What's more important in a sports sedan, comfortable accommodations? Or being entertaining to drive? The 2013 Taurus SHO that we borrowed from Ford begs the question.
No doubt, the SHO is tremendously capable. The 365-hp, twin-turbo EcoBoost V6 is a rocket ship, whether bolted into an F-150, Explorer, or this Taurus. (Don't confuse this EcoBoost with the 2.0-liter four-cylinder also available in the Taurus.) The SHO's all-wheel drive does a great job at putting down the power; we appreciated the system's ability during the mostly wet week we had the car. The ride is decent and near-silent on the highway, feeling unflappable and composed like the Q-ship it is.
So what's the problem? It's simply not that much fun to drive. Steering has decent effort but not a lot of feel. Despite the car's quickness, the overall impression is that it's just big. Sure, NASCAR driver Carl Edwards can drift it around a track in a series of online videos, but it's no fun steering through the curves away from a track.
I was predisposed to like the SHO. I've driven several different generations, even test-driving a 1989 version during engineering school. (All of the car magazines were raving about it.) An enthusiast friend of mine just bought probably the best 1991 SHO still in existence, fulfilling a long-held dream. I know Ford can build engaging cars: I came very close to buying a new SVT Contour and later a SVT Focus. Having driven a 2013 Focus ST, I can't wait to get more time behind its wheel.
But much of my time driving the SHO just made me yearn for a now-extinct car from another company: the Pontiac G8. While the Taurus lives for the open highway, our G8 GT test car thrived on twisty back roads, proving a willing dance partner with great steering and a better ride than the SHO. The G8 GXP offered a manual transmission that the Ford lacks, though admittedly the take rate on a large manual sedan would be negligible in this traffic-clogged automatic era. And I'd gladly take the G8's imported-from-Australia interior quirks than the mess that is MyFord Touch. (Hopefully the upcoming Chevrolet SS, basically a reborn G8, kick starts some of that passion.)
The Taurus falls short on practicality, as well. For such a big sedan, it feels really small and cramped inside. The G8 didn't do that.
Maybe it all boils down to expectations. If you want a stealthy and quick highway cruiser, and don't mind a tight interior and over-complicated controls, the SHO fits the bill. But I'm hoping for an SVT version of the new Fusion.