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COPSWEST 2012: testing the 2013 Dodge Charger

by Norman Layton • Dodge Charger police carsCOPSWEST '112011 Michigan State Tests

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For the second year in a row, the Cops West Convention ("COPSWEST") and associated Los Angeles Sheriff's Department Police Car Tests saw 100° daytime heat reduced to the low 70s in the early morning hours. This was not only good for feeble reporters, but gave the powerful engines some much needed cool air to ingest.

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It's always great to see the Dodge Fleet Department personnel out in force, but it's equally informative to talk to the end users of these vehicles. Even though these tests are for the western United States, the first Police Department representative I encountered was from the Memphis Tennessee Police Department. With very little prompting, he volunteered that his force has heavily invested in the Dodge Charger, primarily because the Charger is a great car, but specifically because Dodge has stepped up their support and assistance over the last few years.

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"They listen to us," he replied, "they hear our feedback and respond to our concerns and needs. If we have a problem or want to make a change, they are right there to help us out."

Next up was Sergeant Gomez of the LAPD. Dodge and the LAPD worked closely together to develop the Chrysler on-board computer and NAV screen, to integrate it with the LAPD database and crime computers. Featuring a 12.1 inch display screen, it drops the bulky old-school monitors and associated equipment that clutters up a traditional squad car. The system has the criminal justice system database, plate readers, in-car and multiple view external video cameras, and a wide host of other applications.

This is the Beta Test Vehicle number one, a 5.7 Hemi powered Charger.

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The LAPD also has a 3.6 Pentastar Charger with the same system, undergoing evaluation.

Only a year ago, the LAPD was resistant to leaving their Crown Vics behind, but with reality settling in that their aging fleet must eventually be replaced, LAPD is looking at and evaluating a sampling of Dodge, Ford and GM, pursuit cars and special service vehicles that will eventually take the bulk of the LAPD orders.

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The Dodge Charger Pursuit has made great inroads into the Police car business in just the last year, from large departments like the LA County Sheriff and LAPD, to the smallest state and city departments. Here is what they told me about why:

The Charger has more interior space, rear wheel drive, and AWD coming soon for states that need winter traction; the Dodge customer support has been second to none, relieving many fears that the departments had about Dodge in the past. The Dodge is proving to be durable and economical to operate and Dodge has overcome past issues some departments have had with what they felt to be shortcomings when compared to other makes.

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That is not to say the other brands sat still after getting completely trounced last year by the Charger. I have some preliminary lap times and braking numbers that have not yet been verified, so the data you are about to read is raw. I also had a stopwatch along with me this year, not calibrated or adjusted for my slow reaction times when it comes to hitting the start and stop button.

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From the preliminary lap times ran, LASD had the fastest Hemi Charger lap time at 1:22.38; my clock was 1:22.8. The Charger V6 with 3.07:1 axle ratio (it is also available with the same 2.65 ratio as the Hemi) ran a fastest lap of 1:22.74, according to the LASD, coming in close to the Hemi and showing the importance of cornering. The police version of the Charger V6 uses the five-speed automatic, not the new eight-speed, making this time more impressive.

The fastest LASD lap time for the Caprice was 1:23.71, my clock had 1:21.5, but the driver was really pushing it and the tires quickly gave up that time on the next laps.

The LAPD fastest time for the Ford was 1:24.49. I did not time the Ford, as it was on the city track during the GM-Dodge speed test.

The fastest-lap times were all close, and the average 32-lap times (not expected to be available for some time) might show a different order than Dodge-Chevy-Ford. There are often variations in lap times between drivers and cars, and from lap to lap.

Braking distance was almost predictable, based upon car weight and AWD, although both of the GM models were behind, the stopping distances were all very close.

All cars run over an identical course for eight laps at a time, then are taken directly into hot brake testing, then put back on the track for another eight laps. There is a high speed course, using part of the California's Speedways oval and road course, for a total of 32 laps and there is a city course consisting of multiple city block distances punctuated by various types of turns found in most inner city driving environments.

One disappointment for me was that the Durango has again not yet been pursuit certified, so track times were only measured for the Chevy Tahoe and Ford Explorer. Only pursuit rated "Police Package" vehicles are allowed on the high speed track.

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With cars hitting the traps at 106 mph, my shutter speed was barely fast enough.

In Dodge against Dodge lap times, I was very surprised to see that the 3.6 Pentastar Pursuit engine actually beat the 5.7 Hemi in overall average speed and time, in some tests!

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For 2013, Dodge is offering four Charger Police packages, with both 3.6 and 5.7 engines; two Ram Special Services vehicles with two bed lengths and Ram Box; a Durango Special Services vehicle; and not to be overlooked, the Ram C/V Tradesman, for both Police and Fire use. All come with a 5 year/100,000 mile Powertrain Warranty, that is transferable. In addition to the bumper to bumper 3/36, Dodge offers the industries best customer protection along with a plethora of options, making Dodge the best value for our police departments.

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See our summary of the 2012 model-year Michigan State Police police pursuit car tests.

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Dodge Charger Police Cars | CHP Test Results

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