Safety Behind the Wheel
with Travis Yates
Dodge police package: Serious FUN factor
The first order of police package Dodge products has begun to hit the streets of America. One of the most discussed issues in recent law enforcement history has become a reality. There is a rival to the Ford Crown Victoria police car, and LE officers around the country are clamoring to get a glimpse and possibly drive the new kid in town.
The police car market is wildly competitive, and Chrysler has just thrown gasoline on a hot issue. About 70,000 police cars are sold a year by the vehicle manufacturers and one would not think that would be significant enough to matter. The advertisements are everywhere, and the anticipation has been intense. While the profit margin manufacturers collect on PDs is relatively low, one must think that the Dodge advertising has nothing to do with LE and everything to do with the public at large. Rarely does a day go by when I don't see a Dodge Charger or Dodge Magnum on the streets. The young, old and everyone in between are driving them. While the advertising and mystique has helped, the product has proven to be superb in a very short time.
LE is excited and they have a right to be. The Ford Crown Victoria has been a mainstay of police departments but variety is longed by everyone and LE is no different. Chrysler has provided more than variety and a recent test at the Texas Motor Speedway combined with multiple hours of testing the Dodge Charger and Magnum on the streets in a patrol environment has convinced me that Dodge will survive in the police market. It is not a myth but a reality that officers from around the country will be asking for the cars every single year starting months ago.
To give readers a unique perspective of the Dodge Charger and Magnum, Police One graciously invited me to attend a test drive at the Texas Motor Speedway earlier in the year. At the time, I knew what had been widely publicized. The Dodge vehicles performed very well at both the Michigan State Police and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department testing in late 2005. No other vehicles were close to Dodge's 5.7-Liter Engine known as the HEMI in top speed and acceleration. Equally impressive was that stopping distance with the Dodge vehicles was the best when compared to all other police package vehicles.
Chrysler sponsored the event at the Texas Motor Speedway in Dallas. The session began with an overview of the Dodge Charger and Magnum and concluded with hands on driving. Each officer attending the event participated in a braking exercise combined with an acceleration (0-60 M.P.H.) exercise and eventually a small cone course, which simulated a pursuit. The Dodge performed remarkably well but I simply was not satisfied with less than ten minutes behind the wheel and a professional instructor keeping our speeds below 60 m.p.h. It is hard to explain but I left Texas with unfinished business. It was like standing in line to ride a roller coaster and not actually getting on after the anticipation. I couldn't honestly relay my thoughts on the experience until now.
Over the last two weeks I have spent several hours in a Dodge Charger and Dodge Magnum as an officer with the Tulsa Police Department. Both are virtually identical. The Charger is a sedan while the Magnum is a station wagon. Both will find comfortable homes in the LE community. I personally couldn't get enough of the Charger but I have always favored a sedan. Everyone will have a different opinion on what they like but everyone will agree that the fun factor is sky high with this car.
LE is sometimes timid about discussing how much fun a car is. We usually think that we will never get one if we say that and a work vehicle should not be fun. I disagree. The car is your office and why not have something that you enjoy. It only makes sense that the work product will improve if the environment is enjoyable. Several items on the Dodge Charger and Magnum got my immediate attention.
From the front of the car to the bumper, the car is sleek and plays the part of a sports car and police car. It is truly a look that LE has not seen and will be welcomed with open arms by everyone that wears a badge. The acceleration in the 5.7-Liter Dodge is the highlight of the experience. From 0-60 m.p.h. in just over six seconds and 0-80 m.p.h. in a little over ten seconds, no other 2006 police package vehicles came close. A fully electronic five-speed automatic transmission with an Electronically Modulated Converter Clutch is standard and performs flawlessly during acceleration. A dual piston in the front and a single piston in the rear power the brake system. Although I knew that it led all other vehicles in this category, it did not impress me until I experienced the stopping distance myself. If the acceleration didn't make you go "wow"; the braking performance would guarantee that reaction.
The national testing shows the comfort level in the front seats to be comparable with the Ford Crown Victoria. At 6'3", I was comfortable driving the Dodge Charger and Magnum. The rear visibility and small trunk space in the Charger were the only negative aspects of the Dodge vehicles.
The overall impression that I have with the Dodge Police Package is very solid. There is very little in my experience that I didn't enjoy. The body style, interior look and mechanics give me the impression that a bunch of cops somewhere had something to say about this car in the development stage. I drove a 1995 Chevrolet Caprice with an LT1 engine for three years on patrol. I thought that was the ultimate police car. That is until that day at the Texas Motor Speedway.
So as I concluded the evaluation over the last two weeks, I promptly told my Police Chief that it was a serious vehicle and will give our agency a viable third choice when purchasing police vehicles. So much for admitting to that FUN factor…………..
2006 Vehicle Testing Links: