The men and women of the California Highway Patrol are going to be sitting a little bit taller next year: in a surprise move, the CHP will choose the Explorer-based Ford Police Interceptor Utility -- not the Taurus-based Interceptor sedan – as its primary patrol vehicle and successor to the Crown Victoria.
In the war of the police cars, the sedan is still king: Ford claims that Police Interceptor sales are 60 percent sedan, 40 percent utility, the Dodge Charger is pursuit rated--which means it's eligible for highway duty--while the bigger Durango isn't, and the Chevrolet Caprice is seeing more success than the Tahoe.
But with the death of the Ford Police Interceptor P71 sedan (which was based on the late Crown Victoria), the body-on-frame sedan is dead, and the new unibody sedans are smaller, lighter, and have lower payloads. For police departments with single-officer cars and not much equipment, that's not a problem, but CHP standards are apparently much tougher. California Highway Patrol cars must be able to carry 400 pounds of equipment, as well as four fully suited/armed officers. According to the department, the Police Interceptor Sedan's 1200-pound payload comes up a bit short.
Instead, CHP officers will likely drive the PIU, with its 1700-pound payload capacity. Because California Highway Patrol certification opens up a car for use by municipal/local departments, the organization promises to purchase a select few Police Interceptor sedans as well, allowing local departments to purchase either the sedan or the SUV.
Lest you think that upgrading from a sedan to a utility will hamper California's finest, we will remind you that the new Police Interceptor Utility is actually quicker than the Crown Victoria-based sedan it replaces. In recent Michigan State Police testing the PIU hit 60 mph at least one second quicker, has a higher top speed, and averages one more mile per gallon than the sedan. For that feat you can credit the PIU's new powertrain: it's fitted with a 3.7-liter V-6 that makes 300 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque, and is available with all-wheel drive.
If the Ford Police Interceptor Utility passes California Highway Patrol testing -- considering the PIU's stellar performance in MSP testing, it almost certainly will -- it should reach CHP garages as early as October of this year, and speed traps on the 10 as early as January 2013. California drivers: you've been warned.