The V8 engine used in the Caprice PPV is a fourth-generation Chevy small block optimized for power and fuel savings.
For more than a decade now, the Ford Crown Vic Police Interceptor has been the nation's predominant law enforcement vehicle. The car is so commonly used by law enforcement that speeding motorists know to keep a keen eye out for its distinctive grille design in their rearview mirrors.
But the era of the Crown Vic is quickly coming to a close. It's expected that August of this year the last CVPI will roll off of the assembly line.
The end of the Crown Vic has heralded one of the most exciting eras in the history of law enforcement vehicles. This year Chevy is launching its new Caprice PPV. Dodge has developed a new and improved version of its Charger police package. And Ford is replacing the Crown Vic with the 2012 Next Generation Police Interceptor.
These are the first true 21st century police cars, and they each offer a variety of high-tech features. They have engine-control computers, high-intensity headlights, a vast collection of air bags. And they also have extremely sophisticated engines.
The internal combustion engine is essentially a very simple concept. Fuel is mixed with air in a combustion chamber and a spark is initiated to produce a controlled explosion. The energy from the explosion is translated to the wheels of the vehicle, and it zooms down the road. This concept really hasn't changed since the earliest days of the horseless carriage.
What has changed is the cost of fuel. Which means that customers are now demanding that automotive engine designers create powertrains that save fuel, but they also want as much or even more horsepower and torque. Saving fuel and boosting power would seem to be diametrically opposed concepts, but the Big Three American car companies are doing just that with their latest patrol car engines.
The new Caprice PPV is Chevy's first rear-wheel drive patrol sedan since the company discontinued its predecessor in 1996. Based on the Holden Commodore (an Australian General Motors product), the Caprice PPV will be produced in two versions: a 6.0-liter V8 model and a 3.6-liter V6.
First off the line for 2011 is the V8 configuration. The V8 engine used in the Caprice PPV is a fourth-generation Chevy small block that's been optimized for both power and fuel savings.
Computer controls on the Caprice's V8 powerplant enable what Chevrolet calls Active Fuel Management. This gas-saving feature essentially gives the Caprice two engines: one a four-cylinder econo drive for fuel efficiency and the other a powerful V8. "Active Fuel Management allows us to turn off four cylinders when coasting, which saves on fuel and emissions," says Dana Hammer, Chevrolet's manager for law enforcement vehicles.
The transition between four cylinders happens automatically based on the computer's analysis of throttle position, vehicle speed, engine temperature, and outside temperature. And the transition between the two modes is not readily apparent to the driver, according to Chevrolet.
"It's seamless to the customer," says Hammer. "You can display it on the driver's information panel but that's really the only way you can tell."
Performance testing of the V8 Caprice patrol package has yielded some impressive stats. At the Michigan State Police (MSP) evaluations, the new Caprice reached a top speed of 148 mph and accelerated from 0-100 mph in 14.77 seconds. Chevy specs detail that the Caprice's 6.0-liter V8 generates 355 horsepower at 5,300 RPM and 384 foot-pounds of torque when the tachometer hits 4,000 RPM.
The V6 Caprice PPV is scheduled to debut later this year as a 2012 model. Hammer says the car will be equipped with Chevy's new advanced 3.6-liter engine called the "High Feature V6" around GM but not currently branded.
While it's too early for GM to reveal any specs on this V6, the company will discuss some of the features. The engine will have direct injection, dual overhead cams, and variable valve timing.
It will also be matched with the same six-speed automatic transmission that's used on the V8 Caprice. "That's a big part of the performance picture for this car," says Hammer. "The six-speed automatic transmission allows a wider range of gear ratios with the transmission and a lower gear ratio in the differential. This helps us improve the fuel economy by lowering the RPMs."
Hammer believes it's not a fair comparison to match the new V6 up against any of Chevy's existing V6s. A more even match would be the new V6 against yesterday's V8s. "We will have performance that rivals the V8s of the past but with better fuel economy and lower emissions," he says.