By on May 29, 2012

Unlike most of the TTAC community, I am something of a Panther agnostic. To me, the venerable rear-drive Ford sedans are like cigarette ads in back issues of Car and Driver – a quaint relic of an era where “Occupy” was something you saw on the door of an airplane bathroom – because the Occupant was trying to suck down a Camel Light .

One generation above me may have fond memories of big, rear-drive V8 sedans with acres of rear leg room and questionable crash safety. For my cohort, the Pavolovian response that comes from the “doors open” warning chime is forever liked to another Ford fleet sedan – the Taurus- as well as the green-on-tan two-tone Explorer Eddie Bauer, chariot of choice for Baby Boomer “co-parents”. For that generation in need of a family car, The Taurus Wagon was an afterthought, since wagons carried with them the connotations of unhappy childhoods in parochial small towns devoid of health food stores, aerobics classes and people willing to engage in knee-jerk rejection of traditional values. Instead, the SUV was a clean sheet of paper, and it suggested that one was wealthy enough to have some kind of summer home that could only be accessed via the all-terrain prowess of the SUV, while wearing Eddie Bauer clothing.

What does my pseudo-sociological digression have to do with police cars? Not much. But I am going into this with an open mind. I’m not particularly wedded to the idea that a police car must be rear-drive, with body-on-frame construction and a V8 engine. I can confess that I’ve always wanted to drive at speed with lights and sirens blaring, and when Ford invited me to do just that, I accepted immediately.

Ford made two Police Interceptors available, a Taurus-based Police Interceptor and an Explorer-based Utility Interceptor. Both had all-wheel drive and the naturally aspirated V6 – the EcoBoost 3.5L engines were nowhere to be found. It ended up being a moot point, since we were only permitted to drive it on a cone-course “handling loop” in a medium-size parking lot. No driving on real roads, no putting it through our own paces.

Showing off the capabilities of the D3 platform on a mini-autocross is about as useful as letting Adele compete for Britain’s floor exercise squad, and even then, the slow speeds and sweeping corners made it difficult to glean much about the cars. Both felt relatively stable, with the Utility Interceptor feeling pretty well composed in light of its vehicular anti-Christ crossover nature. Steering on both cars felt fairly numb, likely a boon on the highway. Ultimately, this event is a carefully controlled way to give us a few thrills without revealing too much about the cars. There are PR and law enforcement types on hand, but a critical appraisal of the new PIs is going to happen right after a historic peace accord surfaces in the Middle East.

The most noticeable changes came just from sitting in the cars themselves. Even at 5’10 and 175 lbs, the civilian Taurus feels uncomfortable and cramped when sitting in the driver’s seat. The Police Interceptor does away with console-mounted gear lever and the absurdly high plastic console pieces that make knee and legroom as scarce as Manhattan real-estate. The cloth seats, with far less padding and bulk than the regular Taurus, free up plenty of room for our nation’s Finest to stretch out, or accommodate larger-sized bodies. If the civilian Taurus came with this configuration, complaints about a lack of space would evaporate, though asinine criticisms about a column shifter would likely deafen out the real world advantages of this setup. The real test would have been to requisition a Kevlar vest and gun belt, but nobody in the right mind was willing to lend me one for “evaluation purposes”, lest I take my “pretend cop” act a little too far.

The big problem with press events like this is that evaluating the car in such a specific environment really tells us little about the car. I decided to consult with resident Panther expert Sajeev Mehta for some additional (admittedly biased) context. Sajeev felt that the Tahoe, rather than the new generation PI, Charger or Caprice would end up becoming the next police vehicle, due to its simplicity and size. I think Sajeev is partially right – I suspect that the Utility Interceptor will find favor among a number of departments - and the California Highway Patrol is apparently one of them. The Taurus will likely make a fine detective’s car, but as Sajeev notes, “…In any place where pickup trucks are common (fly over states) there’s no f*****g chance this water’d down Volvo will ever catch them, when a nut is behind the wheel.” Chicago’s Police Department is buying a number of new Ford PI’s – coincidentally, this is where Ford is building the new PI – while some Canadian departments are buying them as well, ostensibly due to the AWD capabilities among other criteria.

Any law-enforcement readers of TTAC are invited to send in their thoughts to expand on my brief, stage-managed drive of the new Ford Interceptors. As far as I can tell, the Utility Interceptor might make a nice basic SUV in a few years, once they begin to be retired from police departments. But take a step back, and so far it looks like the void being left by the Crown Victoria hasn’t quite been filled yet, and may not be for some time.

 

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67 Comments on “Capsule Review: Ford Police Interceptor...”


  • avatar

    Good review.

    I’d have been surprised to read about the event being any more than this.

    The funny thing about the new Utility Interceptor is it’s the new Explorer.

    “Sajeev felt that the Tahoe would end up becoming the next police vehicle, due to its simplicity and size.”

    Frickin right

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      Personally I’m appalled at the price of these utility police vehicles. The local paper revealed that the county Sheriffs department had just purchased 7 new Ford Expeditions for police work, they revealed the bid price but not the cost of each individual unit. When I did the calculations it came out to around $43,000 per SUV!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I know that includes the equipment and such (the paper stated that) but GAWD DAMN!

      • 0 avatar
        jimmyy

        On Wall Street, we noticed this pattern since Obama took office. The government routinely overpays for fleet purchases. It is a backdoor bailout of Detroit.

      • 0 avatar
        NulloModo

        That’s about how much Expeditions cost. A bone stock SSV (special service vehicle) package 2wd short wheelbase Expedition is about $35K, so if any of those were extended length or 4×4 that alone will bump it up, plus perhaps some were ordered with more options as vehicles for higher ups in the department.

        Adding all of the lights, cages, laptop mounts, etc, also isn’t cheap.

      • 0 avatar
        otter

        Dan, the upfit equipment can add a startling amount to the overall price of the vehicle. The typical cost to a municipality of a new Expedition will typically be in the low 20s, or a few grand more if they don’t have a large state contract they can order under. A lighting package with roof bar, side and rear flashers, siren, controller, etc. etc. can run around $10k, and that’s just the lighting. There is also the slide-out tray in the rear argo area, the partition, gun lock, radios, push bar, GPS, and so on. In addition, there are additional contract costs that are reflected in the price of the vehicle.

      • 0 avatar

        $43k sounds like a normal price for a police-use Expedition. Seriously, try to find your grocery bill from 2 years ago.

      • 0 avatar
        Tom D.

        So Jimmy the Obama administration is forcing cities, towns, counties and states to buy certian vehicles for law enforcement? Really, why does every online site end up with political comments. This is about cars. Having been part of the ASF while in the Navy, I found the Crown Vic to be very uncomfortable to ride in with all our gear on. The Explorers we had (last gen) were far better, at least to me.

  • avatar
    Contrarian

    Tahoes and SUVs in general are a bad idea for police service. It seems every few months a New York State cop is killed or injured when one of the behemoths roll over during a chase. In one case they got a murder conviction from the guy they were chasing. Like it was his idea.

    Here’s the latest, just a few days ago.

    http://www.policeone.com/police-heroes/articles/5642167-NY-Trooper-dies-following-rollover-crash/

    • 0 avatar
      Darkhorse

      Reminds me of a case in NYC a few years ago. The NYPD was conducting a drug raid and one policeman was killed by his compatriots in a case of fratricide. The drug dealer was convicted of murder. Kafka at his best.

    • 0 avatar
      Brian P

      The Ontario Provincial Police have been buying Tahoes with some sort of special suspension package that significantly lowers them, which should help with the rollover situation (and probably makes them handle better). It also makes them readily recognizable, since hardly anyone buys body-on-frame SUV’s any more in this area ($1.30 per litre gasoline) and hardly any of those people lower them …

      The city cops have plenty of Impalas and Chargers (mostly V6) but I’ve yet to see a marked OPP Impala or Charger. I think the OPP stocked up on Panthers prior to end of production, because those are still by far the most common OPP patrol car.

    • 0 avatar
      Slab

      Locally, all the SUVs have a giant K-9 logo on the side. I just hope they have souped-up AC packages.

    • 0 avatar
      NulloModo

      On Autoblog they’re reporting that the CHP has just picked the Explorer-based Police Interceptor as their new vehicle going forward.

      • 0 avatar
        jimmyy

        Many mid sized sedans with a V6 will be able to outrun the Explorer. I hope this does not cause more to run.

      • 0 avatar
        NulloModo

        Many mid size sedans could already out run the Crown Vic. The police version of the Explorer does have a larger engine than the civilian – it has the 3.7 with 304hp vs the 3.5 with 290hp. Still, as they say, you can outrun the cruiser but you can’t outrun Motorola.

      • 0 avatar
        chicagoland

        Police chases are now forbidden unless it’s truly needed. They can use a helcopter to follow any ‘perps’.
        And if some douche in a ‘fast mid szie car’ tries to out run, they can call the pursuit Stang, Vette, Camaro, Caprice… Or just arrest the guy when he gest home, after video recording the plates and the speed, duh!

        And Crown Vics back seats are cramped, nothing like a 1972 Caddy!

    • 0 avatar
      Robert Schwartz

      Well, as our own Jack Baruth has suggested, they should stop chasing people.

  • avatar
    WEGIV

    “…In any place where pickup trucks are common (fly over states) there’s no f*****g chance this water’d down Volvo will ever catch them, when a nut is behind the wheel.”

    Can either you or Sajeev explain what exactly this means? I’m trying to give him the benefit of the doubt that it’s not just the standard “because it’s not a panther, it’s obviously crap” bias and assume that he had a point, but after rereading several times, I still can’t find it. If it’s a reference to high-speed chase capability, I think you have it backwards. As those of us who haven’t drunk the Panther kool-aid have been saying for years, that V8 is a joke, and is out powered by many 4-cylinders now let alone the sixes. Case in point, The 3.5L V6 has 285hp vs 251. And if that isn’t enough, the EcoBoost is available.

    Your prediction about Tahoes doesn’t take into account the rising costs of fuel. Given the opportunity to finally be shed of the very thirsty Panther platform, you can bet that those responsible for making fleet decisions are going to think long and hard about what’s more important in terms of their costs to operate.

    • 0 avatar
      Mr. Spacely

      Yeah, I didn’t get this, either. Hell, a 2012 Impala with the new 3.5 V6 and 6-speed auto is going to make a more capable highway interceptor/chase car. (Not so sure about it’s ramming ability, obviously…FWD and all that).

    • 0 avatar
      Joe McKinney

      Not every department wants or needs Interceptors. Believe it or not, there are places where there is simply no substitute for body-on-frame construction and rear-wheel drive with a live rear axle.

      I live in a rural county in west Alabama. Our local Sheriff recently asked the County Commission to authorize the purchase five new Tahoes for his department. The previous administration bought Chargers. Some of the roads out in the county are so bad the Chargers just cannot take the abuse the old Ford CVPIs can. The Sheriff put it this way, “I don’t need interceptors, I need vehicles that can go anywhere.” Now that the CVPI has been discontinued, the Tahoe is the obvious replacement. Yes, the Tahoe uses more gas, but its superior ruggedness and durability will save money in the long run.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      “…In any place where pickup trucks are common (fly over states) there’s no f*****g chance this water’d down Volvo will ever catch them, when a nut is behind the wheel.”

      Here in Texas police chases usually involve stolen vehicles and pickup trucks are frequently stolen. To evade capture, the criminal will drive over curbs or exit the freeway across grass/dry ground to the parallel service road. A Chevrolet Tahoe and the truck-like Panther can follow a pickup truck over curbs and off road while the Taurus probably can’t survive that level of abuse.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      “…In any place where pickup trucks are common (fly over states) there’s no f*****g chance this water’d down Volvo will ever catch them, when a nut is behind the wheel.”

      I’m guessing that Derek Kreindler has never actually been to a flyover state, so he’s relying on uninformed guesses.

      Here’s a hint: flyover country is most of the continent of North America. The terrain and population-density is far more varied than that sticky suburban carpet that covers the east coast from Norfolk to Boston, and much of southern California.

      While many of the police in my town would get by just fine with Nissan LEAF (just like the rest of us), the more rural police departments may actually need real AWD or 4WD vehicles. Just like the people who live here, really — some people go off road daily in duallies covered with mud and dents, while others never have and never will and drive Prii. It just depends on where you live and what you do.

  • avatar

    I’d vastly prefer the Charger to the Taurus. Much better handling. The Chevrolet/Holden might be better still. And both have transmissions that should be much more able to handle abuse.

    Are they offering the EB in the PI at all? If not, it’s because they know the transaxle wouldn’t hold up to a combination of boost and police use. It was originally engineered for 300 pound-feet of torque, and GM has yet to pair the box with an engine capable of more.

    Ford’s been deceiving themselves if they think their new offerings will do well in this market.

    • 0 avatar
      tjh8402

      The Ecoboost is available in the PI. No idea what the take rate has been yet. From what I’ve seen, most of our local dept that were using CVPI’s seem to be taking a wait and see approach (haven’t seen them in anything other than a P71) with the exception of FHP, which has gone to the Chargers. Have yet to see a Caprice yet either, although one of my friends said he saw an unmarked one with state plates on it. Otherwise its still mostly Impalas, and then the handful of depts with the CVPI’s (Tahoes are used by many depts, mostly as K-9 units). Our local taxi cab company has been picking up a lot of the Taurus’s, but I think they’re civilian spec, not police.

    • 0 avatar
      NulloModo

      I was recently speaking with a customer who had recently retired from the police force. On the topic of next generation police cruisers he hadn’t had a chance to try one of the Taurus Police Interceptors, but he mentioned that his department had picked up a few of the Charger based cruisers and that they weren’t very popular. Apparently once you get into the seat wearing the uniform, vest, and gear belt there is very little space in the driver’s seat compared to the Crown Vic.

      Apparently the Caprice based cruisers are facing opposition because of the floor mounted shifter and center console making it hard to install the laptop and other electronics gear that many departments now depend on.

  • avatar
    ambulancechaser

    In Alberta Canada, the new Police Interceptors are Hemi Chargers. Ford lost the plot. And the bid.

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    Ford should find a way to incorporate cylinder de-activation into the PI….a v-6 operating on 3 or 4 cylinders during routine “patrol” mode….then SHAZAAM. when the bad guys need catchin’ activate all cylinders and the direct injection….best of both worlds…fuel economy AND power on demand…

  • avatar
    nikita

    Mopar dominated the market for decades out here. They had not been BOF since 1959. That LA Times article failed to mention that the CHP has purchased Chargers for at least the last two years.

  • avatar

    My prediction (and preference) goes to the Charger, with second place to some kind of SUV for 4/AWD needs (maybe the Tahoe). Cheap and RWD…and just seems more “fleet”-y than the Taurus and Taurus-with-a-lift-kit.

    The doubt in everyone’s mind is what happens to that fancy FWD-based undercarriage when it’s time to hop curbs and blast across empty lots? You can forcibly rip the suspension out from under a P71 and still repair it with minimal drama…can you do that with a Taurus?

    …though, the better question might be: does it matter?

  • avatar
    ellomdian

    “For that generation in need of a family car, The Taurus Wagon was an afterthought, since wagons carried with them the connotations of unhappy childhoods in parochial small towns devoid of health food stores, aerobics classes and people willing to engage in knee-jerk rejection of traditional values.”

    I could write a short paper on what’s wrong with the world today starting with that sentence. Well done Herr Schmitt.

  • avatar
    TEXN3

    It seems that in the mountain west, the Charger (and previously, Magnum) is the choice for state police departments…the availability of AWD certainly helps. The Magnums are being replaced by Durangos and Tahoes, understandably so. Around Boise, the new Chargers are also be used to replace Vickys. And neighboring Garden City has 2 new Caprices.

    I don’t see the TPI making inroads, especially since the Impala is also available for FWD use and is probably more proven and cheaper to maintain.

    Too bad, I like the Taurus.

    • 0 avatar
      SC5door

      AWD is not available on Police unit Charger’s.

      AWD is available on the Durango “Special Service” SUVs, and 4wd is optional on RAM 1500 “Special Service” trucks.

  • avatar
    Commando

    And not one word appears anywhere about the kick-azz Carbon Motors cop car coming (hopefully) soon. Hope they’re not aother Tucker…

    • 0 avatar
      TEXN3

      It’s not coming, it never existed.

      • 0 avatar
        imag

        The sad thing is that all the comments by law enforcement on this page seem to bear out the fact that Carbon’s design would be highly beneficial to them.

        The only downside I see to the Carbon concept is that, without true mass production, they are likely to have teething issues. Building a reliable volume vehicle is not easy.

    • 0 avatar
      bikegoesbaa

      Carbon is probably not another Tucker.

      Tucker actually built 50 cars.

      I don’t think Carbon will get that far.

      • 0 avatar
        indi500fan

        LOL on Carbon. They occasionally get a good bit of local press here in Indy when they roll out some press releases.
        I suspect if they had located the plant in a “blue” state they would have gotten their $310 mil from Steve Chu.

        Surely the troopers of America need BMW turbo diesel power!

  • avatar
    Steverino

    A point for the Taurus–at the end of their police lives, these are sold off and many become taxis. A Tahoe or Explorer does not make a good taxi.

    • 0 avatar
      nikita

      In urban areas on the coasts, taxi cabs are now required to be “green”, hence no more surplus squads, except for the ultra-rare CNG Crown Vic. New Escape and Camry hybrids are what I now see a lot of in Los Angeles. Drivers hate them because they cost more to lease and repair than they save in gas.

  • avatar
    McKennaR

    “The real test would have been to requisition a Kevlar vest and gun belt.”

    Don’t bother, especially if you’re a lefty. The design of the door-card and the placement of the seat left-to-right in relation to the door caused the mock handgun on the utility belt they were passing around to get jammed between the door and wearer’s hip every single time they tried to shut it. Egress is also a very awkward motion due to the position of the steering wheel in relation to the B-pillar and coupled with the fact that the door doesn’t open as wide as the Crown Victoria or Charger.

    I have about 20 pages of data from when Sheriff’s Deputies in the next county up from mine went to demo the Taurus last year. Most of the issues they found focus on tactical situations and off-highway performance for municipalities and counties that don’t have enough of a budget to be able to afford dedicated vehicles for each. One thing that struck me is that if you think head-room, shoulder-room and hip-room are bad if you’re 5’11″ or taller and wearing a utility belt, try driving the Taurus while wearing a fully loaded tactical vest with front and rear hard plates and a ballistic helmet. The Cliff’s notes version is that if you’re over 5’8″, you’d better know a good chiropractor.

    Bottom line is that this vehicle is competent at only the bare minimums required of a basic patrol unit (think mall security). That would be great if all that Law Enforcement did was pull over speeders and help old ladies cross the street every day. Unfortunately, Police need their cars to be jacks of many trades, especially down here in Meth country (think Redneck Rampage meets Deliverance only with more guns and fewer teeth), and this car isn’t.

    • 0 avatar
      28-cars-later

      By chance where is ‘Meth country’ so I can make a note to avoid it?

      • 0 avatar
        McKennaR

        Any place where the person behind the counter of the only gas station for 100 miles in any direction asks you what side your family fought for during the “War of Northern Aggression” (American Civil War) before turning on your pump.

      • 0 avatar
        nikita

        The Mojave desert part of Los Angeles county, for example.

      • 0 avatar
        fincar1

        Add places in the Pacific northwest where there are lots of forests. Especially within easy driving distance of big cities.

      • 0 avatar
        George B

        From Choctaw Bingo by Ray Wylie Hubbard

        …He cooks that crystal meth because the shine don’t sell
        You know he likes his money he don’t mind the smell…

        Cooking meth is really smelly so semi-permanent “labs” are set up in rural areas like Eastern Oklahoma in the song. Sometimes they use the smell of a hog farm to help disguise the smell of the meth. Fires/explosions tend to give away the location even if the smell isn’t detected.

    • 0 avatar

      The doors open VERY wide in the Charger, so much so that I had to get out of the car to grab the door pull to close it. Now I know why!

      Many people have mentioned the need to jumb curbs and such. No idea if the Charger and Caprice can do this nearly as well as the Crown Vic. I do wonder if Chrysler had this as a requirement during the recent LX update.

      • 0 avatar
        86er

        One thing I do know is that the Caprice and Charger have a bolt-on assembly that lets you easily replace front clips, and fenders on those cars. The Taurus, does not.

        The Taurus also welds its door assemblies, whereas the Caprice is bolt-on.

  • avatar
    spartan_mike

    “Sajeev felt that the Tahoe would end up becoming the next police vehicle, due to its simplicity and size.”

    Interesting. The Chicago Police Department has largely moved to Tahoes. I believe I read that they are rear wheel drive only. There haven’t been any reports of rollover incidents that I’ve noticed, but then you shouldn’t have many high speed chases in the city. The Illinois State Patrol covers the highways and is still in Crown Vics for the most part.

    • 0 avatar
      Joe McKinney

      The suspension on the Tahoe PPV has been lowered a few inches to improve stability. While these still have a higher center of gravity than a sedan, they do hold the road better than the retail Tahoes sold to the public.

    • 0 avatar
      otter

      CPD has bought plenty of Tahoes, but continued to buy Crown Vics in at least equal quantities until the end of production, and will be buying plenty of the new Fords over the next 5 years as well. The Tahoes were driven by Jody Weiss’ wanting them, and they do seem to get crashed more often than the CVPIs. All Tahoe Patrol vehicles are SSVs, which are indeed rear-drive only. These are the only Tahoes that are pursuit-rated, which is a requirement for the city.

  • avatar
    28-cars-later

    To me its simple, most of the ‘police’ vehicles are designed for civilians but ‘adapted’ for police use and they can’t cut it. I think at some point, probably in the 98 redesign, Dearborn engineers may have taken this into account and helped ensure the Panther was designed more for police use, and adapted for civilian use. Either that or their 70′s era predecessors just over-designed the Panther to begin with…

  • avatar
    jeffzekas

    I am retired law enforcement: my thoughts… the Taurus is a sedan, which makes it nice for long transports of convicts (which happens). The Tahoe will work well for CHP up in Tahoe and other snow areas. I like the idea of having AWD on ALL vehicles, due to the fact that we lived in the snow for 16 years, yet the state kept foisting RWD vehicles on us… bad news in snow, mud and rain. As far as the Crown Vic: not a bad car, but gotta say, it was feeling VERY dated the last 10 years or so… the Taurus is a good replacement. And, re: criticisms about the cost of police vehicles: nothing to do with Obama or the bailout– cop cars have ALWAYS been pricier than civilian vehicles, due to the special requirements of these cars i.e. better radiator for pursuit, better electrics, fire suppression system inside (due to lawsuit after cops fried inside after accidents), heavy duty suspension due to heavy use requirements, and on and on. Kinda like saying “We should use Jeep Wranglers in Iraq”… yeah, right… and you’d end up with a lot of dead soldiers. Civilian vehicles, unless highly modified, don’t do well in tough environments or hard use, especially law enforcement and military use. As far as roll over danger: heck, we had a cop roll a Crown Vic! All it takes is ice and too much speed, and you can roll ANY vehicle…

  • avatar
    FJ60LandCruiser

    To hell with the argument about the cop cars, I only focused on one part of the entire article…

    Look how much room putting in a column shifter frees up! Especially if you get rid of that idiotic center console! Even more so if you have a front bench with a flip down storage area like a truck!

    Holy hell!

    What is the hatred of the carmakers for column shifters? They even put dash or floor/console shifters on trucks now. Acres of space wasted by a stupid shifter on the dash or coming out of the floor… just tuck it out of the way on the column.

    Your knees will thank you.

    Apparently only GM appreciates the bench seat…

    /rant.

    • 0 avatar
      rudiger

      Someone correct me if I’m wrong but wasn’t the 2012 Impala the last car available with a bench seat (including police Chargers and PPV Caprices that have column shifters but bucket seats)?

      Sadly, yet another era in domestic cars comes to a close.

    • 0 avatar
      nikita

      Since all automatic transmissions are electrically shifted, why not go back to dash-mounted push buttons like Torqueflite-equipped CHP Dodges used to? Seriously, huge consoles in FWD cars waste a lot of space.

  • avatar
    luvmyv8

    About the CHP, kinda suprised me that they are going with the Explorer Police Interceptor. Normally when faced with this kind of situation, they buy a few of each kind of car available with a police package, and use them for patrol duties, when keeping track of expenses, mileage, downtime and of course the opinions and critiques of the officers using them. After all the evaluation, they pick the best vehicle for the job. They did this when the 440 Dodge Monacos were discontinued, they tested different vehicle designs (’79 Volare wagon 318, ’79 Fairmount 302, ’79 Malibu 305 and the ’79 Z28 Camaro) The Volare was at best an indifferent selection, the Fairmount actually did well (at being useful, though it was no hotrod!) the Malibu was as good as the Fairmount and the Camaro was a POS, all of them blew engines and didn’t have the durability needed of a police car. It did fit the bill as a pursuit vehicle and showed the CHP that a pony car would be effective- provided it worked.

    This happened again in ’80, when Dodge had nothing better then a 318 powered St. Regis with all of 165 hp. It was a dismal failure, so much so the Chippies bought 400 ’82 Mustang SSV’s to evaluate them and thus was born the “Ford that chases Porches for a living” and the rest is history…. the Mustang carried on the pursuit car shoes left by the Dodge 440′s up until the Caprice 9C1 became available with the LT1 and it’s top speed was good for 140+ MPH.

  • avatar
    Dukeboy01

    Here’s my two cents, speaking with 15 years and counting of law enforcement experience.

    I have not driven the new Taurus or the new Caprice. My department’s patrol fleet is made up of P71 Ford Crown Vics. We haven’t received our allotment of new patrol cars this year, but the word on the street is that we are going with the Taurus based Police Interceptor. I don’t know whether they will be the FWD or the AWD versions or which engine they will have. Given the city’s alleged budget problems, I suspect they will be the cheapest version.

    Currently I am assigned a 2007 Crown Vic. As a detective, I have the best of all possible worlds in that I have the “cop suspension, cop motor, and cop tires” with a bench seat, mouse fur cloth interior, and no prisoner barrier (or cage, if you prefer) intruding into my ability to recline my seatback and acheive a comfortable driving position.

    Sajeev is right in that the new Taurus will make a swell detective (or administrator) cop car. There is no need, practically speaking, for those of us whose daily police driving experience consists of commuting back and forth to the office, driving to lunch, and driving at regular speeds to crime scenes, witness interviews, court, etc to have a V-8 powered, RWD vehicle capable of hopping curbs and cutting through median strips. I don’t transport prisoners. I’m prohibited (generally speaking) by policy from being the lead vehicle in a vehicle pursuit, and while there is still an occasional emergency lights and siren run, they are very infrequent, and a siren box, police radio, and strobe lights can be mounted to anything. The hordes of volunteer firefighters with full length lightbars and strobe packages that can illuminate the moon mounted to the roofs of 1994 Cavaliers and 1989 Toyota 4 Runners have proven this.

    My department has embraced this concept. The last unmarked Crown Vics that were purchased for use by adminstrators and detectives were bought in 2009. Prior to that, we had been purchasing a mixture of Crown Vics and other cars, including Impalas, Honda Accords, Nissan Maximas, and Dodge Chargers. The unmarked Crown Vics were primarily admin cars, while detectives were given the other types of lower profile vehicles because, let’s face it, if you see a person under the age of 50 driving a Crown Vic there is a 95% chance he’s a cop. It doesn’t matter if the Crown Vic is marked or unmarked. My car was originally an admin car that was assigned to one of our assistant chiefs, that I was able to weasel my way into after he retired. I gave up a 2005 Maxima that had developed transmission issues that the city was too cheap to send to the local Nissan dealer to have fixed properly. While having a low- profile car as my G-ride was fun for awhile, when it came time for the mechanics at the police garage who were used to dealing with Fords to attempt anything more complicated than a simple oil change, I might as well have been driving a Ferrari. The car had to be sent out for practically everything but, as I said, they were too cheap to send it to Nissan to get it done right. I’ll be happy to spend the rest of my career driving the civilian version of whatever vehicle is chosen to make up our patrol fleet.

    That probably won’t happen, as my department has decided to stick with the “super low profile” concept for detective vehicles. (Nevermind that this past year one of the beancounters across the street at city hall figured out that they could save about $8,000 per year by putting official government plates on all the unmarked cars instead of paying the $10 dollar per plate adminstrative fee for regular KY plates. So now we have a bunch of Accords, Maximas, etc that are supposed to be undercover with Official government tags, but I digress.) Over the past couple of years my department may have gone a little too far. The city administration has embraced environmentalism, or at least embraced the scoring of cheap political points with the bunny huggers with meaningless “green” gestures. What that has meant for the police department is that we have bought Toyota Priuses and Camry Hybrids for detectives and the adminstrators as part of a city wide intiative to throw taxpayers’ money away on hybrid vehicles. We only bought 10 or 11 of the Priuses before it became apparent that they were not practical for police use, even by desk jockeys, in that the rear hatchback is not a secure place to store extra duty weapons that many of us still carry or keep available. The Camry Hybrid, with it’s more secure trunk, has become the car of choice, although the battery pack cuts down on the trunk’s available volume. The fact that they are built 15 or so miles up the road doesn’t hurt either. We equip them with lights, radios, and sirens so they meet the legal requirements to be able to make emergency runs if necessary.

    So, the FWD Taurus with the less powerful engine would serve just fine as a desk jockey’s car. As a patrol car , I think it’s going to suck. The most important thing, IMO, for a patrol car is interior volume, particularly the front seat area. The Chevrolet Caprice beats both the Taurus and the Charger in that category, particularly when it comes to hip and shoulder room. When you’re wearing a gunbelt and Kevlar vest that adds three to four inches to your width, hip and shoulder room matters a lot. Add in a mobile computer, rear seat cage, radios,flashlight holders. internal shotgun/ rifle mounts, and all of the other equipment that has to be squeezed into the front passenger compartmet of a patrol car and every extra tenth of an inch of space begins to matter a lot. A detective or admin car doesn’t have to have most of that extra equipment, so internal dimensions matter less.

    Truth be told, the outgoing Crown Vic PI was a bit tight once all of that extra stuff was added in, especially on the passenger side. The mobile computer, for example, tends to get mounted more towards the right side of the vehicle, where it intrudes pretty severely into the passenger’s space. My department normally rides one person patrol units, but during the Field Officer Training portion of our academy it can get pretty cozy with two people in full police garb stuffed into the front seats.

    The rear seat area is even worse. Prisoner comfort isn’t really high on my personal list of concerns, but I work for an urban department where, depending on which shift and/ or day of the week it is, we may run as many as four paddy wagons dedicated to prisoner transports. The vast majority of police departments don’t do that and prisoners are going to have to be transported in regular patrol cars. Once a full length protective barrier is installed, which is what my department uses, the distance from the front edge of the rear seat to the barrier in a Crown Vic is about four inches if you install the barrier far enough back to allow the front seat to travel all the way back, maximizing comfort for the driver. Even then, the ability to recline the seat’s backrest is greatly reduced or eliminated. If a prisoner is over 6 feet tall or weighs more than 220 lbs, he’s going in the wagon, not a patrol car. But, again, that’s a luxury that my department has that most do not.

    I also think that front wheel drive won’t work well in a patrol vehicle. Patrol cars are constantly hopping curbs and such, if for no other reason than to clear up the roadway while you’re working a crime scene. What driver’s training that any of us have had up to this point has also been done in RWD vehicles. There may be a rash of accidents as people have to adapt to the handling charcteristics of FWD.

    The expense of the AWD system makes it impractical for departments such as mine that are located below the Mason- Dixon line. Throw in the additional cost of repair when an AWD system goes tits up and unless you’re routinely seeing a foot of snow or more, I can’t see how a municipality would justify paying for the AWD.

    Performance metrics such as top speed don’t really matter in modern police work, particularly in the urban environment, so I’m not concerned that the Taurus may be considered slow. A police car needs to be able to accelerate from 0 to 80 mph quickly in order to accomplish 90% of the “high performance” driving that will go on in an average shift. After that, you can govern the car to 120 mph or so for all I care. The fact that the new Caprice will do 150+ mph when equipped with the V-8 strikes me as wasted capacity. There might be some places out West where you have enough space to get to experience that velocity safely and where the distances that need to be covered might demand it. For most police departments it’s just not necessary. Balls to the wall police pursuits that go on for hours are becoming a thing of the past in our litigious society. If you can’t get a runner stopped in less than 10 minutes, most police departments will terminate the pursuit.

    What’s going to become more important than speed is fuel economy. I think that the V-6 engines in the Taurus, Caprice and the Charger will be more than adequate for most routine patrol work in urban areas. If I was the fleet liasion for my department I’d buy the Caprice equipped with the V-6 for routine patrol dutys, a few V-8 Caprices for our Traffic Enforcement Unit, and then regular four cylinder Camrys for the detectives and administrators.

    • 0 avatar
      LordDetroitofLondon

      Thanks for the great writeup, always good to hear about the pros and cons from someone actually in the PD.

    • 0 avatar
      McKennaR

      Fantastic writeup! Great read.

      One quote stood out, but it doesn’t have much bearing on the Taurus vs. Crown Vic discussion…

      “…the rear hatchback [of the Prius] is not a secure place to store extra duty weapons that many of us still carry or keep available.”

      We have Trailblazers (still) and Tahoes that we use as patrol vehicles that have perhaps twice the glass acreage in the back as a Prius, so this is a reality for us as well.

      • 0 avatar
        Dukeboy01

        The difference there is that the aftermarket has responded with gun lockers specifically designed for SUVs like the Tahoe, Trailbalzer, and Ford Expedition which can make it possible to secure long guns, provided your agency is willing to pay for them. The civilian hunting market is large enough that they make sense for mass production outside of the law enforcement market. No such animal exists for vehicles like the Prius or Honda Insight and you couldn’t bolt it down to the hatch floor anyway because it would block access to the battery packs. (I guess technically you could, but you probably shouldn’t.)

        The Crown Vic trunks were discovered to ultimately be vulnerable to entry as well a couple of years ago. The plastic panel near the reverse lights is easily punched out and then the trunk could be opened by pulling the emergency release cable. A quiet recall installed a quarter- inch steel plate behind the plastic, making such incursions impossible.

    • 0 avatar
      nikita

      If you go back far enough, urban patrol vehicles were not high powered “interceptors”. Even when gas was way under .50 a gallon, fleet fuel economy was a factor. While the CHP had its big V-8 Oldsmobiles or Buicks, the LAPD had the flat head six Nash.

  • avatar
    86SN2001

    FWD patrol vehicles and FWD-based AWD patrol vehicles have no business being patrol vehicles.

    The Taurus and Explorer will make terrible police vehicles. Ford really loves throwing markets they absolutely dominate (Police/ambulance/etc).

    The Taurus and Explorer will be far more expensive to own due to being far less durable than the Crown Vic. That is just a fact.

    PDs may just as well just get TDI Passats. At least then, they would have the fuel savings to look forward to.

    • 0 avatar
      luvmyv8

      History has shown FWD police cars to be failures; anybody remember the K-car ‘scout’ packages? The NYPD actually ran these. Didn’t stick and they went back to the M body Gran Fury. Those really weren’t true ‘police package’ cars, they were meant for detectives and non patrol duties. Next we have the Chevrolet Celebrity…. yup, they existed. The 2.8 wasn’t enough and again, not really a true ‘cop car’.

      The first real heavy duty, true police package FWD police car was Ford Taurus- ’90-’95. Those had the 3.8 V6, all the auxillary coolers, cooling slats in the grille, heavy duty steel wheels, beefed up suspension and brake components, ect. On paper these looked good, they performed equally with the Caprice and Crown Vic (pre LT1 Caprice and pre “aero” Crown Vic) However, durability was an issue, the trans axles just didn’t hold up to the punishment dished out to police cars. It became such an issue Ford gave up on the idea and discontinued the idea when the ‘new’ oval faced Taurus debuted. Also Chevrolet offered up a sad sack Lumina police package, though it was mostly ignored. Next up was the Dodge Intrepid (early ’00s) those had the 3.5 H.0 V6 and like the Taurus, was a true police package. Put this way, the brakes literally caught on fire, even while not on patrol duty. That didn’t help matters. The CHP also tried a few different ideas, Toyota sold them ’91 Camrys for evaluation; didn’t make the grade. They also tried Volvos in the early 00′s. Those caused quite a stir. These worked, but didn’t catch on due to price and parts and service logistics.

      The FWD Impala though has done well and they seem to hold up, think half the NYPD fleet are the Impala and they seem satisfied with them.

  • avatar
    danwat1234

    With all the needless idling that cops do and city driving patterns, they should have gone with at least a mild hybrid solution so the engine shuts off when they are looking for speeders, even though the computer is on and the electric motor is ready to go.

    Seriously I bet the fleet’s fuel bill would be cut by a third or more. I think that many cops never shut off the engine!

    At least from the article it looks like it has a smart alternator.


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