First Drive: 2010 Ford Taurus SHO

June 18, 2009 has already provided extensive coverage on the launch of the all-new, 2010 Ford Taurus. I just recently returned from driving the vehicle at the press-only event held down in North Carolina. One of the greatest stories to come out of that event surrounds the return of the high-performance SHO edition.

We first learned about the SHO's 365-horsepower twin-turbo EcoBoost 3.5-liter V-6 back in February at the Chicago Auto Show. Last April, I snagged a ride with Crissy Rodriguez (chassis development engineer) around the Ford's Dearborn, Mich. test track in a 2010 Taurus SHO with the Performance Pack, but I couldn't touch the steering wheel. I did get a butt-full of impressions, and it left me eager to drive for myself.

Now, finally, we've driven the 2010 SHO, and it's a potent sleeper. The best kind.

For those unfamiliar with the term, a "sleeper" is a car that is fast but doesn't look it to the untrained eye. Icons of the genotype include the 1968-72 Mercedes 300 SEL 6.3, 1986 Dodge Omni GLH-S, and the 1987 Buick Regal Grand National GNX.

2010 Taurus SHO

2010 Taurus SHO

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It takes a keen eye to distinguish a SHO Taurus from it's mainstream brothers, but that's intentional. The SHO has never been about being showy. It's always been about "go." Outside, the easiest way to recognize a SHO is by the trunk spoiler. A keen eye might notice the standard 19-inch wheels and tires. The standard Taurus SES has 17-inch wheels and tires.

Inside, all 2010 Taurus SHOs have push-button start, leather-trimmed seats with suede inserts, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with paddle-shifters. The gauges are deeply recessed, but they can be illuminated even when the headlights aren't on, so they remain easy to read. Our only quibble is that tach doesn't have a red-line and that there's no boost gauge. We heard whispers between Ford people at the event that fixes are under consideration.

The front seats are comfortable and position the driver properly within this big sedan. Visibility is good. If you can't get comfortable using the power seat, adjustable pedals, and the tilt/telescopic steering column, you must be a very odd person, indeed.

The drive begins by pressing the ignition. The engine fires immediately. It's quiet. Put the drive selector into A or M depending on whether you want to use the paddle shifters or not. In Auto, the heavy-duty six-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly and without fuss. The SHO cruises quietly and offers no telltales about its performance potential. Wind and tire noise at get-a-ticket speeds are subdued. The feeling is refined.

But the original 1989 SHO Taurus and the models that superseded it weren't about refinement. They were about power and speed and handling and fun.

So is the 2010 Taurus SHO.

Slam the throttle open and the big Ford sedan rockets forward, no waiting required. There is no turbo lag because the Garrett turbos are so small, that almost any time the engine is running, the blowers are ready to produce instant -- INSTANT -- boost. The max fed into the manifold is 12 psi.

Modern engine electronics give the SHO 350 lb-ft torque from 1500 revs on up to near the horsepower peak (5,250 rpm). The torque curve really isn't a curve, it's a broad, flat plateau that results in effortless acceleration at any speed. Unlike some other performance cars we know and like, the SHO's rate of acceleration doesn't really build. It's a linear delivery.

The SHO's chassis remains rock-solid under full power, helped by the distribution of torque to all four corners. There will be no adolecent burnouts in this car. Burnouts or not,  the 2010 Taurus SHO should be able to rip off 0-60 mph in under six seconds and run through the lights at the end of the quarter mile in a bit over 14 seconds at close to 100 mph. However, even during all-out acceleration runs, the car never feels stressed or strained.

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