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First look: On with the SHO at Ford

Stealth bomber: The twin-turbo V6 Ford Taurus SHO will compete with V8-powered cars in the US.

Ford revives its Taurus SHO with a twin-turbo V6 that could have powered our XR6

17 Feb 2009

FORD has heralded the return of a high-performance Taurus with the Blue Oval’s first application of a new twin-turbocharged V6 that could have powered a future Falcon XR6 Turbo.

Ford Australia had been investigating the rear-wheel-drive capability of the 3.5-litre EcoBoost engine before the decision was made last year to continue with local production of the Falcon's existing six-cylinder engine line in Geelong.

The new all-wheel-drive Taurus SHO will compete in the US with V8-engined cars such as the Chrysler 300C SRT8 and the Holden-built Pontiac G8 GXP.

It was launched at the Chicago auto show last week, just one month after the all-new mainstream Taurus model was unveiled at the Detroit show, and revives one of the best-loved performance nameplates in America.

V8-powered SHO models were highly-regarded in the 1990s, making Car and Driver magazine’s annual top 10 list four times in succession, but the hot Taurus went out of production in 1999.

27 center imageAlthough unable to match its rear-wheel-drive rivals for outright performance, the Taurus SHO still produces a respectable 365 horsepower (272kW) at 5500rpm and 350 ft-lb (475Nm) of torque at 3500rpm while delivering V6-level fuel consumption.

That compares with 270kW and 533Nm for the highly-acclaimed Australian-developed and manufactured turbocharged straight-six in the current XR6 Turbo and G6E Turbo.

The EcoBoost engine first appeared at the Detroit show in the sister Lincoln MKS last month, but neither it nor the Taurus SHO will reach Ford dealerships until the northern summer, with the SHO priced at $US37,995 ($A58,390).

Ford claims the new twin-turbo V6 will be available in 90 per cent of its cars by 2013 and not only provides best-in-class fuel economy but virtually eliminates turbo lag.

The company’s global product development vice-president Derrick Kuzak said in Detroit that Ford was committed to delivering fuel economy leadership in every new vehicle.

“We do this with affordable technology that can be applied to the widest number of vehicles (and) EcoBoost is an important component of that goal,” said Mr Kuzak.

“The beauty of EcoBoost is that it enables us to downsize for fuel efficiency, yet boost for power. We’re able to decrease the size of the available engine – such as installing a V6 versus a V8 – yet boost the power using turbocharging to deliver similar power and torque of that larger engine.

“It’s all part of Ford’s strategy to bring adaptable powertrain technology to all kinds of vehicles and all kinds of lifestyles. This technology is affordable and applicable to all gasoline engines.” The 3.5-litre EcoBoost V6 has two small parallel turbochargers – which are watercooled and operate simultaneously – a direct-injection fuel system and an intercooler to cool the air going into the combustion chambers.

A high-pressure fuel pump operates up to 2175psi – more than 35 times the norm in a conventional V6 – and is cam-driven with a single piston and an electronic valve that controls how much fuel is routed into the fuel rails to the injectors.

On each stroke, six individual jets spray fuel directly into the combustion chamber, mixing with the incoming air.

EcoBoost design manager Brett Hinds said bringing the fuel injector right into the combustion chamber meant there was no delay from injection to combustion.

“Another benefit of our direct-injection method is that it cools the air right where you’re going to burn it,” said Mr Hinds. “This action both improves the breathing of the engine and minimises knocking.

“The direct injection of fuel into the cylinder also helps provide a well-mixed air-fuel charge, increasing engine efficiency. Direct injection provides several benefits in terms of fuel burn and lower emissions.

“Because the fuel is directly introduced into the combustion chamber, you don’t get fuel wetting the combustion wall as with port fuel injection, you don’t saturate the ports and you don’t get droplets that might recombine and add to saturation.

“By injecting fuel directly into the combustion chamber and under high pressure, the fuel can be directed to exactly where we want it to be for a given combustion cycle.

“In a port fuel system, at ‘key off’ it’s possible to have fuel on the walls of the intake port, which migrates to the top of the valve and puddles. So when you ‘key on’, you get that emissions spike. Direct injection is much cleaner from that standpoint.” The Taurus SHO drives all four wheels through a 6F55 SelectShift six-speed automatic transmission with steering wheel paddles while the suspension and steering have been tuned to provide “discriminating drivers with precise control, confident handling, communicative feedback and a compliant ride”.

Buyers wanting an even more performance-oriented set-up can order an SHO Performance Package consisting of upgraded brake pads, recalibrated power steering, a Sport mode for the electronic stability control, a shorter 3.16:1 (against the standard 2.77:1) final drive ratio for faster acceleration and “summer-compound” 20-inch Goodyear Eagle F1 performance tyres on “premium painted wheels”.

Ford’s president of the Americas, Mark Fields, described the car as a “sleeper” in the performance car field.

“The new Taurus SHO delivers on the authentic sleeper sedan formula but adds all-new luxury appointments, convenience features and technologies to an unsurpassed balance of power and fuel economy,” said Mr Fields.

“This new sport derivative answers enthusiasts’ calls for a premium Ford flagship sedan with even more attitude.” Described by the design team as “a stealth high-performance car”, the new SHO is identified externally by a rear spoiler and inside by leather-trimmed seats with recycled suede inserts, a perforated leather-wrapped steering wheel, aluminium accelerator and brake pedals, console, instrument and door panels with SHO-specific appliqués, and SHO branding on the floor mats and the passenger side of the instrument panel.

The original Taurus SHO was introduced as a discrete performance-oriented sports sedan in 1989 and more than 100,000 were built in the US before production ceased in 1999, but loyal following of owners and enthusiasts have remained active.

An online forum with more than 10,000 registered users and a website (www.bringbackthesho.com) specifically devoted to convincing Ford to resurrect the SHO helped convince the company to revive the nameplate.

Ford said the product development team for the new Canadian-built model then spent significant time listening to SHO enthusiasts before finalising the car’s specifications.

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