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Comparison: Ford Taurus SHO vs. Ford Taurus Police Interceptor Sedan

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With the death of the Panther platform, a premature or at least poorly planned one in my opinion, Ford was left without a dedicated workhorse platform. Ford’s replacement plan for police cars, taxicabs, and limousines came in a variety of cars, which included modified versions of the Taurus, Explorer, Transit Connect, and MKT. These replacements of the Panther came with much scrutiny from the automotive media, but I always wanted to know what is the opinion of the people who have to live with these vehicles everyday.

Last summer I spent sometime talking to New York City cabdrivers and walked away with a mix of opinions. The general consensus was that the durability and the low cost of the Crown Victorias will be missed but not the gas mileage. Most cab drivers, however, ended up with hybrid-powered Toyota Camrys as their Panther replacements as they offer the best mix of cost, fuel economy, and interior and trunk space.

Police duty, however, calls for different needs than just a sedan with a partition. Trunk space, acceleration, durability, and safety are the key issues. Costs are very important as well, especially to smaller departments such as this one, which had a budget of $100,000 to buy three vehicles. This small Massachusetts town ended up with three vehicles on that budget; two Ford Taurus Police Interceptor Sedans and one Ford Explorer Police Interceptor Utility.

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There are several key differences between the Taurus available at your dealership and this one: it’s got cop motor, it’s got cop tires, cop suspension, and it’s made before catalytic converters… err, no, sorry, I couldn’t help myself. In 2012 Ford gave police departments of choice of two engines; naturally aspirated 3.5-liter V6 or its turbocharged EcoBoost cousin. They were both connected to an AWD system, and there was no option there. Suspension, electrical and cooling systems, have been beefed up, and a set of steel wheels replaces fancy alloys. For 2013, the 3.5 got connected to front-wheels only and a naturally aspirated 3.7-liter came with AWD. Ecoboost stayed as it was, AWD only.

Inside, the shifter moves from the floor to the steering column to make room for a console. Front seats are cloth; rear seats can be either plastic buckets or cloth. The dash is basic and does not include the complicated MyTouch (on the SHO, MyTouch is required to control just about everything, including the heated seats), but the radio and HVAC controls still require some getting used to. Searchlight, console, computer, and radios are all after-market, but Ford does offer some of this equipment from the factory. More on that later.

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Sit in a conventional Taurus and you’ll find that the interior is far from spacious, especially when considering its overall exterior size. There is less room in front of the Taurus Police Interceptor than in the Crown Vic. The partition further limits the seat adjustments for some, and the headrest is angled to the front, constantly pressing against the back of the driver’s head, just like on the SHO and many other Fords. Visibility, both on the Police Interceptor Sedan and the Taurus SHO was also rather limited by the short windows and thick pillars.

The rear passengers perpetrators have just about no legroom with the partition in place. This is a big problem, especially when trying to seatbelt a handcuffed individual. A larger cruiser may need to be called in for significantly bigger individuals. The trunk is spacious enough and well arranged (sorry, no picture). All the auxiliary and safety equipment fits well but there is not much room left over. A full-size spare is on the bottom of the trunk.

Rear seats

This police department chose the naturally aspirated Police Interceptor. They did not have the budget, or the need, for the more powerful cars. The town consists mostly of residential streets and a backup from the state police can be summoned if needed. Also, no car is faster than radio waves. That said, when the sergeant I was with drove the SHO, he loved the extra power as it made the car easier to drive, but he admitted that the only time he really needed more power was during uphill acceleration.

Interesting aside about the Taurus Police Interceptor. Like most new cars today, it and the SHO are designed to achieve the best EPA fuel mileage possible. That is why new cars have sport mode buttons for engine and/or transmission programing. The Police Interceptor Sedan has no such buttons. The power mode is engaged automatically when the ECU senses the need for it.

Another interesting feature; all Police Interceptor models have a standard, 1980’s-like keys. Each front door and the trunk had key locks (in addition to power locks), and there is a conventional key ignition switch switch. Furthermore, a whole fleet of police cars can be setup to use a single key, should a department choose to do so. The simplicity of the keys allows them to be easily duplicated in any hardware store. I personally see a bit of a security issue with both of those features implemented, but both were available on Crown Vics, so the departments are probably used to it.

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Similar thing was said for the handling aspect of the police car. The SHO is obviously set up to be fun on a curvy road and the cop version is designed for hopping up curbs. The advantage of the SHO disappears here, too. Unlike what Hollywood would have us believe, these vehicles are rarely, if ever, driven at their or their drivers’ limits.

One significant advantage the Taurus Police Interceptor has over the Crown Victoria is its all-wheel-drive system. This police department, shockingly to me, never used winter tires on the Crown Vics – just all-seasons. The sergeant reported that despite that, the Crown Vics were good in the snow, just slow to get moving. In heavy snow, the department would use heavy-duty pickups from their K-9 division.

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One of the reasons why the Crown Victorias were so favored was because they have been around for a long time. Anytime that one was retired, it was stripped and its equipment was moved to a new car. That is not the case with the Taurus Interceptor. The partition, the center console, and numerous other equipment had to be bought new, at a significant cost, as it was designed for the new cruiser. Some things, such as the light-bar, radios, and the searchlight were modified internally and reinstalled from the Panthers.

Since the Crown Vic was no longer available, requiring a purchase of an all-new cruiser, I asked if the department considered the Chevrolet Caprice PPV or the Dodge Charger Pursuit. The sergeant said that they went to an annual police gathering where they got to hoon all the different police packaged cars. They did not like the Charger but they liked the Chevy the most. The final decision, however, was simply driven by cost; the Fords where the most affordable and delivered the most bang for tax payers’ buck.

For further information, check out these two sites:

Note: yes, that is snow. I took these pictures and talked to sergeant back in February but just now found the time to write this up. 

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Currently there are "34 comments" on this Article:

  1. cruisintime says:

    Dropping the panther platform,was as you said a bad move. The rear seat legroom on this car with divider in place is a joke.

    • Tanshanomi says:

      Fortunately, the comfort of rear-seat passengers is often immaterial.

      • topdeadcentre says:

        A couple of whacks to the back of the knee with a nightstick (where, incidentally, you're not likely to bruise), and you'll sit and stay seated wherever they put you.

    • Devin says:

      Honestly, killing the Panther was something that needed to happen, it was ancient, inefficient and the only thing it really had going for it was familiarity. The problem was they didn't really have a replacement for it, and since they spent over a decade trying to get customers into something else, didn't think they needed a replacement for it.

      Same thing with the Ranger.

    • Art says:

      best way to NOT worry about the leg room with the divider in place, is to NOT end up in the back of one LOL

  2. JayP2112 says:

    I can see Robocop stepping out of the Ford.

  3. MVEilenstein says:

    I can't be the only one who likes the 15" steelies better than the 18" alloys.

    • Kamil_K says:

      I think they're 17" steelies and 19" alloys.
      Not sure if anyone still makes 15" wheels of any kind… maybe Smart.

      • MVEilenstein says:

        You're probably right. Still, I think they look pretty cool.

      • JayP2112 says:

        Fiat 500 still has 15's.

        I started down the path of looking for Dodge steel wheels for my Mustang but they'd weigh a ton and were pretty narrow for a big wheel.

  4. OA5599 says:

    I doubt identical keys is a big security issue for most departments. I would bet these cars are filled with enough telemetry that if someone was stupid enough to take one for a joyride, he would be met within seconds by another member of the force.

    I had the opportunity a few years back to go on a ride-along with a small-town police department (fleet of 7 cars, I think). The cop told me the price of the vehicle is a drop in the bucket compared to the price of the electronics and other cop equipment that gets added–about $100K was budgeted towards each unit, including the $ for the car. He said they tended to keep cars in patrol service 5 years until the equipment started getting too obsolete, then keep it as a backup vehicle or supervisor's take-home car for another couple of years.

  5. MVEilenstein says:

    Also, I don't know what the computing needs of an officer are, but there has to be a better solution than a laptop platter. I always thought that just looked awkward, especially if you had a passenger in the front seat. Police cars have always been crowded, but the new Taurus looks almost claustrophobic, especially when you consider everything an officer carries on his belt.

  6. VolvoNut says:

    The Pittsburgh Police have started deploying this vehicle, and one thing that wasn't mentioned is that these just look menacing, like they'd smack you one if you look at it wrong.

  7. DonFehlio says:

    I like Panthers as much as the next guy, and I can respect why the police used them, but the only reason I'm really upset about them going out of production is that I have to learn new headlight signatures.

    • MVEilenstein says:

      I find myself looking for other clues now, like a black roof, or low-profile light bar.

      • sc296 says:

        i saw a brown silverado with a canopy pull someone over on the freeway so you cant always be sure about police cars. i my home state of oregon, they usually have a white "for official use only" sticker on the bumper. also, i look for base model plastic grills.

        • C³-Cool Cadillac Cat says:

          Go down to Nevada, and you'll see anything and everything used as traffic-nabbing vehicles.

          Bone-stock looking, and all kinda colors, too, extended-cab F-150s and Silverados back in the mid-'00's.

          It was cruel.

  8. Tanshanomi says:

    So, what your saying is that I want a straightforward AWD sedan, I should start looking for a muni auction Taurus Interceptor in a few years?

    • calzonegolem says:

      Yes but it won't come with a manual.

    • Tanshanomi says:

      Just for the record:

      So, what YOU'RE saying is that IF I…

    • Maymar says:

      I'm not sure you'll even have to wait that long – I'm not sure how they went about it, but I've dealt with a dealer that's already had a couple Interceptors go through their used car department. Mind you, I think they were both FWD.

      Of course, if you want something spacious, you might want to talk to your local Subaru dealer.

  9. dukeisduke says:

    I wonder how successful this car really is? Around here (the Dallas area), everyone is switching to Tahoes, Chargers, or in some cases, Explorers. No rear seat legroom issues with the Tahoe.

    • Mad_Science says:

      I agree with you an Sajeev Mehta at TTAC that the Tahoe is probably the next go-to vehicle.

      It fills the Panther's shoes better than any of the others. I doubt they're much more expensive than the other options, either, given the price difference between the street Tahoe and SHOs.

  10. box says:

    The article is somewhat misleading regarding the things that could move from the Crown Victoria Police Interceptor to the Police Interceptor Sedan, being that most things designed for the interior could be moved over, including computer mounts, siren controls, etc. Of course the partition and such would be different being different shapes to the interior, ditto the outside items needing differently spaced or shaped mounts.
    One of the big complaints about the PIS (but not as much the Police Interceptor Utility) is that it isn't quite roomy, the trade off being safety and security, since many include bulletproof panels in the doors and other strategic areas, anti-penetration plates in the front seatbacks, and of course, crash protection. As rarely as cars are used to transport "perps" and for as small as the distances are, I don't think they seem to be that big of a deal, and there is the option for the more roomy PIU at not much higher cost than the PIS. I believe CHiP is going with the PIU for its fleet, which was one of the biggest and proudest conquests Ford was getting.

    • Aaron says:

      CHP is only going with the Ford P.I.U. because: A) none of the new police-sedans met the payload capacity requirement of 1500 lbs., whereas the Ford P.I.U. and Chevy Tahoe PPV did…B) the Ford P.I.U. won the lowest bid…and C) it passed and survived the CHP's brutal vehicle testing…therefore, they had to go with the P.I.U. because if they really had their choice, they would've chosen the Chevy Caprice PPV since the CHP's EVOC instructors approved of it

  11. Ofc Murphy says:

    Looks like it cem straight out of a Robocop film. The future is here, and I'd buy that for a dollar!

  12. adam matthew trites says:

    r u still selling ur supercharged ford Taurus sho I think it was a 93' cuz I wanna buy it

  13. Riley says:

    The O-Town agency in CA uses a 2001 Mitsubishi Mirage, a 1997 Dodge Neon, a 1997 Kia Sephia, and other non-police vehicles for D.A.R.E. On vehicles with leather upholstery they put cloth seats in place of leather…

  14. Bob says:

    The SEMA stealth police interceptor is sick. I'd drive it.

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