Dodge Intrepid Police Cars

dodge intrepid squad cars

Civilian Dodge Intrepid cars

Until 1989, when the Diplomat and Gran Fury were discontinued, Chrysler ruled in squad car sales. Their place was taken by the Chevrolet Caprice, and when that platform died, the Ford Crown Victoria, the only remaining affordable rear wheel drive car.

The Chevrolet Impala was used by many departments, despite its moderately lower acceleration and front wheel drive - which increased damage when slammed into curbs, and required retraining of officers. In the Impala's corner were gas mileage, reliability, braking, and cornering.

The Dodge Intrepid police car package, which ran from 2002-2003 and ended with a 4% market share, was based on the Dodge Intrepid R/T, with a 3.5-liter, 242 hp (at 6,400 rpm) V-6 engine. The 248 lb.-ft. of torque (at a low 3,950 rpm) helped in standing starts, while a high-performance suspension, heavy-duty four-wheel disc anti-lock brakes, purpose-built lighting, and severe-duty powertrain cooling system helped longevity and made pursuit safer. (Brakes and handling can be more important when pulling over a 90 mph speeder - with their tendency to slam on their brakes and quickly change lanes - than the engine itself.) Acceleration was on par with the Crown Victoria, while braking and cornering were better, according to official police tests.

Dodge Intrepid patrol carIt took over a year to come up with this police package, which was tested in prototype form by the Michigan State Police. Dodge interviewed police officers throughout the country in one-on-one encounters to assess their needs. The base price for the Dodge Intrepid police vehicle was $23,800, similar to the Crown Victoria. The Intrepid failed to catch on as a police vehicle partly because it was not on the market for very long - two years - and because of the brake fires which occured during testing and during use (see sidebar). It was also front wheel drive, which presented a barrier for many departments, and was not "better enough" to overcome that or the safety of not changing.

One observer wrote, "The folks that had/have Intrepids [told me] it's a ‘love/hate' relationship, but all agree that they're better than the Impalas. ... The 4.6 liter Ford V8 suffers from a lack of low-end torque, because of the overhead cam and only 281 cubic inches. The old LT1 Caprice had oodles of low end and you could throttle steer it around some corners, where you can't do that with the smaller Ford motor."

Competitive Comparison

copyright © 2002 Curtis Redgap, March 2001. Author is solely responsible for content. Licensed to ALLPAR.COM.

Thanks to LEO SHAFFER, owner, operator, and cop car fan for giving us access to his personal test of the new Intrepid police car. Leo has a web site for you cop car fans. His opinions are his own, but, he gave me license to add my driving experiences with Intrepid and LHS cars in the story. Leo's experiences and mine closely tend to follow the definitive MSP examinations and drives of the 2002 Police Intrepid.

Dodge Intrepid police carAs a former Deputy Sheriff, and fleet manager for my department for some time, I am always interested in the equipment used by police agencies. My personal experience covers the years from 1966 through 1984. Prior to that, I grew up in a Chrysler automobile store run by my father and grandfather. I observed the first acceptance of the 1957 Plymouth as the main squad for the State Police; they stayed with MoPars until 1989 [the last year of the Diplomat/Gran Fury].

Rumors circulated for quite a while about the introduction of a Dodge Intrepid in the Police package. I believe that horror stories of the front wheel drive Ford Taurus police package may have kept manufacturers at bay. But Chevrolet stopped building a good cop package with the end of production of the 1996 Caprice; the 1994-96 Chevrolet Caprice LT-1 engine cop package was every bit as good as the late 1960s Dodge Police Pursuits. A lot of Troopers with the Florida Highway Patrol [until mandatory model turnover kicked in] elected to stay with their 1996 Caprice over every model year of the Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor!

Some units of the FHP, such as investigators and command personnel, are now using the new Chevrolet Impala, a front wheel drive sedan. One of the biggest users of the Impala is the New York City Police Department. They are happy with the performance and the fuel mileage. In that crowded city, top speed is not a consideration for squads. GM seems to have done it right, with a huge heavy duty cradle to protect all that running gear on the front end. Particularly when curbs and medians are jumped at speed, which constitutes a hard but necessary part of squad duties.

Why rear wheel drive?

Many were taught to drive rear wheel drive vehicles, and make use of oversteer (front wheel drive tends to understeer instead); others note that hitting the curb at high speeds can take a front drive car out of action completely, and requires a new CV joint. To a degree, modern front-drive squads (at least in the Impala) address problems of the earlier ones: heavy-duty engine cradles can prevent damage, and good engineering overcomes torque steer, if not understeer.

Dodge finally let out the Intrepid for consideration by police agencies as a 2002 model. Test mules were available in September 2001.

I had personal experience operating a 1999 LHS with the 253 horsepower high output V-6 engine and touring suspension system. It was not a patrol car, but it certainly could have been.

Generally, the driving experience that we both shared has been good. Leo liked the looks of the Dodge, as do I. With its wide tires and stance, it looks like a squad. No nonsense and ready to roll. {In memory of TODD BEAMER, flight #93. Died a true hero on September 11, 2001: "Let's roll."} When you get past the screaming DCX decals, the overall finish of the exterior is well executed. Seams are not noticeable and the clearance for the hood and trunk is even and in excellent alignment.

Leo picked up the Intrepid from a Ford dealer who isn't very happy with the Intrepid. Some of the facts he purports don't seem to be supported by the Michigan State Police tests with the Intrepid, nor with my 3 years driving experience with the same type of vehicle.

Leo commented about the fog lights that were on the test vehicle. They are on the lower outside edges of the front fascia. He, like me, doesn't see much use by a department for them. I never ordered anything like that, nor, in my experience have I seen other departments place such an item on the option list. However, cops are most resourceful, and I am sure that some good use will be made of the fog lamp kits by some cop somewhere. Word will spread fast. It always does in the police community.

One officer wrote in 2005: "The Intrepid has been a good solid car for us. Fast enough, handles well, and stays tight up into the high miles."

Before executing his driving test of the Intrepid, Leo got inside and made an ergonomic check out of the interior. He, like most cops, knows where his office will be for the best part of 8 to 10 hours on shifts every day. The floor pedals seem vague to reach, and don't want to fall in line with a sort of "already used to it" location. Takes some time to develop a memory for their position. Could be a problem on larger departments with more than one vehicle type in the mix. Going from a Chevrolet to the Dodge could tend to end up in an upset when going for the brake nails the accelerator. The Michigan State Police also found a bit of concern there, rating the Ford and Chevrolet at an 8.50 point factor against the Dodge with a 7.70. Not enough to be a blatant disqualifier, but size of the pedals does factor in.

Leo also found some differences in the location of the switches inside the Intrepid. MSP said Ford got an 8.40 for theirs, while Dodge rated a 7.70. That isn't all that bad. Chevrolet was also a 7.70!

The only other major difference was the outside mirror controls. The little flipper switch in the center of the Dodge four way control was hard to center, and if it was not centered, the mirror would move out of the driver's setting with not much of a touch to the switch. Ford got a 7.70 for that by the MSP. Chevrolet was slightly better at a 7.80. Intrepid got a 7.2. Not bad, just not as good as engineers can make it.

Flaming Brakes

In a number of tests, the Intrepid squad's brakes caught fire. The problem seems to be that the pads do not conduct heat well, so the heat is not dissipated, but is carried through bolts (the pads are both bonded and bolted) to the piston and seals. Some brake fluid squirts out and is ignited by the rotor. This problem, devastating to Dodge's credibility, reportedly could have been prevented by using silicone-based fluid.

There has been much said about the Dodge "stealth mode" switch. This causes all the exterior lights to go out and dims the interior lights to their lowest possible level. I will reserve judgment on this option. The main aim is to turn off the brake lights so that police can make turns in driving or stop without lighting up the neighborhood. What we used to do is just install a brake light cut out switch in our vehicles. Not that big a situation since the main brake light switch is located at the brake pedal underneath the dashboard. If I wanted the lights out, I just turned them off. If I wanted the brakes lights switched off, I just pushed the switch and they were cut out.

All the vehicles had air conditioning. Something that was just unheard of not all that long ago. Put A/C in a cop car? What an extravagant waste of money! How fortunate that due to some of us pushing hard back then has resulted in a large legion of cops that have never known what a lack of air conditioning meant on a hot, humid, summer day.

I found that the placement of the vents and the controls was good. The controls were logically placed and easy to reach. After a few uses, you can dial them up without conscious thought. MSP said Ford 8.50, Dodge 8.0. Don't know why. In the total instrumentation package, all gauges, speedometer, tachs and items that relate to the engine were excellent. Ford got an 8.60 for clarity, while Dodge got a 8.90. Same for placement.

The Ford guy really panned the Intrepid as to its ease or lack thereof in exiting or entering the car. I never experienced any difficulty, and often got comments about how easy it was to get into the back seat of my car. Leo thought the front seat fabric wouldn't hold up to a hard usage like police will induce. The MSP rated this section with the front seat all the way back at 7.60 for the Ford, and a big 8.10 for the Dodge. As I said, I was often complimented for the ease of entry into the rear area of my car. Overall, ergonomics, which includes seat padding, front seat depth, upholstery, seat design, ease of entry and exit as well as headroom and seatbelts earned the Ford an average of 7.62. The Intrepid got the nod with a 7.76.

The Intrepid was accused of having absolutely horrible visibility problems. I never had trouble seeing where I was going or going where I was seeing. Leo didn't mention this either. Yet, it was claimed that you had to look around the "B" pillar. Well, I never experienced that, and I am a pretty good sized guy. Apparently the Michigan State Police didn't come up with that either. And they use a team of at least 12 different drivers for each car. They rated the Ford with front vision of an 8.70, while the Intrepid got an 8.40. Not enough difference to suggest unsafe conditions by any means.

Vision to the rear was 7.30 for the Ford and 7.20 for the Intrepid. One area that was of great concern to Leo was the placement of the spotlights on the windshield pillars. They do represent a major blind spot as they are up too high. There has to be some more thought in their placement, for certain. But not to the extent that the car is not safe to operate. Just a minor compensation on the part of the driver.

There were at least six different places that I could have put a siren or speaker under the hood of my LHS with little or no problem. The MSP agreed, rating the Engine compartment on the Ford at 7.83, and giving the Intrepid the same 7.83 score. Trunk space on the LH series of cars is huge. Intrepid 8.56, Ford 8.33. Both good.

The Intrepid, as I noticed in my car, tended to be noisy. Chrysler uses unit bodies, and has since 1960. They do know how to screw together a car without a frame. It is just so tight that road noise is going to be transmitted through the body, which moves through the passenger compartment. It is noticeable, but not to the point of being fatigue causing.

The Ford uses a body on frame configuration. It isn't much better. Most cops are complaining about the Ford as it reaches around 30,000 miles. It tends to shake and rattle. One of my Orange County acquaintances stopped by a couple weeks ago to show me his new 2002 Interceptor. As he pulled away, in the less than 2,000 mile old car, the rear valance between the dual exhausts was vibrating like a drum. No bracing or support for the wide, long and thin strip of sheet metal. I have noticed the same thing on all the Ford cop cars that I see now.

The Florida Highway Patrol was intending to sue Ford over poor quality built bodies on the Crown Victoria. The seams tend to split in the sheet metal. One accident involved an FHP Trooper who was parked in the median of an expressway, completing an accident report. He was hit from behind by a drunk driver. The seams of the Ford split, allowing raw gasoline to enter the passenger compartment. Due to the deformation of the car body, he was unable to get the doors open to get out. He used his pistol to break the side glass in the door, but at that moment there was an explosion with an instant fire. The result was horrifying and dismaying. Ford expressed sympathy, but offered little else or design change either. Ford had a 2003 model in the 2002 Michigan State Police Tests, and the only change, other than being a bit slower, was that the 2003 will finally get rack and pinion type steering control. Does that tell you what Ford is doing?

For a first year effort, the Dodge Intrepid is a good contender. It took Ford years to bring its brakes up to any kind of standard, and didn't ever win any competition in that area until 1992! — some 60 years after the introduction of the vaulted flathead V-8 that pushed police agencies into thinking they had one of the fastest cars around [though the Plymouth Six beat it, in independent tests, running pure-stock cars].

Not only did the Intrepid pass muster on its brakes, in the second phase of the MSP tests, it outperformed the Chevrolet Impala. Ford, which now has had 10 years to perfect its ABS system, did outbrake both the Impala and the Intrepid. The brake tests are a sort of relay race, with multiple drivers going to 90 mph and then slamming the brakes on, going to zero, adn switching drivers. Two runs to 90 mph with hard stops to zero, cooldown, then 6 runs to 60 mph with 6 drivers, and 6 panic stops.

Ford's average was 27.672, about 140 feet to stop from 60 miles an hour. The Intrepid scored an 26.542, which means it would take about 148 feet to stop from 60. Not that much of a difference, unless of course you were standing on the 146 foot mark and I was driving an Intrepid. [The MSP re-tested the three cars and all got better results than in the first tests. The Intrepid was well within the acceptable range.]

Leo felt that the brakes felt sort of mushy in his tests. I agree with him. My car when I first got it was the same vague feeling. It was a function of the Chrysler ABS system. It is good, but it does need some adjustments and more engineering. When you sat at an intersection and really pushed the brake pedal hard, you could feel the pedal trying to pulsate, even though the wheels weren't turning. It gave a spongy sort of feeling, even under normal conditions. You tend to not notice this after awhile if this the car you drive all the time. If however, you have another car, you will immediately take note of the rubbery pedal in the Intrepid. But the brakes are good, and mine never failed.

The engine in the Intrepid is the 3.5 litre high output developed by Chrysler for the LH series of cars back in 1999. It is a good strong engine, full of power and torque. I just don't know where all that power goes. The police Intrepid was slower in all speed ranges than the 1999 Chrysler 300M (which has a performance axle ratio) but held its own against the V8-powered 2002 Crown Vic.

Leo seemed to think that 0 to 60 took him about 8 seconds. Getting his test mule to 100 might have been around 25 seconds. Leo didn't have the opportunity of using a test track, but his good old reliable Timex sufficed. The Michigan State Police get to utilize one of the premier test facilities in the world, and that is the Chelsea Proving Grounds owned by Chrysler. They said that the Intrepid took 8.72 seconds to reach 60 miles an hour. Ford tripped the lights at 8.42. The Impala took 9.21 seconds to pass 60. Getting to 100 miles an hour took the Dodge 24.27 seconds. Just a tick behind the Ford which got to the century mark in 23.34 seconds. The Impala seemed to be coming on, tripping the electronic wands at 26.27 seconds.

A basic precept is the quarter-mile run. The Dodge went through the trap at 16.68 seconds and hit 85.48 mph. The Ford used 16.43 seconds and stopped the clock at 86.53 miles an hour. The Impala? 17.04 seconds and 83.65 mph. This would give the Ford about a half of a car length.

Continuing past the quarter-mile it took 62/100s of a mile for the Ford to reach 110 mph. 120 mph took 99/100 of a mile. The Dodge got to 110 in 66/100s of a mile and reached 120 in 97/100 of a mile. The Ford ran out of breath at 129 miles an hour. The Intrepid stopped going at 135. The Impala topped out at 124. It just took it a while to get there, reaching 120 after traveling 1 and 92/100 of a mile.

In none of these tests was there any of the torque steer experienced by early model front wheel drivers. The big fear had always been that about 200 horsepower was all that a front driver could handle without having dreaded torque steer kick in. Solid engineering by Chrysler and then by Cadillac stopped 99% of torque steer characteristics. Cadillac routinely drops 300 horsepower onto its front driver platforms. Equal length axle half shafts and some other engineering has overcome that problem. I couldn't even induce my car to torque steer, even with the traction control off, and the wheels cocked over to full lock. Press the accelerator hard to the floor, and it just went off in the direction you had it pointed. Leo didn't mention his experience in that regard, so I have to feel he didn't experience it.

The final tally and overall score put the Intrepid into a solid compete against the Ford Interceptor. The total weighted score for the Intrepid was 218.34. Acceptable for bids. The Ford was 221.26. remember, this Ford car has been basically the same car since its introduction. Despite the ballyhoo, Ford has not done that much to change or improve the breed either. The statistics for the 1992 model read about the same as the 2002 model. And remember Ford sent the 2003 model to MSP for testing alongside the 2002!

While I still am not a fan of DCX, as a fleet manager, I would take a long look at the 2002 Intrepid police package. While there is a lot to do that could improve it, the same could be said for the Ford. I give the Dodge a solid two thumbs up. A viable contender to the Ford.

Test results: 2004

The Michigan State Police tested four 2004 models in mid-2003: the Chevrolet Impala, Dodge Intrepid, and Ford Police Interceptors (Crown Victorias) with two different axle ratios, 3.27:1 and 3.55:1. The Dodge had the smallest engine at 3.5 liters; the Chevy had a 3.8 V6, the Ford a 4.6 V8. Four special service vehicles were also tested, the Ford Explorer and Expedition, and Chevrolet Tahoes with 5.3 liter engines and two and four wheel drive. This is the first year in some time that neither Dodge nor Jeep had a special service vehicle, possibly because both the Durango and Grand Cherokee are being replaced.

Once again, the Chrysler proving grounds were used. This year, the term "DaimlerChrysler" was removed from its place in the past before "Dodge" (as in "DaimlerChrysler Dodge Intrepid). The cars were driven multiple times by four different drivers. Ford removed underbody air deflectors, saying they were not on the 2004 models.

The overall performance of the two Fords and the Dodge were within a hair of each other, with the Impala lagging slightly - the Dodge and the two Fords did the course in 1 minute, 42 seconds, while the Chevrolet took one minute, 45 seconds. The Dodge actually beat the V8 Ford with the 3.27 ratio, and was only four hundredths of a second behind the 3.55:1 V8 Ford.

Test Ford 1 Ford 2 Dodge Chevy
0-60 8.25 8.44 8.56 9
0-100 22.5 23.3 23.6 26.4
1/4 mile 16.3 16.4 16.6 16.9
Top speed 128 <123 135 123
Stopping 150 ft 150ft 137 ft 134 ft
Gas mileage 18 mpg 18 mpg 22 mpg 23 mpg
Course time 1:42 1:42 1:42 1:45

The Fords had the best acceleration across the board, with the Dodge only a little behind, and the Chevrolet lagging more. That's not surprising since the Fords were the only V8s and all three cars were around the same size. However, the ancient Ford design showed in cornering and braking, allowing Dodge and Chevy to get roughly the same course times. The value of that slight extra acceleration, compared with the four-five mile per gallon shortfall and less effective braking, is questionable.

One of the most important facets of police car performance is probably stopping power. The Impala did best here, in 134 feet, while the Dodge took second place at 137 feet. Neither showed evidence of severe fading, and there were no repeats of the embarassing brake overheats of the first Intrepid squads. The Fords both stopped in similar but excessive times - 150 feet, fully 26 feet more than the Impala. Unfortunately, the Dodge exhibited flaming brake syndrome during one test.

This year, surprisingly, the Impala took the prize for ergonomics and communications, with a score of 207. The Fords took second at 199.5, the Dodge close behind at 197.

Gas mileage for the Chevy and Dodge were similar at 23 and 22 mpg (respectively), while the Fords trailed considerably at 18 mpg. Oddly, both Fords attained identical mileage despite gear ratio differences.

Compared with last year, the Impala and Ford improved in lap times, while the Dodge stayed the same. All improved their acceleration, and Dodge and Chevy raised their top speeds. Interestingly, Dodge was the only one to have better stopping distances this year - Ford did not improve at all. Indeed, the Ford Expedition and Explorer, and the Chevy Tahoe, all stopped faster than the Police Interceptor!

While the Intrepid appears to be the best of the bunch for everyday police work, its brake fires would seem to rule it out unless Dodge really did get those fixed. The Chevy, the #2 contender for practical-minded departments, may still have a relatively fragile front end. Hence Ford sales continue - being rear wheel drive no doubt is more responsible for that than any other attributes.

Intrepid usage and controversy

Bob Marks noted that Orlando police have acquired a bunch of Intrepids. Intrepids gained mild popularity, which ended thanks to the "flaming brakes" debacle. The front brakes of the Michigan State Police Intrepid burst into flame while driving, and it is apparently easy to replicate the effect on most 2003 models.

Jeremy Mutz wrote in 2007: "Tallahassee Police Department has a stealthy, unmarked 1998-2001 bodystyle Chrysler Concorde. It is blue with tinted windows. You would not know its true function until the blue lights come on. It has got to be the prettiest car TPD has."

Recent history (1980-2000) and 1999 Michigan State Police tests.

Test results: 2003

The 2003 Dodge Intrepid squad car was tested by the Michigan State Police in their annual police car roundup. It held its own with the sales-leading Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor in acceleration and braking, with a higher top speed and an edge in braking and ergonomics tests. It also beat the Impala in acceleration and ergonomics, while lagging it in braking. In fuel economy, the Impala was the leader with 23 mpg overall, 20 city and 29 highway, but the Intrepid achieved 20 city and 27 highway, for nearly the same average at 22 mpg. The Ford Police Interceptor, the only car fielded with a V8, had substantially lower mileage, with 15 mpg city, 22 highway, and an average of 18 mpg. Given that Ford has substantially modified the Police Interceptor in the face of competition from the Impala and Intrepid, the Intrepid's strong showing is especially good news.

Note - the tests showed the Intrepid's 0-60 times as 9.14 seconds, identical to the Police Interceptor and nearly the same as the Impala (9.25). Top speed was 136 for the Intrepid, 128 for the Ford, 126 for the Chevy. 0-100 was 24.8 for the Intrepid, 25.6 for the Interceptor, 26.7 for the Impala. Average projected stopping distance from 60 mph (based on several tests' deceleration rates) was 145 feet for the Intrepid, 149 for the Police Interceptor, and 133 for the class-leading Impala, which beat all other vehicles by a good margin (other tested vehicles were the Hummer, with horrible acceleration, gas mileage, and braking; the Tahoe; the Expedition; and the Explorer. The Liberty was not present, though in past years Cherokees were fielded).


2002 Dodge Intrepid Police Vehicle special features include:

Dodge Intrepid civilian cars used as squads

North Carolina Deputy Sheriff Matt Partin wrote in 2000 that his county's sheriff was replacing the Ford Crown Victorias with stock Dodge Intrepids.

Curtis Redgap wrote in 2000 that "the large Hillsbourough (Tampa, FL) Sheriff's Department has used, since their introduction, a fleet of Dodge Intrepids. Two years ago, they experienced a problem in that the catalytic converter started the rear passenger carpet on fire in one of the Intrepids. Chrysler made some instant design changes on the Sheriff's fleet, and replaced all the carpeting...... at Chrysler's cost. They continue to use the Intrepid, so there must be something to it. Coral Gables also uses Intrepids. ...

Dodge Intrepid squad car (Thunderbolt, Georgia)"When I was in the Police Car ordering business, the production of those units occured twice a year. In the fall, right at the beginning of the production run, and again in the spring right before the summer season. Few car companies left a line up for just "fleet" cars. They poured them out, and then stored them. Fleet never ended up with many leftovers, and most of the time, they dipped into their own pool of lease vehicles to fulfill late orders. I never heard of anyone buying a Ford because they couldn't get a Plymouth... although maybe a single car force might have had to do that."

"TheMystery1" wrote: This is a pic of a Thunderbolt, Georgia (near Savannah) police car. This department has at least two of these vehicles . The rest are Crown Vics. The photo is compliments of Dale Younger. [This is not a police-package car but a stock Intrepid.]

Dodge Intrepid and Durango squads / test mules

The November 2000 issue of Law Enforcement Technology carried an article on the Dodge Intrepid and Dodge Durango test mules. Gary Saffer was kind enough to send a copy of the article to us.

Law Enforcement Technology's article included not just information on the upcoming models, but also good color photos of the Diplomat and Royal Monaco, calling them "legends" and noting that Chrysler held up to 80% of the squad market in the 1970s.