March 2019 marks the end of Ford Taurus production in Chicago. Like the rest of Ford’s non-crossover, non-Mustang lineup, the Taurus is dead in the US and Canada. It’s been a protracted farewell for Ford’s flagship sedan as, after a refresh in 2013, the Taurus has been sitting in Ford’s showrooms mostly unchanged. There won’t be many fond farewells for it, much like the nameplate’s demise in 2006 elicited little in the way of sorrow. Spare a thought, though, for the SHO.
Since the days of the first Thunderbird, the Ford brand has been able to convincingly reach upmarket. The first Taurus SHO was able to do that quasi-premium, import-fighting shtick better than any Lumina Euro or LeBaron GTS. After fading into irrelevance with the controversially-styled third-generation, the SHO nameplate lay dormant, thankfully sitting out the handsome but decontented and unremarkable 2000-06 generation.
Then, in 2010, SHO ‘nuff it was back. It was now a swaggering, square-jawed full-size sedan with Ford’s heralded EcoBoost V6. This direct-injected, twin-turbocharged beast of an engine produced 365 hp at 5500 rpm and 350 lb⋅ft of torque at 3500 rpm, enough to rocket this burly, 4400-pound, all-wheel-drive sedan to 60 mph in just 5.2 seconds. That was 0.2 seconds quicker than a V10 Audi S6. The only transmission was a six-speed automatic with paddle shifters. A performance package added performance brake pads, recalibrated steering, a 3.16:1 final-drive ratio (instead of 2.77:1), and 20-inch wheels with summer tires.
The Big 3 had done big, powerful sedans in the past but the final SHO continued a proud tradition of understated styling and sophistication. Autoblog reported in 2013 that half of SHO sales were conquest sales from European brands like Audi and BMW. That makes sense – the Taurus was devoid of the kind of bric-a-brac that defined many American sport sedans, often replete with extraneous hood scoops and cladding. Indeed, the SHO was only subtly distinguished from lesser Taurii – different 19-inch wheels and discreet badging were the main differences. It was the same with the interior, which added some suede inserts and metal-look trim.
Audi and BMW buyers weren’t just buying the SHO because of its aesthetic sensibilities, however. Unlike GM, Ford was democratizing luxury features instead of making you pay more to get a luxury nameplate. Much like its Lincoln MKS stablemate, the Taurus SHO could be equipped with myriad luxury features including power-adjustable pedals, multicontour massaging front seats with heating and cooling, and a power rear window sunshade.
The D3 platform that underpinned both the ’08-09 and ’10-19 Taurus was solid but an unspectacular base for a sport sedan. Although the ’10 SHO had go, its handling was safe, buttoned-down but nothing overtly exciting; 60% of the weight sat over the front wheels. Though it wasn’t exactly a canyon carver, the SHO could be coaxed along winding backroads and was an enthusiastic highway cruiser. Fuel economy was rated at 17/25 mpg, living up to the EcoBoost’s claimed ability to marry V8 performance with V6 fuel economy.
The final Taurus SHO was a handsome beast and somewhat of a Q-ship and yet, it does make one wonder what a SHO-ized version of the ’08-09 Taurus would have looked like. That car’s styling was so plainly inspired by Audis and Volkswagens of the turn of the century that it may well have lent itself well to a subtly sporty SHO exterior treatment. The ’08-09 may have been less visually aggressive than the ’10 but it compensated for this by having a much more spacious-feeling interior. The ‘10’s high beltline and absurdly large center console left the occupants feeling hemmed in, even more so than in, say, a Chrysler 300. Alas, the interior never felt as spacious as the car’s external dimensions would suggest.
The 2013 refresh brought some meaningful improvements to the interior, including some nicer plastics, but it didn’t address the constricting dash and console. It also brought with it the controversial MyFordTouch touch-capacitive switchgear. Regardless of whether you liked it or not, Ford and fellow adopter GM have been shifting away from it.
There was a new front-end treatment for 2013 and, crucially, improved brakes – this addressed a common criticism of the 2010-12 models. The SHO’s percentage of total Taurus volume remained steady with around 9% of 2013 Tauruii being SHOs. That year was the best-ever year for the full-size Taurus, if well down on the fleet-queen fourth-generation’s salad days.
Although the SHO lacked the burly V8 of the Dodge Charger R/T and SRT-8 and Chevrolet SS, it gave up little in straight-line performance and offered its own unique blend of luxury and athleticism. And even as the regular Taurus became increasingly dependent on fleet sales, the SHO continued gamely on, perhaps because its engine was also being put into Police Interceptor sedans in the Chicago plant.
There’s a new generation of Taurus in China, using the Fusion’s CD3 platform and available with the Fusion Sport’s turbocharged 2.7 V6. It won’t come to North America, however, and its future is hazy in China too where Ford continues to struggle.
Happily, the Chicago plant’s lights remain on as they continue producing the Ford Explorer. The Taurus, however, is now gone. While the SHO was a competent luxury sports sedan, one that could woo buyers of much more expensive European sedans, it was left to wither on the vine. A confining interior and an unshakeable feeling of heft were its greatest sins but it’s nevertheless worth a fond farewell.
Photographed in Beatty, Nevada in September 2018.