Same firepower, better handling
PORTLAND, Oregon - Let us avoid using the term "all new" when talking about the Taurus for 2013; let's instead concentrate on "redeveloped". My reasoning is that Ford has taken the concept of a five-passenger family car and added a few ideas of its own. The 2013 Ford Taurus will be available in SE, SEL and Limited trim levels as well as the high-performance SHO.
In addition, there are three engines offered: a 2.0L EcoBoost inline-4 that will be available in late May on SE and SEL trim levels, a 3.5L normally aspirated V6 with variable valve timing that is standard, and a 365-hp (no change from last year) 3.5L twin turbo EcoBoost engine.
Lean and mean
The exterior design features a new look that gives the 2013 Ford Taurus a slight family resemblance to the Mustang, yet it is still recognisable as part of the Ford family.
The bar across the enlarged grille opening is mostly cosmetic to differentiate it from others such as Mitsubishi and Audi that have chosen this type of grille design. Blacked-out grille components, along with the design of the front fascia, give the car an aggressive look; when you see this front end in your mirror there will not be a doubt about what it is.
It may seem unusual to pronounce performance and economy in the same breath, but at 365 horsepower, the 3.5L EcoBoost engine forms the basis of the SHO which is Ford's top performance package in a family sedan.
Ford even went so far as to state that a large percentage of SHO shoppers were using the BMW 5 series as a benchmark as well as the Acura TL and Chrysler 300 AWD. Other more plebeian comparisons have been made between the Ford Taurus and the Toyota Avalon or Chevrolet Impala.
Of all the trim levels, SE and SEL can still be ordered with front-wheel drive; Limited and SHO are AWD only. The only transmission used is a 6-speed automatic, where 6th is the only overdriven gear; AWD versions have a new final drive gear ratio and boast a new, lighter differential than in the past.
Getting in SYNC
Inside, the new interior is built around the centre stack which will have one of two Sony stereos. At the top end, the system is integrated into Ford's SYNC system with MyFord Touch.
This system features a flat face with a few basic touch buttons, because the majority of controls are on the touchscreen that does duty as the backup camera display, navigation system display and systems setting screen. Once set up, the voice recognition system will let you speak a command, and nearly everything you want can be done by voice.
Generous use of leather provides the SHO with a luxurious look that makes it obvious why a BMW 5 Series is used for comparison purposes. The seats in my test unit came with an optional massaging seat cushion. At first, these seats seemed very comfortable, but after a couple of hours and several sessions with the bum massage, I couldn't wait to get out. This is not an option I would bother with and is the only weak spot when comparing the SHO to a BMW product.
Along with revised suspension settings, the SHO gets brakes that are significantly larger in both the rotor and the calliper. Rather than go for thinner and lighter material, engineers opted for heavier and thicker rotors with better venting up front and, for the first time, vented rotors on the rear. Callipers are large two-piston sliding units that have increased clamping force as well as a significant increase in pad surface area over previous systems.
Braking systems now form the basis for traction control, stability control as well as roll mitigation. On the Ford Taurus SHO, another function has been added to the system; turn-in assist helps make the SHO turn in a bit better during hard cornering by subtly applying a bit of the inside front brake. The net effect is that the SHO bites corners better and the driver doesn't get the feeling that the car is as large as it really is.
The Taurus SHO is a big car to be hustling around tight corners with, but it can be done and in comfort. The most positive comment is that passengers do not realize the speed that is carried through the corners, because the seats provide good lateral support. Instrumentation is contained in a digital pod so information is up front and easy to read.
My only complaint is that if you use the transmission's manual mode, trip meter display and other functions get replaced by the tachometer. When you want the other information back, you need to get into the MyFord Touch menu to do so.
Aside from these petty gripes, the new Taurus SHO put a grin on my face wherever I drove it.
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