Ford’s goal is to maintain performance while increasing gas mileage with a smaller, harder-working V-6 in place of the Crown Vic’s thirsty V-8. The company hasn’t announced fuel economy figures for the new Interceptor, but ratings are likely to rise by a couple of miles per gallon.
Ford is also working on a related vehicle based on the next-generation Explorer, an S.U.V. that shares chassis and powertrain parts with the Taurus.
Enthusiast magazines have clocked the 0 to 60 m.p.h. acceleration of the civilian-edition Taurus SHO, whose powertrain is similar to the more muscular version of the Interceptor, at 5.7 seconds and put the top speed at 130 m.p.h. (The latest Ford Mustang GT easily tops both figures.)
To prep the Taurus for police duty, engineers added a column shifter for the 6-speed automatic transmission, along with larger brakes, extra cooling capacity and a more potent alternator to power the lights and communications equipment. Larger grille and wheel openings provide air for cooling.
The rear doors swing open an extra 10 degrees to help usher detainees into confinement. The bottom cushions of the front seats are contoured to accommodate bulky utility belts. Protective plates are embedded in the seatbacks to thwart stabbing attacks.
The new Interceptor will have to overcome two potential drawbacks, at least in perception — the lack of either V-8 power or rear-wheel drive — as it vies with two, or possibly three, other challengers to the Crown Vic’s throne.
DODGE CHARGER The Crown Vic’s demise is great news for Dodge. In the five years the Charger has been available to police agencies, its thumping Hemi V-8 and agile rear-drive chassis have earned it a solid second place in sales.
Performance tests by the Michigan State Police last fall put the 370-horsepower Charger V-8 at the head of 2011 models with the quickest acceleration, the highest top speed and the second-best braking (after a Charger V-6).
Like all factory-developed cruisers, the Charger has heavy-duty cooling, a high-capacity electrical system and a tougher chassis. The speedometer is calibrated to 160 m.p.h. and a meter tracks hours of engine use. Early next year, a revamped Charger arrives with fresh styling and improvements to the chassis and powertrain. The police package will include more efficient V-6 and Hemi V-8 engines.
CHEVROLET CAPRICE POLICE PATROL VEHICLE Rising to the competitive challenge, Chevy has dusted off the Caprice nameplate last used in 1996 and pinned it on a rear-drive cruiser. The Caprice P.P.V. is due to arrive early next year to serve cheek-by-jowl with police editions of the Impala sedan and Tahoe S.U.V.
The 2012 Caprice is actually a Pontiac G8 GT sport sedan with a facelift and other alterations needed for the police beat. The Australian-built G8 was recently discontinued when the Pontiac division was shut down. During the two model years the G8 was offered in the United States, fewer than 40,000 were sold despite mostly glowing reviews in the enthusiast press.
Chevrolet will sell the Caprice with both a 355-horsepower 6-liter V-8 and a more fuel-efficient V-6. According to factory specifications, the car will have nearly four more inches of rear legroom than the Crown Vic, along with an ample 18 cubic feet of trunk space.