Ford discontinues Crown Vic

Technician Jerry McDonald works on one of the Richmond County Sheriff's Office's Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptors in Augusta. Ford Motor Co. has discontinued the popular police model after the 2011 model year.

Ford's Crown Victoria has become a popular symbol. To some, it's a symbol to let off the gas. For others, it's a symbol that help is on the way.

After years of being America's police car, Ford is discontinuing the model after 2011.

Richmond and Columbia county law enforcement agencies still haven't determined what its replacement will be.

Currently, there are three options: the Dodge Charger Pursuit, the Chevrolet Caprice Police Pursuit Vehicle or Ford's replacement option, a Taurus-based model.

Whatever it is, it has huge shoes to fill.

"The Crown Victoria is bulletproof," said Clayton Galloway, Columbia County's fleet manager. "It can be rode hard and put up wet. They're just like the Energizer Bunny. They just keep on running."

Ron Crowden, Richmond County's fleet manager, has seen deputies walk away from accidents of a "catastrophic nature" in the vehicles.

"From what I know, in any other car they would have been dead," Crowden said.

He is concerned about "operational anxiety" for officers in the new vehicles that haven't demonstrated the Crown Victoria's safety record.

Richmond and Columbia County typically retire their vehicles after four or five years or 125,000 miles, but they have seen the old reliables cruising on for second-duty police work without problems at up to 180,000 miles.

Columbia County started adding Dodge Chargers to its fleet several years ago in anticipation of the end of Crown Victoria, according to Capt. Steve Morris.

Although they have been "reliable performers," the county is still keeping its options open.

Crowden said his experience has shown that the Charger's replacement parts are "pretty pricey" compared to the Crown Victoria's.

Richmond County paid $27,000 for a fully outfitted Crown Victoria in 2010.

The Charger has been estimated at $24,000 and the Caprice at $28,000, both before emergency equipment, which can total up to $4,000, Crowden said.

Pricing has not yet been made available for Ford's new Taurus-based model

With the price of gas climbing and budgets shrinking, agencies know it's imperative to choose a model that will be not only the safest but also the most cost-effective to operate.

Richmond County currently receives funding to replace 40 vehicles out of the nearly 500 in all the divisions of the sheriff's office every year.

Columbia County is planning to replace 26 out of the 200 patrol vehicles after the new fiscal year begins in July, according to Pam Tucker, the emergency management director.

Neither agency can afford to cut its numbers.

Columbia County has already tested the Caprice but is still waiting to try out its final option.

Richmond County sheriff's Maj. Richard Weaver said he's planning a test-driving trip in May.

Because there will already be a change, Crowden said he's also using the time to urge the sheriff to invest in a few 4-by-4 vehicles for snow days and off-road use.

What's next

Richmond and Columbia counties haven't decided which cars will replace Ford's Crown Victorias in their fleets.

Here's how the Crown Vic compares with other models:

2011 CROWN VICTORIA POLICE INTERCEPTOR

Engine: 4.6-liter V-8

Drivetrain: Rear-wheel drive

Horsepower: 250 at 5,000 rpm

Torque: 297 lb.-ft. at 4,000 rpm

Mileage: 14 mpg city/21 mpg highway

Wheelbase: 114.7 inches

2012 FORD POLICE INTERCEPTOR

Engines: 3.5-liter V-6 with 280+ horsepower at 6,250 rpm and 250 lb.-ft. torque at 4,500 rpm, with all-wheel or front-wheel drive; 3.5-liter V-6 EcoBoost with 365+ horsepower at 5,500 rpm and 350 lb.-ft. of torque at 1,500-5,250 rpm, all-wheel drive

Mileage: 18 mpg city, Flex Fuel capable

Wheelbase: 112.9 in.

2011 DODGE CHARGER PURSUIT

Engines: 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 with Fuel Saver with 370 horsepower at 5,250 rpm and 395 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,200 rpm, and 16 mpg city and 25 mpg highway; 3.6-liter V-6 with 292 horsepower at 6,350 rpm and 260 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,800 rpm, 18 mpg city/27 mpg highway

Drivetrain: Rear-wheel drive

Wheelbase: 120.2 in.

2011 CHEVY CAPRICE POLICE PATROL VEHICLE

Engine: 6-liter V-8 with 355 horsepower and 384 lb.-ft. of torque

Drivetrain: Rear-wheel drive

Fuel: Flex fuel capable, mpg not available

Wheelbase: 118.5 in.