The 2014 Ford Taurus offers three engines among its various models. The default engine is the 288-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6, paired to Ford's high-volume six-speed automatic transmission--the only choice with any engine, in fact. Variable camshaft timing, added to the engine last year, increased fuel efficiency ratings and made the engine more responsive at a wide range of speeds.
The engine moves the large Taurus sufficiently quickly, and is tuned well, so it's rarely more than one gear away from the one you need. The throttle is sharply calibrated and first gear is low, though, giving it a particularly powerful feel at low and medium revs. Paddle shifters, included in the SEL and Limited trim levels, are really superfluous in a car that you're not likely to toss around mountain passes all that often.
From the middle of last year, Ford offered an optional 2.0-liter turbocharged EcoBoost four-cylinder engine as its gas-mileage champ. This boosts combined EPA ratings from 23 to 26 mpg, and offers performance almost as good as the V-6--and lower weight to boot. The price bump for the four (in SE, SEL, and Limited models) is a reasonable $995.
At the other end is the 365-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 fitted to the Taurus SHO, complete with turbocharging and direct injection. The engine and transmission controllers work closely together to keep power delivery consistent during upshifts, avoiding old-style turbo lag and surge. The SHO engine delivers a substantial 350 pound-feet of torque from 1,500 rpm all the way up to 5,000 rpm, giving acceleration times to 60 mph from rest as quick as the low-5-second range. That's actually better than the hot-rod Chrysler 300C with its V-8, though not quite as quick as an SRT8.
The Taurus SHO comes standard with all-wheel drive, and it's optional on the SEL and Limited models (with the V-6 only). But no AWD Taurus drives like a traditional rear-wheel-drive sport sedan (or like the RWD Chrysler 300C). It's a large, front-wheel-drive sedan, and the AWD system only sends power to the rear wheels when more grip is needed, measured by wheel slip. With engineering that dates back to Volvo underneath, the Taurus is stoic but competent--and rarely challenged for grip.
The SHO suspension, as you might expect, uses stiffer springs and shocks, new mounts, and thicker anti-roll bars, and it delivers a nicely balanced big sedan that turns in crisply. There's body lean when hustled hard through corners, but the Taurus grips the road well and the steering offers good feedback and a precise, direct action.
Ford has accomplished this by mounting the rack directly to the subframe, giving a nice load and actual feedback and bite--at least a bit--through the wheel. Even the standard models offer impressive road manners. They ride more firmly than other large, comfortable sedans, but the ride remains smooth even as the body leans noticeably. Recent upgrades to the brakes give them a confident pedal feel and substantial bite when needed.