Police cars: Cops feel the need for speed — along with comfort and safety
Cop cars are faster and more furious than ever. So the next time you’re thinking about outrunning a police car after doing 80 miles per hour in a 60 mph zone, consider that you may find a super-charged Chevrolet, Dodge or Ford right on your tail.
The tried-and-true Ford Crown Victoria police car has been relegated to history; production was discontinued in early 2011.
While it offered loads of interior and trunk space, the Crown Vic can’t keep up with the new generation of cop cars. Police pursuit vehicles move faster, handle better and stop more quickly than ever. The fastest pursuit vehicles from Ford, Dodge and Chevrolet all reach 60 mph in less than six seconds. Dodge and Chevy models with V-8 engines top out at more than 150 mph. Ford models are only a few miles per hour shy of that.
|The 2012 Chevrolet Caprice PPV police car.|
What does this mean for your chances of being nabbed for speeding? It’s hard to say.
Sarah Hendricks, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Public Safety, says there’s no way for her agency to “determine the potential effects, good or bad, that the new vehicle models will have on enforcement.”
It’s also hard to say what effect these speedier machines will have on auto insurance rates.
Putting the cars through their paces
Who decides which cop cars are the fastest of the fast? Enter the Michigan State Police and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the only law enforcement agencies in North America that test the road-worthiness of police cars.
The Michigan and L.A. County agencies put cars through the paces by measuring top speeds, conducting timed laps on a racetrack, simulating pursuit and testing braking distances, along with examining factors such as ergonomics and fuel efficiency. Both departments stress that they don’t endorse any police vehicles.
The Michigan State Police has tested 2012 models and, depending on which metric you value most, top performers were chosen from all three Detroit automakers — all of which were quick to claim bragging rights.
Dodge can boast that when it comes to acceleration, with the 5.7-liter V-8 Charger Pursuit notching a 0-to-60 mph time of 5.8 seconds and 0-to-100 mph in 13.65 seconds in the Michigan test. It also achieved the fastest lap time on the 12-turn, 2.2-mile road course — nearly one minute and 34 seconds.
Peter Grady, a vice president at Chrysler, brags that the four drivers on the Michigan State Police vehicle test teams averaged their fastest times in the Dodge Charger Pursuit.
|The 2012 Dodge Charger Pursuit police car.|
If top speed is the top yardstick, then the best performance in the Michigan testing came from the Chevrolet Caprice, with the 6.0-liter V-8 reaching 154 mph. Caprice also had the shortest stopping distance from 60 mph: 125.8 feet, which was 4 feet better than the Ford Police Interceptor.
“In terms of braking, an average deceleration rate of 30.77 feet per second is unprecedented for police cruisers, so we’re quite pleased,” says James Soo, lead development engineer of the Caprice PPV (Police Patrol Vehicle).
Don’t think for a second that Ford wasn’t pleased with its new Police Interceptor. Its performance in the Michigan State Police tests still was quite competitive, plus the turbocharged V-6 engine outdoes the Crown Victoria’s V-8 in terms of power and fuel economy. In the L.A. County high-speed test, the new Ford Taurus-based Police Interceptor averaged 64.62 mph, compared with the Crown Vic’s 61.13 mph. From 0-to-60, the Crown Vic trails the new model by 3.12 seconds. It’s also the only sedan equipped with all-wheel drive.
“Testing by Michigan State Police proves our powerful and efficient V6 powertrains exceed (Crown Victoria Police Interceptor) V8 performance and deliver savings back to government agencies,” says Bill Gubing, chief engineer of Ford’s police car program.
Handling beats speed?
Lightning-fast speed isn’t always the most important characteristic in police cars, though.
“Being an inner-city and urban department, speed isn’t that much of an issue,” said Max Thompson, program monitor for the L.A. County vehicle testing program. “Handling and braking are more important.”
|The 2012 Ford Interceptor police car.|
In the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department tests of the 2012 models, the Chevrolet Caprice beat the Dodge Charger to 60 mph — 6.76 versus 6.98 seconds. The Ford with the turbocharged V-6 topped them both, making the trip to 60 in 6.19 seconds. The Caprice also was faster from 30 to 60 mph than the Dodge – 3.85 versus 4.07 seconds – while the Ford bridged the same gap in 3.54 seconds.
The L.A. County Sheriff’s Department conducts simulated pursuits using a course that mimics an urban setting, a slower test speed than the Michigan State Police course. The Ford Police Interceptor all-wheel-drive, E-85 non-turbo model ran the fastest lap at a little over 2 minutes and an average speed of 35.8 mph.
Meanwhile, the Caprice and Charger turned in times of about 2 minutes and 3 seconds and nearly 2 minutes and 2 seconds, respectively, with somewhat slower average speeds.
The L.A. department also performs the brake tests by doing panic stops after the cars have run 32 laps of the high-speed testing and with the brakes fully warmed up.
Aside from speed, safety and comfort rank high as priorities for police cars. Furthermore, up-to-date stability and traction control, anti-lock braking systems and air bags make the vehicles safer than previous versions of police cars.
Police officers spend a considerable amount of their time in their cars, so ergonomics make a difference in how efficiently cops work and how sharp they feel toward the end of a shift. Ergonomically designed seats include cutaway sections to accommodate an officer’s gear belt so it won’t dig into the cop’s back.
“Can a deputy sit in that vehicle for eight hours a day and get out and walk away?” Thompson says.