Ford fielded a lot of input from law enforcement when it designed the all-new Interceptor. Although it is not yet available, this patrol SUV is ready for the streets. Photos JP Molnar
The Ford Interceptor
Photos JP Molnar
Even the backseat is roomy. Egress and ingress are a breeze. Also, the front seats feature an anti-stab plate.Photos JP Molnar
The added room of the SUV configuration increases the sedan’s 16.6 cubic feet to a healthy 59.7. There’s a lot more room for flares, cones, consoles, dogs—whatever.
Photos JP Molnar
Photos JP Molnar
FEATURED IN VEHICLE OPS
Considering all of the new police vehicles being introduced this year and next is almost like being in an ice cream store. Just when you feel like you’ve seen all the flavors, there’s a new bucket to tempt you. Take chocolate, for instance. There’s good ol’ basic chocolate ice cream, and then there’s chocolate, an enhanced version that offers the things you love, but takes it to the next level of satisfaction. It might cost a little more, but the enhancements to the experience make the investment a worthy one.
The new Ford Interceptor SUV is a lot like that tempting delight in the ice cream store. It has all of the essence of the Interceptor sedan, which we discussed in the April issue of Law Officer, but adds a few dimensions that will make it even more appealing to agencies seeking a vehicle that’s larger than the traditional sedan, but smaller than full-size rigs like the Tahoe and Expedition. So, what traits does it share with its sedan brethren, and where does it differ?
First off, Ford has owned the police vehicle market for ages and shows no intention of giving that up. Ford has relied heavily on its police advisory board of officers and fleet managers, talking to cops around the country and taking the last few years to see and hear what they wanted. They went on ride-alongs with officers, learned what cops on the street liked and didn’t like about the current Crown Victoria, and worked to incorporate those changes. Those changes are clear in the Interceptor SUV—the first of which is that the vehicle even exists at all. According to Ken Czubay, Ford’s vice president of marketing, sales and service, “The combination of both the sedan and utility versions of the Police Interceptor allows Ford to deliver a complete, diverse and efficient solution to all of law enforcement’s pursuit needs.”
Doing this meant searching an emerging lineup and picking a vehicle that not only would be sized properly for departments, but also one where specific changes could be implemented to make it truly police ready from the ground up. That’s one of the beauties of a leading manufacturer working from the onset with an internal police advisory board.
I spoke with Al Robinson, the fleet manager for the Nevada Highway Patrol, who said Ford’s commitment to the Interceptor project started from the top down, and the engineers listened to the input of the board, and worked to make the vehicle better, safer and more reliable. Andrew Terpak, the director of fleet management in Miami Beach, Fla., agreed. He told me that Ford’s brass listened to what the board said and there was complete transparency in redesign and enhancement issues. Ford wanted to make sure the SUV was every bit as good as the sedan for the new Interceptor line-up, so let’s look at what they did to give agencies a viable solution for their patrol needs.
Same, but Different
Much like the Charger, Impala and Tahoe police packages, the Interceptor SUV is based on a civilian version of a production vehicle—the all-new Explorer. This means it benefits from millions of miles of testing and billions in development dollars to deliver a platform resplendent with structural and drive-train hardware designed for durability and safety. It also means an SUV that’s based on the same platform as the sedan, a first for Ford in the Explorer nameplate. It doesn’t have as many “truck” characteristics as the previous midsize SUV, but that’s a good thing. The reality is most SUVs the size of the Explorer rarely tow heavy loads or see serious off-road use. Instead, they’re chosen for the extra load carrying capabilities and versatility.
The Interceptor SUV is no different, and its DNA as a passenger sedan means it retains many of the favorable dynamic characteristics of a lower center of gravity, high-roll center vehicle that isn’t unwieldy, while offering a larger interior space to conduct business. Yes, the SUV is approximately 8 inches higher at the roofline than the sedan, but overall it drives like a sedan. It also has greater storage space and a higher viewpoint out the front window, which is advantageous to officers. Commonalities in engine and drive train are also beneficial as many parts can be shared between the SUV and sedan, reducing inventory and storage requirements. Plus, it means an agency can meet two needs with a single repair strategy. In this case, if the sedan is the chocolate, the SUV is the chocolate that reminds you of the former, but adds more goodies.
If there’s one area that the SUV version may suffer a shortcoming, it’s in the engine department. I don’t mean anything negative about the normally aspirated 3.5 liter Ti VT V-6 FFV engine that produces a stout 280 hp and about 275 foot-lbs. of torque. It’s a very smooth power plant. It’s more of what you can’t get with the SUV that you can with the sedan—specifically, the twin-turbo EcoBoost 3.5 liter V-6. The AWD system on the SUV, which is the same as the sedan, could easily handle the added power bump (365 hp and 350 foot-lbs. of torque). Because the SUV is pursuit-rated and dynamically developed to handle well, having the option for this engine in the SUV seems desirable, especially to agencies at high elevation. However, Ford has not indicated if or when this larger engine will be available.
When I was a trooper, I had a Durango Hemi that needed every bit of its 335 hp and 350 foot-lbs. of torque to get up to speed. Like the Interceptor,
the Durango AWD system was based on a sedan platform, yet it still managed to get the power to the ground without much ado. When I think of agencies doing radar enforcement, working at higher altitudes or doing anything where catching up to a violator in short time is important (all the time), it would seem to make sense to offer the twin-turbo in SUV guise, as well.
As with the sedan, the radiator and other cooling systems for the transmission and oil have been significantly upgraded. Heavy-duty engine mounts are used, and a 220 amp alternator has been added to handle the increased electrical demands created by modern police electronics. Interestingly enough, the fuel capacity on the SUV has been increased to 22.5 gallons over the sedan’s 19, which is good for larger patrol areas.
AWD & FWD Options Offered
The Interceptor SUV is available in either FWD or AWD, featuring the same system found in the SHO Taurus model. It uses torque sensing to meter out power to individual wheels for traction, coupled to a six-speed, automatic transmission that’s been recalibrated for law enforcement use. It’s the same with the included Gyroscopic Advance Trac with Roll Stability Control that, according to Ford, has been detuned to allow more aggressive driving without interference. The system uses two gyroscopic sensors to detect pitch, roll and yaw, and correlates those readings with steering, braking and acceleration inputs to detect changing handling conditions.
Traction control and ABS are also included, and the four-wheel disc brake system has been upgraded to larger 18" vented rotors surrounded by steel wheels that are rated for impact speeds up to 40 mph. Springs and shocks are also upgraded. From an active safety standpoint, the advantages of the FWD—and especially the AWD systems—
really shine through during inclement weather. The Interceptor SUV offers a lot more tools to help officers stay in control in all conditions.
On the Inside
Here, the Interceptor SUV benefits the most over the sedan in that it’s simply bigger, which I think is great for officers who carry a lot of gear. Although the standard Interceptor sedan is worlds ahead of the Crown Vic it replaces, the added room of the SUV configuration makes it a very appealing choice. Most notably, the rear storage area is significantly larger, mushrooming from the sedan’s 16.6 cubic feet to a healthy 59.7. There’s a lot more room for flares, cones, consoles, dogs—whatever.
Rear seat hip, head and leg room has also been increased a few inches over the sedan. Ingress and egress was easy. I found there was plenty of room in the floorboard area and between the front of the seat cushion and the back of the cage for maneuverability. In the front seat area, headroom is 2 inches higher than the sedan, with shoulder room a noticeable 4 inches wider. Hip room has also increased, but leg room decreased by about an inch or so over the sedan. A 6'3" officer who was testing driver room seemed to fit fine, even with the cage. As with the sedan, the dashboard area is well integrated. There’s even a small shelf above the front center console that was added for mounting radar, camera and other equipment.
The seat design has also been modified with lower bolster cutouts to allow for duty gear. The space between the seats is at least 9 inches wide, which means consoles in present Crown Vics can be retrofitted into the Interceptor—a big plus. Both front seats also feature anti-stab plates and the inside of the passenger seat folds outward to reveal a cool first-aid kit.
Other features include a column-mounted shifter that’s been rigorously tested, and the inclusion of Ford’s revolutionary SYNC hands-free information system that will eventually allow officers to “talk” to their equipment. As it stands now, there are programmable buttons on the steering wheel for siren and light activation. Ford is working with third-party vendors to develop voice activation, too. Other touches include red and white lighting options for interior illumination, pre-wiring for systems integration and power adjustable pedals.
Because vehicle-related crashes are one of the top killers of officers, safety was a top-priority with the Interceptor SUV. It shares the sedan’s ability to successfully endure 75 mph rear-impact collisions. The Interceptor SUV is also five-star rated in all categories for safety by IIHS, and it benefits from the same safety technologies found in the sedan. This includes Ford’s exclusive Safety Canopy side-curtain air bag rollover protection system. The system uses a distinctive roll-fold, side-curtain air bag system—imagine unrolling a sleeping bag—that covers the side window area from the A to C pillar. According to Ford, this helps to ensure that the bag ends up between the side window and the occupant.
Side impact and rollover protection is also enhanced with Boron Steel B pillars and reinforced beams that travel under the front seats laterally. Ballistic panels are available for both front doors and several other options include a radar-based Blind Spot Information System (BLIS), as well as two technologies I think should be mandatory given the percentage of backing crashes. The first is a Rear View Camera System that uses part of the center rear-view mirror to show what’s directly behind the driver. The second is the Reverse Sensing System, which alerts the driver with an audible tone when within 6 feet of an object behind them. Considering how many times cops hit things when backing up—especially with the visibility constraints of a cage, a prisoners head, etc.—I think these two options will more than pay for themselves in the field.
When’s It Out?
If there’s one caveat to the introduction of the Interceptor SUV, it’s that it shares a development cycle with the sedan, which means it won’t be out until 2012. At the moment, it’s considered a prototype, so no pricing or firm availability date is available.
The ultimate question is: Interceptor sedan or SUV? Given the longer life cycle plus the added benefit of sedan dynamics, coupled with right-size engineering and larger capacities, I think the SUV is the way to go. You aren’t giving up much due to the higher ride height, you get all of the safety advantages inherent in the sedan, and AWD is going to keep your officers safe. Plus, the SUV carries a lot more without being a behemoth to drive.
Ford has finally made a very compelling argument for agencies with FWD sedans, such as the Impala, to make the switch to a similar-sized AWD SUV that will work well in urban environments, while also offering agencies with Crown Vics a viable, pursuit-rated SUV that offers sedan-like handling. True, it doesn’t offer the ultimate dynamic capabilities of the new Caprice, Charger or Interceptor sedan, but in terms of being a right-sized, AWD patrol option, it warrants consideration. Now, if Ford would just add that sweet twin-turbo Ecoboost as an option, the Interceptor SUV would be a very tempting flavor indeed.
For more information about the new Ford Interceptor SUV, visit