The Last Muscle-Car War: Detroit Battles For Cop-Car Supremacy

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer

Last fall, the first tests of the new Chevy Caprice PPV, Dodge Charger Pursuit and Ford Taurus Interceptor generated quite a bit of interest here at TTAC and beyond, as three all-new contestants battled to replace the outgoing Crown Victoria as America’s cop car. At the time, the Caprice seemed like the clear performance favorite, but as Sajeev Mehta has pointed out, there’s more to the cop-car equation than pure speed. Although good luck trying to tell the Detroit Three that, as all three are cherry-picking performance stats in the wake of the latest round of Michigan State Police testing.

  • Chrysler arguably has the biggest performance win to brag about, noting that the “fastest-ever lap time at Grattan Raceway [1:33.70] highlights Dodge Charger Pursuit V-8 as the police sedan with the best combination of acceleration, braking, handling and dynamics.” The V8 Dodge also recorded the fastest 0-60 and 0-100 times of the trio, thanks to an optional acceleration-biased 3.06 rear axle ratio and a revised engine management system that allows top speeds of up to 151 MPH (all new for 2012, along with upgraded brakes). For the record, that 1:33:70 time is exactly three seconds faster than the Charger’s best lap time last year.
  • After “creaming” the competition last fall, it seems GM was caught a bit flat-footed by Mopars upgrades, and its press release makes no mention of its lap time (its best lap time last year was a 1:35:80). Instead The General brags about the Caprice’s leading top speed (154 MPH) and 60-0 braking (125.8 ft). And despite last year’s “LS-X FTW” talk, the Caprice V6 turns out to be the most impressive model, beating both the Charger V6 and the Taurus non-Turbo V6 in 60-0 mph braking, top speed and acceleration.
  • As predicted last year by Sajeev, Ford’s Taurus appears to be something of a performance back-marker. Ford’s presser doesn’t mention a single performance statistic, instead seeming to coast on the Panther-Interceptor’s coattails with bullet points like “Now police departments and other law enforcement agencies can get an all-new, American-made vehicle with the expected durability and price of the popular Crown Victoria.” Ford’s only performance argument is that the Taurus Ecoboost outperforms the Crown Vic… a stunningly low bar to set (even the Impala 3.6 hits a higher top speed than the EcoBoost Interceptor).

But, as we’ve pointed out, efficiency and reliability are for more important for police fleet buyers than outright performance. If Ford can make good on the promise that it will match the Crown Vic’s durability, and can prove that its Ecoboost engine will reliably offer better efficiency than the Dodge and Chevy V8s, it might make an argument for itself. But in a world where police departments are actually hoarding Crown Vics, there’s always going to be resistance to ditching the rear-drive V8 model for the perceived complexity of AWD and a turbocharged V6.

But because the performance differences between the Chevy and the Dodge are relatively small and because performance isn’t the overriding concern for police fleet buyers, Dodge’s lap record at MSP testing may be the most significant achievement in this year’s MSP testing, for reasons that have nothing to do with prospective police sales. With the Crown Vic gone and the competition for the definitive police vehicle thrown wide open, these annual Michigan State Police tests are beginning to take on the feel of a classic Detroit proxy war, not unlike the illegal drag racing that took place on Woodward Avenue at the height of the muscle car era. And because Dodge offers high-performance versions of its Charger to the general public, its ability to beat back the Australian-built, unobtainable-to-civilians Caprice could give it something of a halo to enthusiasts. Even Ford, which sells a Taurus SHO that’s not entirely unlike the new Interceptor, can leverage police performance testing results into a brand halo. Only GM, which stubbornly refuses to offer the Caprice as a civilian model, seems to be oblivious to the civilian-market implications of what is rapidly becoming an annual Detroit showdown.

With racing becoming increasingly detached from the vehicles available for sale to the general public, police performance testing is one of the last factory-backed competitions between cars that are available for sale to the general public. In short, it’s the kind of spectacle that drove the muscle car era… and have since disappeared. As the brand that’s most dependent on continued sales of V8-powered, large rear-drive sedans, it’s no wonder Dodge upgraded its Charger in order to come away with a narrow win this year. Maybe next year Chevy should hit back… and then capitalize on the rivalry by making a Caprice available to civilians.

The Michigan State Police have not yet released full test results for 2012 model-year vehicles. TTAC will post these results as soon as they become available. Past test results can be found here.

Edward Niedermeyer
Edward Niedermeyer

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  • Twinsonic Twinsonic on Sep 26, 2011

    Here is some numbers to digest - Tahoe top speed - 139mph. Caprice V/6 - 142mph. Impala V/6 149 - 150 mph. Caprice V/8 - 154 - 155 mph.

  • CJinSD CJinSD on Sep 26, 2011

    A Tahoe running 139 mph is a pretty terrifying idea. The ones sold to the public are governed so aggressively that Tahoe and Suburban drivers probably hit the governor more than drivers of all other cars combined. Does that mean they're fitting them with V rated tires that last 25,000 miles and cost $1,200 a set?

    • Twinsonic Twinsonic on Sep 26, 2011

      The Tahoe is pursuit capable - lowered suspension, 2 wheel drive with W - speed rated radials. It is upgraded with cooling, electrical, heavy duty transmission and brakes. The tires is Goodyear RS-A Police Radial P265/60R17, W rated. It may weigh 5311 lbs but it can move and handle pretty well for a SUV. I have seen in the past that the Tahoe Police Pursuit Vehicle (PPV) thruout the years and the speed was between 135 to 143 mph.

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