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Feature drive: Ford Crown Vic Police Interceptor. Image by 0.

Feature drive: Ford Crown Vic Police Interceptor
The iconic US cop car is now available for the public to prowl the mean streets of Great Britain. We tried it out.

 



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The Ford Crown Victoria must be one of the most easily recognisable and iconic cars ever built. Used in America as both a yellow taxi and private car it has appeared in countless films and TV shows.

Its most high profile use, though, is by law enforcement outfits. Federal agencies, State troopers and local Police departments all love its unique blend of reliability, safety and performance. We've managed to get our hands on one for a few days - on UK roads.

In the Metal

The Police-spec version of the Crown Vic has the model designation 'P71 Interceptor' and has little in common with the civilian model. It accounts for no less than 82% of the market for police car sales in the USA in the last decade and is so popular with law enforcement agencies that some Police departments in the States are stockpiling them rather than buy the Interceptor's replacement, the Ford Taurus; production of the Crown Vic stops in 2011 and no more orders are being taken.

The 4.6-litre V8 engine comes from the Ford Mustang, the prop shaft is made of aluminium and the suspension is pure F150 pickup; heavy-duty and ideal for bouncing up kerbs, aided and abetted by 235/55 R16 'Pursuit'-rated Goodyear Eagle tyres on steel rims.

The carpet is a moulded rubber mat. The front seats have stab-resistant plates in them and the rear seat is vinyl-covered so that body fluids can be cleaned up more easily. An adjustable spotlight is mounted on the driver's A-pillar and provides back up for the roof-mounted emergency lights.

Now a British company, USA Cop Cars, is importing genuine American ex-Police cars into the UK and selling them as private vehicles. They are handpicked, a maximum of three years old, have fewer than 75,000 miles on the clock and are fully refurbished in the States before sale.

They still have all the features that make them a proper Police car including working lights, siren and all the goodies that make it an Interceptor. The new owners can also specify the livery and colour scheme that they would like.

Favourite Interceptor-related Fact

The boot has an internal release, just in case you are bundled in there and taken hostage (and there is plenty of room in there for even the stoutest cop). The boot release handle is a flat luminous green piece of plastic with two outlines cut into it; one is the image of the boot opening and the second is an outline of a figure running away. Genius humour and attention to detail is what makes the Interceptor such a great car.

Driving It

The cloth-covered front seats are wide. Very wide. You slide in and notice how flat they are and think about the lack of lateral support, an initial impression that's confirmed on the move.

The vinyl rear seat is huge and can take three full-size child seats. They'll need them though as they slide around on the slightest bend, although the resulting travel sickness can be easily mopped up...

Wafting around the city streets is relaxing, comfortable and easy. The combination of easily accessible torque, an auto-box and light power steering had me smoking around like a pro in no time.

The engine and exhaust note are unobtrusive and my passengers invariably commented on how quiet and refined the Interceptor is. This might be a good thing, or bad, depending on how mature you are. I'd quite like a more fruity exhaust note, which probably says more about me than Ford's engineers.

It is a wide car though; I'm tall and couldn't touch the passenger side door from the driver's seat, which means that driving down some of Leeds' narrower side streets sometimes meant folding the door mirrors in and inching forward.

Speed humps and sleeping policemen are despatched with aplomb, the heavy suspension and sheer mass of the car damping them into inconsequential irritations rather than an annoyance.

A figure of 250bhp isn't a lot in a car that weighs 1,911kg and a 0-60mph time of 8.5 seconds isn't earthshattering, but then you can't outrun radio, can you? The key to rapid progress in the big Crown Vic is to be smooth. Load the tyres slowly and give the softly sprung chassis time to get used to the weight transfer and once it's settled apply the power progressively; if you are brutal with the throttle the three-speed (plus overdrive) automatic gearbox will slush around for a while until it finds a ratio that it's happy with.

Top speed is limited to 129mph but Ford claims that it will hit 140mph without restriction. I didn't get close to that but it felt very stable and secure at motorway cruising speeds with plenty in reserve for A-road overtaking. The brakes felt uninspiring but always worked effectively enough.

Police Gadgets

The space between the front seats is dominated by a huge console, which is filled with switches and the controls for the PA system. It looks great and makes the interior feel workmanlike, like that of a Land Rover Defender. You are reminded that this car is a tool, not a toy, and reliability and functionality are, quite literally, life saving traits.

The 100-watt PA system is fun and being able to play the radio through it is quite cool. The siren has to be removed to make it road-legal in the UK and is replaced by a single-tone monster of a horn that sounds like a cross between a train and a lorry.

Sadly, British laws prohibit the fitment of flashing blue lights (or the word 'Police') so steady-state red ones have been fitted instead. The side-mounted 'alley lights' make prowling around narrow streets more fun than is appropriate and the hand-controlled driver's spotlight makes tracking moving foxes a piece of cake.

Other Road Users

The reactions of other road users are interesting. Cruising at 60mph in the nearside lane creates a rolling roadblock until other road users get close enough to realise that you are only playing at motorway patrol. Yet no one gets grumpy and other road users are warm towards it; friendly curiosity is an attractive bonus to driving the Interceptor. Thumbs-up are common and flashed headlights are another. Waiting to join a main road from a side junction is a thing of the past as people fall over themselves to be helpful.

It isn't a car for the shy, but you have to be less of an extrovert than you think. Strangers come up to you for a chat in a way that they have never done before, no matter how exotic the car and no one seemed envious, just interested and curious.

Worth Noting

"It might be good to get a fleet of tried and true cars while they work the bugs out of the new ones," said Wayne Vincent, the police association president, of the decision by several forces to stockpile the old Crown Vic Interceptor instead of buying its replacement, the Ford Taurus. "They have been very reliable vehicles, and I really hate to see them go."

Summary

Twenty-three thousand pounds is a lot of money for a three-year old car with this level of performance. It also guzzles fuel at the rate of a gallon for every 20 miles covered and the disadvantages of left-hand drive can't be minimised. But...

Truly iconic cars are rarer than you might think and the stock of them is finite. There are dozens of civilian Crown Vics tarted-up to look like a cop car but not many genuine P71s.

Cars like this are about how they make you feel. Sure, you could accelerate harder, brake later, and generate more lateral 'G' for your money elsewhere but what other car can generate so much goodwill?

And how cool would it be to tell people that your everyday ride is a 'Police Interceptor'?

Key Facts

Pricing: 23,000 - 28,000
Engine: 4.6-litre V8 petrol
Transmission: three-speed automatic plus overdrive, rear-wheel drive
Body style: four-door saloon
Rivals: unique, but old UK Police Vauxhall Senators do come up on eBay
CO2 emissions: 218g/km
Combined economy: 20mpg
Top speed: 129mph
0-62mph: 8.5 seconds
Power: 250bhp
Torque: 297lb.ft

Thanks

Thanks to Lindsay Groves of USA Cop Cars Ltd. (www.usa-cop-cars.com) for the loan of the Interceptor and Harewood Speed Hillclimb for the use of their circuit (www.harewoodhill.com).

Carlton Boyce - 4 Aug 2011









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2008 Ford Crown Victoria P71 Police Interceptor. Image by 0.2008 Ford Crown Victoria P71 Police Interceptor. Image by 0.2008 Ford Crown Victoria P71 Police Interceptor. Image by 0.2008 Ford Crown Victoria P71 Police Interceptor. Image by 0.2008 Ford Crown Victoria P71 Police Interceptor. Image by 0.

2008 Ford Crown Victoria P71 Police Interceptor. Image by 0.2008 Ford Crown Victoria P71 Police Interceptor. Image by 0.2008 Ford Crown Victoria P71 Police Interceptor. Image by 0.2008 Ford Crown Victoria P71 Police Interceptor. Image by 0.2008 Ford Crown Victoria P71 Police Interceptor. Image by 0.



2008 Ford Crown Victoria P71 Police Interceptor. Image by 0.
 

2008 Ford Crown Victoria P71 Police Interceptor. Image by 0.
 

2008 Ford Crown Victoria P71 Police Interceptor. Image by 0.
 

2008 Ford Crown Victoria P71 Police Interceptor. Image by 0.
 

2008 Ford Crown Victoria P71 Police Interceptor. Image by 0.
 

2008 Ford Crown Victoria P71 Police Interceptor. Image by 0.
 

2008 Ford Crown Victoria P71 Police Interceptor. Image by 0.
 

2008 Ford Crown Victoria P71 Police Interceptor. Image by 0.
 

2008 Ford Crown Victoria P71 Police Interceptor. Image by 0.
 






 

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