The Ford Police Interceptor Concept car is shown in an image provided by… (Ford Motor Co. / Associated…)
The Ford Crown Victoria police car, which for nearly three decades has been the star of high-speed chases and an unwelcome sight in rearview mirrors, is being phased out.
Ford unveiled its new patrol car, the Police Interceptor, at an event Friday at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway attended by fleet buyers and law enforcement officials.
The new car was designed to be faster, safer and stronger, and will come packed with advanced technology.
But for some at the unveiling, it was a nostalgic occasion.
"I'm sad to see the Crown Vic go," said Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputy Rob Robinson, who has been on the force for 27 years.
For the last 10 years he's been a driving instructor for the department.
"Everybody knows that car, how to drive it and how to work on it. And the new car is, in a lot of ways, superior, and I'm excited about it.
"But it's also just new."
The Crown Victoria police car, which debuted in 1983, will not be going away any time soon. Ford will be making them until late next year -- about the same time that Police Interceptors will start coming off the production line.
And it's uncertain when police departments, feeling budget constraints, will be able to place orders for the new cars.
Ford didn't disclose prices at the event. The Crown Victoria police car has a base price of about $27,000.
Ford also makes a Crown Victoria model for consumers -- it's also being phased out next year.
The Police Interceptor will be built on the same platform as Ford's 2010 Taurus.
But company spokesman Said Deep said that about 90% of the Police Interceptor has been engineered specifically for law enforcement use.
"It shares some sheet metal [with the Taurus], but it's a very different car," Deep said.
Inside, the seats have cutouts that accommodate police-issue utility belts. They are also narrower to allow officers to get in and out quickly.
The gear shifter is on the steering column to free up space between the front seats for gear.
That space is 9 inches, the same as in the Crown Victoria, so that existing equipment can fit.
The rear door panels swing out 10 degrees farther than on a regular Taurus to make it easier to get detainees in and out.
Also, the police version will have a larger trunk to accommodate equipment.
In another change from the Crown Victoria, the Police Interceptor will have unibody-type construction, in which the frame and body are one piece.
The Crown Victoria is one of the last cars with the body bolted onto the frame.
"When a Crown Vic gets in a wreck, we can easily swap out banged-up body panels," Robinson said. "The new car has a unibody, with no separate frame, and that's going to be more expensive to fix after an accident."
The Police Interceptor will be offered in front- and all-wheel-drive versions.
It will have a V-6 engine that produces 263 horsepower. Ford said it will have 25% better fuel efficiency than the Crown Victoria police car, which has a V-8 engine.
Like the consumer Taurus, which comes in a hot-rod SHO version, there will be a souped-up model available to the police with a 365-horsepower engine.
Switching to a new model is a risk for Ford, which has dominated the law enforcement market since the mid-1990s, when General Motors stopped making its Chevrolet Caprice police car.
The major competitors that remain are Chevy Impala and Dodge Charger police cars.
Robinson, for one, was resigned to the passing of the Crown Victoria.
"It's a change," he said, "and I guess it has to happen."