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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Source: Hooniverse