Between the Lines: For Police, Every Week Is Panther Appreciation Week

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
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between the lines for police every week is panther appreciation week

A crop of new police cars drew more than 400 law enforcement officials to Chrysler’s proving grounds in Chelsea today to see the Michigan State Police put the cars through acceleration, braking, high-speed handling and other tests.

This article isn’t gonna end well for Ford, and not just because it’s Panther Appreciation Week here at TTAC.

“They will have a tough time,” said Terry Sweezey, public safety officer from Leoni Township. “It is a whole different driving system.”

Understatement of the century, but Ford is all about leveraging what sales laggards they currently have on the books, and cramming it down every channel (SUV, CUV, Sedan, Fleet Sedan, etc) they can find. And who can blame them for wanting to cut off another profitable limb from their tree? Oh wait, I would do just that.

Plus, I wonder if Terry had an invite to the Police Interceptor Love Fest a few months ago. Because nobody mentioned the “whole different driving system” in the PowerPoint presentation.

Ford has long dominated the police car market with about 70% of the 75,000 police cars sold annually. However, the Dearborn automaker will stop producing the Crown Victoria next August and is replacing it with the far more modern Police Interceptor.

Way to cushion the blow, Detroit Free Press. If modern cars like the Taurus were desirable to Police fleets, the original Ford Taurus and the current Chevy Impala would rule the world. And, with FWD passenger cars now (theoretically) fully adopted, municipalities would demand 9,000 rpm V-TEC powered Priuses that run on moustache hair trimmings and donut frosting by now.

Both the Charger and Caprice are rear-wheel drive cars and the Caprice was the market leader before GM discontinued it in 1996. Rear-wheel drive cars are preferred by police departments because they tend to be more durable, are cheaper to repair and make it easier to perform high-speed maneuvers.

Why isn’t this the story’s lede? Oh wait, not pulling punches about wrong-wheel drive Police Interceptors might be keeping it a little too real.

“We drove Caprices for many, many years…so with Chevy coming back in with the rear wheel-drive Caprice, we are definitely very interested,” said Marlyn Dietz, a captain with the Wilmington, Police Department.

Put another way, “we don’t give two shits about a Taurus Cop Car now that we see superior offerings from GM and Chrysler, back to back. And quite franky, RoboCop sucked too.”

The Caprice’s 6.0-liter V8 is rated at an estimated 355 horsepower. Dietz said his department also likes the extra space provided by the Caprice. The Caprice has 122 cubic feet of interior space, which GM says is more than any of its competitors.

Apparently I’ve been living under a rock, but OMG, there’s even a website for the Caprice Cop car! I wonder if Ford’s wicked Police Interceptor badges fit on its trunk. Those badges are cool, and I know Ford dealers sell them for cheap! I can buy, like, a hundred of those badges for the cost of one turbo on a Taurus…

The Caprice has 122 cubic feet of interior space, which GM says is more than any of its competitors. “That’s a big deal. When you have two big guys in a car, with a laptop, and you need to have room for them to move around and function,” Dietz said. Space and comfort are also important because officers spend hours inside their cars every day, he said.

Have we ever figured out why the console is so gigantic on the Taurus, Five Hundred, etc? And, aside from the column shift, why the Interceptor is no better? Oh wait…the Panther chassis sucks because it’s too old school, so never mind.

More to the point, Caprice 9C1 LS-X powertrain FTW!

Tony Gratson, sales manager for Ford’s government fleet vehicles, said the performance through curves and in bad weather of the all-wheel drive version of the Police Interceptor is actually better than rear-wheel drive vehicles. Still, he conceded many officers will need additional training to make the transition.

I would kill for that “transitional” training manual. One: don’t treat our Taurus like your Crown Vic or any RWD Chrysler or GM cop car, because the transaxle might implode. Two: stop bitching about the Taurus’ visibility, we gave up on the Panther ten years ago and it’s too late to turn back. Three: put down that Dodge Charger fleet brochure right now, Mister!

Eugene Mitchell, senior manager of government fleet sales for Chrysler, said the 2011 Dodge Charger Pursuit has 15% more visibility than the outgoing version because of an adjustment to the angle of the windshield. It also has 3.6-liter V6 engine with 285 horsepower that has 30 more horsepower than the outgoing version or a 5.7-liter V8 engine with 360 horsepower.

Mitchell was also quoted as being happy enough to wet his pants when he saw the Taurus Police Interceptor in the flesh. “First we got a few Chargers in fleets nationwide, but now Ford wants us to succeed so badly they’re giving us the whole shebang for nothing! I’d offer them some of our bailout money if I thought they needed it!”

Jerry Newbury, fleet operations manager for the Texas Department of Public Safety, said Ford’s decision to end production of the Crown Victoria is ushering in a wave of innovation in police cars that was long overdue.“They were very stale, very outdated and technology had not kept up,” Newbury said of the previous police cars. “I think there are some things coming in the next two or three years that are really going to change the police business.”

Newbury added, “thanks again to Ford for not making a modern rear-wheel drive, V8 powered Police Vehicle. This makes our decision 33% easier. Do you know a good vacation spot in the Caribbean? I got time off I really need to burn.”

Preliminary results from three-day tests hosted by the Michigan State Police are expected in several weeks and final results are scheduled to be published in December.

We already know the results. I’m memorizing the front/rear facades of the Charger and Caprice as we speak. Too bad neither of them are as memorable as the almond-eyes of the 90s Ford Police Interceptor. You know, that time when Panther Appreciation week happened in places outside of TTAC.

Sajeev Mehta
Sajeev Mehta

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  • BklynPete BklynPete on Sep 21, 2010

    I agree with Karesh. Just how difficult would it be to develop a lengthened sedan on the Mustang platform? Even if a bit small on the inside, it could be the bomb in this segment, especially if it's 500 lbs. lighter than Caprice, Charger and Carbon Motors. Besides, if the cops need to carry lots of people, what stops them from radioing for vans, trucks and SUVs? This is hardly anything new. Haven't state police forces been using Mustangs and Camaros for high-speed work for 30 years? It wouldn't be too shabby to offer to sedan and wagon versions to civilians in Ecoboost 4 and V-6 configurations either but I know I'm dreaming. The point is that Ford is wasting its time with the Taurus in this segment and has other niche options it's ignoring.

  • Thebeelzebubtrigger Thebeelzebubtrigger on Sep 21, 2010

    There's really no good reason for BOF RWD gas hog police cars. TV glamorizes high speed car chases, but in fact there's no excuse for such shenanigans in this day and age. Radios and ubiquitous surveillance have made the traditional "interceptor" concept obsolete, but the cops still enjoy playing at childish games at the expense of public safety. It's shameful, and we foot the bill.

  • MaintenanceCosts So there is no Sonata trim without some type of Theta engine.It seems like they've been doing a bit better when attached to a hybrid system, so that's probably the one to get, but they're going to have to go several years without further engine troubles before I'd trust a H/K ICE product again.
  • Lou_BC Full sized sort of autonomous RC's. Cute.
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  • Drew8MR Interior is trivial now you can get repro everything in various levels of quality. Getting the top sorted will be a couple grand, but I'd drive it as it. I drove a $1500 67 GTO convertible for 20 years, not every old car needs to be like new.
  • John Not everyone pays that much for power. Mine is 10 cents per kw…..