I got to drive Ford’s new hybrid SUV built for cops. They will love it

This is the SUV that every lead-footed 16-year-old will wish Mom had bought, but only cops can get.

The 2020 Ford Police Interceptor hybrid SUV.
The 2020 Ford Police Interceptor Utility hybrid SUV. –Ford

I’ve got a cop motor, cop tires, cop suspension and cop shocks.

Hold on, Jake and Elwood. I’m coming, and at the wheel of the 2020 Ford Police Interceptor Utility, the hybrid SUV that every cop will want and that every speeder will fear in the rearview.

Did I mention brakes? Oh, man, does it have cop brakes, beefy discs spec-ed for repeated violent stops, plus electric power steering tuned for handling at the limit. And a cop hybrid system, which is way different than you probably think if your image of hybrids stems from hatchbacks loafing in the fast lane.

Advertisement

Think 137 miles per hour top speed and zero to 100 miles per hour in 17.7 seconds, both better than a V8 Chevy Tahoe in testing by the Michigan State Police.

This is the SUV, based on the Explorer, that every lead-footed 16-year-old will wish Mom had bought, but only cops can get.

I was one of the first people without a badge to experience the new hybrid SUV. I’m happy to say I was behind the steering wheel on a test track, not in the back seat viewing the road through the wire.

The hybrid Police Interceptor’s handling, acceleration, and power are beyond anything I expected from a hefty SUV priced around $40,000, a reasonable guess at its price.

Who needs turbo when you have electric?

The hybrid leaps off the line with the kind of acceleration expected from big V8s and turbo- or supercharged V6s, but the engine is a modest 3.3L normally aspirated — that’s engineering talk for non-turbo V6 linked to a 44-horsepower electric motor built into its 10-speed transmission.

The power feels like much more than the 318 horsepower and 322 pound-feet of torque Ford claims.

The Police Interceptor Utility hybrid is a blast, as much fun as your best day playing cops and robbers as a kid.

Advertisement

That’s because electric motors like the one boosting power between the engine and transmission develop torque immediately, the way an incandescent light is at full brightness the moment you flip a switch. The power arrives nearly instantly when you stamp the accelerator.

Stabbing the brakes to enter a slalom throws the SUV onto its nose and you into the shoulder belt despite the cop car’s extra-stiff springs. The same stiff springs keep the SUV level and planted steering through curves.

Don’t let the dorky column shifter, steel wheels and dinky chrome hubcaps fool you. The running gear is all business, developed to deliver maximum speed and handling at the limit.

After a short drive around a relatively tame course, I sat shotgun on Ford’s hilly, twisting 1.4-mile road course while a development engineer drove. The big SUV hugged fast curves with minimal body roll, snapped back in and barely avoided going airborne.

Seats accommodate body armor

The gasoline engine, electric motor, and lithium-ion battery are identical to civilian versions of the upcoming 2020 Explorer hybrid. The tires, suspension, brakes, and steering tuning are all unique, as are seats designed to accommodate body armor and utility belts, and space for a center console designed for police computers, radios and shotgun mounts.

The programming that controls the engine and electric motor is also unique to the police vehicle. It allows officers to charge when running flat out so there’s always battery power available for extra oomph.

Ford expects the vehicles to rack up at least 20,000 miles a year on two or three eight-hour shifts a day. The company has orders for more than 1,000. The first should be on the road this summer.

$3,500 gas savings? That’s a lot of doughnuts

Advertisement

Up to 60 percent of a police car’s on-duty time may be spent idling, whether at an incident, waiting for a call or lurking for speeders.

That’s where the hybrid’s fuel savings should really mount up. The hybrid allows the engine to idle less because the battery can power radio, computer, climate control and other functions that keep a gasoline cop car’s engine running when the vehicle is stationary.

Ford estimates the fuel savings will add up to $3,500 a year at $2.75 a gallon. Coincidentally, that’s also the premium Ford charges for a hybrid versus a gasoline-only police Explorer.

Is this the new Bluesmobile, or what?