Your Spin: 2010 Ford Taurus SHO Is No Car of the Year

2010 Ford Taurus SHO

2010 Ford Taurus SHO

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First, let's get one thing straight. The new 2010 Ford Taurus is light years ahead of the most recent model, and with its fresh looks and ground-breaking technologies, it is most in keeping with the spirit of the original Taurus of 1986.  But naming its EcoBoosted model the SHO indicates a total misunderstanding of the brand.

The original SHO Taurus (I owned two in a row) was a visceral machine. It was powered by version of the standard 3.0 liter Vulcan V-6 re-engineered by Yamaha featuring among other things a long and a sort set of intake runners.  Below 3,500 RPM, the long runners provided good torque characteristics, which made the car very tractable around town.  But when the short runners opened up above 3,500, the whole car took on a different character...the engine howled, vibrations shot through the car and it lept toward the rev limiter.  The engine itself was good for some 8,000 RPM, but the accessories (alternator, power steering pump etc) whold have turned to road shrapnel.  This powerplant put 225 hp through a front-drive system at a time when 200 hp was considered the front-drive max.

Add to this the amazing inclusion of a five-speed manual transmission, which was engineered into the original vehicle because fleet cars of the day were required to offer a four-cylinder and a manual transmission--a Taurus version that never sold to anybody. Without this fleet car feature, the original SHO would never have been the cult success it was (even though the ratios left much to be desired). (Ed. note--the manual on the SHO was different from the four-cylinder manual.)

Then enter the DN101 Taurus of 1996.  The SHO name was carried over to a new, V-8-powered car with an automatic transmission.  No manual available.  I drove this car on the Dearborn track and was sorely disappointed. It was a heavier car. The performance off the line was adequate, but in the mid-range, where the old SHO did its Jekyll/Hyde act, the new car felt flat. And with no manual to play with, the new SHO was just a V-8-powered car. At the time I described the old car as a home-built hydroplane with a screaming Mercury outboard clamped to the stern, while the new car was more like a vintage mahogany but stately.

I pleaded with my compatriots to ask that the SHO moniker be dropped and the car sold simply as a V-8-powered Taurus (minus the effective but dorky-looking spoiler). Of course I was ignored and the DN101 Taurus was soon discontinued.

The 2010 Taurus SHO is an even heavier car, the characteristics of the powerplant have been described as smooth and linear and again, no manual transmission. In other words, it's no SHO.

And finally, it seems to me that the EcoBoost brand is a lot more important to Ford's future than is SHO (the EcoBoosted 2010 Ford Flex carries no SHO designation), so the emphasis should be there, not on some old promise of explosive excitement which also happens to be missing in the new car.

Now a good question is, should a marketing blunder be cause for not winning the NACOTY? An overpromise or a mis-promise is as much a failure as bad brakes.

These days you need great cars and insightful marketing to qualify for greatness, not one or the other.


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