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Detroit 3's police cars put to the test

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Detroit 3's police cars put to the test

New models show how they handle; Ford offers Crown Victoria replacement

BY BRENT SNAVELY

FREE PRESS BUSINESS WRITER

A crop of new police cars drew more than 400 law enforcement officials to Chrysler's proving grounds in Chelsea on Saturday to see the Michigan State Police put the vehicles through acceleration, braking, high-speed handling and other tests.

While rain forced the police to suspend testing Saturday morning, Ford, which has long dominated the police car market with its rear-wheel drive Crown Victoria, faced many skeptics as it introduced a front-wheel drive Police Interceptor based on the Ford Taurus.

"They will have a tough time," said Terry Sweezey, public safety officer from Leoni Township. "It is a whole different driving system."

Ford has long led the police car market with about 70% of the 75,000 police cars sold annually.

However, the Dearborn automaker will stop producing the Crown Victoria next August and is replacing it with the more modern Police Interceptor.

Offered in front-wheel and all-wheel drive, the Interceptor comes with a 3.5-liter V6 engine with an estimated 280 horsepower or a turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 engine with an estimated 365 horsepower.

Ford faced competition Saturday from a redesigned Dodge Charger Pursuit police car and the return of General Motors' Chevrolet Caprice police car.

Both the Charger and Caprice are rear-wheel drive cars, and the Caprice was the market leader before GM discontinued it in 1996. Rear-wheel drive cars are preferred by police departments because they tend to be more durable, are cheaper to repair and make it easier to perform high-speed maneuvers.

"We drove Caprices for many, many years ... so with Chevy coming back in with the rear-wheel drive Caprice, we are definitely very interested," said Marlyn Dietz, a captain with the Wilmington, Del., Police Department.

The Caprice's 6.0-liter V8 is rated at an estimated 355 horsepower. Dietz said his department also likes the extra space in the Caprice, which has 122 cubic feet of interior space.

GM says the Caprice, which will eventually replace the Impala police car, offers more space than any of its competitors.

"That's a big deal. When you have two big guys in a car, with a laptop, and you need to have room for them to move around and function," Dietz said.

Space also is important because officers spend hours inside their cars every day.

Tony Gratson, sales manager for Ford's government fleet vehicles, said the performance of the all-wheel drive Police Interceptor through curves and in bad weather is actually better than the rear-wheel drive vehicles offered by competitors.

Still, he conceded many officers will require additional training to make the transition from rear-wheel drive to all-wheel drive.

"And we will be prepared for that. We will help them train as we launch our vehicles next year," Gratson said.

Eugene Mitchell, senior manager of government fleet sales for Chrysler, said the 2011 Dodge Charger Pursuit has 15% more visibility than the outgoing version because of an adjustment to the angle of the windshield.

Also, the 3.6-liter V6 engine has 285 horsepower, or 30 more than the outgoing version. It is also offered with a 5.7-liter V8 engine with 360 horsepower.

Jerry Newbury, fleet operations manager for the Texas Department of Public Safety, said Ford's decision to end production of the Crown Victoria is ushering in a wave of innovation in police cars that was long overdue.

"They were very stale, very outdated and technology had not kept up," Newbury said of the previous police cars. "I think there are some things coming in the next two or three years that are really going to change the police business."

Preliminary results from the Michigan State Police's three-day testing event are expected in several weeks, and final results are to be published in December.

link:

http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20100919/BUSINESS01/9190504/1210/business01/Detroit-3s-police-cars-put-to-the-test&template=fullarticle

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Police to hit track to test new lineup of patrol cars

Alisa Priddle / The Detroit News

A team of Michigan State Police officers is scheduled today to test a strong lineup of new police pursuit cars at a test track in Chelsea.

"I can't think of a year where testing was as important as this year," said 12-year veteran Lt. Keith Wilson of the Michigan State Police Precision Driving Unit.

The field includes two new Interceptors from Ford Motor Co.: a sedan based on the Taurus and a utility vehicle based on the 2011 Explorer. They will fill the Ford gap when the perennial Crown Victoria goes out of production in the fourth quarter of 2011.

The new Interceptors will go up against all-new entries from General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC that can be ordered now -- giving them a head start.

The Chevrolet Caprice Police Patrol Vehicle returns to the police market after 15 years, joining the Chevy Impala and Tahoe models that police now use.

The Dodge Pursuit is based on the all-new 2011 Dodge Charger that hasn't been publicly unveiled.

Today is the first of two days of testing. On Monday, the vehicles will be put through their paces at Grattan Raceway near Grand Rapids.

Similar testing will be conducted by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

Automakers put their pride on the line with police vehicles that are built to catch bad guys while ensuring the safety of officers and the public.

To that end, they boast new devices, such as Ford technology on the Explorer that offers more safety and stability.

GM has added a "Performance Algorithm Liftfoot" calibration that downshifts in a curve, but keeps the car in a lower gear for faster acceleration coming out of a turn, said GM spokesman Tom Henderson.

The Caprice has a large interior and a full-width prisoner partition, made possible by redesigning the side-curtain airbag to make room for it.

Chrysler has released few details on its Charger. Wilson said the car addresses the past complaint of limited visibility. And police are fans of the Hemi V-8.

"It makes officers safer because they spend less time catching up," Chrysler said.

All three automakers include police representatives on their advisory councils, and all insist the police applaud their new cars.

Chrysler and GM believe officers will appreciate that their vehicles, like the outgoing Crown Vic, are rear-drive. But Ford is convinced that officers will embrace the dynamics of the front-drive Taurus.

All automakers paid special attention to the interiors, which as rolling workplaces must be comfortable and accommodate all the gear required on the job. Second-row vinyl seats and floors are designed for easy cleaning.

Fleet budgets increase

The new cars are hitting the market as fleet budgets are on the increase after two leaner years, said Kevin Koswick, Ford's fleet director.

State and local fleet sales have been running 10 percent below a year ago, Koswick said, but he anticipates an increase this year.

"Some organizations put off purchases as everyone was tightening their belt," GM's Henderson said. "I think there is pent-up replacement demand, so it is a good time to be introducing a new car."

Still, the police cars "have to compete on price as well as performance," Wilson said. "We've been talking to all of them, and they know that's a priority."

Many municipalities and police organizations do their annual ordering in June and will rely heavily on the results from the track evaluations.

Wilson predicts that while the retiring Crown Vic has held as much as 75 percent of the market share for years, "we will see a mix of all three manufacturers" in new police fleets.

"There will always be people loyal to each brand who will order them no matter what," Wilson said.

From The Detroit News: http://detnews.com/article/20100918/AUTO01/9180327/1148/AUTO01/Police-to-hit-track-to-test-new-lineup-of-patrol-cars#ixzz106bf0I2a

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The Great American Cop Car Shootout

The death of Ford's Crown Victoria leaves a gaping void in law enforcement garages. This weekend, new high-tech models from Chevy, Dodge and Ford were tested for the first time by the Michigan State Police. Only Jalopnik has the results.

For 36 years, the Michigan State Police have run an annual battery of speed, braking and handling tests on cars, trucks and motorcycles offered to U.S. law enforcement agencies. Vehicles have to pass its standards to be qualified for sale as police vehicles and departments across the country use the more detailed data to decide what to buy and how much to pay.

Yet since the mid-1990s, agencies have taken the results and simply bought the Ford Crown Victoria. Cheap, easy to service, durable and powered by a V8 engine driving the rear wheels, the Crown Vic accounts for nearly three-fourths of all police vehicles sold, despite sporting a design whose age can only be determined by carbon dating.

But time, fuel economy, and toughening safety rules finally caught up with the Crown Vic. Faced with the choice of expensive surgery on a senior citizen, Ford decided to kill the Vic next year and attempt to convince thousands of police departments to switch to a Taurus or Explorer-based successor. Seeing an opening, Chevrolet and Dodge have pushed out new or updated rear-wheel-drive competitors, hoping to become the new iconic choice of public safety professionals.

The Michigan State Police tests were the first time all the new models were fully wrung out by someone outside the automakers. The cars were so new that Chrysler tried to shield the bodywork of the 2011 Dodge Charger Pursuit, since the civilian version hasn't been unveiled. (It didn't work.) With some 400 potential buyers from across the country kicking tires, the tests turned into a shootout of brawn versus finesse.

"Cop Tires, Cop Brakes, Cop Suspension, Cop Engine"

There's nothing tougher than a cop car.

Often abused, misused and run until its wheels literally fall off, U.S. police cars face some of the most demanding conditions around. Add in that many government agencies face budget cuts, and selling anything new becomes that much tougher. (More than one police officer showed up to the tests driving a cruiser with more than 100,000 miles on it).

But police cars are moneymakers, not just for automakers but the hundreds of suppliers who sell bolt-on lights, brush guards and other accessories. From full-size spares to rear seats that can be hosed out post-St. Pat's Day, police use makes a thousand demands on a car.

Although companies like Carbon Motors have talked a good game, only Chrysler and General Motors have tried to break the Crown Vic's multi-year headlock. Chevrolet has had limited success selling front-wheel-drive Impalas for light-duty work. Chrysler has been more successful with the Dodge Charger, offering V6 and Hemi-powered rear-drive variants and racking up about 11,000 sales a year.

Seeing that the Impala wouldn't cut it, GM has mustered its Australian Holden unit to duty, adapting the long-wheelbase Holden Commodore into the V8-powered Chevrolet Caprice Police Patrol Vehicle. In Australia, the long-wheelbase Caprice is grandpa's luxury ride, which makes it yet another reason why it's a good idea to retire to Australia. For the U.S. police version, Chevrolet had to make a host of changes; tougher suspension, brakes and oil cooling for starters, along with the 355-hp V8.

Chevy Caprice PPV

Dodge Charger Pursuit

Ford Police Interceptor

For 2011, the refreshed Charger gets a host of mechanical upgrades, including Chrysler's new corporate 3.6 liter V6. It also benefits from a redesign that gives it the most sinister stance among all new comers, something that police officials said could help sell the Charger among police chiefs reluctant to part with the Crown Vic.

Ford will take orders from the Crown Vic through March, and won't start building the new Police Interceptor sedan and utility until December 2011. Yet it wanted to take part in the Michigan State Police trials, to give agencies a sneak peak of how well the new models would perform. Instead of relying on one model, Ford plans to offer a buffet of options, from a front-wheel-drive Explorer up to the police version of the Taurus SHO, with all-wheel-drive and more than 365 horsepower from its twin-turbo V6.

And like its customer models, Ford will try to sell high-tech features; the police models offer the Sync voice command system which can be used to power on sirens and lights along with the radio.

But what about the track?

High Speed Testing

The first day of testing at Chrysler's Chelsea Proving Ground measured how quickly the vehicles could move up to 60mph and beyond, as well as their top speed. The Michigan State Police won't officially publish the results for Ford's new models, since they're not available for sale in the next 12 months. But we and a few other folks wrote them down anyway.

Here's the results:

You want to think that bad-ass cops require bad-ass cop cars that can top 150 mph and stop on a perp's shadow. But the shoppers at the evaluations said the performance numbers were nice to have, but not as important as they once were. Many cities bar high-speed chases by police; many rural counties don't have roads that could sustain one. Launch speeds matter more, especially the 0-60 and 0-100 times, since that can nip a pursuit in the bud.

As the tests show, the new Caprice moved to the front of the class for straight-line speed. It was the only model to hit 150 on the test track. The Dodge Charger with the Hem...er, 5.7 liter V8, kept a close second.

And the Ford Police Interceptor all-wheel-drive turbo was not far behind, although Ford execs at the test were hoping for a little better performance from it and the Explorer-based Utility, which was using only the regular 3.5 liter V6.

Ford also limited the top speed of its interceptors, a decision it said it made based on feedback from officers.

You'll also note, that although the Ford Police Interceptor Utility won't count in testing as it's not yet for sale — because it's based on the Ford Explorer — this is the first documented third party instrumented testing of the new crossover from Ford. It performed about how we'd expect.

Handling Course Testing

On Monday, the Michigan State Police took the show to the Grattan Raceway for handling tests, where four drivers took five laps each in all the models, with the best times averaged. Here, the data shifted more in Ford's favor.

Watching the action on the short track, it was evident that the Ford's all-wheel-drive grip became more of an asset. The Caprice's power boomed through the straights, but its oversteer through the curves proved a little difficult to control in spots, and a couple of drivers nearly went sideways. The Dodge was slightly better planted, with less waggle around the course but a lower top speed.

The Ford turbo PI posted not only the best average, but also the lowest lap time of the day, barely beating the Caprice. It's braking times were also best in class; Ford upgraded the entire braking system for police use. The one downside in Ford's times was the braking on the utility, a number that drew some headscratching and vows for improvement.

Jealous Of Robocop's Mom

Listen to law enforcement buyers talking about what they want from a police cruiser and you'll start to think you're at a focus group for minvan moms.

The most precious resource to an officer isn't power or gadgetry, but space. Wearing a utility belt with a gun and radio grabs several inches of hip space; sitting in the same position several hours a day can add a few more over time. The meanest police car in the world won't win many fans among officers if its not comfortable, and every model sported seats customized for police work.

Everything in law enforcement — the radios, equipment and most importantly the officers themselves — has been stamped by 20 years of Crown Victoria use. That means new police cars can't deviate too far from certain measurements: All three sport a center console that's 9 inches wide, which can hold the computer and equipment trays designed to be bolted into Crown Vics.

All of them also move the shifter onto the column to free up extra space — except the Caprice. There's no off-the-shelf parts for column-mounted shifting in the Commodore, and the engineering necessary to rework the steering column couldn't be completed for 2011. Chevy has a space-saving temporary fix in the works, but according to several shoppers the shifter alone knocks the Caprice off the list.

After interior space, safety ranks high among police concerns. No other vehicles are placed so frequently in dangerous positions; one trooper showed off his cellphone photo album of crunched Vics from highway collisions. The original Charger lost some sales because its visibility was poor compared to the Vic; the new model sports larger windshields, a lower belt line and a larger greenhouse. Ford will certify that its new Police Interceptors will protect occupants in a 75-mph rear-end crash.

And there's a host of political and ingrained habits that make the process even more complicated. Government fleet mechanics used to working on simple V8 engines may rebel against the idea of a twin-turbo V6 and all-wheel drive. Others will wonder how many parts might have to come from Australia. And several complained loudly when brake pads on the initial Dodge Chargers wore out after a few thousand miles in service, a problem Chrysler said it's tackled.

So who won?

Ford's numbers were impressive, especially for vehicles more than a year away from production, but only in handling not in speed. Given that they can't be bought today, we'd say Ford can't qualify for the podium, but can certainly make a case it knows what police officiers want in their cruisers.

Chevy, on the other hand, has produced one badass-and-fast patrol vehicle that trounced both the Dodge and the Ford. If we were outfitting the Jalopnik County Sheriff's Department, the Caprice would top our list for sheer speed, acceleration and spaciousness. We'd tell our officers to get used to the floor shifter (being Jalopnik County, they'd want manuals) and look forward to an annual charity road rally (actually, it'd make an excellent drifter, given the rear wheel drive).

But given the constraints of the real world, the ingrained habits of police officers, and the head start among young law enforcement professionals moving up through the ranks who adore the Charger's mean looks, we suspect if there's a real winner here it'll be Dodge. Somehow we think it won't be long before there's more Chargers on the road driven by the men and women in blue than Crown Vics.

link:

http://jalopnik.com/5644083/the-great-american-cop-car-shootout

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All of them also move the shifter onto the column to free up extra space — except the Caprice. There's no off-the-shelf parts for column-mounted shifting in the Commodore, and the engineering necessary to rework the steering column couldn't be completed for 2011. Chevy has a space-saving temporary fix in the works, but according to several shoppers the shifter alone knocks the Caprice off the list.

So make the god damn thing push button!

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The world loves bucket seats. People wanted to say how the bench seat was a thing of the past and a old persons thing. Not everyone wants or needs bucket seats and prefers to space in the interior open. Now they are finally having to put a column shifter in the Caprice. Dodge already did it. Ford designed one in. The police should not be the only one to have that option.

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Ah yes after looking at the performance numbers a Caprice becomes even more appealing. I am going to have check out the possible back door option, I have long been talking about. I really am digging the Caprice including the revised front end and wheels.

My problem is...

Along time ago I promised to always buy GM vehicles simply because of my GREAT dealer and the GREAT luck I have had with GM vehicles over the years. In addition I like supporting American compaines no matter where the final point of assembly on the car might be. My wish list is simple RWD, V8, Six Speed (Auto or Manual) and enough room to fit four people *in comfort*. I do not want to spend more than 40-45ish. So that knocks the 65K CTS-V right off the list and the Camaro is toast because of the lack of rear seat room. So what dose GM produce that I want besides a truck? The Caprice PPV, although I never was looking for a police car I always knew if the Camaro was too small the G8 would be a back-up, and the Camaro was too small... So the vehicle with out question that still fits the bill and my tastes is sold in the USA by GM just not to consumers! If I can't get in on a "new" or "like new" Caprice (if it has to change hands before I get it) I am thinking about a truck which I really have little use for, but then again that is what the government gets for pushing me out of Caprice due to CAFE. Because of this I end up with a bigger vehicle than I need with less fuel efficeny. If I go the truck route it will be 3/4 ton 6.0L Denali HD (which I love) or a Crew Cab LTZ Chevy.

Anyways after reading this report I am even more pissed they are not offering the car to public and I even love the LWB more than SWB G8. It just ticks me off!

Edited by gm4life

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The world loves bucket seats. People wanted to say how the bench seat was a thing of the past and a old persons thing. Not everyone wants or needs bucket seats and prefers to space in the interior open. Now they are finally having to put a column shifter in the Caprice. dodge already did it. Ford designed one in. The police should not be the only one to have that option.

Here's a fun fact you might enjoy. Second gen Concordes and Intrepids could be had with front bench seats and a column shifter. A very rare option is leather wrapped bench seats. Not exactly highly sought after, but pretty neat.

As for me, I've sampled all of the LH seats, and the 300M buckets are far and away the most comfortable and supportive. I also prefer a center console and floor shifter. Different strokes of course.

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The world loves bucket seats. People wanted to say how the bench seat was a thing of the past and a old persons thing. Not everyone wants or needs bucket seats and prefers to space in the interior open. Now they are finally having to put a column shifter in the Caprice. dodge already did it. Ford designed one in. The police should not be the only one to have that option.

If the demand were there, automakers would continue to offer benches and column shift. But once the Panthers and Lucerne & DTS go away, no more...

Here's a fun fact you might enjoy. Second gen Concordes and Intrepids could be had with front bench seats and a column shifter. A very rare option is leather wrapped bench seats. Not exactly highly sought after, but pretty neat.

As for me, I've sampled all of the LH seats, and the 300M buckets are far and away the most comfortable and supportive. I also prefer a center console and floor shifter. Different strokes of course.

Interesting...never seen one like that. A friend had a 1st gen LH (New Yorker) w/ a bench seat and column shift...comfy big car...

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Here's a fun fact you might enjoy. Second gen Concordes and Intrepids could be had with front bench seats and a column shifter. A very rare option is leather wrapped bench seats. Not exactly highly sought after, but pretty neat.

As for me, I've sampled all of the LH seats, and the 300M buckets are far and away the most comfortable and supportive. I also prefer a center console and floor shifter. Different strokes of course.

Was that from Dodge's attempt to give the Intrepid a cop version maybe?

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Here's a fun fact you might enjoy. Second gen Concordes and Intrepids could be had with front bench seats and a column shifter. A very rare option is leather wrapped bench seats. Not exactly highly sought after, but pretty neat.

As for me, I've sampled all of the LH seats, and the 300M buckets are far and away the most comfortable and supportive. I also prefer a center console and floor shifter. Different strokes of course.

I have seen them. I in fact have the brochures in my house. I knew the New Yorker used to come with a bench seat. The LHS did not. I swear that 1st generation New Yorker looked like a Ninety Eight. I wonder if some GM designer did not go over to Chrysler. The second generation LHS only offered buckets and they then consolidated LHS and Concorde into one car at the end.

If the demand were there, automakers would continue to offer benches and column shift. But once the Panthers and Lucerne & DTS go away, no more...

Interesting...never seen one like that. A friend had a 1st gen LH (New Yorker) w/ a bench seat and column shift...comfy big car...

That is the sad part. I wonder if GM will wise up as well as Ford.

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