Dodge, Plymouth, and Jeep squad and fleet cars and trucks

Los Angeles and Michigan State Police 2012 police pursuit car tests:
Dodge Charger, Chevrolet Caprice, and Ford Taurus

Michigan State Police

The Michigan State Police (MSP) held their eagerly awaited 2012-model-year pursuit car tests in September 2011 at Chrysler's Chelsea Proving Grounds and Gratten Raceway Park. The results were very different from the prior year, to Dodge's benefit. (See Los Angeles testing.)

2011 Charger squad car

There were some gaffes from everyone. Chrysler swapped out their front brake calipers before the test day to reflect the latest changes, with approval from the MSP, resulting in one V6 Charger losing its slide bolt at the end of the test; no other car had problems. Ford's car broke two lug bolts and said it was due to preproduction parts. A Caprice lit up its overheat lamp due to air in the cooling system, but didn't overheat. An Impala had a half-shaft axle bar pull out from the CV joint, and GM issued an engineering change to prevent it from happening again. Finally, a Caprice had a loose connector killing ABS and ESC, resulting in a change order at the factory.

chargerDodge did surprising well in the ergonomics/communications area, where the company had previously suffered. Despite Chevy's special seats in the Caprice, Charger topped the cars with the highest ergonomics/communications score, around 223. Caprice came in second at around 217. Ford came in at around 203, the lowest score of any vehicle tested, including the front-wheel-drive Impala. The top scorer, though, was not a car at all: it was the Chevrolet Tahoe, topping the charts at 236. (Ford's own Explorer came in below 210.) This is a major accomplishment for the Dodge boys.

2012 Police Car Acceleration: Dodge vs Ford vs Chevy

In the V6 acceleration competition, the Charger easily beat the Taurus front-wheel-drive and AWD models, but Caprice beat Charger, thanks largely to its superior six-speed automatic. The Dodge Charger police edition is still not available with the eight-speed automatic, possibly because the five-speed is time-tested and cheaper.

The real performance action is in the V8/turbo arena, and Dodge did surprisingly well there, as well; the 3.06:1 ratio made a difference, allowing the Charger Hemi to beat both Caprice and turbocharged Taurus. In fairness, the difference was usually relatively minor, especially between Caprice and Charger; Taurus had the best 0-50 time, reflecting the ease of launching an all wheel drive car. Caprice had the top speed, by 2 mph.

SPEED Dodge Charger Chevrolet CapriceFord Taurus
(Sec)V6 (3.07/2.65 ratios)Hemi (3.06/2.65)V6V8 E85V8FWD Turbo
0-50 5.806.074.564.575.944.644.635.944.41
0-60 7.667.935.835.957.655.955.917.775.92
0-70 9.6510.267.387.409.487.617.6410.157.53
0-80 11.9312.759.319.1812.129.519.5312.609.57
0-90 15.4715.5111.4311.5315.0711.5611.6415.5911.91
0-100 19.1820.1813.6514.0118.3013.9914.1319.6814.50
TOP SPEED141141151152147153154130148

Changes from the 2011 model year include a (computer aided) hike in the maximum speed of the Pentastar V6-based Charger, fixing a flaw in the Hemi computer, and adding a performance-ratio rear axle as a speed option.

In 2010, the Ford AWD turbo won in 0-40 and 0-50, the Dodge in 0-70 and 0-80, and Caprice everywhere else. The big surprise was the performance of the standard V6 Taurus, which managed to beat the Pentastar V6-based Charger decisively in all but top speed. That was not true for 2011. (See the 2010 article for a description of the methods involved in testing.)

Squad car braking

The testing method not only tests the absolute braking power, but the ability to stop after the brakes are well heated, which may be more appropriate for trooper use (think of a chase where the brakes are frequently applied).

Deceleration Rate Charger V6 Charger Hemi Ford FWD Ford Turbo Caprice
Stopping Distance 127.0 129.9 131.0 131.7 125.8 126.2

In 2009, Charger dominated the tests for braking with a stopping distance of around 138-143 feet. In 2010, Dodge came in last among the new cars, not counting the old Crown Victoria (142), Impala (140), or Tahoe (141). For 2011, Dodge came close to the champ, Chevrolet Caprice, and easily all three Fords (the AWD V6 was similar in standard and turbo versions). The Impala and Tahoe easily beat their 2010 numbers but came in behind the more hard-core squads.

Vehicle dynamics and cornering

Car Time  Car Time
Charger Hemi 2.65:1 1:34.39 Charger V6 3.07:11:37.57
Charger Hemi 3.06:1 1:35.42 Charger V6 2.65:11:37.71
Caprice V8 E85 1:35.61 Caprice V61:37.87
Ford AWD Turbo 1:35.85 Ford AWD1:39.61
Caprice V8 1:36.84 Ford FWD1:39.63

The next test involves moving over to the Gratten Race Track. It is a 2 mile long closed course, with 13 turns, and some wicked off camber turns, and dips and rises. The front straight away is 3,200 foot long affair.

In 2010, the Volvo-based Ford Taurus AWD Turbo took the honors, with the Caprice V8 coming in a close second, and Charger lagging; the 2009 Charger would have beaten nearly every car in 2010, including the revised Charger. The V6 and V8 Chargers were close.

This year, the Charger Hemis, with both axle ratios, took the #1 and #2 spots; Caprice V8s bracketed the Ford AWD Turbo, and all beat the 2010 Charger Hemi's score. Then came the standard V6 models, again with Charger taking the lead, suggesting that the suspension had been tweaked considerably (along with the brakes); it was followed by the Caprice, then the two Fords without turbochargers.

The Caprice might well beat the Charger next year, though, because GM people discovered that their test car had prototype front struts and rear suspension cradle bushings which hurt the handling. When newer parts were installed, their performance increased, but these numbers are not posted.

In the end, all things considered, the squads remain in the same ballpark for handling. The best performer was within six seconds of the worst.

Police car gas mileage

CarEPA mpg CarEPA mpg
Charger Hemi 2.65:116/25Charger V6 3.07:119/26
Charger Hemi 3.06:116/25Charger V6 2.65:118/27
Caprice V8 E8514/22 Caprice V618/26
Caprice V815/24Ford FWDTBA

While the Ford AWD Turbo was intriguing in 2010, departments may not trust turbocharged engines for heavy duty use, and may not think AWD is up to the rigors of police work (which is presumably why there is no AWD Charger). What's more, the Charger and Caprice both showed they were superior or at least equal this year.

The Ford is estimated to be far pricier than the Chevy and Dodge; and the Dodge is "close enough" in performance for departments to consider the possible issues of getting parts for the Australian-built Chevy (which has no direct civilian equivalent, yet) and issues of the untested-in-police-work turbo-and-AWD combination of the Ford.

A major factor in the formula which is not available yet is the gas mileage. Police departments, not surprisingly, burn a lot of fuel, and while gas prices are low now, many departments were badly burned by the sudden spike in fuel costs three years ago.

Also see this interpretation of the police car results and the ALERT conference

Squad cars | Insider's Guide to Chrysler | Rear-Drive Chrysler, Dodge, and Plymouth cars

Dodge Charger Police Cars | CHP Test Results

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