2011 Dodge Charger police car tests
The high speed driving course is designed to weed out unstable or unsafe cars. Four drivers take each car out, for eight laps (each) around a 1 1/2 mile track at the AutoClub Speedway in Fontana; lap timing is via car-mounted device and drops the fastest and slowest laps. Drivers are from the LA sheriff’s office and police department. If the drivers find the car to be unacceptable, it’s kicked out of the testing at this point.
There were no big surprises at the Los Angelos County Sheriff's police vehicle testing this year. The Hemi Mopars blew everyone else away [again] on the road course, but the street pursuit course is so tight they don't get up enough speed to be much faster than the other vehicles. In fact, the V6 Charger stayed right on the tail of the Hemi Magnum when they were out on that portion of the track together. The Hemi Charger was able to pull away from the V6 Magnum a bit, but that may have been a driver talent issue. The quicker driver was driving the V6 Charger when it was chasing the Hemi Magnum and he commented [in jest] that he "didn't need a Hemi, because the Magnum was holding him up."
By the end of the day, the Hemi Magnum had a bit of a brake issue. The front rotors were scored badly and the pads looked like they'd been so hot that they were damaging the linings. They weren't into the metal yet, but a few more serious hot laps would have probably done them in. None of the other Mopars experienced any problems, so it may have simply been an individual product issue on that one vehicle. The drivers said they weren't surprised with a bit of brake fade in the Hemi Mopars, as they were driving considerably faster than the other cars and working the equipment much harder as a result. It was in the mid-90s (ºF) out there, as opposed to the milder 70 degree temps of Michigan.
LA’s hot lap testing is more severe, with more than 32 laps around a faster track than Michigan, and they do their braking test right after the hot laps, so their stopping distances are considerably longer. (That said, Chrysler appears to have held up deliveries of squad cars as of December 2005, so they might be working on the brake issue.)
Ford uses two axle ratios, 3.27:1 and 3.55:1 (the 3.27 ratio was a reaction to the performance of the Impala and Intrepid). The V6 contenders (Impala, Magnum, and Charger alike) fall right between the two Fords in many results; the Dodge V6 models were noticeably slower than the Chevy V6 in straight acceleration, probably due to the lighter weight of the Bowtie. The Hemi-equipped vehicles, like the past Camaro pursuits, simply blew by all other contenders with room to spare. (Amusingly, none of the non-Hemi squads would be able to beat a 1995 Neon five-speed.)
Temparature varied considerably. Four drivers took turns; we are just reporting averages below. In this test, the Hemis again blew away all competition, finishing the laps quickly. The Ford with 3.27 differential came in at #3, ahead of the Chevy and Dodge V6s (but not by much), likely benefiting from much lower temparatures which would increase power and adhesion; the Magnum V6, however, was close on the heels of the faster Ford, despite 10° higher temps. The Chevy and Charger V6 turned in similar scores, but again, with very different heat ranges - the Impala at 74° and the Charger at 95°! In an equal-temp test, we suspect all the Dodges would have beaten the Fords with ease.
A New York State Police trooper once described pulling over a speeder as slamming on his brakes to stop from 70 mph, swinging across a highway divider, slamming on the gas, and repeatedly slamming on his brakes as intermediate drivers hit their own brakes when seeing the 90 mph-plus oncoming squad car in their rear-view mirrors; in short, stopping distance is important, as is freedom from brake fade. Stopping a foot or two quicker can be the difference between an accident and no incident, and stopping 20 feet quicker might save a life. With that in mind, it's interesting to note that the Charger Hemi stopped in a very brief 138 feet, far better than any other vehicle. The Impala was not distinguished in this test, and the Magnums did about as well as the standard-performance Ford (the high-performance Ford was the worst performer in braking). The Charger V6 stopped better than any Ford or Chevy entry, but not much better.
* Average temperature only applies to the high-speed course tests and not to braking tests.
** After retesting on a clean surface
Finally, we have the pursuit course results (by driver). On this test, it is interesting to see that the Chargers turned in the best times, while the Magnums, regardless of motor, did about as well as the Fords. In terms of average speed, the Chevy came in last place by a tenth of a second, though the Ford 3.55's time was very similar, while the Charger Hemi easily was the fastest. The Magnums, again, did not perform as well as the Chargers regardless of the engine - in fact, the Magnums were almost tied with each other, unlike the differently-differentialled Fords and the Hemi and V6 Chargers. (Numbers are rounded.)
The Michigan State Police have started to report preliminary data from their tests of 2008 model year police cars. Since 2007, Chevrolet has greatly improved their Impalas, powered by two 3.9 liter V6 engines (one E85 capable and slightly slower in acceleration), while Dodge has addressed issues with rapid brake wear.
Generally, the Hemi Charger was the most impressive vehicle by a wide margin, easily beating every other vehicle in every acceleration test, and garnering the highest top speed of 146 mph vs the next best, the Impala’s 140 mph. (The two Ford Police Interceptors, differing largely in axle ratio, managed 128 and 120 mph.) 0-60 times were impressive for the Charger Hemi, at under 6 seconds vs over 8 seconds for every other police car. Ford’s V8 models were both beaten by the Chevrolet Impala V6, by a decent margin; Ford’s V8s were roughly matched by the Charger V6. The standard Chevy Impala V6 did 0-60 in 8.37 seconds and 0-100 in 22.22 seconds, versus the Charger V6’s 8.50 and 23.52 seconds — and the higher-performance Ford’s 8.79 and 23.70 seconds. The best 0-60 times were achieved by police motorcycles.
The two Dodges again easily beat Chevrolet and Ford’s braking, with the Charger V6 and V8 both stopping in 135 feet, the Impala stopping in 144 feet, and the Ford stopping in 142 feet. The Tahoe was also tested; it stopped in 143 feet.
Final numbers, gas mileage estimates, and other data are being prepared but are not expected for some time.
Lower numbers are better in these tables, with the exception of top speed and gas mileage:
Charger 3.5 V6
Ford (3.27 ratio)
Ford (3.55 ratio)
Braking 60-0 (est.)
EPA gas mileage
Compared to trucks:
Braking 60-0 (est.)
EPA gas mileage
Compared to trucks:
The Ford Police Interceptor, currently by far the best seller, had mediocre braking compared to any Chrysler vehicle, though it fared about as well as the Impala , Tahoe, and Expedition. The LX cars easily turned in the best overall track times. The Charger V6 and Ford Interceptor with optional low gear ratio had similar times, though the Ford has a V8 and aggressive gearing. Gas mileage figures are based on EPA estimates for standard production cars and may not be relevant for police editions. The Crown Victoria with altered gearing does not appear in EPA reports.
Most departments will probably be looking most seriously at the 3.5 since it is "fast enough" and cheaper (both in gas mileage and initial purchase price); it is almost identical in acceleration to the standard Ford, and while not quite up to the Ford with the optional axle ratio in acceleration, it’s also not that much below it, and beats it in top speed by a good ten mph. Most importantly, perhaps, the braking distance is far better than the Ford or Chevy - that extra ten-plus feet of braking distance in the competitors can mean the difference between an accident and a near hit, or even life and death. The Hemi version of the Charger simply wipes the floor with the Chevy and Ford. The down-side of the Charger is Dodge’s absurd mis-handling of the Intrepid brake fires, and perceptions that Dodge service departments are not up to par.
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