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New cop cars get test drive

A presentatitest drives newly designed equipped Ford Police Interceptor are provided U.S. Cellular Field. The vehicles designed with input from

A presentation and test drives of the newly designed and equipped Ford Police Interceptor are provided at U.S. Cellular Field. The vehicles, designed with input from law enforcement officials, have been in production at the Ford assembly plant in Chicago. Photographed on Tuesday, October 2, 2012. | Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times

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The shopping mall chase scene in “The Blues Brothers” might be a little boring if the cops had been driving Ford’s new 2013 Police Interceptors in pursuit of Jake and Elwood.

Scratch the fishtailing police cruisers smashing into mall kiosks. And cut the scenes of cop cars haplessly skidding in circles as retail debris goes flying.

I should know, I imagined myself in the former Dixie Square Mall as I tore into corners, accelerated and zigzagged orange cones — flattening more than a few in my wake — Tuesday afternoon during a test drive in a parking lot outside U.S. Cellular Field.

“I literally cannot get the car to spin out or slide, no matter how hard I try,” said Jason Holehouse, a professional race car driver and driving coach brought in by Ford to showcase the car’s abilities.

“It’s like the things on rails,” Holehouse said.

The secret: An all wheel drive system that constantly gauges the demands of the driver as it redistributes power to whichever wheel necessary — as many as 100 per second. Couple that with a stability control system that recognizes when a driver is losing control and will override driver command — for example, by braking or by removing throttle even though the petal may be to the floor — in order to maintain control.

It’s technology that mitigates high-speed human error.

“It takes the average driver and almost essentially turns them into a race car driver,” said Holehouse. “No matter how aggressive they are at the controls, the car will never let them go beyond 100 percent and create a slide or a skid.”

Even though my racing experience stems mostly from video games and go carts, I was skeptical. But as I screeched around a sharp turn doing 40 in a maneuver I felt confident would result in a skid, the car’s path stayed true.

“You feel that?” asked Ford spokesman Lisa Teed, who rode shotgun. “That’s what I’m talking about,” she said.

The Chicago Police Department, at a price of $17.5 million, has ordered 500 Police Interceptors — which will be assembled at a Ford plant on the South Side. They will be available as a sedan or sports utility vehicle that will look exactly like the latest models of the Ford Taurus or Ford Explorer. The first batch of 95 vehicles (45 sedans and 50 SUVs) are set to be delivered in November.

Ford has ceased production of the Crown Victoria — a car beat cops in Chicago and across the country have called their “office” for years.

“Cops get out of this new car and are like ‘Oh my god! It’s like night and day! Not that the Crown Victoria is bad, they’re like an old pair of shoes you’re super comfortable with it but this is the difference of 30 years of technology, and it’s just better at braking, turning, accelerating or handling,” Holehouse said.

More than 15,000 orders from police departments nationwide helped prompt Ford to hire 1,200 new workers at the Ford plant on Torrence Avenue in the Hegwisch neighborhood.

“We’ve been working on this for four years, getting input from police officers as we designed the cars,” said Ford spokesman Gerry Koss.

Three separate V6 engines are available for the Police Interceptor, ranging in horsepower from 288 to 365—whereas the Crown Victoria topped out at 250 horsepower. Cost saving designs include better fuel efficiency and many interchangeable parts for the sedan and SUV.

Additional features include bullet-resistant side panels, adjustable foot pedals, a dome lamp that glows red so a police officer’s silhouette is not visible at night and extended seat belts so cops don’t have to fumble for the release button.

As I finished my last lap and tried to reach the 0-60 mph in 5.8 seconds that Ford touts — I imagined that Jake and Elwood could even strap a giant microphone to the top of the thing.

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