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Connecticut State Police have found a replacement for the Ford Crown Victoria, the no-nonsense workhorse and decades-long staple of law enforcement and taxi fleets nationwide.
State police have initially ordered 159 Ford Interceptor sedans and 35 Ford Interceptor Utility SUVs as part of the first phase of replacing more than 1,000 vehicles, said state police spokesman Lt. J. Paul Vance. Later, Vance said, higher-mileage cars will be replaced at a rate of about two dozen at a time.
It's the end of an era for the Crown Vic, revered not only for its all-American 8-cylinder power but for a roomy interior that accommodates bulky utility belts and a growing amount of electronic gear. Ford produced its last Crown Vic, the 2012 model, in 2011, in Canada.
Vance said significant time was spent weighing the pros and cons of the offerings by Ford, General Motors and Chrysler, who all make law enforcement-specific vehicles. Chevrolet makes a modified Caprice and Dodge has a Charger, while the Interceptor is a cousin of the Taurus.
While the top concern is safety, Vance said, ease of maintenance, room for components and fuel efficiency were all factors in the decision. Both the Ford sedans and SUVs boast top speeds, at 131 mph, comparable to the Crown Vic, but with more horsepower and better gas mileage with a V6 engine.
One big change is a shift from the rear-wheel drive to all-wheel drive. Recruits and veterans alike will have to undergo revised technical driving training to accommodate the new cars, Vance said.
Vance, who drives the 2012 Crown Vic, said he personally has no emotional attachment despite driving one most of his career. He said he views it more as a tool, a piece of equipment that does the job and has been extremely durable. He started his career in 1974 driving a Plymouth Fury.
"It served us well and we're cautiously optimistic about the new packages," he said.
Municipal departments have made a replacement choice or are in the planning stages for a change. Norwich last year started driving the same Fords to be used by the state police.
Groton also has plans a switch over to the Ford Interceptors. Groton Capt. Steve Sinagra said when the department heard about the Crown Victoria being discontinued they ordered ahead to set some aside so they could have a few new ones this spring.
For the time being, he said, it is a cost saver because they were able to shift all of the same gear and not have to purchase things like new lighting and center console packages.
"The (Crown Victoria) has been a good car for what we use it for," Sinagra said. "It handles well, it has a lot of trunk space ... and room to get prisoners in and out."
The one thing he won't miss is riding around in a rear-wheel-drive vehicle during snowstorms.
"In the snow they were horrible," Sinagra said. "The all-wheel drive, if we go with that option, should make a huge difference and might prevent a fender bender here and there We may have better response times during storms."
New London Police Deputy Chief Peter Reichard said the department is examining its options and awaiting a time when the budget allows for new vehicle purchases. The department hasn't purchased a new patrol vehicle in several years.
The ultimate decision will likely be tied to finances, Reichard said, or which vehicle offers "the most bang for the buck."
Reichard said he'll miss the Crown Vic and personally owns a 2005 model. He recalls that some of the older models could accommodate a 6-foot tall person lying down on the front seat.
Interceptors cost from the low $30,000 range up to more than $40,000, depending on the package. Cost for the state police vehicles was not immediately available.
According to the Office of Policy and Management, the state budget includes a fleet purchase line item for $4.87 million for fiscal year 2013 and $5.69 million for fiscal year 2015. There are, however, non-police vehicles in that number, and the amount includes some repair and outfitting costs, according to OPM.