(WBIR - Knoxville) The Tennessee Highway Patrol's new car of choice is not a car. It is a modified Ford Explorer sport utility vehicle.
THP has purchased 185 of the Ford SUVs to replace its fleet of now discontinued Ford Crown Victoria sedans. The modified Explorer costs approximately $31,000 per vehicle.
"Everything from this point forward will be the new Ford Explorer," said Lt. Don Boshears with the Tennessee Highway Patrol in Knoxville. "Right now we only have three of them in our district, but you will see more and more of them this year as they take the place of the Crown Vic. For the entire state there was an order for 105 of the SUVs in 2013 and another 80 have been ordered for 2014."
Law enforcement agencies have spent the last couple of years searching for the best set of wheels to replace the long-time favorite Crown Victoria.
"At one time, the Crown Vic was the choice of like over 80 percent of all law enforcement nation-wide. Agencies across the country have had to make this adjustment," said Boshears.
Many agencies have replaced the Crown Victoria with one of the newer sedans available on the market. For example, the Knox County Sheriff's Office recently purchased new Dodge Chargers. Ford offers a new Interceptor Sedan that is a modified Taurus. The Chevrolet Caprice is also marketed to law enforcement and several were purchased by THP in recent years.
While the newer sedans are more maneuverable, safer, and get better gas mileage than the old Fords, the new cars do not have as much room and cannot carry as much weight as the old trusty tank that was the Crown Vic. Ultimately, THP decided to go big with the SUV.
"We carry a lot of equipment, and the space that is in them [the Explorer] is great," said Boshears. "The other main advantage is the SUV is all-wheel drive so it lets the vehicle operate in different types of terrain or road conditions. The big thing here is the weather. When the roads get bad, especially in the outer counties, the back roads are just treacherous. This vehicle should really help with that because it is all-wheel-drive."
Boshears said the SUV's handling is not different enough that troopers will have to undergo any new driving instruction.
"They actually have a lower suspension than most of the Explorers and it handles well. It's all set up for police use. If you go to the dealer and try to get one off the lot, you're not going to get the same thing as this. It has interceptor capability and the horsepower is as good or maybe more than the old sedan its replacing," said Boshears.