Cop cars are now more capable than ever

The next time your mirrors light up red and blue and you consider unleashing the 700 or more horses at the business end of your throttle, you must pause to reflect. The sluggish Caprices and Crown Vics you may be familiar with are being supplanted by more fearsome machines. Sedans are giving way to SUVs and the same turbo and hybrid tech that sped up civilian coupes and sports cars has also energized the police fleet. Several modern police vehicles have top speeds and acceleration that can compete with high-performance cars—and one cruiser even hits 150 mph—which means that requesting a road block by radio may no longer the most potent weapon in a cop’s holster.

We bring you this intel courtesy of a Michigan State Police group that tests patrol cars provided each year by automakers and publishes the results so U.S. and Canadian enforcement agencies can purchase vehicles that best suit their needs. This program has existed for decades and the testers take their tasks seriously. Every year they visit Chrysler’s Chelsea proving ground near Detroit and Grattan Raceway near Grand Rapids to conduct runs using accurate instruments and skillful drivers.

Chevrolet, Dodge, and Ford submitted one dozen 2019 and 2020 model year sedans, pickups, and SUVs. BMW, Harley-Davidson, and Yamaha provided seven motorcycles. The testing regimen consists of acceleration, top speed, and braking measurements, along with fuel economy assessment and lap times on the road course to assess vehicle dynamics.

 2020 Ford Police Interceptor Utility Hybrid 3.4 front on road
2020 Ford Police Interceptor Utility Hybrid Ford
 2020 Ford Police Interceptor Utility Hybrid overpass highway
2020 Ford Police Interceptor Utility Hybrid Ford

Ford has moved to the head of the enforcement class ahead of FCA and GM, now supplying two-thirds of the vehicles sold to police agencies. The Police Interceptor Utility is based on the Explorer—the most popular Ford police vehicle—but the Blue Oval also offers an F-150 Police Responder. Some of the brand’s success stems from its early adoption turbocharged engines (since 2012) and its adoption of hybrid technology in 2018. Hybrid police cars include the Fusion-based Police Responder Hybrid and a Police Interceptor Utility Hybrid (Explorer).

This year, the Ford Interceptor Utility AWD powered by a 3.0-liter EcoBoost V-6 stood far above the field with the quickest acceleration, the highest top speed, the fastest lap around the road course, and a mid-pack braking finish. With its 150-mph top speed, the aptly named Interceptor topped Dodge’s 149 mph, 5.7-liter Hemi Charger and also beat the BMW and Yamaha bikes’ top speeds by a few mph.

Ford is also winning over police departments by improving the Interceptor’s crash resistance. In this age of inattentive drivers, people have a bad habit of plowing into cops stopped to inspect license and registration documents. Statistics reveal that cops are more likely to die during such accidents than succumbing to gunfire. To improve their odds, Ford adds a 160-pound steel-tube subframe bolted to the floor under the seats to keep the rear of the 2020 Interceptor from collapsing during impact. The extra bracing spreads collision energy throughout the unibody structure and reduces the chances of fires from leaking fuel tanks and battery packs (in hybrid versions).

To avoid racking up points against your driver’s license, keep your detector armed and eyes peeled for a blue oval badge homing in from the rear. The emerging Smokey in an Interceptor threat must be taken seriously.

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