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 |  Mar 16 2012, 8:15 PM

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Ford‘s Panther chassis, platform for the iconic P71 Police Interceptor, is anything but a slouch, but after more than 30 years of service both Ford and police recognize the need for a change.

Ford started building police variants of the LTD Crown Victoria in 1979, by 1992 the company’s cars evolved from modified civilian sedans to law enforcement machines.

Agencies are looking for something more fuel efficient options than the aging Crown Victoria’s and the 14 mpg city and 21 mpg highway rating from its thirsty V8 as municipal budgets shrink with the rocky U.S. economy.

Ford says the the next generation Interceptors address that concern and offer significantly improved fuel efficiency. The Taurus-based Interceptor sedan gets 18 mpg city and 26 mpg highway, a 4.5 mpg average improvement over the previous Interceptor. During 10-hour shifts of Police duty, police cars idle for approximately 6.7 hours of the duration so Ford has made improvements on idle consumption as well. The latest Taurus Interceptor will also use 35 percent less fuel at idle thanks to its smaller displacement 3.5 liter V6 engine.

What’s more, the Explorer-based Interceptor SUV achieves an estimated 16 mpg city and 22 mpg highway, a best-in-class figure for police spec utility vehicles.

Ford managed to keep performance intact, despite the improved efficiency. A 3.5-liter V6 is used for both vehicles, producing 288 hp. That translates to a 38-hp gain over the outgoing V8.

During 0-60 runs, results show that the V6 Ford Explorer Interceptor Utility can reach 60 mph one full second faster than the competing V8 Chevrolet Tahoe PPV.

An Eco-Boost turbocharged 3.5 liter V6 producing 365-hp is available as an option as well. Combined with all-wheel-drive, the powerful Ford police vehicle out-accelerates competitors from Dodge and Chevrolet.

The Chicago police department ordered and will soon take delivery of approximately 500 Ford Police Interceptors this year, making the city the first to field test Ford’s ne enforcement vehicles.

GALLERY: Ford Taurus, Ford Explorer Interceptor

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