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Old 04-30-2009, 08:27 PM   #1
darknightohio
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Default Exclusive Taurus SHO First Ride



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Exclusive Taurus SHO First Ride
by Rex Roy | AOL Autos
Posted: 30 May 2009With HP wireless printers, you could have printed this from any room in the house. Live wirelessly. Print wirelessly.

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Text Size A A A Over the decades, I've interviewed dozens of automotive engineers; engine engineers, transmission engineers, chemical engineers, tire engineers, etc. But never have I interviewed an engineer quite like Ford's Cristina Rodriguez.

What separates Crissy (what she prefers to be called at work) from other engineers is that it seems as though she was born be where she is today; the Vehicle Dynamics Development Engineer of the 2010 Ford Taurus. The Taurus goes on sale this summer, and it is arguably the most important vehicle Ford announces this year.


Gallery: Our Ride with Rodriguez & 2010 Ford Taurus SHOThis thirty-something Puerto Rican is the only woman at Ford Motor Company to have achieved her status as a Vehicle Dynamics Development Engineer. The job is equal parts engineer, race driver and vehicle psychologist.

"As an engineer, I need to make sure the car is safe," Rodriguez said. "As a (race) driver I have to make sure the car handles well. And then I have to tune the car to have the right personality for being the latest Ford."

She goes on to define what how cars exhibit personality.

"Some cars have a more relaxed personality, so everything about the way they drive is soft and slower to react," she said. "Fords have a DNA that is sportier, more fun to drive, more responsive, more alive, so they need to feel that way." You'll be able to tell whether Rodriguez has done her job well when you get behind the wheel of the new Taurus.

While we didn't get to drive the new Taurus, we did get an opportunity to ride in the high-performance Taurus SHO model at Ford Motor Company's Dearborn, Michigan proving grounds (a special test track for developing new cars and trucks). More on that experience later.

Preparing For Success
Rodriguez told us about her background in the automotive business, "I've grown into this job because Ford's engineering group works on a model that emphasizes 'technical maturity.'" For Rodriguez, this means that because she first possessed the technical background for the job, she was then able to develop and prove her practical skills on her way to becoming one of the company's most influential engineers. She's been with Ford 12 years.

Matter-of-factly, Rodriguez elaborates. "In this job, your body has to become a precisely calibrated instrument that can understand what the car's mechanicals are doing," she said. "It takes a while to tune your body, but I've been working on this particular chassis for eight years, so I really know what it's capable of and how to make it respond."

While the 2010 Taurus is an all-new vehicle, it is related to other Ford products (the Lincoln MKS, Ford Flex, and the outgoing Ford Five Hundred/Taurus). Rodriguez also contributed to the ride and handling on those vehicles, a task that began with the Ford Five Hundred back in 2001.

Born to Cuban parents who fled Castro's communist regime, Rodriguez grew up in Puerto Rico.

"I learned to be a methodical thinker from my father, who was a chemical engineer," she said. "But it was my mother who was the mechanical one. She encouraged me when I was growing up to figure out how things worked, and she never got too mad at me when I put things back together and still had a few pieces left over."

While Rodriguez worked on her motor skills, another aspect of her life laid groundwork for her future success.

"I come from a very athletic family," she said. "My grandfathers and uncles played Olympic basketball, so we were always active. I can remember that when my brother enrolled in little league baseball, he didn't want to join without a friend, so my mother enrolled me with him. I was the only girl in the league."

We doubt Rodriguez throws like a girl. And if you thought we'd make a joke about her driving like a woman? Think again. We doubt anyone could keep up with her on a track, male or female.

Regarding her education, her Bachelors in engineering came from Georgia Institute of Technology. She also earned a Masters from The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Mechanical engineering is a heavily male-dominated career path, but this hasn't slowed Rodriguez's progress. It is obvious that Rodriguez knows how to operate with the guys, without becoming one of the guys.

Certainly, Rodriguez doesn't look like a mechanical engineer: pocket protectors and out-of-style glasses don't seem to be part of her wardrobe. Actually, she looks like she could be Indy Racing League driver Danica Patrick's sister. This comparison is fitting given the ride we were about to experience.

Spicing Up The Bull
Rodriguez explained the process used to give a car a dynamic personality.

"First, we start with models generated by Computer Aided Engineering," she said. "These give us starting points for (suspension) spring rates, dampers, bar thicknesses, etc. After that, everything we do is by the seat of the pants. That's why it's so important to have a feel for what's happening at the road, because you end up becoming a cook who is perfecting a recipe by trial and error. We add more of this or take away some of that. Each change is designed to wake you up and make you feel alive behind the wheel, just like eating a great meal."

The 2010 Ford Taurus has four distinct suspension calibrations; they are mechanical recipes, if you will. There's one each for the front-wheel-drive Taurus, the all-wheel-drive Taurus, the all-wheel-drive high-performance SHO and the ultimate SHO fitted with the Performance Package. Rodriguez noted that each model has unique suspension calibrations that are based on the specific model's equipment and personality.

For example, the two non-SHO Taurus models must have the same feel even though one carries the additional weight of the all-wheel-drive system.

"The Taurus needs to be comfortably engaging," she said. "It can't be stiff like a (Mustang) Shelby GT500, but it also can't be too soft like a Toyota Camry. We wanted to keep most of the suppleness of the Lincoln MKS sedan, but make it more responsive."

The move from the regular Taurus to the SHO edition is dramatic. This is where about 10-percent more chili powder and cayenne pepper get added to the recipe. Nearly every tunable suspension component is changed between the base model and the SHO, resulting in a much more dynamic drive.

The step up from the SHO to the SHO with the Performance Pack tightens everything even further (more chilies), including another 20-percent on the dampers (those would be struts and shock absorbers to non-engineers), then 9-percent stiffer rear springs, and a thicker rear anti-roll bar. These changes make the most performance-oriented SHO a more neutral handling car that drivers should find exceptionally agile and immediately responsive.

Almost Driving The Ford Taurus SHO
Rodriguez was only too willing to take us for a ride to demonstrate what she had been talking about, "This car is really my pride and joy. I think you're going to like it." With that, she moved the floor-shifter into Sport mode and took off.

Riding in the passenger seat on one of the test track's high-speed zones, the twin-turbocharged EcoBoost engine effortlessly launched the full-size Taurus well above 100 mph. Unlike turbocharged cars from decades past, the SHO did not exhibit any turbo lag, and the turbochargers were quiet (no turbo whine or unrefined popping and hissing). The EcoBoost is efficient, too, although EPA numbers aren't yet available.

The ride was firm but not harsh, even as we drove over test roads that were intentionally bumpy and pocked. By far, the most fun was riding on the handling course. This smooth, serpentine ribbon features undulating hills and off-camber curves. Normally, one wouldn't expect a full-size car to be at home here. The steering would be too slow and the handing ponderous. The Taurus SHO is no traditional full-size car.


Gallery: Our Ride with Rodriguez & 2010 Ford Taurus SHOThe SHO's heavy-duty six-speed gearbox shifted quickly and smoothly, and as the speed of the engine increased, the growl came from under the hood, not the exhaust. Rodriguez confirmed that the turbochargers absorb much of the exhaust noise.

The faster Rodriguez drove, the smaller the Taurus seemed to get, easily carving lines between and through the corners. The roll of the body was well controlled, and it never wallowed. Watching Rodriguez dial in the steering, the car responded quickly and directly. Compared to an all-wheel-drive Taurus, the SHO's unit gets unique tuning with a greater power bias to the rear wheels for a more balanced feel, and the car seemed to rotate around the corners effortlessly.

"After doing this for 12 years," Rodriguez said. "I know what a car should feel like, and I don't get questioned anymore," Rodriguez said. In other words, Rodriguez earned the respect of other engineers, making it completely understandable why Ford would trust her to tune the ride of this very important new car.

After about 30 minutes of trashing around Ford's Dearborn proving grounds, Crissy Rodriguez aptly demonstrated that she and the team she's part of knows how to dial in the suspension of a performance car. As she pressed the Start/Stop button on the SHO's dash, Rodriguez said, "I think I've got the best job at Ford." We'd agree.
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Old 04-30-2009, 08:58 PM   #2
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Very promising car...
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Old 04-30-2009, 09:32 PM   #3
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Regarding her education, her Bachelors in engineering came from Georgia Institute of Technology. She also earned a Masters from The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
w00t! I'll go test drive one just for this reason. It better not suck.
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Old 04-30-2009, 09:52 PM   #4
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looks good, very european
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Old 04-30-2009, 10:02 PM   #5
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Tempting.... I wonder if the turbo will use Premium or would we see the way of regular like Hyundai.

Oh and another thing... Boricua reprezent!
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Old 04-30-2009, 10:39 PM   #6
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Very promising car...
Agreed. Ford is definitely starting to do their homework....
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Old 04-30-2009, 11:00 PM   #7
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This is a tad bit big for me, but otherwise I think it's going to be an excellent car. I only hope that this design direction continues into the next gen Fusion. I could really use a mid size car with some kind of a DI turbo engine and euro-sporty suspension.
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Old 04-30-2009, 11:35 PM   #8
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now THAT is a good looking Taurus!!!

the interior looks good to from what i can see in the pics!
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Old 04-30-2009, 11:42 PM   #9
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looks way better than the old SHO.
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Old 04-30-2009, 11:47 PM   #10
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Agreed. Ford is definitely starting to do their homework....
I'll second that!!
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Old 04-30-2009, 11:47 PM   #11
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I dont like the sun visor.. hahah, I kid, I kid.

What can I say, she seems cocky. Hope her confidence comes from learning form her mistakes, as the handling of fords of the past 12 years have not been anything to write home about.

Still, I like the direction Ford is going, and I hope this car does well.
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Old 04-30-2009, 11:51 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by SCRAPPYDO View Post
I dont like the sun visor.. hahah, I kid, I kid.

What can I say, she seems cocky. Hope her confidence comes from learning form her mistakes, as the handling of fords of the past 12 years have not been anything to write home about.

Still, I like the direction Ford is going, and I hope this car does well.
In America, European Fords handle well..but you already know that. (Mazda3 = Euro Focus platform)
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Old 05-01-2009, 02:55 AM   #13
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I drove by one the other day with a matte black spoiler. Knew it was a SHO.

Nick
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Old 05-01-2009, 04:16 AM   #14
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Remember guys, this gonna be Ford's largest car once the Crown Vic finally gets axed - much bigger than the mid-size SHOs of the past.

A better comparison to the old SHOs (in terms of size) is the current Fusion.
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Old 05-01-2009, 04:43 AM   #15
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Agreed. Ford is definitely starting to do their homework....
They will get an A on their homework when they bring the Focus RS over!
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Old 05-01-2009, 05:03 AM   #16
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Tempting.... I wonder if the turbo will use Premium or would we see the way of regular like Hyundai.

Oh and another thing... Boricua reprezent!
she's cuban
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Old 05-01-2009, 07:08 AM   #17
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seems like it has potencial to be a hit.....


However I do feel > ...when I see yet another interesting car that will not be made with a manual.

Sigh~
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Old 05-01-2009, 08:36 AM   #18
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"After doing this for 12 years," Rodriguez said. "I know what a car should feel like, and I don't get questioned anymore," Rodriguez said. In other words, Rodriguez earned the respect of other engineers, making it completely understandable why Ford would trust her to tune the ride of this very important new car.
At least we know who to blame now.

My wifes old Contour could best be described as twitchy with a bit of sloppiness for good measure. And that's coming from a guy that likes a loose car.
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Old 05-01-2009, 08:46 AM   #19
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seems like it has potencial to be a hit.....


However I do feel > ...when I see yet another interesting car that will not be made with a manual.

Sigh~
Agreed. When will US makers figure out people want manuals!

That handle for the auto is just huge.
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Old 05-01-2009, 09:07 AM   #20
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When will US makers figure out people want manuals!
Maybe cuz in this case, the US carmakers are correct.

Name one other car in this category that also has a manual.
I am seriously drawing a blank as to another car this size that might... maybe the Maxima. I can't imagine the Avalon having one. Maybe a couple in the luxury side of the large car market, but even then those are extremely rare.

Listen, I am ALL for manuals, but realistically you can't expect a cash-strapped company like Ford to spend the time and money on putting in a manual option on a low volume edition of a large family car.

If this was the Fusion on the other hand, then hell yeah, they should offer up a manual since that car segment tends to be bought by people more willing to row their own gears, but large family sedans, not so much.
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Old 05-01-2009, 09:55 AM   #21
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Name one other car in this category that also has a manual.
G8 GXP? I can't think of any others.
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Old 05-01-2009, 09:56 AM   #22
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I know what you are saying, that's exactly my point ...

Both the new Maxima & the bigger engined Fusion (Fusion 4cyl still can be had with a stick) are automatic only. The Lexus IS250 has the stick, but not with awd the IS350 no stick what so ever.

There aren't too many options out there with manuals & 200+ hp


-------

I do like this SHO thuogh, that's for sure
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Old 05-01-2009, 10:02 AM   #23
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2009 Audi A4 6 spd manual Quattro 211 hp. $31k
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Old 05-01-2009, 10:09 AM   #24
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2009 Audi A4 6 spd manual Quattro 211 hp. $31k
Considering the new Taurus is about the size of an A8 I'm gonna go with no.

Thank you, come again.
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Old 05-01-2009, 10:10 AM   #25
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Agreed. When will US makers figure out people want manuals!

That handle for the auto is just huge.
When people start buying manuals would be a dandy start.

Americans are lazy.
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