As most are already aware, Ford went through a bit of a rough patch in the early 1980s. The automaker found itself on the verge of bankruptcy and needed a special product to help pull it out of that proverbial rut and right the ship. To make that happen, Ford assembled a group of engineers and designers on one unified team, gave them three billion dollars, and tasked them with designing the family sedan of the future, which would soon be known as the Ford Taurus. The Taurus went on to blow everyone away with its futuristic design and quickly became America’s best-selling car. Thus, Ford followed that revolutionary effort with a high-performance version dubbed the Taurus SHO (Super High Output).
This video from Hagerty takes a look back at the now-iconic but much-maligned Taurus SHO, a car that was a true performance bargain, but one that was also a victim of its mainstream brethren’s success. Ford famously teamed up with Yamaha to enhance the car’s 3.0-liter Vulcan V6, so the latter of which fortified the engine’s bottom end and fitted it with dual overhead cams and aluminum cylinder heads.
Those changes were good enough to extract an additional 80 horsepower without increasing displacement, as well as add 25 percent more torque, for a total of 220 horsepower and 200 pound-feet. Coupled with a five-speed manual transmission, the Taurus SHO immediately became the world’s most powerful front-wheel-drive car and was unmatched by anything in the sedan world, save for the BMW M5 and 750iL thanks to its 6.7-second 0-60 time and 15.2-second quarter-mile. Famously, the SHO also took down the beloved BMW E30 325i in a magazine comparison test despite carrying a far cheaper price tag.
Unfortunately, while the Taurus blew away everyone’s expectations in the sales department, the SHO failed to meet Ford’s first-year goal of moving 20,000 units with just over 15,000 sold. Things got worse after that, as sales dipped to 8,000 units in its second year of production. In 1993, Ford added an automatic gearbox and more power and wound up selling 20,000 units before sales dipped once again.
While beloved by enthusiasts today, the SHO was a victim of the regular Taurus’ success – it just looked like every other sedan on the road at that time, which was a huge turn-off for those seeking a thrilling performance machine. But that doesn’t make it any less special in our eyes, anyway.
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Had a ’93 with the 5 speed. One of my favorite all time vehicles that I’ve owned. Fast, room for 4, and 32 mpg on the highway at 75-80 mph. I installed Koni adjustable shocks and wider ZR50 tires too. It was the best all around car available. I missed it so much, I bought a 2018 SHO, another under appreciated Ford High Performance sedan.
One can’t help wonder if this historical scenario would have had a better outcome in Europe?
I had a 1990 SHO……such a sleeper…..you could get away with all sorts of speeding as it was “just a Taurus” Had to have clutch and flywheel replaced under warranty probably from my abuse! Great performance and good mpg on highway. Downside depreciation was massive at the time….as always appreciation comes so many years later. Anyway I enjoyed my 3 years with it and have fond memories. Another great car from Ford.
My Father drove a SHO for years. His ONLY complaint, about the car, was the large amount of torque steer you could encounter. The car could get very squirrely when making the move to pass slower vehicles on a two lane road. Something he loved to do!
1990 was the best year
I owned 4 of them- ‘91, ‘93, ‘95, and ‘97. A performance and luxury bargain compared to what was available. The 2nd generation cars were my favorite. A little more refined than the ‘91 but still had the SHO personality. The seats with the adjustable side bolsters were very supportive. The ‘97 was a nice car but the automatic really changed the car.
1990 was the best year
I test drove a used ’97, loved the sound and power, hated the automatic. Now, it’s all that can be found. So sad.
I’ve owned five of them throughout the early 2000s . I now own a 2018 SHO that I’ve maxed out at 500hp due to my love for them. My favorite SHO was my 1990. I don’t know if it was because I was younger, but I miss driving it more than I like driving my 2018. I loved pulling up next to Mustang gts on the strip and walking them with a 4 door family sedan.