JEROME, Ariz. -- Zipping along route 89A, a cliff-hugging highway carved into the Weaver Mountains of Arizona, Ford's powerful Taurus SHO sedan charts a no-skid track around every hard corner.
All four of the low-profile 255/45R19 BSW tires stick to the blacktop like a wildcat scatting zigzag across carpet because all of the engine's considerable torque automatically splits between the front and rear wheels -- up to 100 percent in either direction -- to keep all tires planted on the pavement.
Then too there's that lead-foot power surge of a muscle car that comes with Taurus SHO.
It incorporates a unique direct-injection and twin-turbocharged V6 engine plus tightly-tuned suspension and steering systems in the package of a mid-size model but the cabin of a big car with high-riding seats for five and a load of luxury gear.
The twin-turbo V6 -- promising the fuel economy of a V6 but pumping the power and torque of a big V8 -- is labeled by Ford as the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6.
The twin-cam aluminum twin-turbo engine with direct-injection and VVT (variable valve timing) delivers 365 hp at 5500 rpm and torque of 350 lb-ft spread over a broad band from 1500 rpm to 5250 rpm.
For those who count, the power numbers work out to 104 horsepower per liter.
The twin-turbo-six ties to a six-speed electronic automatic SelectShift transaxle with steering-wheel paddle shifters and standard all-wheel-drive (AWD) traction.
EPA fuel economy estimates for the EcoBoost V6 come in at 17 mpg city and 25 mpg highway.
And when you plant your foot hard on the go-pedal, this sleek machine rips from zero to 60 mph in less than six seconds, then acts like it's about to soar off the road.
That's quite a kick for a plush luxury sedan stuffed with high-tech controls and fancy cabin appointments.
Taurus SHO comes with an electric power-assisted steering (EPAS) system and a sport-tuned suspension with shocks, springs, stabilizer bars and strut mount bushings specifically developed and tuned to deliver a high level of road-sticking cornering agility.
It also carries Ford's multilink SR1 rear suspension setup so named for the 1:1 shocks ratio. The SR1 rear suspension geometry allows increased vertical travel of wheels and accommodates 19-inch and 20-inch wheels/tires.
Then the optional SHO Performance Package installs upgraded brake pads, recalibrated steering numbers, a shorter final drive ratio for quicker accelerations, and 20-inch premium painted wheels capped by Goodyear Eagle F1 summer performance tires.
Ford's muscular sedan looks classy in a bold design for the body with arching silhouette and taut character lines cut into flanks between bulging wheel arches -- note the powerdome hood and flashy three-bar grille forward of articulated front fenders, or that decklid spoiler flying off the tail.
The spec sheet for Taurus SHO '12 lists a load of active and passive safety equipment.
Passive devices include smart dual-stage frontal air bags for front riders, plus seat-mounted side air bags up front and curtain-style side air bags front and rear.
Active safety systems range from four-wheel disc brakes tied to an anti-lock brake system (ABS), traction control system (TCS) and AdvanceTrac electronic anti-skid mechanism.
The passenger compartment of Taurus SHO was designed around body sizes of intended occupants, with more than adequate room for long legs and broad shoulders.
Cabin layout pitches a pair of bucket seats up front divided by a multi-function console and followed by a rear bench for three with seatback split 60/40 in sections.
Twin front buckets with firm side bolsters -- clad in fine leather with faux-suede inserts -- adjust 10 ways via power controls. The steering wheel is wrapped in perforated leather and accelerator and brake pedals show aluminum trim.
The instrument panel houses round analog gauges ringed by thin beads of chrome.
Cool ideas make it nice in the SHO cabin:
* Intelligent Access with Push Button Start -- a driver totes a keyless fob, taps a touch pad on the door pillar to enter, then cranks the engine from a push-button starter.
* Adaptive Cruise Control -- a radar-based system capable of maintaining a precise distance between the Taurus SHO front bumper and the back bumper of a vehicle ahead.
* Rearview Camera -- for keeping an eye on the vehicle's rearward path.
* Voice-activated navigation system -- tied to Sirius Travel Link and HD Radio.
* Ford Sync -- voice-activated control over in-car phones, media players and USB storage devices.
Optional gear includes a pre-collision warning system and BLIS (Blind Spot Information System) with Cross Traffic Alert via icons in side mirrors to warn of approaching cars or pedestrians when backing up.
Ford sets the MSRP for Taurus SHO 2012 at $38,160.