AUSTIN -- You'll soon be seeing new Austin Police Department vehicles on the streets. As the Crown Victorias are phased out, APD is introducing its new Patrol Utility Interceptor. They call it the UI.
APD’s new patrol vehicle is not like your mother's SUV.
“This is based on the Ford Explorer,” said APD Commander Patrick Cochran. "This is a fully pursuit rated vehicle; it's designed for police use. The interior is set up for police use.”
Cochran took the UI on a test drive back in 2011. Now it's joining the ranks permanently.
“Eventually they'll replace all our marked units which is about 550 vehicles,” Cochran said.
That will happen in phases. This year APD will get 74 of the new vehicles. Each costs $31,500.
The UI is just as fast as APD's current patrol cars. It gets 20 percent better gas mileage than the Crown Vic and has more room to store equipment. It's also better equipped to handle tough terrain.
“Going over a curb or through a ditch, they have the clearance to do that,” Cochran said.
To cut down on officer distraction, there are buttons on the steering wheel to activate the lights and the dashboard camera. The new UI’s will also have air conditioning for the back seat where prisoners sit. The old patrol cars don't have that.
APD is also getting less than a dozen other vehicles from Ford called the PI. Those vehicles are smaller and will be used as unmarked units for Highway Patrol.