While driving, we found the Ford Taurus to be a thoroughly satisfying family sedan. It is not fast by street-racing standards, but it is by no means underpowered, either. For daily driving and the commuter wars, it more than holds its own. And taken out into canyon country where the roads weave and wind, its handling has the alert, sporty liveliness that has recently become a Ford trademark.
Power from the 263-horsepower 3.5-liter Duratec V6 is smooth, progressive and entirely suitable for daily transportation. It's even been exhaust-tuned to deliver a satisfying little growl under acceleration, confirming to the driver that this is a serious road car. And there is no awkward sudden throttle tip-in here.
Taurus ride quality is nicely damped and comfortable. It transmits information from the road accurately to keep the driver informed, but it soaks up road irregularities skillfully. And taken through a series of corners, the Taurus exhibits only moderate roll. It feels well planted and ready for your next move at any instant.
Large four-wheel disc brakes bring the Taurus to a powerful halt. Admirable. The name Audi keeps coming up around the new Taurus, but that is unavoidable. The Taurus has an Audi-like feel on the road, which is a very good thing. Better still, it costs about $20,000 less than the luxury Audi A6 it refers to.
The Taurus SHO offers an entirely different world. Every one of the Taurus's virtues is doubled in this mighty performance sedan. It's the ultimate sleeper in today's market. With standard all-wheel drive, twin turbocharging and a nearly instantaneous 365 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque on tap from the EcoBoost V6, the SHO simply rages ahead.
Touch the shift paddles, and it switches gears in the blink of an eye. Then turn the car into a corner at high speed, and its specially calibrated shock absorbers and minimal body roll instill a feeling of precise control, something that could not be said of early SHO models.
Veering into the next corner, the SHO's brakes, with standard ABS, electronic stability control and traction control, give the car phenomenal poise and tightly controlled dynamics. This blue-blood American performance sedan is a worthy competitor when pitted against any others, from Audi up or down.
Perhaps the most enticing thing about the SHO is that it doesn't wear the boy-racer outfit of so many performance sedans. Indeed you must know where to look simply to identify this car as the special Taurus. We like that.