2013 Ford Police Interceptors. Click image to enlarge
Sitting behind the wheel the Utility feels no different than sitting behind the wheel of an Explorer; the adjustable steering wheel and power seat still remain. However, out on the course it is a different story. The Interceptor Utility is more responsive in the corners than was expected. Yes, there is pronounced body roll, but the back end follows the front end around corners in a nicely balanced rotation. This large SUV feels rather neutral during aggressive switchback manoeuvres. After my first run I took a look in the cargo area and noticed some massive aluminum tubing under the cargo floor stiffening the chassis; this could help explain the gains in the handling department.
The engine in the Utility is responsive but lacks outright get-up-and-go. It is more than capable of keeping up with other police pursuit vehicles out there, with the exception of Dodge Chargers packing the HEMI V8 and the upcoming EcoBoost Ford Police Interceptor Sedan. Aside from the big ute’s handling abilities, the transmission mapping surprised me the most. During the medium-speed switchbacks, the transmission will hold lower gears for extended periods of time, giving you power on demand when exiting the corners. On a few of my runs I purposely overdrove the limits of the utility in the corners to see how it would behave. The stability control and traction control take over and keep you out of trouble and on the proper course; a big plus for cash-strapped police agencies not wanting to shell out money on accident repairs.
Next up for me was the 2013 Ford Police Interceptor Sedan. Unfortunately, they did not bring the 365-hp EcoBoost model to the demonstration (probably out of fear that some journalist would wrap it around a street lamp in the parking lot). What was on hand, though, was the naturally aspirated 3.5L V6, making 280+ hp and 250 lb-ft coupled to the standard six-speed automatic and all-wheel drive. Although down on power, it is safe to assume the Taurus — sorry, Police Interceptor Sedan is also greatly down on curb weight compared to the Utility, or even the outgoing Interceptor. In a straight line the Sedan feels quicker and turn-in is more immediate than the Utility. But here’s the shocker; the Utility feels more composed in tight corners compared to the Sedan. There seems to be more body roll in the Sedan and the chassis is twitchier. Driven on a timed course I am certain the Sedan is faster, but the handling characteristics of the Utility feel more linear and easier to control.
One aspect both vehicles share is killer brakes. Stomp on the brake pedal of either vehicle and the massive discs stop you right NOW! We are talking sports-car levels of braking, which is useful in a vehicle picking its way through city traffic at high rates of speed while responding to a call. Oh, and the sirens are loud. I cannot explain the number of childhood fantasies I was living out while bombing down an empty parking lot, sirens blaring, lights flashing in a full-fledged police vehicle.
So the question remains, will departments using the existing Panther-based Police Interceptors adopt these new units? Ford claims the new Interceptors use 35 percent less fuel when idling compared to their old Crown Victoria–based Police Interceptors, a big plus in its own right, and Chevrolet’s front-wheel-drive Police Impala has enjoyed some success over the past few years using similar V6 power. It won’t be easy for Ford, though. Dodge still offers police versions of the Charger and Chevrolet now offers police editions of the Impala, Tahoe, and the newly introduced rear-wheel-drive V8-powered Caprice PPV.
Any way you look at it, the bottom line is that these are two more competitive entries in an already competitive segment, which is great news for law enforcement agencies and bad news for criminals.