Law-enforcement's only quicker option is a radio
Back in October Ford gave us a sneak peak and shared some police-department test results for its latest police pursuit Interceptor vehicle, which is based on the forthcoming 2020 Explorer. To review, the 2020 Police Interceptor Utility’s standard drivetrain is a 3.3-liter V-6 hybrid. Optional engines include a non-hybridized 3.3-liter V-6 and a 3.0-liter EcoBoost V-6. All are mated to a 10-speed automatic and all-wheel drive.
Because police vehicles spend so much of their time idling, Ford anticipates that the hybrid drivetrain will save between $3,500 and $5,700 USD per vehicle per year. If those savings were applied to every 2017 Police Interceptor utility sold in 2017, the savings would be more than 43 million gallons of gas and up to $193 million U.S. dollars.
Ford claims the hybrid’s electric gear fits outside the passenger and cargo area, exacting zero penalty in utility, and improving performance and handling (with the low-mounted battery improving weight distribution). Recapping the performance figures, Michigan State Police testing recorded a top speed of 137 mph (220 km/h) for the hybrid and 149 mph (240 km/h) for the EcoBoost, with 0-to-60-mph taking just 7.8 seconds for the hybrid, 7.3 for the 3.3, and 5.8 for the 3.0-liter EcoBoost. Overall performance was deemed superior to even the V-8 competition from Dodge and Chevy. A standard hitch with a towing capacity of 5,000 pounds (2,268 kg) is retained.
The cats are still very much IN the bag on 2020 Explorer powertrain specifics for another week or so, but Bill Gubing—chief engineer for Explorer—was willing to talk about the police-grade upgrades. The engine is upgraded for pursuit duty and when its controller senses pursuit driving, it engages special tuning optimized for quicker throttle response, transmission logic, and reduced concern for fuel consumption. And no, this computer flash will NOT be available to civilians. The transmission is reinforced but uses the same internal ratios, with unique axle ratios that account for the unique tire size (265/60R18 108V Goodyear Eagle Enforcers on steel wheels capable of surviving an 8-inch curb jump) and provides better performance. The cooling package is also upgraded, and special ducts to cool the brakes, which will be shared with the highest-performing civilian model. The shocks and springs are uniquely tuned and lower the vehicle about an inch, and there is a massive skidplate to protect the powertrain. Ground clearance is 7.4 inches.
A Ford-exclusive feature is structural reinforcement to withstand a 75-mph (120-km/h) rear impact. A structure of round and square high-strength steel tubing bolts to the rear half of the vehicle, adding about 180 pounds (82 kg). (The federal standard is 50 mph (80 km/h).)
The interior is almost entirely de-chromed, a tiny 4-inch radio display screen leaves plenty of space for laptop screens below, while featureless and speakerless door panels provide easy cleaning and optional level-3 or level-4 ballistic protection. Automatic dual-zone climate controls allow continued cooling during engine-off hybrid operation. Special numbered steering wheel buttons can be programmed to allow hands-on-wheel operation of the radio mic, the emergency lights, and other frequently used functions. The sunglasses holder is replaced by a red-LED flood light to illuminate paperwork without compromising night vision. And a special steel plate underlying the top center of the dash allows for hard mounting of radar guns and the like (preventing drywall-screws-through-the-airbag mounting).
Door and hatch entry and starting all happen with a key, which can be commonized across a department fleet. New door check straps are designed to survive a special police duty cycle, wherein they kick the door against its stop to close it. Special cloth front seats are sculpted to provide relief for sidearms, a vinyl rear bench is standard, and the third-row seat is deleted in favor of an enlarged well carrying a full-size spare tire and a lower, high-load-capacity cargo floor. A lockable stowage bin is provided for confiscated drugs, side-arm storage, etc. (A “captain’s car” option upgrades the front seat environment with a more civilian-like center console and carpeted floor.)
A traditional column shifter was engineered for police duty—it’s much easier to work when executing a tricky reverse J-turn maneuver (so yes, it can do at least 40 mph (64 km/h) in reverse in order to execute this Jim Rockford move). Speaking of cool police maneuvering, the standard automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection has a defeat switch to permit those awesome bump-n-spin pit maneuvers during a pursuit.
One cool police feature leverages the rear parking and blind-spot warning sensors to provide a 270-degree Police Perimeter Alert feature that warns the officer of anyone approaching from behind, turning on the rear camera and sounding a warning chime. A modem and two years of complimentary Ford Telematics service aids with vehicle usage and location tracking. The rearview camera can also be switched on at any speed for monitoring traffic behind.
Outside, Interceptors can be distinguished by a unique no-frills grille featuring a smaller blue oval that affords more cooling area. Beyond that and the steelies, these utes can be pretty stealthy. Ford offers LED lighting inside the windshield header and tucked up under the rear spoiler that can completely replace the roof bar (which must be added by an upfitter, along with the bull bars and interior console). Almost all other lighting is built in at the factory, including lights inside the head and taillights, inside the backlite and rear quarter glass, and elsewhere.
Burn a strong image of that grille into your memory banks, as it’s likely to show up in your rearview mirror sooner or later.