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Input Needed: Ford Five Hundred Special Service Vehicle

Ford Fleet is currently pursuing a special service vehicle (SSV) package for the 2008 model of its full-size Five Hundred four-door sedan. Ford has asked its Police Advisory Board for input, and in turn, we are asking our colleagues, the readers of Police Fleet Manager

, for input.

Some police fleets already include the Five Hundred, which was introduced in 2005. In fact, about 25% of large agencies (50 vehicles or more) are using the Ford Five Hundred for detective and admin use…and are happy with the room, performance and reliability. If your fleet doesn’t have a few, consider getting some as a pilot run.

The Five Hundred has the same front headroom and legroom as the Ford CVPI and slightly less front hip and shoulder room. However, the rear leg and headroom is larger. In a total passenger volume, the Five Hundred (108.3 cf) is larger than the Ford CVPI (106.4 cf) and the Chevy Impala (104.5 cf). The Five Hundred (21.2 cf) also has a larger trunk than the CVPI (20.6 cf) and Impala (18.6 cf). The Five Hundred is actually a larger, “EPA large car” than the Ford CVPI.

The Five Hundred is currently powered by a 203 hp, 3.0L V-6 teamed with a 6-speed auto and is available either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. It gets more than 20 mpg in light patrol and admin use.

What Does It Need?

What does the Five Hundred need for “special service” use? Take this one step further; what does it need for full “police package” use? (Based on Ford’s commitment to crash safety, any vehicle with a “police package” or “pursuit capable” rating will be rear crash tested at 75 mph.)

Some things are pretty obvious. For many kinds of police work, it needs a larger alternator than the retail 125 amp unit. Some agencies require admin and detective units to be upfitted with much of the same communications gear as a patrol unit, i.e., radios, MDT, etc. For these agencies, the Five Hundred may need to have a larger capacity electrical system, i.e., battery and alternator. Does it really need the massive 200-amp alternator from the CVPI for admin and special service duty?

Interior? How about internal wiring and lighting features? Should the special service or police package include an auxiliary dome light? High amp outlet in the trunk? Spotlight or dual spotlights?

Does the Five Hundred need any changes other than the need for bucket seats and column shifter for patrol use? What if a clever aftermarket console was available, like the ones available for the Explorer? If patrol duty requires a column (or dash) shifter, does admin use? What do you think? For special service use, does the Five Hundred need rubber floor mats? How about for patrol use? Same questions with a vinyl rear seat.

Certainly it needs a heavy-duty, firmer suspension. The “family car” suspension just doesn’t get it done for law enforcement. Just as certainly it needs police-spec, semi-metallic brakes. Both these will be necessary to pass the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s tests.

Certainly it needs high performance, all-season tires instead of standard touring-class tires. Less certain are the wheels. They need to be heavy duty, but do they need to be steel? The Mustang pursuit vehicle, for example, used alloy wheels for most of its police career. Alloy wheels allow better brake venting and heat dissipation. As long as it passes durability standards, do you care?

Is there a need in police work for the AWD version of the Five Hundred?

More Power!

The initial driving impression has left some fleet managers with the wrong impression about the power and performance of the Five Hundred. Or they simply listen to their drivers without challenging the comments. The 203 hp Five Hundred actually accelerates to 60 mph FASTER than the 250 hp Ford CVPI.

The Five Hundred may “seem” underpowered on paper, or just by looking at the engine, but not according to the stopwatch. The Five Hundred hits 60 mph between 8.0 and 8.5 seconds, compared to 8.8 seconds for the CVPI and reaches 100 mph in 21 seconds, compared to 24 seconds for the CVPI.

Of course, perception being reality, it doesn’t matter. The Five Hundred gets the 260 hp 3.5L V-6 in 2008; the year the special service package is being considered. The 2008 model year for the Five Hundred starts in May 2007!

That is more horsepower than the CVPI in a lighter vehicle…and with its 203 hp engine, it already out accelerates the CVPI. With the 260 hp engine, expect zero to 60 mph times in the low 7-second bracket.
The Five Hundred is currently speed limited to 106 mph. How fast does the special service vehicle need to go? Is 106 mph okay? How fast would the police package version need to go? Is 125 mph okay? Does it need to go faster?

Should the Five Hundred be E85 capable, i.e., a Flex Fuel Vehicle capable of running on ethanol like the Taurus?

What Does It Cost?

The Ford Five Hundred will never be priced as low as the Ford Taurus. Neither, for that matter, will the Ford Fusion. While both are being used as functional replacements for the Taurus, neither is anywhere near a price-point replacement.

The good news, however, is in the area of residuals. Automotive Lease Guide (ALG) is the leading provider of residual value information for fleet operations. According to ALG, the three-year residual value of the Five Hundred in commercial fleets is 46%. This compares to 41% for a comparable Impala 3.4L.

No, this is not a comparison to the Impala with the larger 3.8L engine used in its police version. No, this residual is not from police service. Yes, many fleets hold their cars until the wheels fall off. Yes, the funds from residuals go back to someone else’s budget or general fund in most police departments. All that said, the excellent residual value on the Five Hundred, in turn, says excellent things about the sedan.

Please give your comments on the Five Hundred to any Ford Police Advisory Board member (see the Web site), your Ford Fleet government account manager, or send an e-mail to Ed Sanow, editorial director of Police Fleet Manger

magazine, who is also a Police Advisory Board member, at

Published in Police Fleet Manager, Sep/Oct 2006

Rating : 5.7

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