The sun is setting on the iconic police cruiser, Ford's Crown Victoria, and its first slick replacement has hit Sonoma County streets.
A sheriff's deputy is now cruising the north county beat behind the wheel of a prototype Police Interceptor, Ford's 2013 model based on the four-door Taurus with a battery of improvements from engine to aesthetics.
"It's like going from a rotary phone to a smartphone," said David Worthington, the county's assistant fleet manager.
New Sonoma County Sheriff's Patrol Cars
The county bought 14 Interceptor sedans and four SUV models during the last fiscal year and will gradually blend them into the fleet over the next 10 months. It expects to completely convert the patrol fleet to the Interceptor within about four years.
The last "Crown Vic" rolled off the line in 2011 after more than two decades of being the nation's preferred cop car. With a V6 engine and rear-wheel drive, the Crown Vic was known for durability. But beneath the classic silhouette, the Crown Vic was sorely in need of an update, Worthington said.
Gone are the days of careening around corners on two wheels as in the movies, fleet manager Dave Head said. The Interceptors are all-wheel drive, a boon on the county's more rugged areas, and have an on-board computer system that adjusts suspension among other things to provide greater stability, Head said.
Perhaps the greatest concern among the rank and file is whether the tallest and broadest deputies -- and about 15 pounds of protective gear and weapons they wear -- will fit into the new cars.
The Interceptor certainly appears more sleek than the boat-like Crown Vic, with a black, instead of beige, interior.
Jeff Cortner, who supervises the county's auto technicians, said they took out measuring tape and compared the two models.
The Interceptor came out ahead in all but three categories. The new cars have about 2.25 inches less headroom, a half-inch less room for shoulders and the doors open with an inch less width.