Quick Drive: 1989 Ford Taurus SHO

By Winding Road Staff

July 22, 2010

Chris Smith stopped by the WR office after the SHO convention last week. He was kind (foolish) enough to let me take my first ever test drive of a gen-one SHO, and I’m glad he did.

My jaunt may have been a fairly short one—maybe ten miles in a loop just north of the office—but it offered enough seat time for me to figure out why so many enthusiasts lose their marbles for this car.

Just to get the obvious out of the way—the Yamaha engine is genuinely as good as I’ve always heard it described. The V-6 pulled really hard from 3000 rpm, and seemed to get an extra kick in the pants at around five-grand. The exhaust note from this car is really exciting, from low engine speeds up to the top end, and put me instantly in sync with the rising power curve. The overall effect was that of a “modern” engine that has been swapped into an older car. I can only imagine that the Yamaha 3.0-liter felt wildly ahead of the game in 1989.

The SHO’s controls are a little bit more of a bummer when judged against current-day counterparts, but there’s nothing horrible to speak about. The steering wheel is too big, the five-speed manual trans a bit coarse, and the brake pedal a bit less firm than I’d like. On the other hand, the SHO clutch felt really progressive and easy to modulate during aggressive shifts (sorry Smith). I also found, primarily while doing a five-set of fast roundabouts, that grip was a lot higher than I expected, and that cornering loads were nicely translated through the steering wheel.

In short; I had a blast. I’m not quite ready to run out and buy a Flip This Car-imitating SHO of my own just yet, but I’ll happily warm the tires of Old ’89 if Chris stops by again before he moves on to his next project.

—Seyth Miersma, Editor-In-Chief

I also enjoyed a short drive in the ’89 SHO. I liked the interior a lot. Though it has suffered some wear over the years, it was still very comfortable, and held true to the idea of creating an inviting space for a driver to spend a lot of time, the same idea still being practiced in the new SHO.

I was also impressed with how truly capable the car was. It was quick and responsive, and felt surprisingly balanced for a car of that generation. The car lacked good road feel, particularly any communication coming from the steering wheel, which busted confidence a bit. But the old SHO was willing to respond well to being tossed about, leading me to believe that its capacity for enthusiastic driving was well beyond the limits that clumsy-feeling inputs would suggest.

In all, I think the first-gen SHO is more entertaining than the version that Ford is cranking out today. It has the kind of character and personality that can only come from a car that has stood the test of time. While the current SHO, in ideology, carries over the comfortable, capable cruiser elements of the first one, the original (as with many first-gen cars) has a quirky sort of charm that is hard to replicate (or tends to get phased out) as the car evolves.

Finally, I can appreciate the fervor of the many SHO enthusiasts. This car’s a hoot.

—John Betz Snyder, Production Editor