Police vehicles serve many functions. They are symbols of law and order that help deter motorists from speeding and other people from committing serious offenses. They're also rolling offices for sworn personnel, equipment haulers, and prisoner transportation systems. The list of all the tasks required of police vehicles could go on for a long time.
Because police vehicles are used for a variety of operations, the definition of what constitutes a "police car" is changing. It used to be that when the average American heard the words "police car," he or she would picture a large, four-door American-made sedan. Today, not all police cars are the same, nor are they all sedans.
For the 2005 model year, Chevrolet, Chrysler, and Ford have marketed police vehicles in all shapes and sizes. Special service vehicles include pickup trucks, SUVs, and even a station wagon. There's even a Chevy Tahoe SUV that's rated as a pursuit vehicle. And rightfully so; it can hit 124 mph.
You can't just slap a lightbar on a civilian Ford Crown Victoria or Chevy Impala sedan and call it a police pursuit vehicle. A true police pursuit vehicle is outfitted with heavy-duty suspension, an engine that can take the stress of long hours of idling and driving at high speed, and heavy-duty electric systems that can handle the power demands of all the equipment that contemporary cops need on the job.
Here's a quick look at the 2005 police pursuit vehicles that are readily available in the United States.
Chevrolet Impala 9C1
Now that Dodge has ceased production of the Intrepid police vehicle, Chevy's Impala is the only U.S.-produced front-wheel-drive car designed for police duty. Any cop who has ever driven the police Impala will tell you that it is quick and nimble. For example, the combination of power rack-and-pinion steering and front-wheel-drive gives the Impala a turning radius of 38 feet.
As with any vehicle, opinions on the Impala differ greatly, but one thing it can't seem to overcome in the eyes of street cops is that it looks small. In this case, looks are deceiving. The Impala 9C1 is really only a little more than four inches shorter in wheel base and a foot shorter in length than the Ford Crown Vic. That may sound substantial, but it should be noted that front seat headroom and legroom is roughly comparable between the two cars.
Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor
The Crown Vic Police Interceptor is so ubiquitous in police service that speeding motorists have learned to scan their rearview mirrors for the car's distinctive grill design. This Ford sedan is exactly what most Americans picture when they hear the words "police car."
For 2005, the Police Interceptor is available in two axle ratios: 3.27:1 and 3.55:1. Unless you're a real gear head, you may have a hard time telling the difference between the two. Performance testing conducted by the Michigan State Police last year revealed that the primary benefit of the 3.55:1 Police Interceptor is a slight improvement in off-the-line acceleration. Specifically, the 3.55:1 model is about four-tenths of a second faster from zero to 100 mph.
Chevrolet Tahoe PPV
For years, agencies have needed a spacious police vehicle that can haul it down the road. For many of these agencies, the Tahoe PPV with two-wheel-drive may be the answer. The "PPV" in the police Tahoe's designation stands for "Police Pursuit Vehicle," and the word "pursuit" is not in the name just for marketing.
This SUV is fast. At last year's Michigan State Police tests, the Tahoe PPV achieved a top speed of 124 mph, only 4 mph slower than the standard Ford Crown Vic and only 1 mph slower than the Chevy Impala. The Tahoe is not just fast, it's quick. Its zero-to-sixty score at the Michigan test was faster than the standard Crown Vic Police Interceptor and the Impala.
Of course, achieving that kind of speed with a 5,000-plus-pound vehicle requires a serious engine. So the primary tradeoff for all this cargo space is fuel economy. The EPA rates the Tahoe at 16.5 miles per gallon, the Impala at 23, and the standard Ford Police Interceptor at 18.