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Recent historyTest results: 2004The Michigan State Police have released their annual squad car test report, an industry standard for determining the performance and feasibility of different squad cars. Four were tested this year: the Chevrolet Impala, Dodge Intrepid (no longer in production!), 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 3.8 liters, the Ford a 4.6 liter 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.

The Fords had the best acceleration across the board, with the Dodge only a little behind, and the Chevrolet lagging more. 0-60 times were 8.25 and 8.44 seconds for the two Fords, 8.56 for the Dodge, and 9 for the Dodge. 0-100 times were 22.5 and 23.3 seconds for the Fords, 23.6 for the Dodge, and 26.4 for the Chevy. Quarter mile times were, respectively, 16.3, 16.4, 16.6, and 16.9 seconds, fairly close together, with the Dodge and Fords having nearly identical speeds (86-87 mph) and the Chevy not far behind (84 mph). The top speed of the Dodge was highest at 135 mph, trailed by the 3.27:1 Ford (128), the Chevy (123), and the 3.55:1 Ford. All had electronically limited top speeds.

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.

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, even though they had the longest stopping distance last year. Indeed, the Ford Expedition and Explorer, and the Chevy Tahoe, all stopped faster than the Police Interceptor!

Intrepid usage and controversyBob Marks noted that Orlando police have acquired a bunch of Intrepids. The webmaster notes that his town police have started to buy Impalas (one Durango), but are planning on getting a couple of the new Prius. Hard to beat 60 mpg in the city.

Don Blackburn wrote: "I have heard from two sources recently that Maryland State Police will be getting new Intrepid cruisers. According to my sources, a current trooper in Frederick County and a barrack mechanic in Allegany County, the Intrepids they will be recieving will be modified to REAR wheel drive!" (We suspect the sources are confused between the current Intrepid and the next-generation LX models coming soon.)

Intrepids have gained mild popularity, which may end 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. So far, Dodge has made no comment except that the 2004s should not have this problem; no retrofit kit has been made, and at least one department is returning the fleet of Intrepids it only recently purchased, presumably to buy Impalas instead. No deaths or injuries have been reported yet, but this may be because the cars have only been available for a short time, and only a few thousand have made it into service. The Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptors have amassed a fairly negative record of frame disintegrations and fires, which have claimed several lives. A "fix" by Ford was later found to be ineffectual.

Test results: 2003The 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).

First-hand review of the Intrepid squad!

Click here for recent history (1980-2000) and 1999 Michigan State Police tests.

Intrepid Police Package now in productionThe new Intrepid squad car is out, and we have details and a first-drive review!

Chrysler literally owned 80% of the total output of police cars from the mid 1960s to its pull out in 1989. At the moment, it is taking a distant back seat to Ford and Chevrolet, whose Impala has been making inroads over time.

Why don't police departments like front wheel drive cars? 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. Click here for more details.

Dodge Intrepid and Durango squads / test mulesThe November 2000 issue of Law Enforcement Technology carried an article on the Dodge Intrepid and Dodge Durango test mules, which are said to be on the drawing board for a 2002 model year introduction. 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.

The Durango, though not billed as a pursuit vehicle, managed to get to 60 mph faster than the Ford Police Interceptor, and beat Ford and Chevrolet SUVs to 100 mph. Powered by the 5.9 liter R/T engine (formerly known as the 360), the Durango is less likely than the Intrepid to see squad car production. While the Durango did very well in the acceleration tests, beating all similar vehicles, its brakes need work.

More to the point is the Dodge Intrepid police package, which is detailed, with a test drive, here.

The Intrepid outraced the Chevy Impala to every tested speed. Both have similar room, but the Impala stopped faster than either the Dodge or the Ford. The Intrepid's performance on the emergency test course was only a hair lower than the Impala, and is expected to improve before the model makes its debut; both outperformed the Interceptor. [The Impala is gaining acceptance as a police car, and seems to be the new car of choice by the New York City Police Department - which had previously experimented with Luminas. The NYPD was a long-time Mopar buyer until the Diplomat line ended. Bill Cawthon wrote: "Lower prices and operating costs, small size and maneuverability are more important than speed in most parts of NYC (especially Manhattan). Even back in the old days, NYPD used six-bangers on the theory you couldn't outrun the 2-way radio."]

We've tested the Impala, in civilian form, and found it to be impressive - handling is not as good as the Intrepid (again, civvie to civvie), but it's comfortable and feels more like a small car, despite its comparable size. However, Guy Cramer warned us that the Impala's steering may lock up unexpectedly while driving (on roughly one in 1,000 vehicles). Click here for details. Given other information on that site, we're not sure about the veracity of this report.

2000 Michigan State Police TestsFor the 2001 model year tests, GM fielded the Hummer, Camaro, Impala, and Tahoe, while Ford put up its Crown Victoria, Excursion, Expedition, and Explorer. (Just what we need, police chasing people with three-ton vehicles!). DCX contributed a pair of Jeep Cherokees with front and rear wheel drive.

The two wheel drive Cherokee is about half a second slower to 60 miles per hour than the Ford Police Interceptor, but faster than any fo the Ford trucks, the Tahoe, and the Impala. (0-60 in 9.18 seconds). The top speed, 111 mph, was better than the Ford and Chevy trucks, but not up to the Ford car or the Camaros. Indeed, the Camaros swept the floor with all the other squads in acceleration, braking, and handling - big surprise there. The big Ford trucks and Hummer had terrible stopping distances, while the Cherokee was similar to the Tahoe and a few feet worse than the Ford cars.

On the ergonomics test, the Excursion, Impala, an Interceptor did very well, with the Cherokee only ahead of the Camaro and Hummer (which had a terrible score). The fuel economy test went to the Impala, with 20 mpg city and 29 highway. The two wheel drive Cherokee was even with the automatic transmission Camaro and similar to the Ford Police Interceptor. Worst were the Ford trucks and the Hummer. Overall, the Cherokee was a middle of the pack vehicle.

Dodge Intrepid squadsNorth Carolina Deputy Sheriff Matt Partin wrote that his county's sheriff is replacing the Ford Crown Victorias with 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. ...

"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. Very 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, in fact, 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.

Other modelsWe have received reports of Stratus and Ram squads, as well as the Jeep Cherokee which is actually sold as a squad. The PT Cruiser is often used as a "teenager awareness" car for anti-alcohol and anti-drug educational activities, but as far as we know isn't actually used as a cruiser.

Jeffrey Brindisi wrote: "I have made several trip to Maine from Massachusettes, and over the past 2-3 years noticed that the State Police were using two wheel drive (with big tires) and fiberglass tonneau covered Brilliant and/or Electric Blue Dodge Ram pick-ups." Jeff McDonald replied: "These are commercial vehicle enforcement trucks. Presumably in the bed are portable scales for 18-wheelers. They don't pay too much attention to ordinary traffic but truckers should cringe at the sight of these big blue Rams!"

Lio wrote: "The police department in Sherbrooke, Quebec has been using only (Chrysler) Intrepids - and a few Cherokees - since several years (not before 1998 though, it started with 2th gen Intrepids). Until lately you could still see some Crown Vics but now the fleet is 100% mopar... But since last year, they're using Dodge Caravans as their main police vehicle! I think they're in the process of replacing many, if not all, of the Intrepids with Caravans. Is that unusual? (I haven't read anything about the Caravan on the Squad page).

I believe there may be, at least here, a new trend of using minivans as squad cars... the Montreal police replaced almost all of its cars with Chevy Ventures, a while ago. Let me know if squad Caravans are rare, I might be able to get a pic if you want... I'm pretty proud of my city for using Mopars!

Crown VictoriaCurtis Redgap forwarded an AP story to us. Florida troopers are reportedly unhappy with the Fords, partly because of the location of the gas tank, which has ruptured or expoded in accidents. The assembly integrity has also been challenged. Ford has refused to address these issues; however, Ford is also the only current American maker of rear wheel drive four door squad cars, and has about 80-85% of the market.

For more informationClick here for our central squad cars page.

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214 Posts
The county sheriff and a few local PD's are using Intrepids here. Impala's seem to be gaining in popularity along with the Dodges, likely since the FWD is better in winter. The town I live in still uses all Crown Vics but they just got a new Expedition cruiser (?).
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