Successors to the Vic's Crown?
Sliding past the end cones, lights flashing and siren wailing, I laughed to myself "there oughta be a law."
Had we been on public property, I'm sure there would have been several, but since we were on a closed course, with the full blessings of the local constabulary, it was all in a day's work. And today, that entailed flogging the new Ford Police Interceptor Sedan and Police Interceptor Utility to get a taste of how they'd fulfill the needs of a law enforcement workday.
The departure of the venerable Ford Crown Victoria, long the stealthy symbol of law and order, has left a large empty space on many forces – its loyal fans lamenting the inability of any of its potential replacements to fill that long-held role.
But Ford is banking that a pair of all-new pursuit-rated Interceptors will be the natural successors to the Crown Vic's legacy. In their favour – the Ford badge and compatibility will make it easy to swap over various components from the old Crown Vic – a definite plus for the bean counters. And in a huge departure from tradition – the new Interceptors, a sedan based on the Ford Taurus, and an Explorer-based utility vehicle – are powered by frugal V6 engines and offer all-wheel-drive capability.
It will be difficult to overcome the fierce loyalty most law officers have for the rear-wheel-drive, big V8 platform. Using input from a special Police Advisory Board made up of 24 law enforcement professionals across North America, Ford purpose-built the new Interceptors to their specifications, in the hopes of continuing the Crown Vic's legacy.
Both sedan and utility share the same platform and identical cabin layout to make switching from one vehicle to the other as seamless as possible. Heavy-duty steel safety cells and extra bracing create an ultra-stiff body that can withstand rear-end crashes up to 120 km/h. Not only are the door panels bulletproof, but the seatbacks have been reinforced with stab-proof steel. There's a bit of sobering reality for you.
Suspension is made up of heavy-duty shocks and springs, and the brakes are 60% beefier than those on the consumer models. Engine and transmission have extra cooling systems – the radiator is 50% larger than that of the conventional Taurus.
Underneath, a steel skid pad protects the drivetrain during off-road pursuit.
Both vehicles ride on the same police-purpose Goodyears, another budget-aiding interchangeability feature. The spare is full-size and ready to bolt on to either model.
"Everything we've done, we've done to meet or exceed the Crown Vic's specifications" said David Shuttleworth, Ford of Canada's Product Marketing Manager for Commercial Vehicles. He's quick to point out that the Interceptor is far more than a stock Taurus with a few bolt-ons – but has been purpose-built exclusively for law enforcement.
The biggest complaint many cops have about wannabe cruisers is lack of room. Nobody wants to spend an entire shift rubbing elbows with their co-workers, right?
Interior space in the new Interceptors rivals the Crown Vic's – with a comparable 9" between seats, adjustable pedals to increase legroom and specially contoured seats to accommodate bulky utility belts. The layout is police-specific – the column shifter has been moved to the steering wheel to free up space in the centre console. Easily accessible steering wheel located buttons can be programmed to control up to four different electronic systems.
The floors are covered in easily cleaned vinyl (and that's all we have to say about that…) and rear doors open a full 71 degrees for "customer accommodation."
If the three V6 engine choices buck tradition, they offer more power and far better fuel economy than the eight-cylinder ever did. The Police Interceptor sedan's base 288-hp, 3.5L V6 is rated at 11.4L/100km city and 7.5 highway – 38 more horsepower than the Crown Vic, yet 35% more efficient. An optional 3.5L EcoBoost V6 produces 365 hp at 13.3/8.8 L/100km, while the utility vehicle's 304-hp, 3.7L V6 has a rating of 13.1/9.1 L/100km city/highway.
Tossing cop-car keys at a bunch of auto writers is like turning loose a pack of pre-schoolers in a Toys R Us. Tires squealing, lights flashing, sirens wailing… we were able to thrash the two Interceptors around a large slalom course to see if they lived up to the claims of "drama-free handling."
Both vehicles were impressively stable – particularly surprising was the utility vehicle whose handling was remarkably similar to the sedan's. Neither tight turns nor quick slaloming produced much body roll, and the brakes stopped both Interceptors with brute force.
Best of all was the occasional visit from on-duty officers. One cruiser rolled slowly by, cell phone held aloft recording our antics. Another big, strapping young uniformed officer pulled in to have a closer look.
"Did he want to have a go at them?" asked the Ford folks.
"Naah, just wanted to check them out," the officer said, jerking his head towards his bow-tie bedecked utility vehicle. "That thing's a piece of s**t."
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