With 263 horsepower and 249 pound-feet of torque from a 3.5-liter V-6, plus a smooth six-speed automatic, the 2012 Ford Taurus moves plenty quick. It's rarely caught flat-footed, and the paddle shifters included in SEL and Limited versions even feel a little gimmicky in such a big, comfy sedan. On the other hand, the Taurus SHO is focused around performance, with all-wheel drive and a 365-horsepower, 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 capable of running this big, heavy (nearly 4,400 pounds) sedan to 60 mph in about six seconds. But possibly because of its heft (nearly 4,400 pounds), the SHO is a little less transformational than you might think—in part because the SHO puts the power to the road with such stoicism and a lack of excitement or drama.The SHO suspension is tuned for handling, with stiffer shocks and springs, thicker anti-roll bars, and new suspension mounts, and it pays off with crisp turn-in and nicely balanced handling. Hustle it through corners, and the SHO leans a little before it takes a good set and grips the pavement as well as any competitor, save for the Nissan Altima, the handling standout in the class.
Road manners for standard Taurus models are quite impressive, too. It rides more firmly than you might expect from such a big sedan, taut but not high-strung, with a smooth ride and some natural body roll. The steering is direct and precise, and it provides plenty of feedback, a notable accomplishment since it's electronically dialed in, rather than hydraulically assisted. At the same time, it's not exactly nimble, and there's a lot of nosedive during hard braking.