You’ve seen them, possibly right in your rear-view mirror. Since the demise of the legendary Crown Victoria, and the lukewarm law enforcement response to the police-package Ford Taurus (which is due to be discontinued in any case), North America’s favorite police vehicle has become the Ford Explorer SUV, with 3.7 liters of displacement and all-wheel drive. I’ve talked to some cops who drive Explorers on patrol and they uniformly love it. Come next year, the Explorer Police Interceptor Utility will become the first North American vehicle designed specifically for law enforcement duty to carry a standard hybrid powertrain.
Is it going to succeed? Put it this way: The police hybrid isn’t even out yet – it’s undergoing evaluation by the Los Angeles Police Department – but U.S. police agencies have already placed some 2,600 orders for it. The patrol hybrid has already earned an EPA fuel economy rating of 23 MPG city and 24 MPG highway, which Ford says represents a 41 percent improvement over the conventionally powered police Explorer. Hybrid orders from cities including San Diego and Columbus, Ohio, already account for 17 percent of all police Explorer sales even though the hybrid has yet to be rolled out. Its powertrain consists of a 3.3-liter V-6 and a lithium-ion battery pack. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, which conducts comprehensive vehicle testing, reported that the hybrid Explorer Interceptor bettered the gasoline-only version from 0-60 MPH by more than a full second. To address officer safety, the hybrid Explorer can withstand a 75 MPH rear impact, and a series of cameras and monitors continuously assesses a 270-degree zone, locking the doors, raising the windows and alerting the officer if an intruder approaches the vehicle.