SUVs

New Ford Explorer-based Police Interceptor Utility is efficient and loaded with tech

Ford estimates that police departments can save upward of $3,500 per car in annual fuel costs compared with the outgoing model.

Ford

Ford introduced the 2020 Explorer at the Detroit Auto Show, and if you've imagined what it looks like as a police car, wonder no more.

Ford also unveiled the Police Interceptor Utility, the SUV cop car that bears more than a passing resemblance to the 2020 Explorer, at the 2019 Detroit Auto Show. The headlights look pretty close to the shape seen on the revised Edge SUV, but the rear end is just about all Explorer, staying close to the look of the previous generation.

The automaker will offer three powertrains in the new Police Interceptor Utility. The standard setup is a 3.3-liter hybrid-electric configuration, which Ford believes will carry an EPA-estimated fuel economy of 24 mpg combined, some 41 percent higher than the current model with its 3.7-liter gas engine. A 3.0-liter turbocharged V6 and a 3.3-liter V6 are also available. No matter the engine, a 10-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive are standard.

The hybrid is the focus of Ford's release, and for good reason -- there's a whole lot of wasted gas money to be saved with the Police Interceptor Utility's hybrid variant. Ford estimates that if every Police Interceptor utility sold in 2017 were upgraded to the new hybrid model, it could save about 43 million gallons of fuel. At current gas prices, that could save police departments between $118 million and $193 million.

Heads up, scofflaws: You have another set of headlights and running lights to memorize.

Steven Pham/Roadshow

When the Michigan State Police tested the new Police Interceptor Utility with its hybrid powertrain, it shone. It beat competitive police utility vehicles in a 0-to-100-mph sprint, and it also beat the competition in a lap around the MSP's test track. Ford's latest police ute also has the highest top speed of any cop car the MSP tested, at 137 mph. The only vehicle faster than the hybrid was the new Police Interceptor Utility equipped with the 3.0-liter turbo V6.

Standard equipment on the Police Interceptor Utility includes cloth front seats with reduced bolsters for easier ingress and egress, in addition to vinyl rear seats, a vinyl floor and anti-stab plates behind the front seats. Under the body, the cooling has been improved, and the brakes are tuned specifically for police use. LED headlights are standard, too, because visibility never hurts.

Ford threw some new cop-specific tech into the mix, too. The standard Police Perimeter Alert uses the vehicle's parking sensors to detect motion around the vehicle, locking the doors and alerting the officer inside. It will also display motion trails to track the detected object or person. Dodge has a similar system on its latest Charger-based police car. Ford also equips each Police Interceptor Utility with a modem and two years of its Telematics service, which can track vehicle usage and location.

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2019 Ford Edge: Check out our first drive in the Explorer's smaller sibling.