- The sight of a BMW police car in the UK is not at all unusual: 3, 5 and X5 series SUVs are all relatively common.
- However, you won’t see them doing the high-speed pursuit job they were intended for, now that a series of engine fires have occurred.
- One city resorted to Peugeots with 1.2-litre engines to replace them. We are sure this will only be temporary.
American gearheads visiting Europe are often quick to notice the radically different police vehicles working on the other side of the Atlantic. Many police interceptors come from traditional automakers, but European forces also often use premium brands, especially for high-speed tasks. In the UK it’s often BMWs, with 3 Series, 5 Series and X5 vehicles regularly seen patrolling the UK motorway network in police livery.
But now some have been restricted to light duty following a recent history of catastrophic fires that affected BMWs fitted with the company’s N57 3.0-litre straight-six diesel engine. Some police forces, including Durham in the North East of England, reportedly ordered that N57-equipped cars not be used for high-speed chases.
As BMWs are mainly used as interceptors and to transport firearms officers – bear in mind that British police are not routinely armed – the light duties imposed mean that less suitable cars are now used on the job. square. According to a media report, in Durham, this means that Peugeots fitted with 1.2-litre turbocharged engines are used by traffic officers. Some other UK police services apparently opted to get rid of N57-equipped BMWs early in their fleets.
The break is understandable after a series of fires involving police BMWs. Although we do not know if the N57 was a common factor for all, media reports in the UK have documented many hells in recent years (in Kent in 2016, Liverpool in 2019, south east london in 2019and Swindon in 2021 for example). The most serious fire occurred in December 2020 when Cumbria policeman Nick Dumphries died after the BMW he was driving caught fire while responding to an emergency call.
BMW did not confirm the exact nature of the problem, but said it would not affect many private cars with the N57 engine.
“This problem is associated with the particular way in which the police use these high-performance vehicles. This unique use profile places additional stress on certain components and BMW has therefore specified a special maintenance program for these vehicles,” said the company in a press release. . “It is not necessary to intervene on civilian vehicles.”
BMW was first named as a “key supplier” to UK police forces in 2010 by the National Policing Improvement Agency. The 330d Saloon Interceptor pictured above was particularly selected as a “high performance pursuit vehicle” at the time. The N57 engine has been replaced by the newer B57, which means the new risky car is now over three years old and volumes will decline as police fleets replace older models.
Many constables choose to steer clear of BMWs altogether, and these days police-coloured Volvos are increasingly common on British roads. And, yes, the Swedish company does indeed remove the 112 mph speed limiter fitted to all cars it sells to civilians.
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