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The Taurus SHO can accelerate to 100 km/h in an impressive 6.3 seconds. Ford

Overall Rating
Muscle and performance comes alongside equally impressive fuel economy
Looks Rating
A distinctive look drawn to a large scale.
Interior Rating
Good-looking, functional, quality materials.
Ride Rating
Firm and confident.
Safety Rating
All the usual, plus AWD is worthwhile.
Green Rating
365 hp isn't very green, even if produced by an EcoBoost engine.

Recycling is deemed a worthy exercise these days, so I'm going to make a contribution on behalf of automotive journalism by reusing some words I chose to introduce the original generation of Ford's recently returned Taurus SHO.

In a back-in-the-day review of the SHO, which made its debut for the 1989 model year, I wrote: "There's a subversive element submerged deeply within the bureaucracies of major auto manufacturers.

"It's hidden beneath layers of bean counters and corporate ladder climbers, and has survived despite more than two decades of emission, fuel economy and safety regulations that threaten to take the fun and excitement out of cars. They're called 'car guys' by the paper shufflers.

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"The neat thing about the car guys is that every now and again they manage to slip one of their pet projects past the watchdogs of conservatism."

It's nice to know that some of those "car persons" - to bring the reference up to the standard of a more politically correct age - still have influence at Ford. And can steer projects like the new 2010 SHO version of the Taurus through the corporate and regulatory mazes.

Those early SHOs were a revelation, but were not - their revvy Yamaha V-6s aside - very sophisticated driving devices, even judged by the then state of the art. They were just a lot better than any rival North American sedans.

The current SHO, based on the redesigned-for-2010 Taurus and benefiting from another couple of decades of automotive development, most definitely is.

Although, having said that, it retains a distinctly North American, but hard to describe, feel. A mixture of (very full) size and too much mass and a perhaps not quite as deft a touch as the Europeans and Japanese bring to cars in the $50,000 price bracket, that would have me shopping elsewhere.

The $48,199 SHO, remember, is based on the $29,999 base Taurus and that's a large gap to span, even with $18,998 worth of additional bridging material.

But just because I wouldn't buy one doesn't mean this new SHO won't suit a lot of folk looking for a full-size Ford experience, dressed up to the nines in the latest high-tech equipment and capable of being driven harder and faster than anything else in the Blue Oval stable other than the Mustang. It's a car for people looking for, as the company puts it, "a premium Ford flagship sedan with even more attitude."

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And it definitely has that. Like the original, it has a V-6 under the hood but this 3.5-litre, twin-cam EcoBoost unit is boosted by a pair of turbos that help it -very smoothly - spin out 365 hp at 5,500 rpm (102 hp more than the standard engine), plus 350 lb-ft of torque, which is available from 1,500 rpm to 5,000 rpm.

A six-speed SelectShift automatic with steering-wheel paddle shifters sends this, with crisp upshifts and fairly quick downshifts, to all four wheels through a full-time torque-sensing electronically controlled AWD system.

Testing by the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada revealed that despite its two-ton heft it can accelerate to 100 km/h in an impressively sharpish 6.3 seconds and takes just 4.3 seconds to get from 80 km/h to 120 km/h. Pretty darned good numbers, as are those on the other side of the performance coin, fuel economy ratings of 12.3 litres/100 km city and 8.0 highway.

The SHO's strut-based front and multilink rear suspension have been tuned with higher spring rates, increased damping and a larger-diameter front anti-roll bar and stiffer front strut mount bushings. The SHO also gets 20-inch wheels shod with P245/45R20 Michelins and electrically assisted power steering to point them.

On the road, the SHO delivers its power in a strong and even surge, punctuated by gearshifts, that propels you through an on-ramp - aided by that firm suspension - quickly enough that you'll have plenty of terminal velocity for safe merging.

Ride is firm but yielding enough not to be punishing.

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Pushed to its limits on a test track, the SHO's heft comes into play, working those Michelins very hard, but it steers with pleasing precision, turns in purposefully and changes direction without becoming unsettled - and all in all goes pretty fast.

It also looks pretty cool, in a stealth-Taurus kind of way, with an obviously large but shapely form one friend described, positively, as kind of looking like "an Audi on steroids." SHO specific touches are subtle to preserve its "sleeper" personality and include a unique grille treatment, a rear spoiler and a pair of chrome exhaust finishers.

Its considerable exterior bulk translates inside into room and plenty of it, up front and in the rear seat area, plus a 569-litre trunk. And Ford has filled this with 10-way adjustable, large-cushioned and bolstered, Miko suede (made from old plastic pop bottles) and leather front "buckets" designed to fit North American-sized drivers.

There's also a bright analog instrument array viewed through a large diameter and thick-rimmed, leather-wrapped wheel. The centre stack flows nicely back into the console, which is dominated by a large T-handled shifter. SHO touches include "authentic aluminum appliqués" and aluminum-trimmed pedals.

And, of course, there's just about everything available from the Taurus goodie list, including: a Sony audio system with all the bells and whistles, voice-activated navigation, Blind Spot Information System, adaptive cruise control, Ford's Sync voice-activated communication and entertainment electronics, programmable ambient interior lighting, a reversing camera, push-button start, MyKey (which can be programmed to limit performance), a capless fuel fill system, stability control and all the usual power assists.

If you think of the SHO as a fully loaded Taurus, it deserves high marks, only coming up (just a bit short) if you're looking for what we've come to expect from a good Euro sport sedan.



Type: Luxury sports sedan

Base price: $48,199; as tested, $51,149

Engine: 3.5-litre, DOHC, turbocharged V-6

Horsepower/torque: 365 hp/ 350 lb-ft

Transmission: Six-speed double clutch

Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 12.3 city/8.0 highway; premium gas

Alternatives: Pontiac G8, Volvo S60, Toyota Avalon, BMW 335i/335ix, Acura TL Type-S, Dodge Challenger SRT8, Infiniti G sedan, Lexus IS 350, Mercedes-Benz C350

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