Ford Taurus SHO : 2010

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The Ford Taurus SHO is back for 2010 in a contemporary yet authentic interpretation of its Super High Output “sleeper” heritage.

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Both known and loved for its high performance and unassuming exterior, Ford Taurus SHO was launched in limited production with only a five-speed manual transmission only for the 1989 model year. Introductory advertising positioned Taurus SHO as putting “power in the hands of a fortunate few.”

Demand for the genre-defining Taurus SHO was underestimated, as 15,519 units found homes with eager, enthusiastic owners in the initial model year. The closest performance comparison at the time was the BMW 528i, costing tens of thousands more than the SHO.

Beyond significant performance capabilities, Taurus SHO included features normally found on much more expensive cars such as ABS, Keyless Entry, a JBL audio system and sporty-yet-luxurious interior appointments.

Two key factors made the original Taurus SHO sedan a favorite of the automotive cognoscenti, right out of the gate. The critical element, a Yamaha-developed 3.0-liter V-6 engine delivering 220 horsepower, delivered thrust through a five-speed manual transmission. The SHO twist was design subtlety.

Traditional American high-performance cars shouted their intentions with racing stripes, hood scoops and raised white letter tire sidewalls. Taurus SHO was understated, stealth.

From the V-8 Ford sedans from the ‘30s and ‘40s, the 1957 Fairlane 500 driven by Robert Mitchum in Thunder Road, through the mid-‘60s Falcon Sprint, many Ford sedans offered unexpected performance in their price classes. A performance-minded customer of the day could specify a sleeper Ford sedan by shrewdly mixing and matching powertrain options and trim levels. Until the Taurus SHO arrived, this involved a special order and dealer-installed upgrades.

Taurus SHO was an OEM interpretation of a time-honored hot rod recipe, to make the car faster than it looks. Automotive enthusiasts called the Taurus SHO a “sleeper” as it delivered performance beyond the promise of its understated design. The December 1989 issue of Car and Driver reported a 0-60 figure of 6.6 seconds, a quarter-mile elapsed time of 15 seconds flat and an observed top speed of 143 miles per hour.

To the untrained eye, the Taurus SHO virtually was undistinguishable from the standard Taurus models, at that time the best-selling car in the United States. Taurus SHO gave an enthusiastic owner the opportunity to blend in. A special-edition option package was launched for 1991, as some Taurus SHO owners asked for aesthetic differentiation from normal Taurus sedan models.

The Taurus SHO was mildly redesigned for the 1992 model year but kept the subtlety. Comedian Conan O’Brien spoke frequently of his personal 1992 Taurus SHO on his popular late-night talk show, adding to SHO lore. A four-speed automatic transmission was offered for 1993, dramatically expanding the number of potential SHO buyers. A record 21,550 Taurus SHO models were sold that year.

Taurus SHO was redesigned for the 1996 model year, and given a Yamaha-developed 3.4-liter V-8 engine, coupled to a four-speed automatic transmission shared with other Taurus models. By the late ‘90s, Taurus SHO sales began to taper off.

Taurus SHO production at the Hapeville, Georgia, production facility wound down at the end of the 1999 model year. During its 10 years, more than 100,000 were sold.

2010 Ford Taurus SHO.
As Ford was developing the new 2010 Taurus, a passionate cadre of SHO enthusiasts within the company asked, “Why not?”

For North American Car and Crossover Planning Manager, Amy Marentic, Taurus SHO represented a professional and personal goal. When she started with the company in 1992, the real-estate agent who helped her locate a suitable home drove a Light Titanium Taurus SHO. Shortly thereafter, she had the chance to drive her department head’s Emerald Green SHO. She was smitten.

“Someday, I’ll have a Taurus SHO,” she remembers telling herself.

As the new 2010 Taurus was moving through the development process, Marentic and the team saw a market opportunity in contemporizing the original SHO formula. Adding a super high output EcoBoost V-6 to the expressive new Taurus sedan, incorporating all-wheel drive with a unique sport-tuned suspension, while keeping the SHO-specific design cues subtle and stealth, enabled a balance of authenticity and innovation.

“As word got out within the company, engineers and product development employees eagerly offered help, people worked weekends and retirees that had contributed to the original SHO provided pro bonoconsultation,” added Marentic. “The reincarnation of SHO really invigorated the team.”

Researchers from the team also spent considerable time listening to several Taurus SHO enthusiast organizations. Vocal club members stressed the importance of a super high-output six-cylinder engine, a performance tuned suspension and subtle SHO identification.

Taurus SHO enthusiasts started a dedicated Web site, Bring Back The SHO, to convince Ford to resurrect the model and created an online community at SHO Forum.

Team Taurus presented the SHO business case to senior management with equal doses of market data and passionate enthusiasm. Given a green light, the concept became reality in less than 12 months.

Marentic’s reaction?

“A 2010 Taurus SHO in Atlantis Green Metallic, please,” she answered without hesitation.

(source: Ford)

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Taurus side vent/emblem from a 2010 Ford Taurus SHO.

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