Known ubiquitously in America as the car of choice for law enforcement agencies, the Ford Crown Victoria is a rear-wheel drive behemoth that offers everything police officers need. But with Ford ending production of the Crown Vic - one of the oldest vehicles on the market - by 2011, law enforcement officials are left wondering what will take its place.
Ford invited the heads of several the nation's largest police fleets out to Dearborn in June to test the new Ford Taurus, the sedan it wants agencies to use as the replacement for the Crown Vic. As capable as the all-new Taurus is, it lacks several of the features that make the older car appealing to officers.
For starters, the Crown Victoria is a real-wheel drive vehicle, a configuration that is considered superior to front-wheel drive for handling and traction. It is also body-on-frame, which means it's cheaper to repair. The column-mounted shifter leaves the space between the seats open for installation of computers, or storage for guns or other equipment. Lastly, the Crown Vic's interior space is virtually unmatched in today's market, with a back seat that can hold two large prisoners with ease, and a cavernous cargo area. The Ford Taurus, although technologically advanced and far safer than the Crown Vic, has none of these characteristics.
Vehicles from other automakers are being considered as well, and some fleets have already added models from other manufacturers besides Ford. Chrysler has tried to muscle in and break Ford's stranglehold for the law enforcement vehicle market by introducing a police version of its Dodge Charger. Ford's Auburn Hills-based rival has had little success, despite the fact that the police-tailored Charger models feature rear-wheel drive, a column shifter, and a powerful engine.
"The charger is nice looking" says Larray Tagawa, the commander of the Los Angeles Police Department's Motor Transport Division, "But from a mechanical standpoint, they are not up to par with the Crown Vic."
Regardless of the model officials choose to replace the Crown Vic in police fleets, aftermarket equipment - which, for years, has been produced to fit the Crown Vic - will pose a challenge. The Detroit News says that some departments made the switch from the Crown Vic to the Impala only to find later that their gear didn't fit because GM's sedan is narrower.
Some are optimistic about the opportunity to move away from the Crown Vic. Lieutenant Keith Wilson, who runs the Michigan State Police's precision driving unit, looks forward to adopting newer vehicles because of their safety.
"They [Crown Victorias] have a good track record in terms of service and durability," he said. "But anything that we lose, we are going to gain in officer safety."
Source: The Detroit News