DEARBORN, MI – There’s a distinct, electric-motor whine that accompanies hard acceleration in the latest police-pursuit SUV from Ford, but that’s a small price to pay to save $3,500 worth of fuel annually.
Ford puts us behind the wheel here at its Dearborn proving grounds for a brief first drive of its all-new ’20 Ford Explorer Hybrid, in this case in Police Interceptor trim. While two laps around a short track are hardly revealing, fast laps riding shotgun with a test driver are highly illuminating.
From a dead stop, the hybrid powertrain delivers an instant launch and quickly ramps up to 322 lb.-ft. (437 Nm) of torque and doesn’t seem to run short of breath once it hits higher speeds for short distances. The electric-motor whine is the only discernible variance from the usual 3.3L V-6 direct-injected gasoline engine sound.
While the uprated police-duty suspension and other law-enforcement upgrades won’t carry into the ’20 Explorer Hybrid that goes on sale to the public this summer, the same powertrain will be offered.
The powertrain features a 3.3L V-6 mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission with an integrated 44-hp electric motor-generator for a total system output of 318 hp and 322 lb.-ft. (437 Nm) of torque. A clutch allows the hybrid motor to disconnect from the gasoline engine, permitting the engine to shut down and allow all-electric operation under certain lower-speed driving circumstances.
Explorer Hybrid drivetrain fits in same space as non-hybrid.
The same system, which Ford calls the Modular Hybrid Technology (MHT), also will power the F-150 Hybrid when it arrives alongside an all-electric F-150 next year. The vehicles are part of Ford’s $11 billion program to develop 40 new BEVs and hybrids by 2022.
For police departments, Ford says the $3,500 added cost of the hybrid compared with a non-hybrid V-6-powered police-issue Explorer should be offset by the savings in fuel costs as the engine shuts down during the 60% of police use in which the vehicle would normally sit idling.
Ford also estimates the Explorer Hybrid should be good for 24 mpg (9.8 L/100 km) in combined city and highway driving. The vehicle has a 500-mile (805-km) range, a 5,000-lb. (2,268-kg) towing capacity and a 137-mph (220-km/h) top speed.
Ford says it already has 1,100 orders for the Explorer Police Interceptor Hybrid.