Is Ford’s ‘Interceptor Utility’ Police SUV FWD?

Ford‘s Police Interceptor Utility is the most common patrol vehicle in the United States. From 2013 through 2019, this police SUV was based on an Explorer available in either FWD or AWD. From 2020 to the present, it was based on a RWD/AWD Explorer. But the Ford Police Interceptor Utility has only ever been available as an AWD with advanced torque vectoring.

2012-2019: FWD-biased AWD

The silhouette of an Explorer-based Ford Interceptor Utility SUV with both its red and blue lights illuminated.
Ford Police Interceptor Utility | Ford Motor Company

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The fifth generation Ford Explorer was a front-wheel drive (FWD) SUV with available all-wheel drive (AWD). Ford’s Police Interceptor Utility based on it was only available as an FWD-biased AWD.

The fifth generation of Ford’s Explorer actually shared a chassis with the Ford Taurus sedan. Both vehicles had transverse-mounted engines and a transaxle to drive the front wheels. Ford built an AWD system to divert some of the power to the rear wheels.

This transverse engine layout was one reason Ford could not offer its Police Interceptor and Interceptor Utility with a V8, like the Crown Victoria Interceptor they replaced. Instead, police departments could choose between a naturally-aspirated 3.7-liter V6 or the turbocharged 3.5-liter “EcoBoost” V6.

2020-present: RWD-biased AWD

The rear of a black, unbadged Ford police SUV with a row of trees visible in the background.
Ford Police Interceptor Utility | Ford Motor Company

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Ford rolled out the sixth generation of its Explorer SUV for the 2020 model year. At the same time, it launched a new Explorer-based Police Interceptor Utility.

The old Explorer-based Interceptor was so popular that Ford actually discontinued the Taurus-based version. But with the improved Explorer as its platform, Ford was able to build an even more impressive Interceptor.

For its sixth generation, the Explorer returned to a more traditional front-engine, RWD chassis. Civilians can order this latest Explorer as either a RWD or an AWD. The Interceptor version is only available as an AWD.

Ford’s AWD SUV is a very capable Police Interceptor

Closeup of a wing mirror with a Ford police SUV visible in the background.
2016 Ford Police Interceptor Utility side view mirror view

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FWD SUVs, even with an AWD upgrade, have not been historically known for performance. But technology has come a long way. Ford used advanced torque vectoring to make its Police Interceptor Utility capable on road, and off.

Even in the pre-2020 Ford Interceptor Utility, the AWD system could route 100% of its power to a single wheel. It can then use its ABS system to prevent any of the other wheels from spinning out of control. This makes it very capable off-road, even in slippery conditions.

The Ford Interceptor Utility also uses torque vectoring when it needs to perform on-road. Police cars often need to accelerate from a standstill to catch up with a speeding suspect. This might be a problem for a FWD SUV. For this reason, Ford engineered the Interceptor Utility to route all its torque to its rear wheels whenever it starts out from a standstill.

The Interceptor Utility also enjoys suspension-oriented brakes and shock absorbers. The entire package is very quick for an SUV. The Michigan State Police actually tested the latest Ford Interceptor Utility’s 0-60 time at 5.5 seconds. That makes it the fastest pursuit vehicle being mass produced.

Next, learn about the evolution of 4WD vs. AWD or watch a bumper-to-bumper review of the Ford Police Interceptor Utility in the video below:

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