The Taurus SHO was Ford’s Yamaha-engined BMW 535 beater
Starting in the mid 1980s, Ford did the right thing by commissioning Japanese engine master Yamaha to redesign their tired 3-liter V-6, so that the Taurus team at Dearborn could focus on giving America’s best-selling mid-size sedan “cop tires, cop suspension, cop shocks”, along with generous standard equipment at a bargain price. Ford created the looks of “the first true American sports sedan” by removing most of the common Taurus’ brightwork, giving all undercover cop wannabes SHO badging to mark that “Super High Output” engine in a stealth fashion.
Starting in 1989, drivers quickly learned what Ford’s tweaked V-6 was all about. Yamaha gave the 3-liter a beefier block with forged internals and dual intake runners, bumping total output to 220 horsepower. What’s more, this new V-6 would rev to 7300 rpm, pulling the front-drive sedan to 60 mph in an “amazing” 7.0 seconds. Motorweek also found that an SHO would do the quarter mile in a “breathtaking” 15.5 seconds, with a trap speed of 94 mph. That’s roughly as quick as a 2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI with a manual.
There was also the fact that in 1989, nobody would offer value for money like Ford. While the then-new BMW M5 cost the good part of 60 grand as we entered the nineties, even the slower 535 sold at double the SHO’s $20,000 base price. The only other American market four-door that could outrun the Taurus SHO was the Maserati 430, which also cost nearly twice that of the cop-cosplaying Taurus.
Despite being front-drive, the SHO also handled like the best in it’s class, sporting wider tires, stiffer springs and shocks, and thicker anti-roll bars all while still offering enough sidewall so as not to rattle it’s passengers to pieces. Four-wheel disc brakes and an average efficiency of 22 miles per gallon completed Ford’s offer, with the leather upholstery staying firmly on the options list.
Ford’s star-spangled counterpart to the Lancia Thema 8·32 was reliable enough to daily drive. While those original 1989-1991 SHOs won’t get any cheaper, and you can no longer get a Taurus of any kind today, it’s worth celebrating the ambitious collaborative effort that brought us these cars, and the resulting tests (like the one below) by the folks at Motorweek.