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2006 Ford Fleet Preview

The semi-annual Ford Police Advisory Board was held in conjunction with the Ford Fleet Preview. The Fleet Preview is more than a police vehicle event. It is an all-fleet event, which is important since most police fleet managers buy more than large, 4-door sedans. The Fleet Preview involved 750 public and private sector fleet managers and a support staff from Ford, pushing the total to nearly 1,000 people.

For patrol cars, of course, the Ford CVPI was the focus of attention. For some admin and detective cars, attention was on the out-going Taurus, and the new Five Hundred. For other admin use, the new, mid-size Fusion was suggested. Finally, a wide variety of pickup trucks and vans were on-hand for special duty use and the support services.

One measure of Ford’s commitment to the police business and fleet operations is the executive staff that attends these kinds of fleet presentations. Greg Smith, Executive Vice President of North America Operations, was there. So were Hal Feder, Executive Director of North America Fleet, Lease and Remarketing Operations (NAFLRO), John Ruppert, Sales Operations Manager (and now General Manager of Commercial and Government Operations), Jerry Frick, Director of Fleet Sales Operations, John Treter, General Manager, Rental Operations, and Steve Lyons, Group Vice President, Marketing, Sales & Service-North America.

In addition to these executives were the names familiar to police fleet managers: Tony Gratson, Sales Manager, Government Sales; Kevin Fitzpatrick, Sales Manager, State & Local Government; Scott Clark, Modified Vehicle Specialist; Michael Blackmer, Police Vehicle Engineer; George Halow, Chief Engineer, Panther Platform; Jonathan Richards, Brand Manager, Crown Victoria; Fred Stallaert, Quality Assurance Manager, St. Thomas Assembly Plant, and every single Government Account Manger (GAM) with Ford Fleet.

17-inch Wheels for CVPI

New for the 2006 Ford CVPI, and the only major change, was 17-inch drop center wheels and tires. The 17-inch suspension uses exactly the same rotors and calipers as the earlier 16-inch platforms. The change to 17-inch wheels does not affect the tire clearance to the axle or inner fenders.

The 17-inch wheel was developed for a number of reasons. First, it was developed to replace the full-face design of the 16-inch wheel with a traditional offset or drop center design. This helps to spread the load over the wheel rim and greatly reduces the cracking risk. Second, the 17-inch wheel allows more airflow around the deeply inset brake rotors. The additional cooling provides better fade resistance for police friction material.

To tune the suspension with the 17-inch wheels, Ford made changes to the spring rates, shock valving, and power steering. The 17-inch tire has less sidewall flex and a faster response to steering input. Ford changed the steering response curve, the power steering boost curve, to match the faster responding tires. The vented, 17-inch wheels allow more cooling air to reach the deeply inset disc rotors.

The OE tires are Goodyear Eagle RS-A. An RS-A “Plus” is not available in this size. The change to 17-inch wheels also results in the demand for 17-inch, V-rated snow tires. At least two are under preliminary test by Ford: the Pirelli Sottozero Winter 240 and the Goodyear Ultra Grip GW-2. The Pirelli passed the 32-lap torture test during Los Angeles County Sheriff testing. The Goodyear version is pending.

The latest generation 16-inch wheels, the shot-peened version, are available in both 7-slot and 12-slot versions. This allows the department with dog dish wheel covers to maintain a uniform appearance. The latest 7-slot wheel is part number 3W7Z-1007-F and is stamped 3W73 1007 CG. The latest 12-slot wheel is marked 5W7Z-1007-AA and is stamped 5W73 1007 AA. The number is marked on a raised surface on the outside of the wheel between two lug holes.

Trim Cover Delete

Also for 2006, the CVPI engine trim cover has been deleted. Removing the engine cover, along with a new software calibration improves engine cooling and eliminates fuel vaporization issues resulting from extended cooling.

The new Fire Suppression System (FSS), a $2500 option, was discussed. This system, available for the 2006 Ford CVPI, is not retrofittable to earlier models. The frame, springs, tail pipe assembly, and park brake cable are all different. The CVPI equipped with the FSS cannot use most plastic rear seats, as currently designed. FSS-equipped cars have precautionary safety procedures, similar to those dealing with air bags, when maintenance is performed on the vehicle.

For 2006, the CVPI has a revised dash and gauge cluster. A tachometer (shared with the retail car) is now standard. Importantly, the oil pressure gauge and battery charge gauge have been replaced by warning lights. For years, these have been “flat response” gauge, i.e., on-off binary gauges rather than actual readings. There is little practical difference between a pegged, flat response gauge and an illuminated “idiot” light. In fact, the light is supposed to draw attention faster to the casual driver than the movement of a needle on a gauge.

Also new for 2006 is a new rear bearing design. The original 2003 axle was the subject of a Technical Service Bulletin and campaign, which involved a larger bearing and a larger diameter axle shaft. For 2006, the bearing itself was moved slightly in-board. This made the bearing surface area contact with the axle larger, i.e., less of a line contact under heavy load. The 2006 bearing system is 2.5 times more durable.

Also new for the 2006 Ford CVPI is an engine idle hour meter. Again, this measures time at idle, and not total operating hours. The idle meter is activated when the gear selector is in Park or in Neutral. The idle meter is disconnected when the gear selector is in Drive or in Reverse. The idle hour meter is intended to be a maintenance and duty cycle tool. Ford research indicated one hour of idling is equal to driving 33 miles.


The PAB members spent a lot of time discussing possible powertrain options for the Ford CVPI. These mostly focused on the use of a metal matrix driveshaft to boost the top speed of the 3.55 geared CVPI.

In the end, there appeared to be too little difference in acceleration to 60 mph and to 100 mph between the 3.27 geared car and the 3.55 geared car to justify an upcharge for the matrix driveshaft. In the 2005 MSP tests, the 3.27 car was just 0.3-sec and 0.4-sec behind the 3.55 car in zero to 60 mph and zero to 100 mph times. During the 2006 MSP tests, these differences were 0.3-sec and 0.7-sec, respectively. The 3.27 CVPI reaches 130 mph with a light bar and produces better fuel economy than a 3.55 geared CVPI.

Service Issues

Scott Clark covered basic service issues. He noted that the CVPI is filled at the factory with Motorcraft 5W-20, and that 5W-20 is the recommended oil. The recommended severe duty oil change interval for the CVPI is 3000 miles, regardless if the oil used is organic, semi-synthetic or synthetic. He specifically cautioned against the use of any oil additives whatsoever. This caution is also in the Owner’s Manual.

OE brake pads must meet federal standards (FMVSS 135) for braking. This includes a maximum braking distance without power (vacuum) assistance. According to Ford, the vast majority of aftermarket brake pads do not meet this federal standard. They don’t have to, but Ford’s OE pads do. In addition, Ford OE pads are qualified for police duty through LASD and MSP certification testing.

Many state police (Michigan), highway patrol (California), large city (Houston), and large county (Los Angeles) departments have tried other kinds of pads, but now specify the OE semi-metallic pad. Others (Arizona Highway Patrol, New York State Police, York Regional Police) use the OE pad strictly for liability reasons.

Overdrive band problems continue to be a problem for state and highway cars. Some of this can be traced to the software reflashing (per the TSB) being done incorrectly. Specifically, the overdrive band must be inspected for pre-existing damage before the clamping pressure is increased by the reflashing. Increasing the line pressure on a damaged OD band simply speeds up the failure. For 2007, the OD band will be changed to a tougher friction material.

Electrolysis, a chemical reaction in the engine coolant, came up again. Left unchecked, this can cause heater core leaks. This was covered in TSB 01-15-06, and is strictly a grounding issue. It is also critical that the proper coolant be used. Finally, after proper equipment grounding, all coolant must be replaced. If any old, electrically charged coolant is left in the system, the chemical reaction will immediately resume.

All TSBs, SSMs, and campaigns are on the Ford Fleet website. So is the 2006 Police Modifier’s Guide. For service issues, Ford Fleet urged fleet managers to FIRST fill out an on-line concern report. This receives the most attention (reviewed daily) and is the best way to track and trend concerns.

Explorer and Escape Hybrid

For 2006, the Ford Explorer has been significantly restyled and reengineered. It has a new grille, one million candlepower head lights and front end. In fact, 70% of the sheet metal is new. The 2006 Explorer has a new front suspension and steering geometry 18-inch wheels and tires and a new, stiffer hydro-formed frame. The longer from end adds crush zone for safety and better airflow for less wind noise. The interior is much more like the upscale F-150 truck and it has larger outside mirrors.

For 2006, the optional V-8 is the 300 hp, 4.6L, 3-valve V-8 from the Mustang GT. The only downside, and one to reckon with, is that the Explorer is only available with a center console and floor shifter. No console delete, or column shift option exists. However, aftermarket consoles that accept police gear and work around the floor shifter are being developed.

The Explorer comes standard with Roll Stability Control and side curtain airbags. These airbags remain inflated for a full six seconds, since they are intended to provide protection for both side impacts and rollovers.

Some police departments, or other government entities, use the Escape Hybrid for parking enforcement, campus patrol, or similar non-pursuit or low speed use in “green” jurisdictions. For both economy and utility reasons, this is a good match.

However, mounting any electrical-powered emergency equipment in the Hybrid car may be extremely problematic. The official word from Ford Fleet is to only pull power from the 12V cigarette lighter or the 110V receptacle by the rear battery. Do not tap into any existing wiring harnesses, bus lines, or fuse boxes. Do not pull power directly from the battery. The hybrid electric cars are much more electronically complex and very different from even the sophisticated, computer-latent police and special service vehicles.

If you can’t power the communications, enforcement, or emergency gear from the cigarette lighter, don’t install it. The electrical system is too integrated with, and interdependent on, the drivetrain to permit the slightest upfit error. Turn the lightbar on and the gasoline engine stops. Key the mike on the radio and the hybrid electric motor starts. One week after the install and the $6000 battery is dead. You get the idea.

Ride & Drive

One of the Ride & Drive experiences was the Roll Stability Control (RSC) system in the 15-passenger E-series van, the E-350 Extended Wagon. While electronic stability control is used by Ford, DaimlerChrysler, and General Motors, the Ford system has a unique feature. All these systems use ABS logic, traction control input and a sensor for lateral yaw as information for the stability control system. To these, Ford adds a vehicle roll motion sensor. Body roll is different than vehicle yaw; the gyroscopic roll sensor monitors the body roll 150 times per second.

All helmeted and strapped in to a 15-passenger van with special outriggers for safety, fleet managers experienced a variety of once-dangerous, rollover-inducing maneuvers. These included a sudden, full wheel turn (i.e., J-turn) at 50 mph, a 60 mph, single lane change evasive maneuver, a 50 mph straight line slalom, a constant radium skid pad circle and a 45-mph, and an offset lane change and recovery (i.e., change lanes then change back accident avoidance drill).

All of these have been performed both in the wet and the dry and in both fully loaded and empty cargo conditions. The J-turn, especially, was an eye-opener. Those agencies that use vans to transport prisoners, field SWAT teams, or deploy CSI units should seriously consider this stability control feature.

Street Drive

Ford Fleet had a large number of their mid-size Fusion sedans available for a drive on the public roads near the Las Vegas Speedway. We selected the model with a 221 hp, 3.0L DOHC V-6 teamed with a 6-speed auto. A 160 hp, 2.3L Inline Four with a 5-speed auto or manual is also available. The Fusion uses a long wheelbase version of the (incredible) Mazda 6 platform. The Fusion is assembled in Hermosillo, Mexico.

On an EVOC road course, you can slam on the brakes, toss the car sideways around a corner, and spin the tires at launch. This is what the road course is all about...aggressive driving that tests the performance limits of the car. But this doesn’t answer the question of how the car drives under normal street driving, the way these admin-oriented cars will be driven virtually all the time. For that answer, you need city streets, state roads, and interstates.

Street driving loop was an excellent opportunity to drive the car at our own pace, with no pressure, on real streets, at real speeds. The 12 mile loop included a wide cross-section from the city streets inside the massive speedway infield to local state roads (NV 604) with regular traffic and traffic signals, to Interstate 15.

The Street Drive results in 20 to 30 minutes in the car. It gave time to use the Jackie Stewart “single element analysis” approach to a ride & drive...concentrate on one aspect of the car at a time. First, focus on noise, hardness and vibration. Then, focus on steerability. Then concentrate completely on visibility. Then on engine responsiveness. Then on front seat comfort and ergonomics. Then on braking. You get the idea.

Track Drive

In addition to the Street Drive, the Ride & Drive also included a Track Drive. This took place on the long road course laid out on the infield of the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. This course allowed speeds of at least 75 mph, and included short straight, high-speed sweeping turns and tight S-turns.

The course was open and fast enough to activate the electronic stability control systems (ESC) on the cars so equipped. ESC, by various trade names, is the latest driver safety device. The next step beyond ABS and traction control, ESC virtually eliminates single-car crashes, i.e., the car understeering or oversteering off the roadway.

Ford Division vehicles included Focus, Fusion, Five Hundred, Taurus, and Crown Victoria Sport. Also, the Escape, Escape Hybrid, Freestyle, Freestar, Explorer, and Expedition. Also, a wide variety of F-150 and F-250 Super Duty in 2WD and 4X4, in 2-door and 4-door. Finally, the E-150 cargo van and LCF truck.

Since this was also oriented to commercial, private sector fleets for each of the Ford marque vehicles, they also provided all of the Mercury and Lincoln counterparts. The Jaguar X-type and a wide variety of Volvo sedans and SUVs rounded out the pool of vehicles. Virtually every passenger vehicle made by Ford Motor Company was available...Ford, Lincoln, Mercury, Jaguar, Volvo, Mazda, and Land Rover.

At the Track Drive, lots of attention was on the (awesome) Escape Hybrid. The new mid-size Fusion and full-size Five Hundred were also the choice of many, as was the Crown Victoria Sport. Of course, Ford’s Premier Auto Group cars like the Jaguar X-type 3.0L AWD were never idle.

Off Road Event

The infield also included an interesting Off-Road event that tested the capability of the trucks and SUVs and the nerve of the driver. Vehicles for the Off-Road event include the entire range of F-150 and Super Duty pickups, all of Ford’s SUVs and the high-end SUVs from Land Rover.

The Off-Set Bumps taken at 35 mph focused on the ride quality and emphasized the benefits of an independent rear suspension (Explorer, Expedition). Likewise, the Log Walk taxes ride quality and suspension travel. The Angle Berms also tested suspension performance and stability on a fairly steep angle.

Finally, the Double Hill Climb and the Big Hill tested the ground clearance, approach, and departure angles, and the sheer ability to climb a steep hill. The Big Hill especially was no marketing ploy. It was steep enough to tax the pickups and dirt spun back from all four tires often evidenced.

The Ride & Drive also included a couple hot laps around the high speed oval in the 300 hp Mustang GT. Speeds reached 100 mph as a veteran race driver or police instructor riding as the passenger gave the fleet manager high speed driving tips. Cruising at 100 mph on a NASCAR super speedway is a unique driving experience.

Published in Police Fleet Manager, Jan/Feb 2006

Rating : Not Yet Rated

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