From the June 2023 issue of Car and Driver.
Where I live, the police drive some heavy machinery. There’s the odd Ford Taurus hanging in there, but mainly Chevy Tahoes, Dodge Durangos and Ford Explorers, with a healthy Dodge Charger V-8. One day, while I was daydreaming about municipal budgets (as I often do), I thought: Would the police drive something smaller and more efficient if they could share in the savings from the lower purchase price? And if so, what amount is necessary? If I were a cop, I think $1000 could persuade me to drive an Escape patrol car. But I’m not a cop—I had to surrender my badge because I play by my own rules—so I asked some cops to join me in this thought experiment.
The first thing I learned is that everyone misses the Ford Crown Victoria. The second is that police chases are still more common than I thought, and therefore top speed is actually relevant. A sheriff’s deputy told me, “I’m driving a police package Durango that’s going 132 mph, and I’m just chasing a Ford F-250 diesel that, speed-wise, keeps destroying everything we’ve got. So we need something that can help the body and pass the road straight to provide rolling blocks and forward to block intersections.” To answer your obvious follow-up question, yes, I live in Hazzard County.
But even if you put a premium on speed, the cops can do better than the Durango—and for less money. My town spends $58,000 per police car and bought four this year. The Ford Escape ST-Line Select costs $36,535. Figure $5000 for lights and graphics, and the city could save nearly $66,000 for the four vehicles. Broken down, that’s about $2000 per cop on the payroll, and taxpayers will be subsidizing a car that gets 26 mpg instead of the 17 mpg Tahoe or 20 mpg Explorer. As for speed, the Escape with a 2.0-liter 250-hp engine can reach 60 mph in 5.7 seconds. Asked what the Escape’s top speed is uncontrolled, our tech team said, “About 150 mph, maybe 155.” Maybe you don’t want to set up roadblocks with the Escape, but I also don’t want to stare down an F-250 coming from behind the wheel of a Durango.
So, obviously, I’m a genius, and everyone should love this show, but I have to admit that the fuel economy isn’t as dramatic as I’d hoped. Getting even 10 mpg doesn’t make much of a difference in the municipal budget. But what about not buying fuel at all? Now we talk! Will the police accept electric patrol cars, though? To find out, I have another local cop who drives an EV. And, to stack the deck in my favor, it’s the 576-hp Kia EV6 GT.
This particular officer has a deep automotive background, including karting, and he owns a Camaro SS. He has never driven an EV. His first reaction: “It’s very smooth and quiet.” If you are in the car for hours every day, EVs offer a quieter work environment. In terms of taxpayer savings, there are no oil or engine air filter changes, and the brakes should last longer thanks to the regen. For our local department, an average day means driving 100 miles, so range and charging time likely won’t be an issue.
Oh, and for speed? He stopped and pressed the GT button on the Kia’s steering wheel; we were doing 60 mph practically before either of us could say how fast it was. Heavy and compact, powerful, great to drive all day—it turns out that EVs make really good police cars.
So never mind Escape. Ford has launched the F-150 Lightning Pro SSV, a modern Crown Vic Police Interceptor. Lightning is big, fast and comfortable. And, most importantly for the rest of us, they have very distinctive headlights.
Ezra Dyer is one Car and Driver senior editor and columnist. He is now based in North Carolina but still remembers how to turn right. He owns a 2009 GEM e4 and once drove 206 mph. Those facts are mutually exclusive.