After years of careful attention to the marketplace, Ford has finally released the “new” 2012 Police Interceptor Sedan and SUV. I say “new” because I spent time with these two vehicles in 2010 and wrote about it in my April 2010 column. Back then, the two vehicles represented a quantum leap in tech advancement over the Crown Victoria. But as nice as it was to see what the future might hold for Ford police vehicles, I wasn’t allowed to drive those prototypes—only view them.
Since then, Ford has continued to adjust the vehicles, even when that meant Chevrolet and Dodge would beat them to market with the all-new Caprice and heavily reworked Charger. Even upstarts like Carbon Motors added vehicle options, but Ford remained patient, observing and tweaking the sedan and SUV based on years of feedback and market research.
When Ford finally announced its release of the 2012 Interceptor Sedan and SUV, I was excited to get some seat time in the new vehicles. I headed to New York City to see if the driving experience made all that waiting worthwhile.
As an EVOC instructor for more than 20 years, I always evaluate a potential patrol vehicle within what I consider to be important parameters for law enforcement work—acceleration, stability under full throttle, visibility, ergonomics and interior room for LE equipment, among others.
But as a professional test driver for numerous automobile manufacturers and other entities, I also evaluate the vehicle based on overall design, engineering ingenuity, dynamic performance and ergonomic efficiency.
Ultimately though, it comes down to this: Is the vehicle going to work for you or against you? Will you have to waste time dealing with its deficiencies, or will it respond willingly to your inputs and demands while performing consistently throughout the driving experience?
To recap, the Interceptor Sedan comes in several variants that are different from the 2010 prototypes due to the fact that the 2012 variants are only available in an AWD drivetrain package. In fact, it’s the only pursuit-rated AWD sedan on the market. Previously, the sedan was also forecast as a FWD model, but because AWD performs dynamically better than FWD and provides more traction in inclement weather, Ford decided to make the sedan AWD only. (One possible reason for this change is that Ford saw the difficulty the refreshed 2012 300-plus-hp FWD Impala has in getting those ponies to the ground in a stable and usable manner.)
The sedan has a choice of two engines: a normally aspirated 3.5-liter V6 that delivers a healthy 288 hp and 254 ft. lbs. of torque, and a 3.5-L Ecoboost, twin-turbo V6 screamer that delivers an impressive 365 hp and 350 ft. lbs. of torque. Although the Ecoboost engine remains unchanged from the 2010 model, the normally aspirated engine has a 25-hp increase over the prototype, which clearly shows that Ford listened to the feedback about the need for more power in the base model.
The sedan also features a six-speed transmission working in conjunction with EVOC-calibrated AdvanceTrac with roll stability control; heavy-duty shocks, springs and struts; 18-inch steel wheels with 245/55-R18 all-season BSW tires; and police-specific brake calipers, rotors and pads. According to Ford, this set up has been pursuit-rated tested by both the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the Michigan State Police with excellent results (The LASD results are available here: www.lasdhq.org/sites/car-test/2012.pdf ).
Driving Impressions: Interceptor Sedan
For the evaluation, Ford had the normally aspirated and Ecoboost Interceptor Sedans on hand, a Crown Vic (CV) and a cone-lined EVOC-type course set up in the parking lot of the Mets Stadium.
First I set a baseline by driving the CV—a car that I’ve put what seems like a million miles on during my LE and training career. As expected, the CV didn’t have any surprises. Although it was an unrefined driving experience, it was still entertaining because its historical roots explained the rawness in the driving experience that no computer-assisted refinement could ever mask.
When I hopped into the 288-hp, normally aspirated Interceptor, it was like going from a golf cart to a Bentley. After a few laps pushing the AWD and 3.5-liter engine hard, I found that the Taurus-based Interceptor under steers when prodded and that overall it performed like a FWD vehicle. However, the torque distribution in the AWD system also helps it behave like a RWD car under “throttle-on” conditions. The sedan turns a corner much better than the old CV and the chassis responds well to off-throttle and trail-braking inputs. Even under hard driving, the AdvanceTrac system was fairly invisible. The electric power-assisted steering handled well and linear with input. The brakes were consistent and linear, and I didn’t notice any appreciable loss in braking or handling after several laps.
The EcoBoost Interceptor delivered the same experience, but at a faster pace. Torque with the 3.5-L, twin-turbo engine is impressive, and turbo lag is virtually nonexistent. Acceleration is excellent, and the AWD system and tuned chassis easily handled the extra power, torque and speed. The biggest advantage of the EcoBoost is that the extra torque allows you to dynamically settle the chassis under hard throttle through a corner. In other words, 365 hp and 350 ft. lbs. of torque allow the Interceptor to drive more like a RWD vehicle under hard throttle when exiting a corner—something the normally aspirated motor can’t deliver.
But in terms of the real world of police work, that’s a pretty extreme condition. So unless you’re doing traffic enforcement or patrol work with large beat areas, the normally aspirated 288 hp will do the job just fine.
In most ways, the SUV is similar to the sedan, but with a bigger trunk. The major difference from older models in the powertrain is that the SUV uses a 3.7-L V6 that produces 304 hp. This is an increase of 24 hp over the previously installed 3.5-L, 280-hp V6, which seemed a bit anemic back in 2010.
Like the sedan, the SUV is available only in AWD for 2012. The SUV has the same benefits from the same chassis and system tweaks as the sedan. However, unlike the sedan, no Ecoboost engine is available, so driving impressions were limited to the one powertrain option.
Although this article is more specific to driving impressions, I can’t help but mention that the SUV wins in the storage department, offering 59.7 cubic ft. of storage vs. the sedan’s 16.6. The SUV also benefits from being approximately 8 inches higher, which helps for visibility. Otherwise, despite some small changes in interior dimensions, the SUV and sedan are basically the same platform.
Driving Impressions: Interceptor SUV
As with the sedan, Ford had another CV for us to drive, as well as a tighter course for the SUV. Being higher up in the SUV was both good and bad. On the plus side, visibility was much better than the sedan. However, the higher center of gravity and resultant lower roll center made the vehicle show its SUV pedigree under more spirited driving, but maneuverability was excellent and engine response was very good with 304 hp under the hood.
Overall, the SUV performed well, and it was very easy to turn corners and handle tight maneuvers. The additional engine power in 2012 makes the argument for the twin-turbo less persuasive than before and the extra space in the driver’s area over the sedan adds comfort and mobility.
The question then remains: Which one is the better choice? Answer: It depends on what you want to use it for.
In terms of day-to-day patrol work, the SUV is the way to go. It offers more space over the sedan and it’s powerful enough to be practical for patrol use. It also performs dynamically similar to the sedan while offering better outward visibility and interior space—something cops can always use more of. Then again, if I were doing patrol work where I didn’t need to carry a lot in my trunk, the sedan is an excellent choice, with the Ecoboost being appropriate for traffic enforcement.
Regardless of which best meets your needs, what’s important is that Ford’s decision to be the latecomer has paid off with three excellent options to consider. The Chicago Police Department seems to agree because they just ordered 500 Interceptor Sedans for patrol.
For more information on the many other features offered with the 2012 Ford Interceptor models, please visit: www.media.ford.com/mini_sites/10031/Interceptors.