Bad guys, beware: Ford Interceptor reporting for duty
Dearborn — Developing an all-new Ford Explorer SUV not only meant engineers could design a roomier, techier three-row ute for families — it also meant they could make a faster, leaner Police Interceptor to chase down the bad guys.
Ahead of the much anticipated Explorer's debut next Wednesday at Ford Field, Ford gave media a sneak peak Friday at the tough Interceptor now being purchased by police agencies around the country.
This thing is a tank in gym shoes.
Like American consumers, police departments have moved to SUVs as their mainstay police vehicles given their rugged on-and-off-road abilities and five-door utility. Gone is the old Crown Vic sedan, though Ford still markets Ford Fusion Hybrids to police as well.
But with the addition of Explorer's first-ever hybrid, the 2020 Police Interceptor now adds fuel economy to its benefits. Ford expects the Interceptor hybrid — equipped with a 3.3-liter V-6 mated to a 10-speed transmission — to get 24 mpg, a 41 percent improvement over the outgoing 3.7-liter V-6 Interceptor.
"We never do a police car on our own, because we get so many benefits from Ford's production program," says Interceptor vehicle engineer Allen Magolen, who works in the company's police vehicle department. Ford currently provides about 65 percent of police vehicles in the US.
Police can buy a cheaper, 3.3-liter V-6-equipped Interceptor, but given the extended idling and long road miles logged by police units, the hybrid will make up its sticker premium in a year — that's about $3,500 in annual fuel savings, Ford estimates. As a result, most police departments are opting for the hybrid.
The new Interceptor hybrid benefits, not only from the drive-train's increased fuel economy, but from its added torque for performance.
In bruising track tests conducted by Michigan's finest performance cops at Grattan Raceway outside Grand Rapids last summer, the 318-horsepower Interceptor hybrid was quicker than its V-8 Chevy and Dodge SUV competitors. Zero-60 blew by in just 7.27 seconds and 100 mph in 17.69 seconds.
Only the Police Interceptor equipped with a third drivetrain option — the same 400-horse, 3.0-liter, twin-turbo V-6 monster found under the hood of the forthcoming Explorer ST — was quicker. The latter clipped the zero-60 tape in a breathtaking 5.7 seconds (100 mph came in just 13.59 seconds).
Ford says the turbo is preferred by western police departments that have to do prolonged, high-speed interstate chases. Crooks are going to have a tough time out-running this ute.
In addition to new drivetrains, the Interceptor achieves its performance numbers by going on a 200-pound diet, the result of the Explorer's extensive use of aluminum and lightweight steel. With suspension and drivetrain tweaks for immediate pursuit capability, engineer Magolen says the Explorer drives like the performance Explorer ST model.
Inside the back seat, the bad guys won't find the Interceptor nearly as hospitable as the family Explorer. The third-row seat is removed, as are all cupholders ("to keep anyone from hiding a stash of something," says Interceptor marketing chief Stephen Tyler). Even the door latches are covered over so no one can escape.
The fold-flat second row is popular for use with K-9 unit dog cages, while cargo space increases by 4 cubic feet for law enforcement equipment.
Doors can be optioned with level-four armor plating. Other options include a giant front push-bar and steel center-cap hubs to augment the Interceptor's tough shell. The SUV can tow up to 5,000 pounds and is hardened to take a 75-mph rear impact above and beyond the federal 50 mph standard.
Up front, officers are surrounded by a moat of cutting-edge Ford technology, a hallmark of its production SUVs that have pioneered systems like self-park assist and auto-raise tailgates. The police ute gets Police Perimeter Alert, which uses motion-detection sensors to register a threat 270 degrees around the vehicle — and then automatically lock up the Interceptor.
“Whether patrolling or sitting idle, the all-new Police Interceptor Utility will change the way officers work,” says Bill Gubing, chief engineer for the Explorer. “Everything about it was designed for keeping police officers safe, comfortable and ready for action.”
Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at email@example.com or Twitter @HenryEPayne. Catch “Car Radio with Henry Payne” from noon-2 p.m. Saturdays on 910 AM Superstation.