NEW YORK – Updates to Ford’s mid-size 2019 Fusion sedan weren’t attracting much buzz at the New York International Auto Show. No flashy media conferences, no silk covers to retract – just a couple of nicely buffed sedans sitting quietly in the corporate display. However, there was one Fusion stablemate that couldn’t be ignored. The traditional black and white paint scheme, the robust pushbar on its nose, the blinking LED light bar and other flashing warning lights drew show-goers’ attention to the new 2019 Ford Police Responder Hybrid Sedan.
However, this purpose-built Fusion, designed to handle the extreme conditions inherent in police duty, is more than just another cop car.
“It’s the first pursuit-rated hybrid police vehicle,” says Stephen Tyler, Ford’s police brand marketing manager. “It’s purpose-built for pursuit.”
The Responder Hybrid, which goes into production later this year, is powered by a specially calibrated 2.0-litre Atkinson-cycle 4-cylinder engine combined with an 88-kW AC motor and a 7.6-kWh lithium-ion battery that generates a net output of 188 horsepower. It has successfully earned a thumbs-up in independent police vehicle testing conducted by the Michigan State Police and Los Angeles Police Dept. The trials included a 32-lap pursuit simulation around the demanding 3.2-km Grattan Raceway road course near Grand Rapids, MI. The simulation tested overall vehicle durability, including powertrain, suspension, brake and tire systems.
In acceleration testing, the hybrid sedan was quicker to 160 km/h than Ford’s long-serving Crown Victoria V-8 police car – 23.1 seconds versus the Crown Vic’s 24.4 seconds. It has a top speed of 188 km/h.
Tyler noted the Responder Hybrid is also twice as efficient in fuel consumption. The Crown Vic Police Interceptor had an EPA-estimated rating of 14.7 litres/100 km city, 9.8 highway and 12.4 combined, while the hybrid sedan’s ratings are projected to be 5.9 L/100 km city, 6.5 highway and 6.2 combined. As an added efficiency bonus, the hybrid’s lithium-ion battery is used to run the car’s electrical loads, which in a police vehicle can be considerable.
To prepare it for pursuit duties, the Police Responder Hybrid has been fitted with police-duty tires, heavy-duty brake and suspension components, and the cooling system has been upgraded, including the addition of a transmission cooler. Inside, the rugged cloth front seats are fitted with slim bolsters to accommodate the bulky duty belt officers typically wear, while steel anti-stab plates have been built into the front seat backs to repel any surprises from rear-seat occupants. Ballistic barriers have also been built into the doors. The wide centre console is designed to contain the laptop computers and radio equipment commonly used in police vehicles, while the trunk has been specially built to accept more police gear. Heavy-duty vinyl flooring and rear-seat coverings make cleaning up the interior a less-onerous task.
In addition to the Responder Hybrid, Ford is also offering a “plain-clothes” Special Service Plug-in Hybrid sedan, which shared space in the New York display. This model is not pursuit rated and is intended more for detective, administrative or other specialized use. It can operate in electric mode, using its 7.6 kWh lithium-ion battery, for up to 33.8 km before the gas engine kicks in to extend the vehicle’s range. The battery can be recharged in about 2.5 hours with a 240-volt charger, or overnight in a standard household 120V outlet.
Both models offer a variety of available lighting packages and other options tailored for law-enforcement needs.
Beneath the black and white paint, the Responder Hybrid shares the same updates you’ll find on the family version of the 2019 Fusion. Jason Mase, car marketing manager for Ford, says the high degree of competitiveness in the mid-size sedan segment prompted the changes, despite the fact the Fusion just had a mid-cycle refresh two years ago.
“It’s a really competitive segment,” says Mase. “There’s a new Camry, a new Accord and the new Nissan Altima was just unveiled (at the New York show), so we’re keeping up with the competition. Customers want a fresh appearance and greater safety.”
To gain that fresh look, the 2019 Fusion has been given a new front fascia and grille, LED fog lamps, a new rear fascia and taillights, plus a new trunk appliqué. To enhance its suite of safety features, new driver-assist technologies have been added, including Ford’s new CoPilot360, with automatic emergency front braking with pedestrian detection. Standard equipment across the lineup includes blindspot monitoring, lane-keeping assist, rearview camera and auto-dimming headlights. Adaptive cruise control and navigation is available on the Titanium and standard on the Fusion Energi hybrid.
To reduce complexity in vehicle ordering – and make the system more cost efficient – Ford has slashed the trim and option combinations from about 2,000 possible combinations to less than 40. The lineup consists of the base model, with its 2.5-litre naturally aspirated 4-cylinder; the volume-leading SE, which has swapped out its 2.5L 4-banger for a turbocharged 1.5L EcoBoost four; the SEL, also powered by the 1.5L EcoBoost; the Titanium, with a 2.0L EcoBoost 4-cylinder; and the Sport, with a peppy 2.7L EcoBoost V-6 under its hood. All engines are coupled to a 6-speed automatic transmission.
Consumers opting for the 2019 Energi PHEV (plug-in hybrid) model will appreciate the sedan’s extended range in EV mode. Mase says advances in battery chemistry within the cells have resulted in a 20% increase in range – with a full charge, the car can travel up to 40 km on battery power, compared to the previous model’s range of 32 km. He says the extended electric range will cover the 1-way commute distance 80% of current Ford hybrid owners drive daily – and 60% of their 2-way commutes. Once the battery is depleted, the PHEV reverts to its conventional gas-fuelled engine.
The Energi PHEV is offered in two trim levels and Canadian buyers can enjoy at least one exclusive feature – heated cloth seats. And yes, a heated steering wheel is available, at additional cost. There is one penalty for choosing the greener Fusion, however – the battery, located in the trunk, reduces cargo space by 50%, compared to non-hybrid Fusions