The lack of noise speaks to the design and effort that went into the cabin. The structure is solidly built and well insulated. I barely noticed any flex in the body regardless of how I pushed the car or the terrain I traversed. All of the doors close easily and solidly, and I didn’t notice any rattles or squeaks. The plethora of plastic, embossed surfaces, and simulated wood inserts on the center console are of impressive quality. Everything lines up, fitting well together with the switches and controls providing positive feedback. The engine is covered with a large SHO EcoBoost label and all serviceable fluids are identified by color, icons, or clear labeling. The dash does have a split ledge that extends over the dash on each side of the cockpit: on the driver side, it shades the instrument panel, but on the passenger side, it just looks a bit strange (in my wife’s words, “What’s this for?”).
Interior Comfort and Ergonomics
I did like suede-like finish on the seats which added a bit of grip. The Multi-Contour seats with Active Motion (massaging capability) are highly touted in the literature, but I had a hard time finding just the right seat position given all of the seat adjustments (10-way power adjustments for both driver and passenger). After three-hours of seat time my rear began to tire of the seating position, but the massaging functionality did help. I do admit settling into Hondas with fewer adjustments for longer drives and with less discomfort.
Utilitarian in design, the simply laid out center stack has its standard array of clearly labeled rectangular-buttons and round knobs making it easy to control everything. In addition to the standard buttons, you can control the under dash lighting/color with a push button that toggles through the seven ambient lighting color choices as well control the rear window privacy screen.
Play some music from a CD or the satellite radio, and your ears are treated to a well-designed and phonically-detailed audio system. Voices were clear and distinct while the music was vibrant. I had my nieces and nephews sit in the car and we watched the “Cars” DVD while parked. The surround sound was amazing listening to cars zooming from right-to-left or front-to-rear. They said it was “better than being in the theaters” near their house which was subjective high-praise from a younger generation.
Again (as with previous SYNC reviews), I have to give kudos to the SYNC system that incorporates voice commands to accomplish most tasks for music, navigation, and phone. To get the most of it, there’s a 2 minute “calibration” mode where a variety of phrases appear on screen and you read them. The system “listens” to your voice, and calibrates accordingly. I believe it continues to be one of the best systems around aiding the user with a visual menu of possible voice prompt/commands. The voice commands are intuitive, and system response is rapid.
A tad over 4300-pounds, the SHO is no lightweight. Luckily the twin-turbocharged, direct-injection V-6 has 365-hp to move it to 0-60 in just over 5-seconds. I took my dad out for a test spin and from a standstill we quickly and smoothly pushed the car to speeds way beyond legal. My dad commented how it didn’t feel like we were going that fast, but I’m sure he was grinning from ear-to-ear inside. In comparison, I think the Taurus SHO was more reserved at 100 mph than my dad. Power delivery is smooth as a Zamboni’d ice rink. Just mash the pedal to the floor and feel the rush of acceleration in the hushed cabin. Braking is powerful and linear, but pedal feel is lacking. Perhaps a set of stainless steel brake lines and performance brake pads (with the pads from the SHO performance package) would help remedy my complaint.
We have a late model BMW 530ix wagon and its steering feel is my benchmark. Putting around at lower speeds on city streets and in parking lots, the Taurus’ steering comparatively feels a bit over-boosted and artificial. It lacks the feedback that the BMW possesses. However, get the Ford above 50 mph and the responsiveness and communication is excellent. The AWD definitely helped when the roads got curvy in the California foothills, but the weight of the car is omnipresent in the turns. The car never broke loose under me in any of the turns, but I did feel like I was on the verge of a 4-wheel drift. I bet the summer compound tires that the SHO-performance package (not included in the test car) would raise that cornering limit. Even so, the 245/45R20 Michelin Primacy MXV4 touring tires do an excellent job of maintaining composure.