The final Ford Crown Victoria rolled off the assembly line in St. Thomas, Ont on Sept. 15, 2011. While the loss of this antediluvian rear drive sedan was of little concern to car buyers below, er, a certain age, it was a blow to law enforcement agencies across North America.
The Vic was the perfect tool for the job: good outward visibility, cheap to buy, hard to break, easy to fix and it had lots of grunt from its 250 hp, 297 lb-ft SOHC 4.6L V8 engine. Okay, so the Crown Vic isn’t universally loved by the guys and gals who drive it. After speaking with a few Toronto police officers, I heard complaints of evil handling in the wet and cramped front quarters.
It’s a given police forces will be driving these old warhorses ’til the wheels fall off, but eventually the untold thousands of Vics will make it to that big Tim Horton’s in the sky.
So what will be the next iconic cop car to be seen cruisin’ the highways and lurking beneath overpasses?
Ford hopes to carry on where it left off with the 2013 Police Interceptor. Built in Chicago, the Interceptor is a purpose-built Taurus sedan kitted out for enforcement duty, and unlike its V8 body-on-frame rear-drive progenitor, this is a modern unibody vehicle. The base Interceptor comes in either front-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive and carries a 288 hp, 250 lb-ft 3.5L Ti-VCT V6.
Felons will be particularly worried by the AWD twin-turbocharged direct-injection 3.5L V6 EcoBoost model making 365 hp and 350 lb.-ft of torque.
To quote Bill Gubing, chief engineer for the Police Interceptors: “EcoBoost powertrain performance is optimized for closing speed and maximizing takedowns, thus preventing high-speed pursuits from even forming.”
For the first time, Ford is also offering a “Utility” Interceptor in the form of a toughened Explorer powered by a 300 hp 3.7L Ti-VCT V6.
Having recently spent some time (in the driver’s seat, thank you) in the new 370 hp Dodge Charger Hemi Enforcer, I was very curious to experience Ford’s offering.
Like the Dodge, this Ford is fitted with a column shifter that frees up the console for the computer, coffee cups and other brick-a-brack. The sedan benefits from heavy-duty suspension, extra cooling capacity and brakes with 60 per cent larger swept area.
Ford set up a closed handling course at Ontario Place, and there I got to sample the AWD 288 hp Interceptor — a configuration accounting for most of the orders. Dynamically it’s in another world from the Crown Vic. It felt agile, predictable and reasonably neutral, with strong brakes and a nice linear power delivery from the V6. The six-speed auto shifted smoothly and for the most part stayed in the right gear over this aggressive run.
While the Dodge Hemi Enforcer has a wicked exhaust note and it can perform spectacular tail-out antics (like all good movie cop cars should), the Ford Interceptor EcoBoost is faster, and its speed and power are easier to exploit.
But don’t take my word for it. This comes from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s yearly comprehensive shakedown of police vehicles where they are subjected to a barrage of tests that include braking, acceleration, and handling on a high speed course and a tight “pursuit” course. The Interceptor faced its major rivals, the Dodge Charger V6 and V8, and the Chevy Caprice PPV (a rear-drive Australian Holden sedan) V6 and V8. It bested them in almost every category. Criticisms included compromised outward visibility along with ingress and egress issues due to smaller door openings.
Ford isn’t giving out Interceptor pricing, but they say it is very close to the Crown Vic – this will be crucial.
Safety is improved thanks to its modern crash structure and full complement of airbags. Ford is also pushing the fuel economy benefits of this newbie. The base Interceptor is 25 per cent more fuel efficient than the old Vic, and while idling (which a city cop car will do for more than half of a ten-hour shift) Ford claims a 35 per cent improvement.
Certainly good news for us taxpayers. Although repairing the front-wheel-drive Interceptor when Officer Bob jumps a curb at 40 km/h might be a different story.
So what black-wheeled sedan will we be looking out for in the future? The Ford Interceptor appears to be the critical favourite, although repair costs could be an issue. The Brampton-built Dodge Charger Enforcer, while not as slick, has the classic rear drive platform that enforcement agencies favour. Being an Aussie transplant, the rear-drive Chevy Caprice PPV is an unknown entity, and it is saddled with a console mounted floor shifter.
It’s anybody’s guess. But one thing is for sure. Like a cockroach, the Crown Vic is hard to kill. And with the Toronto Police Service buying that last 300 to roll off the assembly line, it will be many years before the last Vic fishtails into oblivion.
- Ford Crown Victoria Toronto Police Car Peter Bleakney photo