First drive: 2013 Ford Taurus & Explorer Police Interceptor at Yas Marina Abu Dhabi
Ever wondered how it felt like to be in a police car, but in the front seat and not the rear. Well, Ford gave us the opportunity to do so at the regional launch of the all-new 2013 Police Interceptor vehicles, held at the Yas Marina F1 Circuit in Abu Dhabi.
Los Angeles might be the chase capital of the world and that is where you would probably find the most number of modern police pursuit vehicles. However, here in the GCC, specifically Dubai, the crime rate is low and the car chases are folklore. The local police fleet consists of cruisers of the luxury variety, namely BMW and Mercedes-Benz, with the odd 4×4 thrown in. However, recession has hit big. It would be a good idea for even government establishments to make financial cut-downs and that is probably why Ford has come to the Middle East with their cop cars.
Driving the 100 km to the Yas Marina Circuit, I was playing out Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit scenes in my head, but the event was anything but. Like in university, the initial lecture and presentation might have been partly ignored for the sheer Megabytes per second of data my grey cells could take, but it was obvious that some of it will eventually become part of our daily life, or roadscape in this case. Things that caught my ear though were the 20 kg ballistic-grade armoury infused into the front door panels and the fact that Ford’s performance-vehicles team worked on these cars as well.
When the covers came off, there stood Ford’s crime fighting front runners. A Ford Taurus painted in traditional American police colours, with a 3.5-litre “EcoBoost” V6 that pumps out 365 hp and 475 Nm, and is capable of achieving an EPA-rated fuel economy of 12.4 litres/100 km on average. As an option comes the front-wheel-drive 288 hp 3.5-litre V6 that cranks out 345 Nm of twisting force, with fuel economy figures as low as 11 litres/100 km. In comparison, the now-decommissioned Crown Victoria was weaker by 38 ponies and ran fewer kilometres to the litre.
The Police Interceptor Utility, essentially a Ford Explorer with an uprated 304 hp 3.7-litre V6 engine bolted on, is claimed to do 12.7 litres/100 km. The rear floor can take as much as 363 kg of payload and that contributes to an overall weight gain of 50 kg.
In recent testing by the LA Sheriff’s Department, the EcoBoost Taurus and the Explorer beat all competitive police cars from Chevrolet and Chrysler in acceleration tests and high-speed handling lap times. All vehicles get a 6-speed automatic transmission calibrated for maximum acceleration. It would be interesting to see Dubai Police to run a comparo with their current fleet.
The police cars also borrow some features from the stock car such as blind-spot monitor, cross-traffic alert, electric power steering, stability control, rear-view camera and rear sensors. In terms of technological advancements, Ford SYNC, the customisable voice-activated information system, has also been integrated and can be remapped to sync with police aftermarket equipment such as lights and sirens, among other things. That’s when I thought we are ever so getting close to driving KITT from Knight Rider.
All of Ford’s vehicles are pursuit-rated, which means they have been driven an equivalent of 1 million miles by various police departments as a testament of reliability. They come equipped with a 220-amp alternator, police-unique brake calipers, rotors and pads, heavy-duty springs, shocks and powertrain mounts, and 18-inch five-spoke steel wheels wrapped in 245/55R18 tyres. Even the cooling package is purpose-built, featuring a 50% higher-capacity radiator and the honeycomb grille has been redesigned to improve airflow for the brakes and cooling system.
You’d be surprised what other police-related improvements have been made to the car. The lower bolster on the front seats have been removed to better accommodate officers’ utility belts and anti-stab plates have been inserted into the seatback to protect front-seat occupants. The rear vinyl seats are specially sculpted and are set back to improve second-row space and the back door hinges open up another 10 degrees compared to the stock vehicle. Even the shift lever has been relocated and the console area has been freed up to accommodate aftermarket police equipment and laptops.
Both police vehicles get heavy-duty independent suspension. As per Ford, all that beefing up allows the chassis to absorb the shock generated by driving into an 8-inch curb at 45 degrees at 73 kph.
According to US state law, all PPVs have to be rear crash-tested to 90 kph but Ford went the extra mile, ensuring occupant safety upto 120 kph. Both models feature a unibody platform designed to meet NHTSA’s 5-star crash-test requirements.
The first episode of the test drive consisted of driving both versions of the Taurus, the Explorer and the old-timer Crown Victoria through a slippery wet obstacle course. Considering it only rains 3 days a year in the UAE, I’m not sure if this test would define real-world handling.
Yes, the rear-wheel-drive Crown Vic was all over the place and had its tail out during cornering and lane-change exercises, but it was also the most fun. But at police departments, “fun” is questionable and even illegal.
The power advantage on the new-age Taurus’ over the Crown Vic was evident, and the AWD kept drive lines obedient. The dark horse however was the Explorer, defeating the physics caused by it size and gravity. It meandered through the course, killing very few cones. Suddenly our confidence was on a high.
The second episode was doing laps around the North part of the Yas Marina F1 track. More fun? Yes, but with circuit marshals policing you at about the 120 kph speed limit meant that we really had to play by the rule book.
It was obvious that the Crown Vic was never the sort of car to take on the Nurburgring even 20 years ago, let alone the Yas Marina Circuit. The beefed-up Taurus EcoBoost model was definitely the king of the ring amongst the lot. Power was ample, and handling armed with all-wheel-drive meant that this car is capable of speedy manoeuvres without endangering the life of the officer. The Explorer wasn’t far behind either. Body roll was expected and turn-in isn’t exactly a match for the Porsche Cayenne GTS, but for as a police SUV, it came across as purposeful.
As we retired to the presentation areas while enduring dry heat, I pondered, we’ve seen these Blue Oval cop cars in circuit action but will we be seeing them on the roads soon? I’m guessing yes.
But before the day’s end, I threw a question at Ford personnel leaving them perplexed; “with a top speed of 211 kph and 193 kph for the Taurus and Explorer cop cars, how do they expect to keep with baddies, the kind who drive stock Honda Civics, let alone souped-up ones from the sets of The Fast and the Furious?”