By on October 4, 2016

2017 Ford Police Interceptor Utility

One of the late Ford Crown Victoria’s best attributes was its unique turn signal/parking lamps, which, when viewed in a rear-view mirror, alerted savvy drivers to the possibility that there could be a police officer on their tail. Or a retiree. Either way, best to slow down, pardner.

Today, drivers don’t have that luxury of instant nighttime recognition, and police forces and suppliers are increasingly making it harder to distinguish a lurking cop car during the day. Well, Ford has now brought the stealthiness to another level.

After introducing a front visor light bar to its Police Interceptor Utility models earlier this year, Ford went to work on a similar “no profile” setup for the vehicle’s rear. Now we see the results: a “no profile” cruiser with its front lights tucked into the top of the windshield, and its rear-facing lights mounted in the rear spoiler.

For civilians, it’s worrying news. For police, it’s a great way to help nab unsuspecting speeders and other scofflaws.

Ford claims that law enforcement agencies can now do away with aftermarket units that impede rear visibility. The front and rear LED lights are programmable, come with an auto-dimming feature, and completely do away with any need for a roof-mounted light bar.

Available for order on 2017 Police Interceptor Utility models, the new lights should cause drivers to treat stock Ford Explorers with even more wariness and suspicion. Drivers looking to avoid run-ins with the law had better pay closer attention to wheels and paint schemes from now on.

[Image: Ford Motor Company]

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70 Comments on “Spotting That Cop Just Became Harder, Thanks (?) to Ford...”


  • avatar
    JimC2

    The silver lining to these less-recognizable cop cars is that you won’t have nincompoops clog up the left lane by being too afraid to go 1 click over the speed limit every time they see a cop (which half the time is not even in his/her jurisdiction, never mind interested in pulling over anyone going even 5-10 over).

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    The low profile LED bars on the roof of the Explorers are hard enough to see, as is.

    Locally, Montgomery has silver cars with only medium blue door decals (in Times font), and low profile light roof bars. Coming head on it’s impossible to tell, and the decals vanish from any distance because there’s no striping.

    • 0 avatar
      DukeGanote

      Thankfully Ohio doesn’t allow unmarked vehicles for traffic enforcement. But lo-viz can be challenging. Local LEO’s are always happy to make their own lives easier in order to “service” the public.

      Of course, we need that in Ohio because few if any speed limits are based on engineering studies. The 35-mph municipal speed limit dates back to the General Code of 1929, for example.

      http://www.ohioattorneygeneral.gov/Media/Newsletters/Law-Enforcement-Bulletin/August-2013/Proper-Protocol-State-of-Ohio-v-Schneller

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Most the time, 35 means 45 is okay, at least up here. But Montgomery cops don’t have sh!t to do, so I see them rollin, and patrollin.

      • 0 avatar
        Nick 2012

        Is Lindale still protecting and serving their 400 yards of I-71 near Cleveland?

      • 0 avatar
        NormSV650

        Yeah, Ohio gets marked cars. Even if it is light colored lettering, at least you can’t be bated in broad daylight.

        South of Miami I saw a white VW and a black car weaving through traffic as we worked our way through traffic. A sport bike was with us this 10am morning as he scooted ahead and we settked at +10-15 over the limit. But the jostling seemed to be the norm on our way through just five days prior.

        Thus time the white VW and black Fusion went sprinting off, passing me on the right before I had a chance to move from the left lane. I go to my new wife, ” look at this guys Sunday morning go at it!”. The black Fusion tucked in behind the sport bike with VW in tow at 85+ mph, then the red and blue lights popped through the dark tinted windows of the Fusion not more than 1/4 mile ahead as he pulled the bike over! Crazy stuff!

        • 0 avatar
          Nick 2012

          Indiana State Police have a few Mustangs – some with stripes – and occasionally get people unknowingly trying to get a Trooper to do a 40-roll.

          In construction zones, they’ll also use work trucks that look EXACTLY like Highway Department trucks.

          The ISP, unlike their OHP brethren, are generally reasonable on the speed enforcement front and you get caught for exceeding traffic’s speed, not so much an arbitrary number.

        • 0 avatar
          raph

          Dark window tint in VA is a dead give-away for a cop in an unmarked car since one of the easy ways to generate revenue in VA is to pull somebody with limo or near limo tint on the windows. Conversely non-police types tend not to use overly dark window tint.

          Whenever I approach a vehicle with dark window tint and VA plates I pay a little more attention to them as I ride by and generally its a cop.

      • 0 avatar
        Ion

        NY has the unmarked cars rule too. Most of the precincts in west Chester have figured out a way around it. “Ghost” cop cars are all white with white markings. In the day they blend in pretty well but at night the reflective markings stick out like a sore thumb.

        • 0 avatar
          npaladin2000

          Wappingers does black cars with black lettering and graphics. The state cops have unmarked SUVs anyway, I guess the grille mounted lighting counts as “marking.”

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      There is one way to tell any cop car. Look through it. If the barrier there, it is cop car. Although, few times I took small pickups for cops. And also taxis at night used to be resembling cop cars with their Crown Victorias

  • avatar
    mikedt

    On the plus side, so few civilians drive Explorers anymore, at least in my area, that if you see one it’s probably a cop. Same with Tauruses.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Lol, wat.

      • 0 avatar
        Adam Tonge

        Right…

        Even subtracting the police version, the Explorer is the best selling non-compact CUV.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          That may be true for the country as a whole, but in Maine, if you see an Explorer, chances are pretty good it’s a cop car – way better than 50%. For the Taurus I would put it at 90%+. Almost no agencies in the state are buying Taurus any more for patrol use – the Explorer just makes more sense for little more money.

          Having had both as rentals, I can’t imagine why a civilian would want either one. Too space inefficient for the exterior size and price. Evidently most of my fellow Mainers feel the same way.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            I assumed all the police cars in Maine would be E60s or Saabs.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            Used to be a fair number of Volvo 240s back in the day.

            E60s are quite rare in Maine. What is the point over a 3-series unless you are carting basketball players around? Plus ugly. No shortage of Saabs, but no Saab cop cars, have to go to CO for that.

    • 0 avatar
      Silent Ricochet

      This. Explorers aren’t common around my area either, for whatever reason. It seems like the local populace enjoys CUVs more than SUVs. I have a feeling that Explorers and Tauruses will become the new Crown Vics where everyone can instantly spot them from a mile away and slow down no matter what.

      And as long as they keep putting those mirror / spotlight things on the side of their cruisers, they’re not fooling anyone. As well as the wheels, which are a dead giveaway.

      • 0 avatar
        JimC2

        Actually, they are fooling plenty of people (not trying to be argumentative with you by saying this- I agree that they make cop cars stand out). Think of how often you see somebody getting a ticket. A lot of the time it’s a “not paying attention”* tax. You can pick out the spotlights and other cues but they’re not obvious to everybody else on the road.

        * Today is “be nice to people Tuesday” so I didn’t call it a something-else-tax.

    • 0 avatar
      SC5door

      I don’t have a specific production breakdown of Police vs “Production” U502, but I can assure you that the line here is not full of police versions. Same applies to the D258 Taurus.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      There will be local variations in what the police use. In Canada with the exception of some of the large cities and IIRC Ontario, policing is done by the RCMP. Their fleet has mostly Explorers and Taurus Fords and a large number of Tahoe’s. Suburbans tend to be for “special” duty like K9, ERT(SWAT), and rural. I’ve seen crewcab pickups but those are mostly rural. They have other stuff for “plain clothes” duty.
      I tend to slow down when ever I spot a plain Tahoe, Suburban or Exploder. Civilian stuff tends to have chrome grills and a bit more bling. I hate those Exploder “sport” packages because the monocromatic look screams cop car.

      Generally speaking, as long as one is within 10 kph of the posted speed limit they tend to leave you alone. Schools zones tend to be a zero tolerance area and should be.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      This is true where I live. I took few of them, black with blacked grill for a cop only to see some blond passing me.

      • 0 avatar
        Mandalorian

        To any non-cop considering buying an Explorer Sport- Don’t. It has a the same blacked-out grille as the police versions. Don’t drive a false alarm.

        • 0 avatar
          Lou_BC

          No worries. I don’t like the Explorer. If I wanted to play wannabe cop I’d get a white Tahoe.

          My mom used to have an 80’s era LeBaron. It was a blue colour similar to the police cars of the era. I had borrowed it to go out on the town because my truck was tied up in the shop.
          I was driving home at 2:30 AM after closing down the night clubs. I saw a sketchy dude with a gym bag plodding along. He sees me and freaks out and bolts down an alley. I play along by flashing the high beams like police wig wags. The guy is heaving the contents of his bag out into various yards at a full run then almost kills himself climbing a fence. It was hilarious.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Tahoe looks good in pearl white! Though I don’t really fancy the front fascia on either version right now.

  • avatar
    White Shadow

    Just the other day I was cruising at about 80 mph on the NJ Turnpike when I spotted a black Explorer closing in on me. From a distance, I was sure it was a cop because I could clearly see a light bar on top. Turns out it was a regular Joe with a Thule roof rack cross bar and it really wasn’t recognizable until the guy was almost on my bumper.

  • avatar
    la834

    The weird thing with the Crown Vic is that they went out of their way to make the Police Interceptor versions look different – the hexagonal grille texture and black rather than body-color paint between the taillamps were unique to the police version. At nighttime, the headlamp/parking lamp arrangement was often a giveaway if you knew what they looked like (I did), though the Grand Marquis looked the same and the Town Car was similar and both often fooled me. Of course any big Panther Ford was usually a cop, taxi, or limo.

    Now most local cop cars are Dodge Chargers, with some Impalas and Tauruses mixed in and an occasional Explorer.

    • 0 avatar
      Wunsch

      Ford still does that with their new police models. It’s more distinctive on the police version of the Taurus than the Explorer, though.

    • 0 avatar
      SC5door

      The grill is unique to the Explorer; specifically it’s designed for maximum cooling by adding a foam seal on the back to direct airflow and it looks different from the civilian version (a few components for the lower air dam are also unique for the police version). Also included on the police version is there are two snap in blanks along one of the accent bars that allow optional lights in the grill. Headlights do not include the LED accent strip. Tail lamps are the same as the civilian models, but are designed from the factory on some versions to accept a strobe light. Exhaust tips are not included, if the vehicle has the 3.5TT then it gets the crappy looking square outlets as shown in the photo along with the word “INTERCEPTOR” across the hood. I rarely see 3.5TT police units go down the line.

      D258 Taurus cars use a different front fascia assembly than the civilian version. They also use different tail lamps (incandescent bulbs, vs LED on civilian cars). The exhaust out the back do not include chrome tips unless it’s a twin turbo car. On both the Taurus and Explorer units, regardless of color of the vehicle, the rear parking sensors are flat black.

    • 0 avatar
      dividebytube

      Back when I used to roll in a white 2001 Grand Marquis I got a lot of double-takes. And people slowing down on the highway. It was worse at night.

      I didn’t buy that car for it’s cop-like look, but I did miss that effect when I sold her.

      Oddly enough, cops seemed to have left me alone too. Not sure if it was a Panther-love thing or else they just assumed I was an old fart.

  • avatar
    VoGo

    To Serve and Protect.

    And also Creep.

    • 0 avatar
      Kenmore

      If you ain’t done nothin’ wrong…..

      • 0 avatar
        npaladin2000

        …you get pulled over anyway. Funny how broad “probable cause” can be sometimes.

        • 0 avatar
          fvfvsix

          No kidding.. I once got pulled over for accelerating to the speed limit too quickly. LOL. I guess the cop thought he’d find some ignorant dude he could “develop” some PC on once I rolled down the windows. No ticket, of course.

          • 0 avatar
            npaladin2000

            Once I got pulled over for being “too close” to the double-yellow line in the road.

          • 0 avatar
            JimC2

            “Once I got pulled over for being “too close” to the double-yellow line in the road.”

            This is one of the things that is simply *never* enforced in the Florida panhandle. (I posted, in TTAC comments the other day, a rant about the habits of the panhandle’s worst drivers). If it *was* enforced, then about 1/4 of the local population would be nickeled and dimed out of driving while the other 3/4 would probably be able to get to their destinations a lot sooner. Seriously, a significant number of drivers there meander along with their wheels on or over the white shoulder line and/or the yellow centerline. A lot of single-vehicle wrecks in that area too… imagine that.

  • avatar
    npaladin2000

    Luckily, the cop rims are still distinctive.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    Revenue generation > Serving and protecting

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      As if! Serving and protecting is like, dangerous.

      Btw I’ve opined on it before but in most local cases the cost of running the car per hour cannot be made up by fines through “enforcement”, its just about f***ing with you the citizen. State patrol may be profitable.

      • 0 avatar
        DukeGanote

        It’s profitable or it wouldn’t happen. Linndale Ohio was pulling in $866K/year off I-71. Population… Under 200.
        http://www.cleveland.com/tipoff/index.ssf/2015/03/linndale_still_nabbing_speeder.html

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      Revenue Generation Matters!

      • 0 avatar
        raph

        Indeed! When Virginia was considering removing the long standing ban on radar detectors a lot of police types showed up and essentially said that this was how most of the small towns in Virginia get there operating capital and allow the use of radar detectors would bankrupt them.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    Our town has two new Tahoes (one silver and one black) with side graphics that are almost invisible, except that they’re reflective at night. They’re marked “Commercial Vehicle Enforcement” (18-wheelers/dump trucks/rock haulers) on the side, but they’re also used for speed enforcement in conjunction with motorcycle cops.

    The motorcycles pull over the speeders, then the Tahoes are used to nail drivers who don’t drop 20 mph below the speed limit or move over an extra lane when passing the motorcycle and citizen (state law).

  • avatar
    Wade.Moeller

    You don’t spot a cop by the equipment on their vehicle, you spot a cop by the way they drive their vehicle.

  • avatar
    319583076

    I-29 north of Council Bluffs is currently being patrolled by a murdered out no profile Charger or, more likely, Chargers. I haven’t interacted with any, so I don’t know what agency is running them, but I see them engaged in a traffic stop about every other day.

    On my commute, they’re easily recognizable.

    The only trouble I’ve had spotting Ford-driving cops is the army of jerkoffs driving Oxford White Explorers in whichever civilian spec that looks identical to the cop spec. You make them at a distance only to discover its a regular jerkoff after you’ve reacted.

  • avatar
    Boxerman

    Its all about revenue an should be illegal. Its a fact that police visibility reduces crime, so why have invisible police?

    Government and hypocarcy. It Gov wants respect it should behave acordingly. As it is we civillians are just a crop to harvest.

    • 0 avatar
      Drzhivago138

      Hypocarcy is a legitimate concern. But we should also be careful not to go too far the other way, lest we end up with hypercarcy.

    • 0 avatar
      multicam

      I’m surprised no one has mentioned Hawaii yet. It’s strange here; cops drive around their personal cars unmarked but with a small blue light bar on top. I see a huge mix of cars but all are four door (no Camaros a la Hawaii 5-0), and just now I saw a black Crown Vic with 16″ Bullitt-style rims on low profile tires pulling over an overloaded cargo truck.

      It’s weird. I’m not sure exactly how the money situation works, but I imagine the cops get some allowance then pay the difference, or the department pays for the car and the cop can buy it after he retires or something.

      Anyway, as far as tickets go, the fact that they’re all identifiable makes it seem like less of a cash grab here.

  • avatar
    stuki

    Perhaps the guy who got fired from Tesla, or someone else, can repurpose their cameras and recognition software for Cop Alert purposes….. And if not him, it sounds like a cool open source maker project for some civic minded hackers.

  • avatar
    lightbulb

    Many police departments, including the State police, in Massachusetts are buying more unmarked vehicles to have in their fleets. I also noticed many marked police vehicles are doing away with roof mounted lights, and only using flashing marker head/tail lights and interior mounted lights. I guess it saves them money if they can have the vehicle come from the factory with all the lights they need without having to buy aftermarket products.

  • avatar
    Joss

    Yet the jap cops go the other way with their roof bar on a kinda scissor raise hinge thingy. So they can be seen from further back if need be.

    I love the talking Japanese ambulance with different tones for residential and main roads.

    • 0 avatar
      raph

      That reminds me of the meme stating that everywhere else in the world police cars are marked so that they are easily identifiable in case toy need to locate the police but in the US they are unmarked so its easier for the police to make money.

      • 0 avatar
        lon888

        You’re right- you go the UK or other Euro/Asian areas and the cop cars are like day-glo red and yellow. And the cops actually wear fluorescent yellow jackets so that they can be easily spotted if needed. Our cops ear black because they’re just not “cops” but “urban warriors” and they “must” look menacing.

        Best protection is a Valentine One radar detector (I got two) and Waze.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    I don’t have an issue with low-profile police vehicles, as long as they’re not out just to harass people. Pulling someone over for 5 mph over the limit on the highway is ludicrous and a pain for everyone – it’s just a money shake-down, if you ask me.

    I am surprised by all the Ford Explorer police cars, though. I mean, weren’t the Crown Vics gas hogs? More so with an Explorer, I’m sure. The various agencies’ fuel bills must be horrendous.

    Hey! Maybe that’s why they’ve gone stealthy – they need the money for gas!

    • 0 avatar
      SC5door

      “I am surprised by all the Ford Explorer police cars, though. I mean, weren’t the Crown Vics gas hogs? More so with an Explorer, I’m sure. The various agencies’ fuel bills must be horrendous.”

      The Utility gets better mileage (with standard AWD), and the Taurus sedan even better in FWD 3.7L. Ecoboost AWD Sedan gets better mileage than the Crown Vic while completely mopping the floor with it.

    • 0 avatar
      DukeGanote

      But they are there *just* to harass you and profiteer, especially on holiday weekends– easily shown. In 2014 there were 1,780 traffic deaths on US rural interstates. That’s an average of 5 deaths per day over 29,095 miles of open road. Over a 4-day holiday, we’d expect an average of twenty (20) rural interstate deaths for the entire US. That’s less than one per State. Yet where are LEOs patrolling? Yeah, naturally where they can play with fast cars and neck-snapping acceleration forbidden to the plebeian masses: the safest rural roads in the US and modern engineering marvel– the Eisenhower Interstate system.

  • avatar
    manny_c44

    Luckily in Maryland cops all have a large orange ‘EZ PASS’ (an RF transponder for going through the tolls) glued to their front windshields. Regular people get white ones.

  • avatar
    snakebit

    I noticed in one BOS suburb I occasionally pass through have unmarked Taurus’s, but all have those ‘rainguards’on top of their doorglass. Considering the drought- a certain giveaway, and besides you can see inside mirror blue lights and rear shelf lights even through the full tint. Plenty of full black Exploders with like-color police decals. The state police also use unmarked Exploders, Taurus’s, Fusions, F-150s, Jeep Liberty’s and Cherokee’s. Unfortunately, many state inspection stations are letting go non-public safety vehicles who have full plus-40 percent tint even on front door glass. I know this from a tint-shop owner who himself won’t do full-tints on cars not owned by local police depts.

  • avatar
    zipper69

    There’s a bunch of these undercover Fords on the Sun Coast of Florida. All colors and totally anonymous.

    It’s actually possible to make out the extra light fittings, especially from behind.

  • avatar
    A4kev

    Yeah we’ve got a similar issue here in Quebec.Our provincial police run “Ghost cars” typically Chargers.They are painted in the same fashion as a modern fighter plane.Used to be that if you saw a Charger you were almost certain it was the revenuers but seems like the Charger is slowly catching on in Canada as it should, it’s made here and it’s a pretty solid beast – American style.just wish the cop’s didn’t like them so much !

  • avatar
    Justice_Gustine

    Radios are changing too. Used to be more alert if the CHP’s VHF high to VHF low repeater was in range. Now it never comes up on VHF. Went to digital or something I guess.

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