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Departments : First Look

Raging Bull

Ford's Next Generation Police Interceptor has all the power and poise of the Taurus sports sedan, but it was designed from the ground up as a police car. David Griffith

April 08, 2010  |  by - Also by this author

Wham! The sound from the impact of the 2010 Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor on the garage door stunned the audience of fleet managers waiting for the unveiling of the company's new patrol vehicle last month in Las Vegas. Then the Crown Vic smashed through another (Styrofoam) garage door and shot out of view. Behind it came the star of the show: Ford's Next Generation Police Interceptor (NGPI).

The symbolism of having the Crown Vic smash down a barrier for the NGPI was inescapable. The Crown Vic has been the most successful police vehicle in history, securing some 70 percent of the market for Ford, but Ford is retiring the model in 2011 and replacing it with the NGPI.

And the question that everyone in law enforcement is asking is: Can the police version of the Taurus sustain Ford's domination of the patrol car market? We won't know the answer until the company starts releasing sales figures for the new model and the car goes on duty. What we can say now is that the NGPI is a fine-looking automobile with the sleek lines of a luxury sports sedan; it performs like a muscle car; and it was designed from the ground up for police duty.

That last point is perhaps the NGPI's greatest selling point for law enforcement agencies. For more than two years now, Ford has been working closely with a collection of veteran law enforcement officers on its Police Advisory Board to take the basic Taurus and turn it into a purpose-built patrol car.

A good place to start this discussion is in the interior. It's about 90 percent different than the interior of the civilian sedan. The front seats are sculpted to make ingress and egress easier for an officer wearing a duty belt and all the tools of modern law enforcement. Another nice touch on the front seats is a stab panel to prevent any unpleasant surprises from the rear seat. The rear seats have also been designed for patrol duty. They are vinyl for durability and easy cleaning.

Also, Ford has designed the interior to make room for computers, cameras, control consoles, radios, and all the other electronic goodies that you need on duty. For example, the NGPI has a column shifter so that the center console can be used for equipment. There's also a really cool horseshoe-shaped depression on the dashboard that Ford created for placement of video cameras, radar, and other electronic equipment. The depression is deep enough that placement of the equipment in this spot minimizes its impact on the driver's line of sight. That simple design touch won a lot of praise from the Vegas audience of fleet managers.

But what most impressed the fleet managers was the safety features on the NGPI. Ford engineers spent many long hours enhancing the safety features of the Taurus, which the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gives a five-star crash test rating. The roof of the NGPI is reinforced enough to survive six seconds of rolling or about 3.5 flips. Crush zones are reinforced with boron steel pillars. The car is certified to survive a 75-mph rear-end collision. And stability control and side curtain air bags come standard.

Side impact air bags can be a problem on patrol cars. Sometimes the prisoner cage gets in the way. Ford says that won't happen on the NGPI. Also, Ford believes that the side curtain air bags in some cars don't deploy fast enough for police operations, so the company has developed a side impact pressure sensor that according to Ford safety engineer Stephen Kozak triggers the air bags 30 to 40 percent faster than conventional systems.

That air bag pressure sensor reveals the level of detail and forethought that Ford has given to the safety features of the NGPI. Ford engineers were concerned that gun shots into the side panel might trigger the air bags and trap the officer during a gun fight. So the company set up a car on a firing range and asked the members of a police tactical unit to whale on it with everything in their arsenal, including full-auto MP5s and ARs and 12-gauge slugs. The engineers then took the pressure data from the impacts of each of those rounds and used it to calibrate the sensors. That job was much easier said than done according to Kozak, who said the pressure wave from the 12-gauge slugs was very similar to a vehicle impact.

Like the civilian Taurus, the NGPI offers two different drive trains: front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive. It also is available in two different engine configurations: a base 3.5-liter power plant and a 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged engine with direct injection. Both engines are relatively small but Ford says the base power plant offers better performance than the 4.6-liter V-8 Crown Vic. As for the twin turbo EcoBoost engine, it generates 365 horsepower, 115 more stallions than the V-8 Crown Vic. The EcoBoost runs on regular unleaded, but Corey Weaver, Ford EcoBoost engine engineer, said it gets better performance on premium. Weaver estimates that both engines will get 28 percent better gas mileage than the current Crown Vic. EPA ratings are not yet available.

In addition to all of the law enforcement specialty features that come standard on the NGPI, it will also be available with many of the luxury options from the civilian Taurus, including backup cameras, Ford's Blind Spot Information System, and voice control through the Sync system.

Overall the NGPI received rave reviews from the dozens of fleet managers gathered in Las Vegas for the unveiling. Some expressed concern about the vehicle because it is front-wheel drive, but Wyatt Earp, fleet director of the Marion County (Fla.) Sheriff's Office, dismissed such concerns. "The problem with front-wheel drive is that we're not trained for it," he said. "Once we've trained with it and used it, it will be OK."

Other officers had no concerns about the car. Lt. Keith Wilson of the Michigan State Police oversees the department's annual evaluation of police vehicles and he worked with Ford for two years on the company's Police Advisory Board during development of the NGPI. He is very satisfied with the final product. "No changes are needed on this design," Wilson said. "Ford is really moving forward into the future with this car and taking advantage of new technology."

Ford said the complete list of standard features and options has not been finalized. Pricing for the NGPI is expected to be comparable to the Crown Vic Police Interceptor. Production is scheduled to begin in 2011.

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Comments (8)

Displaying 1 - 8 of 8

FireCop08 @ 4/9/2010 5:07 AM

The Taurus has such a bad name in the police market, and the Crown Vic has such a good name, Ford will lose a ton of market share starting in 2011 to the Charger, Tahoe and the new Caprice because they are rear wheel drive and better priced. Why the idiots at Ford are cancelling the Crown Vic/Grand Marquis/Town Car line as the population gets older is beyond comprehension. These cars are capable of good mpg if tweaked properly. No wonder the (former) big 3 are doing so poorly. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

jeb234 @ 4/12/2010 8:23 AM

In today's police market, the choices are limited, as they always have been, but instead of slamming a vehicle before it gets to the line officers, give it a chance. It could be an even better vehicle than the Crown Vic. Now that there is a fourth player (provided that they actually start producing the car) the Police market could get even better. As always you can get allot of information from all the tests but it will come down to the front line officers to give the car a real evaluation. Word of mouth spreads fast through the L E community.

BlueKnight614 @ 4/13/2010 5:24 PM

Ford screwed the pooch with this one!! What were they thinking?? I hope my dept. goes with Dodge or Chevy and leaves this piece of junk alone. Ford said they got input fron an "Officer Advisory Panel"....who wants a front wheel drive cruiser?? Idiots!! I hope Ford looses their A$$ with this one!!! IF IT AIN'T BROKE....DON'T FIX IT!!!!!!!

blueknight614 @ 4/13/2010 5:36 PM

That Advisory Board needs to be replaced with Officers who actually drive a cruiser on a daily basis.

mmb259 @ 4/14/2010 8:10 AM

for us in law enforcement, most know that we don't take to changes very well. Once we experience something that works we don't like messing with it if it isn't broke. With all that said, Changes will come in this technology age. I think that Ford did its homework on the future interceptor. I was hoping to see rear wheel drive as well but I think that certain agencies can benefit from front/all wheel drive. What I think are important factors of the future Interceptor are the safety features and the ability to inter-change the police equipment from the crown vic to the new interceptor. I think with all of the experience that ford has with the police community that they will do just fine with the new vehicle. I drove the Taurus and I was very amazed on how it drove and it appeared to be a well built vehicle. I can't wait to drive the police version!!

dtpd @ 4/19/2010 6:46 PM

The local police dept here already has committed to going to Dodge Chargers when the Crown Vic is gone. That is substantial because I understand the Chief was real big on Crown Vics

okaragozian1 @ 5/5/2010 7:05 PM

I'm driving a Ford CVPI now and I thought i should go take a look at a Ford taurus at a local dealership to get a feel for the interior a bit. I know it will be different in 2012 for the "Raging Bull" but that there is a problem I had. I am 6'-5" tall and my head hits the roof no matter what I tried to do to adjust the seat down. The seat went down as low as possible and I had to lean the seat back to finally get a little bit of headroom clearance. So, basically, when driving I would have to strain my neck forward to see forward because if I keep my neck in its natural position I would be staring at the headliner instead of the windshield. Rides can get bumpy and you need 3" of headroom clearance when the going get's rough and you have to tumble a bit. If you have less than 3" of clearnce, you can get real serious neck/spine damage even if you go over a pothole. I want to warn every person who is over 6'-0" tall to take an opportunity to visit a local Ford dealership and sit in a Ford 2010 Taurus. Everybody better get concerned about this now as opposed to later because it will be a serious issue as far as I am concerned. Headroom is important for safety and reduced workplace injury or lawsuits.

Ron Terry @ 5/5/2013 4:12 AM

OVer the years I have been part of consumer evaluation, and Ford, Chevy & Dodge all fit the same mold. They all had a good market share and a good rolling platform and threw it all away to start over. All of them did well in some markets, over all lost valuable support from agencies and individuals. So far Dodge is the only one that has even tried to correct their errors. Engineers can only add so many gadgets, but a small unit is still a small unit! The Dodge Diplomat and Chevy Impala should remind everyone of that fact. Horsepower and gadgets are nice, but when you live in one shift after shift, it tells the real show of it's metal. The only bad thing is the officers are the one;s that truly lose out!

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