March 15, 2010 by Colin Bird
A couple months back I wrote a post about the developing battle for the heart and soul of the American cop car market.
My previous post had one gaping hole â Fordâs Crown Victoria replacement. After all, GM, Chrysler and Carbon Motors are all vying for Fordâs lunch; youâd think the blue oval would have enough experience to deliver a formidable contender.
Last week we got our answer, Fordâs âpurpose-builtâ 2012 Police Interceptor will be the automakerâs contender in the hotly contested market.
The new Police Interceptor takes a 2010 Ford Taurus and slaps on a police package â really not much here thatâs âpurpose built.â
Police-specific features include performance-tuned steering and a heavy duty suspension; bigger brakes, a beefed up alternator and cooling system; a shifter thatâs mounted on the instrument panel to make room for two-way radio, mobile data terminal, navigation and audible/visual warning control unit and heavy-duty seats to accommodate fully âequippedâ officers.
Ford didnât mention anything about a heavy-duty transmission or any other engine modification which many competitors offer.
The Ford Police Interceptor will be equipped with the same two engines found on the civilian Taurus. The base model gets the 3.5-liter V6 producing 263 horsepower and 249 lb-ft of torque. The Taurus SHOâs 3.5-liter V-6 twin-turbocharged engine is also available: producing 365 horsepower and 350 ft.-lb. of torque. The base 3.5-liter will be available in both front and all-wheel drive. The turbocharged model will be available in all-wheel drive only.
So now that Ford has thrown down the gauntlet, is it enough to beat the new competition? The Ford Crown Victoria is the number one selling police vehicle for 15 years and counting. However, the Ford Crown Victoria has consecutively lost market share since the mid-2000âs, basically ever since Chrysler started selling the Dodge Charger police package. In 2008 Crown Vic market share stood at about 54%, with the Chevrolet Impala grabbing 35% and the Dodge Charger taking 11%.
The Chevrolet Impala, long derided by highway patrol men everywhere as a doggedly slow pursuit vehicle, will be replaced by the purposed-built Chevy Caprice PPV. The Caprice comes standard with 355 horsepower, 6.0-liter V8 engine with 384 lb-ft of torque mated to a heavy-duty six-speed automatic transmission for 2011. The V-8 is expected to offer best-in-class 0-60 acceleration. A V-6 engine will also be offered beginning in the 2012 model year. The dash is compatible with the latest in-dash touch-screen computer technology.
The 2010 Dodge Charger will be available till the end of this year, when a new Dodge Charger will go into production. It remains to be seen if Chrysler will remain as a contender in the future cop car wars.
Fordâs Police Interceptor may also have to compete against the well equipped Carbon E7 (pictured above). If this thing is built, it will be a cop car halo vehicle. The car features 250 horsepower, 3.0-liter turbo diesel, with 400 lb-ft of torque. This car also features a high-tech in-dash touch-screen computer, 360-degree built-in police-duty LED lights, suicide doors and a washable, hard plastic rear compartment. Carbon claims that its vehicle is the only purpose-cop car that meets 97% of law enforcement requirements. The company already has 12,500 reservations for the E7 from 350 law enforcement agencies across the US.
Still, the Carbon E7 may never be built. The company is still waiting for the Department of Energy to approve a $310 million loan it needs to get started. The company has started hiring for its factory in Indiana â it expects to hire 1,550 workers in all.
The Ford Police Interceptor has very obvious weaknesses compared to its up and coming competition. Out of the bunch, itâs the only front-wheel drive vehicle. Like I said earlier, police agencies have commented on the Chevrolet Impalaâs poor pursuit performance. This could limit the Police Interceptors desirability amongst highway patrol men. The Impala has always done well in snow-belt urban areas, so maybe thatâll be where the Ford Police Interceptor can play up its strengths.
The twin-turbo charged V6 could prove to be an admirable cruiser, but will it be cheap enough to compete with the V8 Charger and Caprice?
Visibility is also an issue. The current Taurus is already criticized for its poor visibility â I would image that to a cop being able to see potential criminal activity is sort of a big deal. Many people also criticized the move from body-on-frame to unibody, but since all the competition is unibody that is something that will not be detrimental.
However, against its competitors, the Ford also has some remarkable strengths. The Taurus, as a domestically produced car, already has an established parts supply.Â Ford already has established relationships with almost all police departments. Ford has the largest base of long-term existing law enforcement contracts of any car company in America. These personal relationships and the existing contracts could give Ford the upper hand in wining new contracts on price, convenience and sustainability.
The Ford Police Interceptor has the biggest trunk out of any of its contenders, at 20.1 cubic feet. The Ford also has the potential of being the most fuel efficient out of the bunch, but just because this is a front-wheel drive vehicle doesnât make that certain.Â The Taurus gets 18 mpg city/ 28 mpg highway in front-wheel drive formats and 17 mpg city/ 25 mpg highway in all-wheel drive â keep in mind that the police modification will hurt fuel efficiency. Regardless, if the Carbon E7 is ever built it will be more fuel efficient than the Ford â the company states 30 mpg on the highway.
The biggest thing Ford did to ensure keeping its Crown Victoria buyers is to keep the same space in-between the front seats on the Police Interceptor. Ford did this by reducing seat bolstering. What this does is allow departments to use the same console and mounts from existing Crown Vics. Buying new center terminals is a huge expense that Ford just allowed its existing customers to circumvent.
The Chevy Caprice PPV will be built in Australia, which could raise operating expenses. Also the Caprice has a console mounted shifter. For cops, this is a big no-no. By having a console mounted shifter cop agencies will have to buy new center consoles or mounts that can accommodate the shifter.Â All other competitors put the shifter on the steering column. The Dodge Charger is built in Canada, which doesnât really effect price or parts availability. Chrysler was out of the cop car market for more than a decade so the company is still reestablishing its government law enforcement sales force.
Carbon Motors, while the best cop car, is probably too expensive and too much of an unknown for many law enforcement agencies.
When I started this post, I never thought Iâd say this, but it looks like the Police Interceptor (Taurus) has a pretty good chance of winning the next-gen cop car wars. Now weâll just have to wait and see whether this crossover Explorer Police Interceptor can compete against the Tahoe.
Image by: Andrew Walensa
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