Live from Dearborn: Driving the Ford Interceptor Concept
There have been many variations of the Mustang over the past four decades, but none have ever had more than two doors for occupant ingress/egress. The idea of a four-door 'Stang was completely anathema. Ford quickly denied they were even considering a Mustang sedan, and once December 2006 rolled around and the print magazines began breaking press embargoes weeks in advance of the auto show, everyone breathed a collective sigh of relief.
Continue reading our impressions of the Interceptor after the jump.
Although the mechanical underpinnings of the Interceptor were derived from the Mustang, the visible parts are totally different. The downside is that even though it's not a Mustang it still looks derivative. The obvious direct comparison is to the Chrysler 300 and there are certainly similarities -- particularly in the shape of the greenhouse.
Although the Interceptor and 300 have a similar chopped greenhouse look, on closer inspection the Ford definitely sits lower and looks longer. The Ford three-bar grille is smoothly incorporated into the upright nose in a manner different than what's seen on current production models. Aside from the the general proportions, heritage can be seen in design details like the taillights, which are shaped like what Peter Horbury has described as "squircles". The squircle is a design element that goes back to Fords of the sixties and seventies like the Galaxie 500 and Torino and has been repeated in the interior with the instruments and steering wheel. Although the overall look of the car's exterior is that of a classic, muscular American sedan, it comes across as thoroughly modern rather than retro.
On the inside, the leather-covered seats have absolutely no lateral bolsters at all. Although they're curved to provide a reasonable driving position and back support, they would be completely useless in any kind of aggressive driving were it not for the seat belts. The Interceptor is equipped with the four-point belts currently being promoted by many safety advocates. They feature belts over both shoulders and buckle in the center of the passenger instead of off to one side. The biggest problem is that the seats have to be engineered to provide the necessary structural integrity.
Fortunately, aggressive driving was completely off the table during our drive because this car was not happy running on such a hot day. The Interceptor is powered by Ford's 5.0L Cammer crate engine that's been offered for several years now and unlike all modern production engines, this one had a carburetor and was suffering major vapor lock. Between short "bursts" around the track it had to sit and cool down for a while before the next driver took off.
The Interceptor has a front-hinged clamshell hood with a big hole in the middle where the rear-opening "Shaker" hood scoop sits. From the front seats, the engine has a mighty rumble and the big scoop rocks back and forth when you manipulate the throttle. Unlike most concepts, this one actually had a manual gearbox and it featured one of the stiffest, notchiest shifters I've ever experienced. Outward visibility was actually pretty decent in spite of the low roof.
In January at the Detroit Auto Show, Ford insiders told Autoblog that there was no intention to build anything like the Interceptor, which left us wondering why they'd bothered at all. Unlike many concepts, the Interceptor was not some out-of-left-field design like the Airstream, it was actually reasonably practical. Out in the sun, it even looks better than it does rotating on a show stand. In spite of similarities to Chrysler's sedans, it's handsome and looks like a Ford. It seems that the reception to the concept has caused Ford to reconsider.
The Crown Victoria is already several years past its sell-by date and a replacement will hopefully appear by the end of the decade. Peter Horbury has acknowledged that a lot of the design of the Interceptor will show up on production models in coming years. Now, if they did build something like this concept with the 4.4L diesel that's coming to the 2009 F-150, they would have a killer full-size family sedan. But please put some decent seats in it.
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