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Ford Special Service Police Sedan 2.0L

A new Special Service Police (SSP) package is available for the Ford Taurus in mid-2014. This admin-oriented sedan is based around the economical 2.0L EcoBoost I4 engine. The entire purpose of the Special Service Police Sedan is to be a police package durable, full-size sedan with the lowest operating cost for police admin use.

“Not every police officer needs pursuit-rated vehicles, and as agencies look to replace older, less-efficient V8-equipped cruisers with more efficient vehicles, Ford wants to offer the most efficient, full-size police vehicle available,” said Jonathon Honeycutt, Fleet Marketing Manger for Ford’s North American Fleet, Lease and Remarketing Operations.

Like most “special service” packages, the SSP Sedan is midway between the retail Taurus and the police package Police Interceptor Sedan. The SSP Sedan has the PI Sedan suspension, spring rates, brakes, wheels and interior. Only the engine, tires and alternator are different. The sedan also uses Active Grill Shutters that manage airflow to optimize the balance between engine cooling and aerodynamics for fuel economy.

Instead of a police-spec V6 engine, the SSP Sedan uses the retail 2.0L EcoBoost I4 engine. This engine is more fuel efficient than the 3.5L V6, 3.7L V6 and 3.5L EcoBoost V6 versions of the Police Interceptor Sedan. In fact, this EcoBoost 4-cylinder engine makes the most fuel efficient full-size sedan from any of the three police car companies. The 2.0L EcoBoost I4 is also used in the Focus, Fusion, Taurus, Escape, Edge and Explorer.

The SSP Sedan shares many routine maintenance parts for the driveline and chassis with the PI Sedan and PI Utility. Any police option available on the PI Sedan is also an option on the SSP Sedan.

The SSP Sedan is non-pursuit rated. According to Ford, the SSP Sedan is OK for short pursuits and for short amounts of emergency driving. (The average length of a pursuit is 5 1/2 minutes based on IACP data. The average maximum top speed is 66 mph.) While the SSP Sedan is not pursuit-rated, it has been tested at 75 mph rear, offset crashes like both the PI Sedan and PI Utility.

The addition of the 2.0L EcoBoost engine means that agencies will now have four choices of powertrains in the Police Interceptor Sedan. In addition to the 240 hp 2.0L EcoBoost I4 FWD, these include a 288 hp, 3.5L Ti-VCT V6 FWD, a 305 hp, 3.7L Ti-VCT V6 AWD and 365 hp, 3.5L EcoBoost V6 AWD.

Maximum Fuel Economy

With the SSP Sedan, Ford is targeting the police admin fleet, which is 20 percent of the total police fleet. These vehicles can be non-pursuit, but need to have maximum fuel economy in a full-size sedan. The EPA estimates for the SSP Sedan are 20 mpg City / 30 mpg Highway / 24 mpg Combined. The standard engine on the pursuit-rated PI Sedan is the 3.7L Ti-VCT V6, which has EPA Estimates of 18 mpg City / 25 mpg Highway / 21 mpg Combined. The 2.0L I4 uses 35 percent less gasoline than the 3.7L V6 at idle.

The SSP Sedan also beats the fuel economy of both the Impala 9C1 with 18 mpg City / 30 mpg Highway and the Charger Pursuit V6 with 18 mpg City / 27 mpg Highway. The 2.0L EcoBoost I4 engine is a $600 option. Based on the EPA estimates of both the 3.5L V6 and 3.7L V6 engines in the PI Sedan, 2.0L EcoBoost option will more than pay for itself. Heads-up: The 2.0L EcoBoost I4 is not E85-capable, not FlexFuel rated.

18-Inch Retail Tires

One of the minor differences between the SSP Sedan and the PI Sedan is the use of a retail tire instead of a police-spec tire. The SSP Sedan uses a narrower, Michelin P235/55 tire, compared to the normal Goodyear P245/55 tire. The Goodyear Eagle RS-A on the PI Sedan is a “high-performance all-season” tire, which is all about balanced wet and dry performance under patrol conditions.

On the other hand, the smaller Michelin Pilot HX MXM4 on the SSP Sedan is a “grand touring all-season” tire, which is all about maximum fuel economy—the entire purpose of this full-size sedan. It is understood that this low-rolling resistance Michelin tire was needed to achieve the gas mileage targets for both the retail Taurus and the SSP Sedan. However, these are lousy tires even for routine admin use.

During our time with the SSP Sedan, we had two days of rain and one day of snow. We noticed a big difference in adverse weather traction between the “touring” Michelin and the “performance” Eagle RS-A used on our other police sedans. On dry pavement, they have fair to good dry traction. On slippery roads, the traction is poor to fair. These strictly retail tires should definitely be replaced with better tires before they wear out. The Eagle RS-A from the PI Sedan will fit…and these are on every state bid.

The other minor difference between the SSP Sedan and the PI Sedan is the alternator. The SSP Sedan uses a 200 amp alternator compared to the 220 amp version in the PI Sedan. The admin-oriented sedan will obviously have less, if any, upfitted emergency gear demanding more current.

Steering & Handling Course

We did a two-part evaluation of the SSP Sedan—first on Ford’s Dearborn test track, and then a week of actual admin use. To begin, we drove the SSP Sedan on Ford’s Steering and Handling Perimeter course at the Dearborn Development Center. We compared the 240 hp, 2.0L I4 SSP Sedan to the 250 hp, 4.6L V8 Ford CVPI.

The Steering and Handling Perimeter course was designed strictly for engineering development. It is not a race track—it is a proving ground tool. It has some extremely difficult turns, curves, dips, rises and transitions. With very little effort, you can bottom out the chassis and seconds later find yourself airborne…while turning.

To reward you for making it through the tight and awkward parts, the course opens up to a nice straight and a very high-speed sweeping turn. Here is the bottom line: If the vehicle has any weak areas in handling, steering, acceleration or braking, this test track will find it immediately.

First, we drove the Ford CVPI. Yep, driven them for 20 years and know everything about how they work on the street. No surprises whatsoever. The Ford CVPI is the nation’s benchmark for police cars.

Next, the SSP Sedan. We were prepared to be underwhelmed by a full-size sedan with a 4-cylinder engine. Instead, the laps around the engineering development course produced a big surprise. The SSP Sedan had clearly better acceleration and throttle response, better brakes and better handling than the Ford CVPI.

Torque Without Torque Steer

The Special Service Police Sedan is available as a FWD only. Even though one section of the Steering & Handling course is a tight hairpin, the SSP Sedan did not behave like a FWD on two accounts.

First, there was no torque steer even though the 2.0L EcoBoost engine has as much torque as the 3.7L V6 and more torque than the 3.5L V6. The 2.0L turbo I4 also has 91 percent of the torque of the 4.6L V8 in the Ford CVPI…and gets it at just 2500 rpm instead of the V8’s 4000 rpm.

The SSP Sedan did not have that other irritating trait with most FWD cars: excessive understeer or push. In fact, it was hard to tell the FWD 2.0L SSP Sedan from the AWD 3.7L PI Sedan. Of course, you could make the SSP Sedan understeer, but it took a deliberate effort using the worst style of driving. In typical police admin use, even when in a hurry, the PI Sedan SSP won’t understeer. Ford calls it Torque Vectoring Control and Curve Control. It works.

Torque Vectoring Control and Curve Control, standard on all the Taurus models, are two separate enhancements to AdvanceTrac® with electronic stability control (ESC). Torque Vectoring Control transfers torque to the wheels that have the most grip. It uses braking to adjust the speed between the front wheels while you are accelerating through a corner, forcing the front end to hug the inside of the curve and provide a better grip.

Curve Control will slow you down when it senses that you’re going too fast into a particular curve. Employing throttle reduction and 4-wheel braking intervention, it is always active in helping you maintain control. The SSP Sedan may be a FWD-only sedan but it has a very balanced feel, even on the proving ground course designed to show any shortcoming.

Admin Ergonomics

The SSP Sedan is an excellent solution specifically for admin use. We drove the SSP Sedan 2.0L every day for a solid week and put 1,200 miles on it. The SSP Sedan and PI Sedan do not have the easiest entry-exit for taller or bigger officers. The SSP and PI Sedans have a restrained front-door opening width and B-pillar moldings that make entry-exit a bit tight. Ford is aggressively resolving both issues. For 2015, new B-pillar trim pieces make entry-exit much, much easier. The new for 2015 police seats have reduced seat bottom and seat back bolsters, again, making entry-exit easier.

That said, the less frequent entry-exit during typical police admin use makes this less of an issue than it might be for typical patrol use. While the PI Sedan interior is a bit tight with a full duty belt, body armor and shoulder mic, the SSP Sedan has enough room for a plainclothes detective or other admin use. The SSP Sedan comes standard with a six-way power driver’s seat, a tilt/tele steering wheel, and adjustable pedals.

The SSP Sedan has the same limited rear window visibility as the PI Sedan; however, both the Reverse Sensing System and the Rear View Camera are options. Make those “must-have” options.

Driving Impressions

Our driving was typical of admin use—no traffic enforcement, only a little idling, urban rush hour, lots of suburban stop & go, and some interstate highway driving. During our 1,200 miles of mixed driving, we averaged 22.6 mpg.

Around the city, the SSP Sedan had instant throttle response in traffic, and on the highway, the 2.0L EcoBoost had plenty of passing performance. The SSP Sedan has extremely responsive steering, and excellent overall handling. Entrance and exit ramps just showed how perfect the basic platform is. Accident avoidance drills and emergency evasive maneuvers were confidence inspiring.

The SSP Sedan cruised effortlessly even at high interstate speeds. Not once during the entire test & evaluation did we feel the SSP Sedan was under-powered in any way or slow to respond to the throttle. The ride comfort was what you would expect from Ford’s largest sedan.

Every single one of the dozen criminal justice admins who drove the SSP Sedan during the week commented on how much power it had. A few knew it had a turbo-4, most did not. Most commented on how well it handled—driving the car like the demo that it was—and none knew it was FWD-only.

The 2.0L EcoBoost I4 in the SSP Sedan accelerates midway between the 3.5L Ti-VCT V6 and the 3.7L Ti-VCT V6 while getting better mileage than either. The SSP Sedan hits 60 mph in 7.0 seconds and 100 mph in 19.1 seconds. Those two numbers smoke the Ford CVPI and rival every V6-powered police package sedan.

The SSP Sedan is speed-limited to 120 mph, which is plenty for any admin-use vehicle, police package or not. With the combination of progressive turbo boost and excellent 6-speed gear ratio selection, the SSP Sedan pulled hard in every gear all the way to 110 mph.

The SSP Sedan with the 2.0L EcoBoost engine is one of those perfect fits for a police fleet niche, which just do not come along all that often. The SSP Sedan gets the best fuel economy of any full-size sedan. It has plenty of power for even aggressive admin use. We like virtually everything about the SSP Sedan. The Special Service Police 2.0L Sedan in one word? Impressive.


Ward’s 10 Best Engines

The 2.0L EcoBoost engine recently gained notoriety as a Ward’s 10 Best Engines winner. The 2.0L I4 combines the technologies of direct injection and turbocharging plus twin independent-variable camshaft timing (Ti-VCT). Ti-VCT controls when the valves open and close to enhance overall performance and also enables variable valve overlap for improved fuel economy. The result is 240 horsepower and 270 lb.-ft. of torque—the power of a V6 and fuel efficiency of a 4-cylinder engine.

Durability and Reliability

The EcoBoost engine uses a turbocharger with water-cooled bearings. These water-cooled and oil-cooled turbos are totally unlike the turbos from the 1980s that were cooled only by engine oil. The EcoBoost turbo bearings are water-cooled in the same coolant loop as the engine to bring turbo temperatures down. The EcoBoost engineering design life is 10 years and 150,000 miles.

The turbos do not need any separate, different or more frequent scheduled maintenance. This series of engines use standard grades of oil; synthetic oil is not required. The EcoBoost engine uses the same 5W-20 engine oil as most Ford gasoline engines. The EcoBoost engine has the same 7,500-mile oil change intervals as other retail Ford engines. The EcoBoost engines run on regular-grade, 87 Octane fuel; mid-grade and premium are not required.

No Turbo Lag

But what about turbo lag, which is that slow throttle response at low rpm? Again, these are not the turbos of the 1980s, which delivered lots of torque but had delays between stepping on the gas pedal and the feeling of increased power. The EcoBoost turbos are smaller, spin up faster, kick in at lower engine rpms, operate at higher turbine rpms, and are connected to modern powertrain controllers. All that means improved throttle response.

The turbo flattens the torque curve of the 2.0L EcoBoost I4 just like it flattens the torque curve in the 3.5L EcoBoost V6. That means the engine produces peak torque at engine rpms just above idle. The 4-cylinder engine does not have to rev up to deliver power. The SSP Sedan has excellent throttle response with no “turbo lag” whatsoever.

The overall effects of fast spool-up turbos, higher compression ratios, increased spark advance, and the precision of direct injection increases torque. The EcoBoost engine has both more peak torque and more low end torque, i.e., direct injection produces a remarkable flat torque curve. The torque comes on faster and it rises higher.

The EcoBoost engine achieves its peak torque at just 2500 rpm, which is a much lower rpm than all turbos and most supercharged engines. The EcoBoost engine produces 90 percent of its peak torque between 1550 and 5500 rpm. About 98 percent of all driving is between 1000 and 3000 rpm.

Published in Police Fleet Manager, May/Jun 2014

Rating : Not Yet Rated

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