Photo: California Highway Patrol

Photo: California Highway Patrol

The California Highway Patrol will shift to Ford's Police Interceptor Utility SUV as its primary patrol vehicle when it begins replacing aging Crown Vics in its fleet.

The P.I. Utility was the only vehicle that met the agency's specifications for payload capacity and provides versatility in handling a variety of missions including traffic enforcement, event security, and facility protection, state officials said.

Assistant Chief Erik Knudsen told the Los Angeles Times the agency preferred the P.I. Utility over the crop of new patrol cars because "the design of the new sedans is becoming smaller and lighter."

The state agreed to purchase the new enforcement vehicles from Folsom Lake Ford. The contract allows for the purchase of P.I. Utility SUVs for $26,578 and Ford P.I. sedans for $23,242. The state's Department of General Services will acquire the vehicles.

The all-wheel-drive P.I. Utility, which also arrives in a front-wheel version, has a payload capacity of 1,500 pounds. The gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of the P.I. Utility is 6,300 pounds, which measures its curb weight plus maximum payload. Curb weight in 4,630 pounds.

"The CHP does need payload capacity of 1,500 pounds," said Eric Lamoureux, general services spokesman. "The sedan doesn't meet the capacity."

The sedan has a GVWR of 5,700 pounds and a curb weight of 4,310 pounds.

Lamoureux said the agency's new patrol car must be able to transport 459 pounds of installed equipment such as a prisoner cage, lightbar, push bar, gun tub, in-car video system, fire extinguisher, and communications gear. The agency also required 880 pounds for a driver and three passengers; 96 pounds for safety equipment; 87 pounds for stored CHP equipment; and 55 pounds for a full-size spare tire.

The department plans to begin purchasing the vehicles in October after testing four vehicles and completing a fleet utilization study. Gov. Jerry Brown has instructed state departments to eliminate under-utilized vehicles from the fleet as a cost-saving initiative. As a result, some officers may lose take-home vehicles, especially if they aren't using them for enforcement.

The dealer agreed to deliver two P.I. sedans and two SUVs for the CHP's own regimen of testing that includes a five-mile high-speed run (at 125 mph); 90-0 mph braking; and a timed road course.

The agency typically replaces about a third of its 4,000-vehicle fleet each year. The agency's marked enforcement units include 2,300 sedans and 140 all-terrain vehicles.

By Paul Clinton

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Ford P.I. Utility (photos)

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