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Performance Review--Road Testing the 2002 Cop Cars

Detroit brings its best to California for a police vehicle showdown.

February 02, 2002  |  by John L. Bellah

Makes and Models

CHEVROLET: Front-wheel-drive (fwd) vehicles have been slow to gain acceptance in the police market. However, Chevrolet engineers designed the fwd Impala from the ground-up as a police car. In this case, the civilian versions are also fitted with standard components that were designed for police duty.

Many fwd vehicles are disabled after seemingly minor front-end collisions. Chevrolet engineers designed an engine cradle for the Impala that will survive striking a 6-inch curb at a speed of 25 mph, with only damage to the tires and/or wheels.

The Impala is powered by a 3.8-liter V-6 engine that develops 200 horsepower. And although it weighs about 300 pounds less than Ford's Crown Victoria, the Chevy's performance was noticeably slower than the Ford. Zero-to-60 times are slightly more than one-half-second slower than the Crown Victoria, and in 0- to 100-mph runs the Impala is slower by one and a half-seconds.

But speed isn't everything in a police car. And a huge vote of confidence has been given to the Impala by the New York City Police Department.

Based on two years of dependable service, it has been reported that NYPD plans to eventually convert its entire patrol fleet to Impalas. The on-duty Chevys have received high marks for durable engines, transmissions, and brakes.

However, the word on the Impala is not all good. There have been reports
of some frame members cracking. To address this concern, Chevrolet is changing the alloy of the affected frame members. Additionally a running production change will be made this year with the engine mounts and front springs to redistribute vertical road shocks.

This will be the final year for the Chevrolet B4C Special Service Package Camaro. Both Camaro and Pontiac Firebird are being phased out by General Motors. The police package Camaro is powered by the 310-horsepower 5.7-liter V-8. The transmission is a 4-speed automatic.

The Chevrolet Tahoe, a super-sized sport utility vehicle, is available in a Special Service Package in both 2-wheel-drive and 4-wheel-drive versions. Chevrolet is considering a pursuit-capable Tahoe, and a prototype was brought to Pomona for evaluation.

Currently, the only pursuit-capable sport utility vehicle is GM's Hummer 4-door wagon HCMS Tactical Vehicle - TPU. The high-end TPU is powered by a 6.5-liter turbodiesel developing 195 horsepower and a whopping 430 foot/pounds of torque. The 4L80-E 4-speed automatic is the only available transmission. According to the manufacturer, numerous options and paint schemes are available.

Chevrolet also offers an 1SA Package for its full-sized van. Referred to as a Special Service Package, and intended for prisoner transport, the Chevy van can carry up to 15 persons and is available with a 5.7-liter gasoline V-8 or a 6.5-liter turbo diesel.

DODGE: Dodge is attempting a comeback into the police market with a police package version of its Intrepid. In recent years, many agencies fell in love with this vehicle and have purchased standard, retail Intrepids with heavy-duty options, placing them into service as marked police units.

The DaimlerChrysler folks have taken notice, and spurred by the success of Chevrolet's Impala, Dodge has introduced a special police package Intrepid for the 2002 model year.

The Intrepid is a fwd car powered by a 3.5-liter V-6 engine that develops 242 horsepower. And based on the LASD evaluation, it offers better handling and ease of repair than its primary fwd police vehicle competitor, the Chevy Impala.

Dodge, like Chevrolet, also is engineering extra protection against powertrain abuse into its police vehicle models. At Pomona, a test Intrepid slammed into a 6-inch curb at a speed of 25 mph, and drove away needing nothing more serious or costly than a front end realignment.

A prototype Intrepid scorched the track of the Michigan State Police tests at 135 mph, where top speeds are recorded. Unfortunately, the Intrepid did not pass MSP's braking standards. To correct this problem Dodge made some changes to the brake system by adding some cooling slots, and changing the friction materials.

During the LASD testing, the Intrepid demonstrated blistering performance, turning in some lap times in the 1-minute-and-23-second range - faster than the Impala and Crown Victoria.

However, during Lap 31 of the 32-lap preliminary handling evaluation, the Intrepid developed severe brake fade, and the manufacturer voluntarily withdrew it from testing. Gerry Appie, DaimlerChrysler's manager of fleet engineering, said the Intrepid is tentatively scheduled for a retest later this month.

FORD: The 2002 Ford Crown Victoria was redesigned to improve engine cooling and electrical charging at idle speeds. In addition, suspension ball-joints have been improved for added durability, and the fuel systems on the Natural Gas Vehicles (NGV) have been reengineered for increased luggage space and increased range between fuelings.

Major changes are slated for the 2003 Crown Victoria. Most of the modifications, including rack-and-pinion steering and stronger suspension components, are intended to improve handling and durability. Rear shock absor-bers will be relocated for better handling. Frame rails will be hydro-formed to eliminate structural weaknesses.

Ford SUVs, including Explorer, Expedition and Excursion, have also attracted attention from some agencies. These special service vehicles are available in 2-wheel-drive and 4-wheel-drive versions, but they are not pursuit-capable vehicles.

2002 Police Vehicle Performance
A Quick-and-Easy Guide to the Hottest New Cop Cars
Data Courtesy Of Michigan State Police

John L. Bellah currently holds the rank of corporal with the California State University, Long Beach Police Department. He is a frequent contributor to numerous publications, including POLICE.

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