For years, discerning motorists on the interstate have tapped their brakes at the mere sight of a Ford Crown Victoria a half-mile away.
The telltale headlight beam, suspension and body style meant that a police cruiser could be up ahead.
Now, its unlikely there ever will be another such standard.
Facing the challenge of meeting new fuel mileage demands by 2014, Ford stopped making the police version of that car in 2011, and thats prompting departments across the country to rethink what cars they buy.
Everybody hated to see it go, said Bobby Reed, fleet manager for Brannen Motor Co. in Unadilla, one of the largest suppliers of police vehicles in the Southeast.
In 2010, three out of every four police cars sold nationwide were Crown Vics, he said.
The Macon Police Department and Bibb County Sheriffs Office are testing models now in hopes of finding a good fit for the future.
Both departments have purchased Ford Interceptor sedans, the companys new police car that resembles a Taurus. Ford also manufacturers an Interceptor sport utility vehicle that looks like an Explorer.
Sixteen Interceptor sedans will go on the road in mid-September striped with the Macon police logo. Deputies have nine of them going to work about the same time.
Both departments put out bids and bought the Interceptors from Riverside Ford.
The Macon police cars cost $22,666, while those bought by the sheriff cost $22,533.
Interceptors come standard with a V-6 engine and a top speed of 131 mph. They average 16 mpg in the city and 21 mpg on the highway, which is better gas mileage than the Crown Victorias V-8,Reed said.
An EcoBoost option also is available, which allows the Interceptors to reach 150 mph.
Earlier this year, the sheriffs office bought an SUV Interceptor for a canine officer, Chief Deputy David Davis said. The SUV Interceptor has the same gas mileage as a sedan, with a top speed of 120 mph.
Macon police started experimenting with Dodge Chargers in 2007 and put another nine on the road in August.
The officers, they love them, police spokeswoman Jami Gaudet said. They love the look and how they operate.
Deputies also have used Chargers for the offices Highway Enforcement of Aggressive Traffic unit. Chargers have a top speed of about 150 mph. Their gas mileage is in the same ballpark as the Interceptors, Reed said.
Officers will be evaluating the Chargers and Interceptors in the coming year, which will help police officials decide which way to go.
These really are test vehicles for what well order in the future, Gaudet said.
Davis said deputies are anxious to see how Fords respond to the rugged use inherent in everyday field work.
He said he is concerned about the amount of legroom in the rear of the car for carrying people to jail.
But were looking forward to trying it, he said.
While the Interceptors are the newest police vehicles on the block, a new Chevrolet Caprice made for police use has become popular. Chevrolet also manufactures a police version of the Tahoe.
Reed said hes selling more Chevrolets than Fords -- about 2-1.
Were having more and more people that were driving the (Crown Victorias) switching to the Caprices, people weve been putting in the (Crown Victorias) for years and years.
The Caprice, which comes with a V-6 or V-8 engine, has more interior room than the Interceptor sedan and space comparable to a Crown Victoria. It has a 150 mph top speed and averages about 15 mpg in the city and 21 on the highway.
The Tahoe, which has been on the road for several years, has a 139 mph top speed and gets the same gas mileage as a Caprice.
Lawmen driving different makes and models of police cars within the same department isnt a concern, Davis said.
Theyre all going to be marked up the same with the same decals, he said.
To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.