A little bit of listening goes a long way in the world of law enforcement
Toronto, Ont. — Here's something to ponder. If you've got a family to move, get behind the wheel of a minivan. If you've got a load to haul or a boat to tow, a half-ton pickup should do the trick. It seems for every duty, there's a vehicle that's been specifically engineered to excel at it. But what about enforcing the law? What's the right vehicle for that?

Turns out, the primary choice is a vehicle that rides on a platform that was fresh when Saturday Night Fever came out. Its bones date back to a time when front bench seats, live rear axles and big, lazy V8 engines were the norm, not the exception to the rule. Fundamentally, not much has changed since the Crown Victoria rolled onto the scene in 1992, despite a re-skin in 1998. But ask any auto journalist about it, and you'll likely hear the words "dinosaur," "relic," and "pretty awful" used as choice descriptors between long sighs.

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And yet, an onslaught of modern rivals from Chevrolet and Chrysler has not withered Ford's near-monopoly on the police car scene. Even in its dying days, the Crown Vic was sought after, trouncing the Chevy Impala and the fearsome Dodge Charger in the sales stakes. When the end of the road actually came, for both the car and the St. Thomas plant that assembled it, a number of agencies stepped in to place bulk orders. Clearly, we motoring hacks must be missing out on something. In the eyes of law enforcement, there are some big shoes that need filling. Luckily, then, Ford responded with not one, but two vehicles to fill them.

Designed with them in mind

2013 Ford Interceptor Sedan(Photo: Justin Couture)

As sinister as the 2013 Interceptor Sedan and Interceptor Utility look, draped in black, with blue and reds flashing, it's easy enough to dismiss them as tweaked versions of the Taurus and Explorer. David Shuttleworth of Ford's fleet department is quick to dismiss this assumption. He says there's a lot more that goes into these vehicles than simply tossing on some chunky steel wheels, and removing creature comforts. These are cars that must endure some of the harshest and longest working conditions out there.

Knowing that it would be something of an uphill battle, Ford took a different approach. Using the Crown Vic as a baseline, its people went to task with an advisory board that included members of the O.P.P., the Vancouver Police, and the FBI to come up with a car that took police needs into consideration. The whole process took more than two years, a longer gestation time than some new cars, but the result has been worth it.

Officers vs. Managers

2013 Ford Interceptor Sedan interior(Photo: Justin Couture)

When you spend eight or more hours of your day behind the wheel of a car, little things are a big deal. Take seats for example. If the Interceptor seats look flat, it's because they are; they've been formed to accommodate officers' big belts, and feature raised latches to make buckling up easier. The cars also get a completely unique soft-touch dashboard with a column shifter, and simplified controls for climate and stereo (no MyFord Touch for these guys). Between those redesigned seats is eight inches of clearance space for plenty of shoulder and elbow room. Yet perhaps the most significant touch is the steering wheel, which features configurable controls to operate the sirens and lights.

But that's half that battle. With strict budgets to keep in the black, they're more interested in the dollar figures behind the vehicles. Both the Utility and Sedan feature many interchangeable parts, from interior components, right down to the brakes and the wheels. They're also cheaper to run. At idle, they slurp back some 35 per cent less fuel and use 20 per cent less while on the move (hey, you should be interested — it's your tax money). To streamline the whole ordeal, the cars can be pre-fitted with vinyl lettering, and fitted with lights, push bars, and wiring right from the factory. Even the keys have been simplified; they're basic keys which can be cut for pennies on the dollar, and can be used to start more than one car.

If there's a surplus in the budget, know that these Interceptors can be decked out with toys like a reverse camera, stab-proof seatbacks, and door inserts that can stop a speeding bullet (and then some). And for forces that want something that's almost as fast as a speeding bullet, the Sedan can be optioned with Ford's twin-turbocharged 365-hp EcoBoost V6 which has been "electronically limited" to 250 km/h. Yes, it could go faster.