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…
2013 Ford Police Interceptor Test Drive - Video
AutoGuide flashes the lights and sounds the sirens on Ford’s new Police Interceptors
Admit it, you like to play police officer. The thought of tearing around the streets in heavy-duty hardware no civilian can buy and setting off sirens is something every grown man and possibly even some grown women fantasize about.
|1. Like the Crown Victoria, both new Police Interceptors meet a 70 mph rear impact test.
2. Front-wheel drive is offered as an option, though Ford is emphasizing AWD.
3. Both the sedan and sport utility are built at Ford’s Chicago assembly plant.
4. Unmarked packages are available which add full wheel covers, regular center consoles and delete the Police Interceptor exterior emblems.
5. Compared to the Crown Vic, the Taurus Police Interceptor gets 25% better fuel economy and 35% better fuel economy when idling.
6. A deflector plate protects the sedan’s underbody from unwanted debris and obstacles.
So when you’re presented with the opportunity to screech tires and play with said siren, it’s an opportunity you simply can’t pass up. Recently, AutoGuide got a chance to sample Ford’s latest police offerings and here’s what we thought.
A NEW VEHICLE FOR A NEW ERA
Make no mistake, as beloved as the Ford Crown Victoria was by law enforcement agencies, it was in car terms, ancient. Its styling hasn’t really been changed since 1998 and the basic underpinnings date all the way back to 1979. Yet the car’s simplicity and its rugged, body-on-frame construction made it the ideal vehicle for police use.
Its successor, save for the Police Interceptor name and four doors, has little in common. In fact, Ford’s approach is to actually build two Interceptors on the same platform, one as a conventional sedan, the other as an SUV, with the goal of offering potential agency customers perceived greater flexibility.
“This way, it offers a great deal of standardization when it comes components, providing fleets with minimal downtime and cost for servicing,” says Ford commercial vehicle program manager David Shuttleworth.
The bigger question is, how will both vehicles hold up in terms of durability? Traditionally, vehicles that use unibody construction and front-drive based architecture haven’t faired too well under extreme use, which many police cars are subjected to.
Nonetheless, Ford has worked closely with the Police Advisory Board (which is made up of serving law enforcement officers from across the US and Canada), to come up with a package that should deliver the goods. Key features (on both the sedan and SUV), including standard heavy-duty 18-inch steel wheels and special pursuit rated tires, front and rear disc brakes that are some 60 percent larger than those found on comparable civilian models, a heavy duty suspension, plus heavy duty cooling and electrical systems, the latter with 220 amp alternators to run the required police equipment.
CROWN VIC CARRYOVER
And speaking of police equipment, a primary consideration in both the sedan and SUV new generation Police Interceptors was that a space of 9-inches be incorporated between the front seats for the console mounting plate. This enables aftermarket police console equipment to be fitted with ease and even transferred from existing Crown Vic cruisers to the new Police Interceptor with minimal hassle (a major trump card, especially in view of the smaller budgets many agencies have to work with these days).
There are also standard stab-proof seats with heavy-duty cloth upholstery, cutouts for an officer’s utility belt and six-way power adjustment for the driver’s chair. Other concessions towards police use include standard rear vinyl bench seating, rubber floor coverings and rear doors that open 71-degrees (wider than civilian models) to aid ingress/egress.
From behind the wheel, much of the switch gear is familiar to anybody who’s driven a recent Taurus or Explorer, with a big chunky steering wheel and spoke mounted buttons that can be hooked up to any manner of equipment, whether it be lights, sirens, speakers or even canine door releases.
The biggest change, however, concerns the column-mounted shifter for the six-speed automatic transmission (necessary to clear space for the console plate) and extra storage space on the top and right side of the dash for mounting radar equipment and weapons. There’s also a stout sliding tray in the trunk designed for mounting electronics gear and a small, lockable storage compartment as well as a full-sized spare tire.
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In terms of interior room, the new sedan is actually smaller in nearly every dimension compared to the Crown Victoria, save for front legroom, while the SUV, befitting its taller sheetmetal, provides significant gains in cabin volume. One issue we found was that fitting a partition screen in the sedan would likely eat up interior space (our test victim didn’t have one). As a result, perhaps Ford would be wise to offer an extended wheelbase version of the sedan down the road using the D4 chassis (Flex, Lincoln MKT). It’s interesting to note that Ford did offer a stretched Crown Victoria, while Chevy’s new Caprice comes in long wheelbase form only.
On Ford’s police spec SUV, however, installing bulky partitions simply isn’t an issue. Our test example sported a heavyduty cage, which still yielded plenty of room for both officers and rear riders.
Given that most law enforcement agencies seem to prefer rear-wheel drive vehicles, it would appear that Ford’s D3 platform would seem to offer a disadvantage. However, the Blue Oval is betting, that by making all-wheel-drive standard on its new Police Interceptors this should help address those shortcomings. The system in question uses a torque sensing Haldex coupling to transmit/alter torque between the front and rear wheels. Considering that both vehicles weigh in excess of 4,000 lbs, the AWD system, in conjunction with standard stability and roll control, plus traction control, provides a decent amount of traction and delivers predictable handling in all but the most adverse conditions.
Even though we didn’t get a huge amount of time to put both vehicles through their paces, during our stint on a marked autocross style track, both vehicles demonstrated surprisingly good handling qualities. The steering is nicely weighted and responsive through the corners, enabling fast entry/exit with minimal body roll, aided by the AWD system. The SUV is particularly impressive considering its extra height and actually begs you to be pushed harder.
Braking? What can we say; considering panic stops will be rather routine in service conditions, anchor power is impressive and probably the strongest suite in each of these vehicle’s performance arsenal.
In terms of acceleration, with standard V6 power (the sedan comes with a 3.5-liter engine making 288 hp and 250 lb-ft of torque, the SUV with a 304 hp and 280 lb-ft 3.7-liter unit), it’s gutsy and AWD really helps mask the deficiency in displacement and lower rpm torque output on the sedan (compared with the Vic). Both engines and the six-speed automatic bolted behind them have specific calibrations for police use and gear shifting is sharp and crisp, particularly in speeds one through four.
READY FOR THE ROAD
One of the biggest challenges facing any law enforcement agency often concerns the bewildering array of equipment available through aftermarket up-fitters, which can often add considerable time and complexity to the ordering process.
Ford has attempted to take much of the pain out of this by offering what’s called a Ready for the Road package. This includes plug and play lighting elements and mounting solutions, such as standard dual integrated flashing lights in the head, tail and center high mounted stop lights, a rear console mounting plate, trunk circulation fan (to keep electrical gear mounted in the back reasonably cool), pre-wired fittings for grille lights, sirens and speakers, an in-trunk mounted cargo distribution box with dual 50 amp battery and ground circuits, plus a Whelen CenCom light controller, relay and siren amp.
Other options available include ballistic door panels, hidden rear door lock plungers and inoperable interior handles to keep the bad guys in place.
Considering that we can’t actually buy one of these vehicles, it’s hard to analyze one in terms of pricing and features. Still, a couple of things that do bear mentioning about Ford’s new Police Interceptors, are the fact that fuel economy is said to be improved by 25 percent over the Crown Victoria and idling fuel consumption by 35 percent.
Both new Police Interceptors are E85 capable with their standard engines, while for the sedan, Ford will also offer a version of its 3.5-liter twin-turbo EcoBoost V6, which generates 365 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque. How this engine will go down with law enforcement agencies remains to be seen, especially since turbos bring added complexity and often, questionable durability - not something most agencies want to deal with. Nonetheless, the EcoBoost provides spritely performance for pursuit work (estimates place 0-60 mph times of under 5.6 seconds) and if the F-150 EcoBoost torture test is anything to go by, some of those concerns will likely prove unfounded.
Considering that the police car market now has a raft of new competitors, including the Holden sourced Chevy Caprice 9C1 and revamped Dodge Charger Pursuit, it will be interesting to see if Ford’s non-traditional approach will enable it to maintain a stranglehold on the police car market.