right foot.

The tester was decidedly nimble with all-wheel drive. Hard to believe you can have this much fun in a sedan, but hey, there it is.

The opulent, smoky black interior on my ride was comfortable and quiet. Ford isn’t kidding when it said it worked hard to bend noise away from the interior cabin. The steering wheel-mounted shifter paddles were a hoot to handle, and the list of standard features was high-end heavy for a starting price of $37,170.

The tester was significantly dressed up with extras that included heated rear seats, power rear window sunshade, rain-sensing wipers, rearview camera and a voice-activated navigation system. That brought the sticker up to $44,275. OK, so now we’re in Cadillac CTS territory – a nice neighborhood if you can afford to live there.

I guess what I like most about the Taurus SHO is that it’s proof that Ford has gotten its act together. After years of Taurus sales success, the automaker turned it into a jellybean look-alike in 1986 and the ultimately killed it altogether. Ford chief Alan Mulally brought it back, and son of a gun if the current SHO isn’t the best Taurus flagship ever assembled.

Customizers, have at it. This SHO was made to be sculpted and given even more alluring lines. Just don’t mess with that hot-rod engine. And if you do, make sure the horsepower curve heads up, not down.

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