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If you've been in the habit of keeping an eye out for cops driving Ford's iconic Crown Victoria Police Interceptor, you might want to recalibrate your eagle eyes. Ford recently debuted their next-generation cop car and for the first time in decades, the car won't be based on the popular rear-drive sedan. The new Police Interceptor will be based on the Taurus, the company's popular (and recently redesigned) front- and all-wheel-drive sedan.

"Police nationwide asked for a new kind of weapon in the battle for public safety, and Ford is answering the call with a purpose-built vehicle – engineered and built in America – that's as dynamic as it is durable," said Mark Fields, Ford president of The Americas.

The new Taurus-based police car comes on the heels of safety concerns about the old Crown Victoria-based vehicle, which was faulted for its fuel-tank design and location. Law enforcement officials said the cars were to blame for fires resulting from rear-end collisions. Ford later offered a fire suppressions system for their fuel tanks and a protective shell around the trunk itself which prevented items inside from piercing through into the tank. The new Taurus-based model passes a brand-new 75-mph rear-end crash test, something Ford claims no other law enforcement vehicle can do.

In addition to being safer, the new "PI" will be greener by an orchard's worth of trees. Ford will offer law enforcement two different engines, but in a surprise move indicative of the times, no V-8 engine will be offered. Vehicles will be outfitted with either a 3.5-liter V-6 (263 hp) or the 3.5-liter Ecoboost twin-turbo V-6 (365 hp). In keeping with the efficiency theme, the Ecoboost cars come equipped with a six-speed transmission. Current Taurus EPA fuel economy puts the sedan at 18 city / 28 highway, but given the added weight on the police unit, fuel economy will likely drop by a few miles per gallon.

Ford insists their new V-6 engines offer the power of a V-8 with the efficiency of a smaller engine. Letting the numbers tell the story, the V-6 Ecoboost has significantly more power than today's Crown Victoria PI with its modular V-8 engine. The Crown Victoria's V-8 pumped out a comparably smaller 239 horses, a difference of more than 100 hp against the new Ecoboost V-6.

Looks Familiar, But Only Skin Deep

Ford insists the new Taurus-based Police Interceptor shares its skin and some of its powertrain components with the civilian version but little else. As with the past Crown Victoria-based PIs, this new cop car receives significantly upgraded brakes, better cooling and a beefier alternator. Police-specific upgrades continue in the interior as well, with stab-proof seats to protect the driver and her partner, while the rear doors extend an extra 10 degrees to accommodate the wily bad guy.

But retaining some of the civilian's car's charms actually behooves the uniformed officer. Cops will be able to take advantage of the back-up camera, electronic stability control and SYNC infomatic system, features that everyday drivers love.

Ford's current Crown Victoria Police Interceptor goes out of production at the end of 2011; the new PI model picks up production immediately thereafter and should be arriving on the mean streets in early 2012.