Edmunds - There's a New Sheriff in Town, and He's Got a Hemi

Discussion in 'OT Driven' started by TriShield, Dec 27, 2005.

  1. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    Dodge follows the siren song of the police-car market with the Charger and Magnum

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    An arresting sight: The Charger Enforcer.

    by Steven Cole Smith
    Date posted: 12-26-2005

    The best police car ever?

    The Dodge Monaco, of course, vehicle of choice in the Blues Brothers movie.

    ELWOOD (Dan Aykroyd): You don't like it?
    JAKE (John Belushi): No, I don't like it. (Elwood floors it and jumps over an open drawbridge)
    JAKE: Of course, it's got a lot of pickup.
    ELWOOD: It's got a cop motor, a 440-cubic-inch plant, it's got cop tires, cop suspension, cop shocks. It's a model made before catalytic converters, so it'll run good on regular gas. What do you say, is it the new Bluesmobile, or what?
    JAKE: Fix the cigarette lighter.

    Chrysler's rich tradition as a manufacturer of police cars came to an abrupt halt in 1989. The demise of Chrysler's last rear-wheel-drive V8-powered sedans, the Dodge Diplomat and Plymouth Gran Fury, deeded the market over to the Ford Crown Victoria and Chevrolet Caprice. Then, Chevrolet dropped the Caprice, and tried, unsuccessfully, to fill the void with police-package Tahoe sport-utes, before jumping back in with the front-wheel-drive, V6-powered Impala. The Crown Vic picked up the slack, and still dominates.

    Half-heartedly, Dodge offered a police version of the 2002 Intrepid, but — as Elwood Blues would suggest — a 3.8-liter V6 is hardly a "cop motor."

    There's a new sheriff in town

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    The current top-cop: Ford's Crown Victoria Police Interceptor

    This changes for 2006, when the Dodge Charger and Magnum wagon begin patrol. And yes, they are available with cop motors: The 5.7-liter, 340-horsepower Hemi with the five-speed automatic transmission.

    Based on the bottom line, the police-car market isn't that important to manufacturers. It consists of a grand total of just 70,000 vehicles a year, usually sold at big discounts. But there's unspoken value and potential good will in protecting America's citizenry. Call the cops, and you could be betting your life on cars that deliver them to your door. The intense competition in the police-car market comes more from pride than profit.

    Suddenly, Dodge goes from a nonstarter to the cop-car king.
    The Hemi-equipped Charger and Magnum have over 100 more horsepower than their only competition, the Crown Victoria and Impala. And even Dodge's base V6 versions have a five-speed automatic transmission; the Ford and Chevrolet have four-speeds.

    Besides the extra horsepower, the Charger has rear-wheel drive, perceived by most police agencies as being tougher than front-drive cars. The Ford Crown Victoria is rear-drive, while the Chevy Impala is front-drive.

    The Charger also has a long list of standard features, the most important being electronic stability control with BrakeAssist. Stability control uses onboard sensors that can determine if the car is skidding sideways, and can apply braking to one or more wheels to bring the car back in line. BrakeAssist detects when the driver is attempting a panic stop, and helps apply the brakes in the most effective manner.

    Pressing Chargers and Magnum forces

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    The coolest cop car in the land: Dodge's Magnum police vehicle.

    I've driven the V6 and Hemi V8 versions of the Charger police vehicle sedan and Magnum station wagon. Mechanically, they are almost identical, but Dodge's initial research suggests that most police customers will prefer the Charger, which is expected to be slightly less expensive.

    At this point, Dodge fleet executives aren't sure whether the V8 or V6 versions will be the most popular. The Hemi will work best for highway patrol, and the V6 will be fine for in-city work. Acceleration is not that different between the two up to about 30 mph, but then the big V8 steps out with authority. The Hemi has the "Multi-Displacement System," meaning that when the car is cruising, four of the eight cylinders can shut down to maximize fuel economy. Press the accelerator, and those four sleeping cylinders snap to attention. It's transparent.

    Downsides? Only a couple. The rear doors in the Charger are smallish and the rear seat is cramped, so wrestling a long-legged prisoner into the car would be invigorating for all involved, and once back there, the arrestee will sit splay-legged especially if there's a Plexiglas divider cage. Also, the trunk is made to hold a small temporary spare tire, so the full-size 18-inch spare you'd want in a police car takes up a lot of room. The Magnum has loads of room in the rear, even with a spare and a full complement of electronic equipment, but the cop buzz surrounds the Charger, not the Magnum.

    Cop concessions are minimal, the most noticeable being a weird, stubby little gearshift lever on the column, with fingertip shifting for forward gears — the lever itself gives you only Park, Reverse, Neutral and Drive. Dodge has done an excellent job with prewiring for various electronics, and while the interior is certainly industrial, it's pretty comfortable. Up front, anyway.

    Target practice

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    Say, does that cop car have a Hemi?

    What's Dodge's competition? For 2006, Ford returns with the current top-cop car, the Crown Victoria Police Interceptor, which carries over the 4.6-liter V8 engine. The civilian version of this engine with dual exhausts has 239 horsepower, but Ford is claiming 250 hp for the police car. The current-model Crown Victoria was introduced as a 1992 model. The last major update was for 2003.

    At Chevrolet, it's the Impala 9C1 patrol car and the 9C3 undercover car, which are mechanically the same. The Impala was substantially redesigned for 2006. New is a 3.9-liter V6 engine, replacing the venerable 3.8. The new engine uses variable valve timing and a variable-length intake manifold to help produce 240 hp, 40 more than last year's 3.8. Oddly, Chevrolet has made the potent 5.3-liter, 303-hp V8 available in the 2006 Impala SS, but has declined to offer that engine in a police version. Insufficient demand, says Chevy.

    Police protection comes at a price

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    Locked, loaded, and ready for anything.

    Though prices are important, they vary dramatically according to what sort of deal can be cut, depending on equipment and customer clout. Base price of a civilian Charger with the Hemi is $29,520. Invoice price is $27,238. There's little doubt that various highway patrol units will embrace the Dodges, as their Chevrolet Camaros and Ford Mustangs age. Dodge claims a 0-to-60-mph time under 6 seconds for the Hemis, which seems about right.

    At this point, insiders suggest that the Dodge Charger and Magnum will be more expensive than the Ford or Chevy offerings — tooling for the long-in-the-tooth Ford was certainly amortized years ago — due to the Dodges' newness and level of standard equipment, which includes an AM/FM stereo with CD player, keyless entry, cruise control, load-leveling shocks, a four-wheel independent suspension, four-wheel disc brakes with antilock and BrakeAssist, and traction control. Optional stuff includes side curtain airbags and a power driver seat.

    This could present a problem for police departments that want the Charger or Magnum, but are hamstrung by a lowest-bidder requirement from their government agencies. But there's little doubt that resale value for an ex-cop Charger Hemi will be substantially higher than the Crown Victoria and Impala will bring.

    Gentlemen, start your sirens.

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    Magnum Enforcer Hemi Video

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  2. BLoG

    BLoG Scented Meat

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  3. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    Owners of that can expect to see either of these Dodges in their reviews... with their lights on. :big grin:
     
  4. Bernout

    Bernout OT Supporter

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    Even the 3.5L V6 Charger will clown the V8 Clown Vic.
     
  5. dew

    dew Banned

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    nice but ...now they have faster cars:ugh:
     
  6. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    Where's the police car crew today?
     
  7. Fishbone Walker

    Fishbone Walker Fella could have a pretty good weekend in Vegas wi

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    I read it as Semi
     
  8. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    :coolugh:
     

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