Last spring I had a chance to drive the Chevrolet Caprice Police Pursuit Vehicle on the original route of the first road races at Elkhart Lake, Wis. Several weeks ago, while working on a story for a local newspaper, I had a chance to drive a new Ford Police Interceptor sedan around the parking lot of the Beloit (Wis.) Police Department. The police chief assured me that he would have allowed me to drive it on city streets but he had just taken delivery of his department’s first five Interceptors and none of them had been licensed yet.
Not to worry. A couple of weeks later Ford showed up at the Midwest Automotive Media Association’s fall rally with, among other cars, a factory stock Police Interceptor and offered unescorted drives to any scribe who asked. I asked.
Lisa Teed, Ford’s marketing manager for the Interceptor line, had some stern words of warning for me before she handed over the keys.
“You’ve probably noticed how slick the streets are with this rain,” she cautioned. “Some of the more powerful cars can be a handful on wet pavement, so when you take the Police Interceptor out . . . I want you to thrash it.”
She wasn’t kidding.
The wet streets had made it harder to keep some of the cars pointed straight. (The Camaro ZL1 decided to swing its butt out sharply on me on a 1-2 shift.) Ms. Teed had brought a 3.5-liter EcoBoost Interceptor rated at 365 horsepower and, like all Interceptors, it came with all-wheel drive. (Detective and unmarked cars can be ordered with front-wheel drive as a delete option.) Try as I might to get the Police Interceptor to misbehave on the rain-slicked streets it simply refused to cooperate. It tracked straight pulling away from a stop even under very hard acceleration and took corners and curves gracefully even when pushed just as hard.
The Michigan State Patrol conducts rigorous testing of police package vehicles and Ford’s Police Interceptors, even with the more powerful EcoBoost engine, don’t quite measure up to the performance offered by Chevrolet and Dodge with their V-8s. Captain Bill Tyler of the Beloit PD says that those numbers don’t matter much to a department such as his.
“Once you get over 80 mph . . . in an urban environment it is very difficult to do with any relative degree of safety to officers and citizens,” he notes. “Rarely do we have situations that require us to drive at those speeds in the city.”
Viewed another way, as I was talking with Ford’s Teed, she pointed to a Target store roughly a mile from where we were standing and asked me consider a scenario in which a police car had to get there in a hurry.
“A second or two difference in acceleration times isn’t going to make much difference,” she observed.
Capt. Tyler showed me an invoice for his department’s Interceptors that reflected a delivered price of around $26,000 for a 3.5-liter, normally aspirated all-wheel drive car. Ford includes a number of police-specific features such as special headlight modules, heavier duty alternator, special chassis reinforcing and a nifty, trunk mounted slide-out tray with its own cooling fan for electronics. The local department will add emergency lighting, multiple radio systems, computers, cameras, a divider, GPS tracking system, graphics and more. Tyler estimates that the equipment added after his department takes delivery costs roughly as much as the car itself. The department typically reuses the equipment through three vehicle replacement cycles, or about ten years but will be buying all new for the Interceptors since some of the equipment won’t easily carry over from the retiring Crown Vics.
Ford had the police car market almost entirely to itself for years but with the retirement of the Crown Vic last year, police departments are re-evaluating purchasing decisions. Chevrolet and Dodge have developed their own police platforms, the Caprice Police Pursuit Vehicle and the Dodge Charger Pursuit, and will no doubt carve out some of the market share that Ford had enjoyed.
For the Beloit PD, the decision to stick with Ford was based on past experience with both the car maker and with a nearby dealer which performs most of the service on the vehicles. The Police Chief also explained that the city was able to get good pricing on the Fords through a state vehicle purchasing pool.
Oh, and this car is not a Taurus. Ford insists that it differs so much from a civilian Taurus that it is built and sold as a separate model and will not be offered for sale to the public until police agencies begin retiring them from service.