2013 Ford Taurus: Limited and SHO

Four-cylinder powertrain joins the Taurus lineup, while V-6 gains power and hot SHO edition continues to shine

Way back in 1986, when the first Ford Taurus came on the scene, its "jellybean" profile helped create quite a stir in the midsize sedan market. By the time Ford redesigned the Taurus yet again for 2010, it had grown to full-sized. Now said to be "aesthetically refined and athletically toned" for the coming season, the 2013 Ford Taurus again comes in regular and high-performance SHO guise, plus a new powertrain choice.

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In With The New

Ford points to the 2013 Taurus's "more muscular hood" as well as wider wheels and tires, and larger LED taillamps, but the big news lies beneath that hood. Ford's 2.0-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder engine debuts as a Taurus option, promising as much as 31 mpg on the highway. Equipped with direct injection and a turbocharger, the four-cylinder makes 240 horsepower at 5500 rpm and 270 pound-feet of torque at 3000 rpm. The Taurus is the first North American Ford to offer the EcoBoost four-cylinder, promising "maximum fuel efficiency without sacrificing performance," according to the company.

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Meanwhile, the standard 3.5-liter V-6 adds twin independent variable camshaft timing for 2013, boosting fuel economy by up to 2 mpg in highway driving while yielding 25 additional horsepower. The EPA gives the V-6 a fuel-economy estimate of 19 mpg in city driving and 29 mpg on the highway. The V-6 develops 288 horsepower at 6500 rpm and 254 pound-feet of torque at 4000 rpm, while achieving an EPA fuel-economy estimate of 19-mpg city/29-mpg highway. Fuel economy is helped by Ford's aggressive deceleration fuel shutoff, as well as by "optimized" aerodynamics and the six-speed SelectShift automatic transmission, which includes a sport mode.

Assembled in Chicago, SE, SEL and Limited models come with either front-drive or all-wheel drive. New torque vectoring control should help the Taurus accelerate smoothly through curves. Said to be virtually imperceptible, the system applies a slight amount of braking force to the inside front wheel when accelerating through a corner. According to Ford, the car then "feels smaller and more maneuverable."

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Interior and Features

Inside, the driver faces a perforated leather-wrapped steering wheel, complementing the leather-trimmed sport seats with embroidered SHO graphics. Adjustable aluminum pedals include a memory. Multicontour seats with Active Motion may be installed, providing a gentle massage to front occupants. All Taurus engines use a low-tension accessory drive belt and reduced-friction lubricants. Tauruses get the latest version of MyFord Touch powered by SYNC. Several traditional knobs and controls have been replaced by LCD screens and five-way buttons. A new heated steering wheel is available.

For 2013, the SHO adds torque vectoring control to increase stability in turns. Painted 19-inch wheels are standard, with 20-inch machined wheels optional. At the rear is a unique decklid-mounted spoiler.

New curve control can apply brake pressure if a turn is entered too quickly. New active grille shutters reduce aerodynamic drag at higher speeds, helping to improve fuel-efficiency. Safety features include AdvanceTrac with electronic stability control and Safety Canopy side-curtain airbags. A Taurus may be fitted with adaptive cruise control, collision warning with brake support, and a Blind Spot Information System with cross-traffic alert. A rear-view camera and rear-window power sunshade also are available.

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Driving Impression

After only a few moments in a Taurus Limited, it's clear that this sedan has advanced from mostly excellent to better yet, with one notable exception: a snarly (though subdued) engine sound during acceleration. Rather exuberant from a standstill, the V-6 Limited is less assertive at highway speeds, though clearly more than adequate. Very good ride comfort is accompanied by a touch of road noise. Shifts are crisp but not instantaneous. Taurus is a big car, though it doesn't really feel too excessive from behind the wheel. Front occupants get loads of space.

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SHO Swagger

As before, after Taurus was redesigned for 2010, the SHO sedan comes across as more compelling than a regular Taurus. Among other differences, the SHO edition lacks the engine snarl of the less-potent V-6. Overall, the powertrain feels smoother, too, as well as markedly stronger. Ford promotes the SHO's "linear power delivery," which is exactly what you get - and plenty of it.

Running with twin turbochargers, the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 generates 365 horsepower at 5500 rpm, and 350 pound-feet of torque starting at 1500 rpm. Once again, the Ford Taurus SHO has all-wheel drive. The six-speed SelectShift transmission includes paddle shifters, reconfigured for more intuitive operation according to Ford. A price must be paid for the impressive performance, of course, so the EPA fuel-economy estimate dips to 17 mpg in city driving and 25 mpg on the highway. Adaptive cruise control lets the driver preset a safe distance to follow traffic ahead, with three presets to choose from. The system slows the car as it senses slower-moving traffic ahead. Collision warning with brake support determines if traffic ahead is slowing quickly, providing audible and visual warnings and pre-charging the brake system.

Any difference in the SHO's taut suspension is noticed only on imperfect pavement. Otherwise, the SHO rides quite well on smooth surfaces. Excellent steering feel is tauter than on a regular Taurus, but this performance sedan is especially easy to drive. The nicely-textured fabric steering-wheel cover isn't something you see very often.

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Family Ties

Part of the Taurus family since 1989, the 2013 SHO edition is billed as the sportiest one yet, more differentiated than before from other Taurus sedans. Subtle differences from the regular Taurus models are led by a unique SHO-specific black mesh grille that promises a sportier appearance, flanked by high-intensity-discharge headlights. Behind the front wheel openings, a fender-mounted scallop contains subtle SHO badging.

Serious enthusiasts can add a SHO Performance Package that includes 20-inch premium wheels with summer performance tires, an improved cooling system, performance brake pads, specially-calibrated electric power steering, a 3.16:1 final drive ratio for enhanced off-the-line acceleration, and a true-off track mode for the electronic stability control.

Bottom Line

Pricing begins at $27,395 (including $795 destination charge) for a 2013 Ford Taurus SE, escalating to $35,645 for a Limited with all-wheel drive. Reaching higher yet, the performance-oriented SHO stickers for $39,995. Any model except the SHO can have the EcoBoost four-cylinder for an additional $995.

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