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Associated Press 

Thanks to Sheriff Buford T. Justice


Taurus charges into the arena with the 1997 SHO

Saturday, February 22, 1997

Ford Taurus SHO
Base price: $26,460
Price as tested: $30,005
Mileage: 17 mpg/city
     26 mpg/highway

The Associated Press

The Ford Taurus brings to mind a practical family sedan made by a solid domestic car company. It's also the top-selling car in the country.

But there's a decidedly livelier Taurus.

The 1997 Taurus SHO, which starts at $27,010 with delivery, has a much edgier personality. It growls through dual exhaust pipes at start-up and acceleration. Its V-8 engine -- a new 235-horsepower V-8 -- has ample pull and a show-off cockiness. The suspension is as firm as some on European touring sedans.

That's not all. The SHO has sporty front bucket seats, with bigger bolsters for more lateral support. Numbers crowd into the circular 150-mph analog speedometer, and the steering wheel is wrapped in leather.

Ford calls the SHO the most affordable front-wheel-drive V-8 performance sedan on the market.

It definitely is different from other popularly priced Taurus models, which start at $18,545, including destination charge.

The SHO concept (SHO stands for "super high output") began in 1982 when Don Petersen, then Ford's president, attended the Bob Bondurant School of High-Performance Driving and a specially equipped family sedan was built for him.

When the Taurus SHO was put on the market in 1989, consumers found a firm, responsive performance sedan with room for a family. Ford introduced an automatic transmission in the 1993-model year. Then, in the middle of the 1996- model year, it changed from a V-6 engine to a V-8.

The model is basically the same for 1997. And with the price little changed since the 1995-model year, the SHO is competitive with other performance sedans. The rear-drive BMW 5-Series starts at $50,470, including delivery charge. The front-drive Pontiac Grand Prix GT, with a 240-hp supercharged V-6, starts at $22,082.

In terms of purity of purpose, the 1997 SHO is one of the best-packaged domestic sedans.

Important attributes needed for a serious performance car are evident: smooth V-8 power, tight feel, precise steering, and newly bolstered anti-lock brakes. Better still, there are few of the gimmicks and obvious compromises that tend to creep in when U.S. carmakers set their sights on building a family sedan with a performance personality.

I might quibble with the spoiler on the SHO trunk lid and the 150-mph mark on the speedometer, since the car is governor-limited to 143 mph.

Traction control seems a natural option on a midsize performance sedan. It is standard on the Grand Prix and BMW 5-Series, but Ford spokesman Dan Bedore says past sales show little buyer interest in it.

Still, I love the throaty V-8 sound, and I often drove with the radio off just to hear it. It's a civilized, confident sound, not at all like a teenager's car tearing down the street.

This 3.4-liter double overhead cam V-8 is a derivative of Ford's 2.5-liter Duratec V-6. Bedore says the SHO is the only Ford vehicle to have it.

The engine easily reacts, putting you ahead of the pack whether on the highway or leaving a stoplight on a city street. Zero to 60 mph is rated between 7.9 seconds and 8.2 seconds. Recommended fuel is premium.

The SHO's suspension, with computer-controlled, two-position shock absorbers, provides a cushioned but firm ride. With more aggressive tires than on other Taurus models, the SHO capably sets itself and tracks precisely in tight turns and curves.

There is some harshness, however. On some highway expansion cracks and sizable potholes, the SHO thumped noisily, and the whole body seemed to shudder a bit.

Inside, the SHO has the same interior roominess for five as other Taurus models, and the trunk is a healthy 15.8 square feet. That's important, because 80 percent of SHO buyers are married.

Eighty-five percent of the buyers are men, with a median age of 45. Household income is about $80,000, up from $60,000 for other Taurus models.

The company aims to sell between 10,000 and 12,000 SHOs in 1997, Bedore says.

Consumer Reports magazine rates Taurus cars as having average reliability.


Copyright 1997 Bergen Record Corp.

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