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Ford’s NextGen Police Interceptor

Ford just revealed the replacement for its 1978-2011 Crown Victoria Police Interceptor (CVPI)— the 2013 Ford Police Interceptor Concept. The CVPI will go out of production after August 2011. Importantly, and repeatedly emphasized by Ford Fleet, the NextGen Police Interceptor (NGPI) Concept is not a Taurus. Even at the earliest concept stage, the NGPI had more than 200 unique parts and processes different from the retail Taurus. Listening to their Police Advisory Board, Ford made at least 100 more changes before the nationwide “reveal” in March 2010 to make it even more purpose-built. At least 100 more are in the works as the development continues. The NGPI is not a Taurus, it is a Police Interceptor, a stand-alone vehicle. Ford’s famous D3 Platform is just the starting point for the next Police Interceptor Concept. The two sedans even use different door hinge designs!

The Police Interceptor Concept is scheduled to be built in the Chicago Torrance Avenue Assembly Plant, which is Ford’s longest continuing operating assembly plant. This assembly plant was completely retooled as a flexible manufacturing site in 2005, and it has some of the highest quality ratings of any Ford plant.

The Police Interceptor Concept is very much “Made in the USA.” The standard 3.5L engine is made in Lima, OH while the optional 3.5L EcoBoost engine is made in Brookpark, OH, home of Ford’s famous 351 Cleveland engine. The 6-speed auto is built in Sterling Heights, MI. The final assembly plant is in Chicago.

The Police Interceptor Concept has something for every police department. It is planned to have an economical 263 hp V6 in a Front Wheel Drive layout. Ford has not had a V6 or a FWD offering in a police package for almost 20 years. Police departments that prefer the V6 and FWD powertrain can once again look to Ford.

The Police Interceptor Concept is also planned to have All-Wheel Drive as an optional drivetrain with the base V6. To date, no police sedan has ever had the option of AWD. This has a number of benefits. The obvious one is better traction at all speeds under all weather conditions and on all road surfaces compared to either FWD or RWD. The AWD sedan doesn’t have the ground clearance that a 4x4 SUV has, but it has the traction, and of course, it handles better and offers a much more comfortable ride than any SUV.

Finally, the Police Interceptor Concept is also planned to have a 365 hp 3.5L V6. Called the EcoBoost and currently available in the 2010 retail Taurus SHO, this twin turbo engine makes this D3 Platform sedan as fast as the 5.7L HEMI® V8 Charger. Really.

Three Different Drivetrains

The standard 263 hp 3.5L V6 engine comes standard with a Front Wheel Drive layout. AWD is an option on this V6. The 365 hp V6 engine is a different option, which comes standard with the AWD. The result is three very different cars. The 263 hp FWD version promises to have the lowest initial cost, the lowest operating cost (by 1 mpg) and the least complex drivetrain (in terms of maintenance and repair).

The AWD system on the new Police Interceptor Concept is pure magic. AWD is an option with the 263 hp 3.5L V6, and AWD comes standard with the 365 hp 3.5L EcoBoost V6. Compared to any FWD sedan, this AWD sedan is a whole different experience. In fact, this AWD sedan feels every bit like a RWD sedan. When driven aggressively, the front wheels pull in the direction the driver wants to go (like any FWD) and the rear wheels push the car hard (like any RWD).

No FWD sedan can ever drive like a RWD sedan, but the AWD Police Interceptor Concept certainly feels like it! When driven hard, AWD actually feels better than RWD because the car is easier to control. The AWD gives a real sense of confidence to the driver.

During laps around both of Ford’s Proving Grounds, and 1,000 miles of traffic enforcement, the AWD sedan had neutral handling. It doesn’t tail-wag (oversteer) under heavy acceleration during cornering like a RWD. However, not even the RWD cars will do that in the future because federally-mandated stability control will put a stop to that.

The AWD is not just for snow. It is for any road surface that is not dry and paved. Think about wet roads from rain and the possibility of hydroplaning in spots of pooled water. Think about gravel roads and sandy beaches. Think about grassy or muddy medians. And yes, think about light snow, deep snow and icy patches. The 263 hp AWD Police Interceptor Concept promises to be Ford’s best all-around patrol vehicle.

EcoBoost Turbo Durability

Some fleet managers may have a concern about the use of EcoBoost turbocharging in police cars. Police cars have never had turbochargers or superchargers. What about heat build up? What about bearing problems? What about driving at Wide Open Throttle responding to a call then shutting the engine off?

Just as the new retail Taurus and the NextGen Police Interceptor Concept offer a 30-year jump in technology over the old Crown Victoria and Ford CVPI, the turbo reliability in severe service has also greatly improved. Forget the turbo reliability issues from the 1980s. Those were solved by water-cooled bearings in the 1990s.

During Ford’s Road Cycle Durability dyno tests, the EcoBoost engine was started cold, run at peak power output with the engine coolant maintained at 50 deg F, then cold started and run at peak power with the coolant maintained at 200 deg F. It passed 1,000 hours, or 60,000 miles, of this testing.

In another test, the EcoBoost engine was run at Wide Open Throttle and at maximum turbo boost for 10 minutes and then abruptly shut off. The turbos and the oil in and around the turbos were allowed to “bake” until the engine cooled off. Then the same test was repeated 1,500 times without an oil change. After all this, all the turbo components were inspected. They passed.

No special oil is needed. The EcoBoost uses the same 5W-20 petroleum (non-synthetic) oil as the Ford CVPI. And the oil change interval is 7,500 miles, which is longer than the Ford CVPI.

Interior Room

Once seated, the Police Interceptor Concept is very comfortable when wearing plain clothes. It has plenty of front seat track travel in addition to foot, knee, shoulder and head room. The only concern is hip room. Wearing a full duty belt, the front seat of the Police Interceptor Concept is not as “roomy” as the Ford CVPI.

The space reserved between the front seats is identical to the current CVPI. It promises to accommodate the standard aftermarket CVPI police consoles and gear. This will allow more room for the holstered gun on a right handed officer and still allow for proper upfit of radios and controllers in the console. The Police Interceptor Concept uses a tilt but not telescoping steering wheel. The steering column mounted gear selector prevents the telescoping function.

The Police Interceptor Concept, while still very much under development, has close to “best in class” rear seat room. With the sleek rear roofline, the rear head room is minimal. The thinner, plastic aftermarket seat used on so many police cars will help both issues. So will further development of the Concept vehicle.

The front A-pillars and the middle B-pillars on the Police Interceptor Concept are a bit thick and wide, but the visibility out of the Police Interceptor Concept is generally acceptable. Though the visibility forward and upward (to see a traffic light) is a bit limited for a tall driver. The rear window is also a bit small in its own right. However, do not be influenced by the retail Taurus when it comes to rear visibility. Again, as in so many ways, the Police Interceptor Concept is different from a retail car, in this case, in terms of rear headrests. The result is acceptable rear visibility from the Police Interceptor Concept.

The rear doors on the Police Interceptor Concept are hinged to open wider than the current retail Taurus, 71 degrees versus 62 degrees. We actually found it easier to put a prisoner into the rear seat of the new Police Interceptor Concept than the current Ford CVPI.

The NGPI concept has exactly the same trunk volume as the current CVPI. A full-sized spare tire is standard. Since the spare is below the flat load floor, the NGPI trunk spare is more useful.

Police Package

Heads-up! The heavy-duty, pursuit-capable, police package is still under development. It will differ from anything used in a retail Taurus. Ford’s Police Advisory Board has been hands-on for two years, and will continue to be so until the police version is released.

The floor-mounted shifter will move from the center console to the steering column. The police version will not have a floor shifter. The goal is for the configuration of the center console and instrument panel to be high-tech compatible with modern police gear, i.e., emergency equipment controllers and communications.

The police seat will be designed around a person wearing a full duty belt. The Police Interceptor Concept seat has ample cutouts for the duty belt and the right and left side holster.

The police package suspension is also still under development. The starting point for the police spring rates, shock valving and sway bar torsion is the Taurus SHO High-Speed suspension. The suspension will be further tuned for police performance, including electronic stability control. The brakes will be designed to pass both the Michigan State Police and Los Angeles County Sheriff braking tests. The tires are planned to have the performance and tread life of the Goodyear Eagle RS-A. The Police Interceptor Concept has 18-inch tires.

Ford’s goal with its NextGen police vehicle has always been that it must perform as well as the Ford CVPI, and that includes both horsepower and drivetrain and chassis durability. With the standard 263 hp, 3.5L V6 engine, we confirmed the 2013 Police Interceptor Concept has the same overall performance as the Ford CVPI.

With the optional 365 hp, 3.5L EcoBoost V6, the Police Interceptor Concept has the same overall performance as the HEMI Charger. We verified it with our own stopwatch. The version we drove hit 60 mph in 6.0 seconds and 100 mph in 15.0 seconds. The Michigan State Police figures for the HEMI Charger are 6.0 seconds and 14.2 seconds, respectively.

Ford also announced that a pursuit-rated Utility Police Interceptor is under development. More details will be available in the Fall. Both the NGPI and the Utility Police Interceptor will be at the Michigan State Police and Los Angeles County Sheriff tests this Fall.

Driving Impressions

We have had a couple of chances to drive the 3.5L AWD and the EcoBoost Police Interceptor Concept at various stages of development. (And the development is continuing.) After each drive, and some involved many miles and very high speeds, the driving impressions have all been the same—that this is one awesome sedan.

The steering is very responsive and very predictable. The EcoBoost version of the Police Interceptor Concept is very easy to drive hard. It does extremely well in evasive maneuvers (sudden lane change, then change back) and in accident avoidance maneuvers (sudden lane change) even at very high speeds. Handling-wise, think 4-door special service package Mustang.

Part of the handling prowess is the ride height. The Police Interceptor Concept in AWD has a fairly low center of gravity for an AWD vehicle. The Police Interceptor Concept is quick, quiet and smooth. It gives the driver a feeling of confidence in the way it handles and brakes.

The 6-speed transaxle is excellent. The drivetrain never seemed to “search” for the right gear. It always seemed to quickly and easily get to the best gear for the powerband and the throttle demand.

During heavy acceleration from a full stop, the 365 hp Police Interceptor Concept does not exhibit any of the old torque steer common in less developed vehicles. This is a major accomplishment. The car squirms a bit, balancing all that horsepower and torque front to rear, left to right. But this is not something the typical driver would notice. So, how do 365 hp and wet pavement mix with this vehicle? In standing water on the road, we gave the EcoBoost version of the Police Interceptor Concept a light power-brake and then full throttle from a dead stop. Instant acceleration. Zero wheelspin. Nice.

“Vehicles built to do the job by those on the job.” Is it December 2011 yet?

Published in Law and Order, Mar 2010

Rating : 8.0

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