Police Look To Charger as Replacement for Traditional Vehicle

January 3, 2010
Maybe it was last year's somewhat popular Street Kings, cop movie with Keanue Reeves, or maybe it was the slate gray shark-like unmarked that was dropped off in front of the Mass. State Police HQ in Framingham, recently, but it started the gears moving (albeit rustily) and when we looked around we saw more and more police departments turning to Dodge Charger R/T packages for their pursuit vehicles.

Traditionally, this was vaunted position in the police world was held by the famed Ford Interceptor package and the Crown Vic. Indeed, for many departments, the Crown Vic is, without exception, the hands-down winner. It is still one, if not the only, full-sized police sedan on the market that offers full three-across adult seating in the rear and room for two adults, shotguns, radar/lidar units and computers and radios up front. To get the same kind of seating, you'd have to go to a Ford Expedition, the automaker's aircraft-sized SUV that really does offer seating for seven and plenty of interior space because it's an SUV.

New Rival on Horizon

Well, Ford had better not take its top-ranked position for granted because it looks like Chrysler has or is making a determined effort to become the police package alternative of choice with its Charger R/T package. It's little wonder, why, this might be happening.

In a day when gasoline prices are baselining around $2.60 per gallon, it costs a lot of money to keep a vehicle that averages about 18 mpg overall on the road 24/7/365. Let's say that during the year, the Crown Vic does about 50,000 miles of driving at 18 mpg. With gas averaging about $2.60 per gallon right now, that's an expense of $7,361 per car per year for the Crown Vic. The Charger R/T, on the other hand, averages about 25 mpg on the highway and, using the same figures, would mean an investment of about $5,200 per year in gas, or a savings of about $2,100 per year.

If you were to have a fleet of say 20 patrol cars, that would mean a yearly investment of nearly $150,000, just for gasoline, alone, while the Chrysler Charger would cost about $104,000. That's a nice piece of change in any municipal pocket, isn't it? Is it little wonder then, that Ford is floating rumors that it will be discontinuing its Interceptor line of Crown Vics in August of next year?

Is it also any wonder, then, that cars like either the 3.5-liter V-6 Charger R/T or its 5.7-liter Hemi-powered cousin is making inroads in areas where Ford used to be king. The lines alone put the Charger lightyears ahead of the Crown Vic's staid, old trooper image. While we were parked in a local mall the other day in a neighboring town that uses Chargers as their patrol cars, they just looked the part. They were almost sharklike in their smoothness as the rounded front end almost slipped its way through a lightly sloped hood and a windshield that was correctly raked for a good wind profile and for a police vehicle, too.

The roof was slightly rounded, yet was not tall. It was about the height of an average person. The roofline smoothly moved to a sloping backlight (rear window) and the trunk's proportions were right for the car. No, the Charger R/T isn't as big as the Crown Vic, but it is still wide enough for three back and two in front and there's more than enough room up front for all the paraphernalia today's policeman carries, including the laptop and other systems.

Towns Moving to Charger

Why have many towns moved to the Charger R/T? Aside from the fact they probably got great deals from Chrysler to move them. They are just wickedly good cars. In New England, for example, we know of at least two surrounding towns that have moved to the Charger and, as noted, our State Police have this sleek, slate, almost shark-looking affair all the right features, including larger than normal alloys and very visible brake calipers that are reminiscent of the Brembos you see in a Subaru Impreza WRX.

There are some very solid reasons for departments to be making the switch, too. Aside from the gas savings we've already mentioned, there are some performance specs that have to be seen to be believed. We'd believe them because they come from the Allpro.com site which reported on a comparo that was done by the Michigan State Police as they were looking for replacements for their Crown Vics.

The contenders in the comparison were the Charger, Chevy Impala (standard 3.9-liter V-6 and E85 multifuel), Chevy Tahoe (5.3-liter V-8 and E85 multifuel) and two versions of the Crown Vic with different final ratios that were supposed to show the Crown Vic still had some kick left.

The Chargers, by the way were the 3.5-liter V-6 version, and the 5.7-liter Hemi that cranks out 370 horsepower and is limited to a 140 mph top end (California Highway Patrol tests have shown the Charger Hemi will do 165 and there's still room for a little more).

Here are some very dry statistics that shows just how good a car the Charger R/T is in police pursuit getup: city/highway mileage 16/25 (5.7L), the 3.5-liter version only averages 17 in the city and the same number on the highway (25). The Malibus, both V-6 models that shut down three cylinders when cruising, averaged 18 or 19 city and about 29 highway, but had a lower top-end speed of 139, while the Tahoe had a higher top-end than the Crown Vic at 133 to the Ford's 129. The Charger R/T 5.7 Hemi reaches 100 in 14 seconds while the rest of the crowd takes up to 22 seconds to hit the same speed and the Hemi had the shortest stopping distance 137 feet from 90 while the Malibus, Tahoes and Crown Vics are in the mid-140s. Finally, in the handling run, the Charger blew the doors of the others in the handling competition, knocking nearly 4 seconds off the competition.

Chargers endorsed

Ride and handling were good and the body pan was stable in pursuit. Altogether, it's a good vehicle. Indeed, the Michigan State Police gave it high marks as did the independent testing of the California Highway Patrol. Local departments are endorsing it, too, with their purchasing dollars so the Chrysler Corp. has done something right with the Charger.

Actually, it's great seeing a nice sleek black and white fly past you with its lights on and hooter blasting, the Charger just looks the part. The Crown Vic, while it still looks great, just doesn't look as good. It's like going to the opera in tails and tophat and wearing white sox and sneakers versus just the right cutaway and polished black shoes and the right tie that's the Charger.

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