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Ford police utility vehicle set for patrol

Tue, 31 Aug 2010

WITH VIDEO -- Do cops like crossovers? Ford is about to find out: It will offer a utility vehicle based on the 2011 Explorer as part of its police portfolio for forces across the nation.

Officially called the Police Interceptor utility vehicle, the crossover complements the Taurus-based sedan in Ford's police lineup for late 2011. The utility vehicle will come in front- and all-wheel-drive models, and will be powered by a naturally aspirated 3.5-liter V6 making at least 280 hp working with a six-speed automatic transmission. The turbocharged EcoBoost engine is not part of Ford's launch plan.

The utility vehicle also will have a purpose-built interior, with an upgraded version of Ford's Sync connectivity technology, a nine-inch center console and antistab plates. The ute will also get ballistic panels, larger brake calipers and rotors, and an upgraded alternator. The underpinnings are reinforced with a high-strength steel unibody. The vehicle also gets unique suspension geometry, springs and shocks. To ease maintenance costs on departments, the wheels are shared with the sedan. Tech goodies include cross-traffic alert and a backup camera.

"It's definitely not a paint-and-tape job," said Mark Fields, Ford's president of the Americas.

The utility vehicle and car are part of Ford's dual approach to replacing the aging Crown Victoria, which remains the most popular car for police around the country. Ford is breaking away from that car's tried-and-true mold of V8 power channeled to the rear wheels, though the company is quick to say the all-wheel setup will be just as effective for officers.

"This is a very diverse industry with multifaceted requirements," said Jim Holland, chief engineer of the police utility vehicle.

The utility vehicle is also said to get 20 percent better fuel economy than the current Crown Vic. Both vehicles were tested by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and the Michigan State Police.

The police market is getting increasingly competitive, with Dodge offering a new sedan based on the 2011 Charger and Chevrolet bringing back the Caprice. BMW is also expected to start supplying turbodiesel engines for a vehicle from an Indiana company called Carbon Motors in 2012.

Watch Greg Migliore's video report on the Ford Police Interceptor utility:

New Ford Interceptor SUV from AutoWeek on Vimeo.

By Greg Migliore