The Go-Fast, Go-Safe Parts You Only Get on Police Cars

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Ford wants to own the police car business. Cops always want safe cars that go fast. But municipal and state governments also want police cars that don’t guzzle gasoline, so hybrids are a now big part of the picture. For every high-speed chase, there are dozens of hours sitting in parking lots watching traffic and writing reports, and for that, hybrids play an increasing role. Ford is focusing on police cars based on the 2020 Ford Explorer SUV, but it’s also selling Ford Fusion hybrids and F-150 pickups in police livery.

Ford this spring has been running a coast-to-coast road show for public safety and government officials, as well as journalists looking for news, or free doughnuts. Here’s what Ford is up to.

Take rear parking sonar and blind spot detection, or BLIS (blind spot information system) in Ford parlance. On civilian cars, it warns if you’re about to back into something or change lanes into the path of a car you didn’t see in your side mirror. (If you’d bothered to look.) Here, Ford’s Police Perimeter Alert provides 270 degrees of coverage and tracks the pitter-patter of feet moving around the patrol car when police are stopped and writing reports.

The electronics also pick up people (on civilian cars as well) behind the car. Ford adds icons and motion paths on the center stack display and tracks if the people are moving around the car or if they’re approaching the car. It can sound an alert, or even roll up the windows and lock the car.

Ford police vehicles also offer rear camera on demand. Flip a switch when you’re parked or moving and you can see what’s behind you. Regular cars only show what’s behind when you’re backing up.

Traditional safety means making the car more crash resistant. Ford can add bracing to the underside of a highway-intended vehicle to allow for a survivable accident when a parked police car is stopped on the roadside and it’s hit by another car at up to 75 mph.

Federal standards specify 50 mph protection. An impact at 75 mph results in an impact twice as severe.

Two levels of ballistic armor can be added to the side door panels, providing Level III+ and Level IV+ protection against a specified list of ammunition being fired a the vehicle.

Ford is building into its cars some of the special flashing lights abilities that used to call for aftermarket equipment. It’s also standardizing additional mounting points for specialty lights.

The steering wheels get four buttons that can be designated for specific tasks, something that would be nice on civilian cars.

The seats are typically fabric — very long life fabric — and the bolsters are designed with an eye toward the equipment cops wear and carry, specifically equipment belts and body armor. Ford said it has made the space between the front seats 11 inches apart, although it continues to make mounting points designed for industry-standard 9-inch equipment panels where radios go. To that end, the console shifter is now a column-mount shifter. Rear seats are vinyl and made for easy cleanup.

The same telematics as on civilian Fords is on police cars. Ford includes two years of free service (free once you pay for the car) and, like on civilian cars, it’s AT&T-only, meaning rural departments where Verizon signal is better will have challenges.

Police Fords get standard pre-collision assists, including emergency braking but with a disable switch in case a pursuit calls for a controlled tap on the back of the car ahead to spin it. That’s called a precision immobilization technique.

Depending on police needs, Ford makes three engines available. Standard on the Police Interceptor Utility is a 3.3-liter hybrid. There’s also a 3.0-liter turbo (EcoBoost) V6 and a 3.3-liter V6. All get 10-speed automatics and full-time all-wheel drive.

Ford designed the lithium-ion hybrid battery to power the car’s electronics, lights, and HVAC for extended periods when parked. Ford said it projects the Police Interceptor Utility delivering 24 mpg, a 41 percent improvement over Ford’s current vehicle with a 3.7-liter gasoline engine. Ford projects savings of $3,500-$5,700 in annual savings for the typical car driven two eight-hour shifts daily. It still hits 137 mph. Rural and highway patrol forces can opt for the V6 turbo and do 150 mph.

All these are designed to make police departments forget the once-universal V8 Ford Crown Victoria, which went away in 2011. Ford says it currently has 65 percent of the US police vehicle business.

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