By Shawn Molnar
A V12-powered Ferrari is a fearsome thing, a Taurus family sedan is decidedly not.
Add red and blue flashing lights, plus a few other extra-special mods though, and that once-wallflower Ford will cause massive stabs of the brake pedal while erecting the small hairs on the necks of nearby motorists. Pushing a car into police service transforms even generic beasts of burden into ominous law enforcement machines.
That’s what happening now, as Ford’s Taurus sedan takes up the ‘Police Interceptor’ badge from the recently departed – and legendary – Crown Victoria, a sedan once used by almost every North American police force.
We sat down with Lisa Teed, Ford’s Police Interceptor marketing manager, to learn more about the 5-O’s new Taurus and the police product development team behind it:
How long has Ford been building cars for the cops?
For 60 years.
How much market share does Ford hold for supplying North American police departments?
We have held around 70 percent… with the Crown Victoria… over the past seven years.
What made the Crown Vic so popular ?
The safety of officers… durability and longevity. Public safety is a 24-hour operation, and vehicles have to perform as first responders. [Plus,] the durability of… vehicle components led to cost-effective fleet operations. Longevity was key. As budgets were constrained, the Crown Victoria's… lifecycle needed to be elongated while continuing to get the job done… The last Crown Victoria was built in the fall of 2011.
So now Ford has two new police package vehicles on offer?
For the first time, [we'll] offer the all-new Police Interceptor Utility [a modified Explorer sport ute…] or the Police Interceptor Sedan. Ford’s new PIs are purpose-built and have been developed in collaboration with Ford’s Police Advisory Board, aftermarket equipment manufacturers, upfitters, dealers, plus engineering and industry experts.
Where does Ford design and build these police cars? How many people work on the program?
Ford product development designs Police Interceptors in Dearborn [though they] are assembled at the Chicago assembly plant. For competitive reasons, we can’t reveal the number of team members.
Describe the police car design process. How much input do experienced police officers have in the development?
Overall, the vehicle design process is no different than any new product launch…the all-new Police Interceptors are benchmarked against the… Crown Victoria [first]. What makes the… product development unique is that the voice of the customer [i.e. the Police Advisory Board of 27 members from the industry] are brought in to make sure that the product meets the need… for law enforcement.
[They] ranked safety, durability, performance and package in order of highest priority. Unlike other products, performance was third in priority. Professionals from Emergency Vehicle Operations Centres [driver training facilities for police] worked hand-in-hand with engineering [on] the vehicle's stability control systems… to provide officers with the authority for assertive driving without systems being too invasive. They are tested by… the Michigan State Police and the Los Angeles Sherriff’s Department.
Civvies in a squad car
We had the rare opportunity to drive the new generation Police Interceptor on Ford's Michigan test track recently—lights and sirens blazing, of course. It feels heavier than the Taurus sedan, and that’s because it is: Ford has added anti-stab plates in the seat backs, ballistic door panels, heavy-duty springs, shocks and powertrain mounts, beefed-up brakes, a heavy duty 220-amp alternator, a larger cooling system and plenty more.
Ever wondered what that police car behind you has under the hood? The cop's new Taurus is powered a 3.5-litre V6 producing 288 horsepower and 254 lb-ft of torque. Teed says it should deliver, "a minimum of 20 percent improvement in fuel efficiency," over the 4.6-litre V8 in the Crown Vic.
A 3.7L V6 (305 hp/270 lb-ft) and an 'EcoBoost' turbocharged 3.5L V6 ("delivering at least 365 hp") are both optional.
The Interceptor in Explorer SUV guise comes standard with the 3.7L V6. "Fuel economy at idle improves 35 percent on the Police Interceptor sedan and 32 percent on the Police Interceptor utility," says Teed. "Important since most police vehicles are estimated to be in idle mode about 6.7 hours out of a 10 hour shift."
Full-throttle exiting a corner, the Taurus Interceptor pulls itself toward the horizon without any drama. Standard all-wheel drive's largely to credit here. This could totally changes the pursuit game during winter versus the old rear-wheel drive Crown Victoria. The new Police Interceptor should play the part of a proper snow machine when prepped with winter tires.
Same goes with the Interceptor Utility. This is the first time Ford has an Explorer-based police package. We were impressed by its handling on a wet course as well. It'll be harder to make a getaway now…
For those who need to know: Ford says top speed for the standard sedan and Explorer is 210 km/h. The optional EcoBoost-ed sedan can hit 238.
Teed says, "the sedan and utility Police Interceptors share parts... engines, oil filters, brake system (calipers, rotors, pads), struts, springs, tires, wheels, batteries, alternators, interior components including: seats, switches, electrical systems, lighting, etc. The… common parts impact… service inventory costs, service/maintenance/technical training and accessibility to parts."
The stopping power of both the Interceptor sedan and SUV impressed – while punishing both on track, their brakes maintained tons of bite, hauling these heavy rigs down without drama. Perhaps most impressive though? Because police cars spend a great deal of time parked on the edges of the highways, etc. Ford built the Interceptors to withstand a 120 km/h rear impact.
Is thought given to eventual police mods to the cars during the initial design?
Knowing that customers will immediately modify the vehicles… aftermarket equipment manufacturers were involved to understand the unfit requirements. Ford designed “Up fit Friendly” solutions to minimize destructing quality and minimizing labour hours [like]… wiring channels behind the instrument panel that allow for installation of radar or other police equipment.
Can you give some examples of design features police requested?
Locking trunk vault for contraband and handguns; an air circulation fan to keep temperate conditions in the trunk to aide computer/electronics equipment longevity; SYNC and hand-free mobile communication within the vehicle; reverse sensing to mitigate bumper wear-and-tear, a hidden door lock plunger in the second row doors for a second layer of transport security.
We have to ask: How much does it cost to buy a Ford police car?
Police Interceptors are restricted sales to government agencies only. The price… is based off the government bid spec and concessions are provided to the bidding dealers. Pricing will vary [but will be] within reach of Crown Victoria Police Interceptor pricing.
Finally, why buy a Ford police car over a Dodge, GM or even Carbon Motors?
Ford has a dedicated program and team for the Ford Police Interceptors… years of leadership, customer understanding, vehicle lifecycle and a strong North American dealership network… Developing two vehicles to meet the changing needs of law enforcement [and] with AWD as standard is a no compromise solution to the Crown Victoria. The Sedan and Utility Police Interceptor powertrains are now V6 engines, which provide improved performance over the CVPI 4.6L V8.