Police's lumbering ride to get major upgrades
Ford replacing Crown Victorias with two new models that tilt auto advantage back to cops
By Robert E. Calem
updated 3/29/2012 5:56:49 PM ET 2012-03-29
Police officers get intensive training to drive well at high speed, but many are still driving lumbering old Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor cruisers that use a decades-old design. The rest of us, meanwhile, are driving modern vehicles with all sorts of technical wizardry — such as electronic stability control, or ESC — that compensates for our own lack of driving skills.
Now, Ford is replacing those old "Crown Vics" with a pair of new Police Interceptors —the Interceptor Sedan based on the automaker’s Taurus vehicle and the Interceptor Utility based on the Explorer — and both are packing innovative technology that returns the driving advantage to the cops.
The most important technological update is to the computers that control the way the vehicles handle, said Carl Widmann, vehicle engineering manager for Police Interceptors at Ford Motor Co. in Dearborn, Mich. For example, he explains, the computer in the Interceptors inhibits the transmission from upshifting as early as the transmissions in the consumer-grade Taurus or Explorer, and "we'll let (the police driver) get more to the limit" of the laws of physics before electronic assists such as ESC take over, "to maintain speed."
Other innovations in the new Interceptors include newly developed headlamp and turn signal housings that also contain ultra-high-power flashing white LEDs facing forward and side-facing white LED strobe-effect lights. On the steering wheel, new electronic switches are programmable to control whichever vehicle functions the police customer designates, ranging from lights and sirens to cameras and the police-band radio.
An optional rear-facing backup camera comes with an LCD display integrated into the rearview mirror, because an officer's opened laptop computer sitting on a new center console mounting plate would hide the LCD display built into the dashboard.
But perhaps most important of all, the new Police Interceptors are also much faster than their old Crown Vic brethren.
The Police Interceptor Sedan EcoBoost AWD, equipped with a turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 engine, shoots from a stop to 100 mph in 14.5 seconds, compared with a zero to 100 mph time of 24 seconds for the Crown Victoria Police Interceptor, according to testing by the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department.
Meanwhile, a version of the sedan with a normally aspirated 3.7-liter V6 engine accelerates from zero to 100 mph in 22.2 seconds, the LA Sheriff found. And the Interceptor Utility with the same engine –– loaded with 400 pounds of cargo for the sheriff's test, accelerated from zero to 100 mph in 23.4 seconds.
The top speed of the Sedan EcoBoost AWD is 148 mph, and of the Sedan and Utility is 131 mph. To match these performance characteristics, the brakes were beefed up, too, to withstand 64 runs from zero to 130 mph and back to zero without any fade.
The overall goal in designing the new Interceptors was to make them as simple as possible to drive well and fast, said Bill Gubing, chief program engineer for the Police Interceptors. "Driving the vehicle shouldn't be the officer's No. 1 thought," he added.