Chevy Caprice: A trusted partner returns for duty

The Caprice Police Patrol Vehicle (PPV) delivers performance, comfort, and safety


The last time Chevrolet offered a large, rear-drive sedan for law enforcement duties the nation was re-electing Bill Clinton as its president. After a 15-year hiatus, Caprice Police Patrol Vehicle (PPV) returns for duty, delivering the performance, comfort and safety that today’s police departments need.

“Caprice PPV is the right car for law enforcement today, with an unmatched combination of comfort, safety and performance,” said Brian Small, general manager, GM Fleet and Commercial Operations.

Performance
The performance of any law-enforcement vehicle cannot be underestimated. Officers want a vehicle that can get up to speed quickly and handles well. Caprice PPV delights in both areas.

For the 2011 model year, Caprice PPV’s only powerplant is a 6.0-liter V-8 rated at an estimated 355 horsepower with 384 lb-ft of torque. A V-6 engine will be available the following model year. The V-8 is backed by a six-speed automatic transmission that is performance-calibrated for police duty. GM claims this combination delivers 0-60 times under six seconds and 160-mph top speed.

While our test driver did not time acceleration, we do know that the vehicle does get up to speed quickly and does so with a throaty rumble that continues to build as the speedometer climbs. A performance setting on the automatic shifter delays the upshifts and results in quicker get up and go.

A feature new to police vehicles, but in GM’s portfolio for about a decade and a half, is Performance Algorithm Liftfoot (PAL). Once officers become used to this feature, they will fully appreciate it.

In layman’s terms, the automatic transmission anticipates the driver’s need for quick acceleration and downshifts itself into a lower gear during the deceleration. When the officer is ready to hit the gas, the vehicle, being in a lower gear, delivers optimal torque, resulting in faster acceleration. PAL is engaged by placing the automatic shifter in performance mode.

Handing
Repeated test drives at GM’s Milford Proving Grounds showcased how well-mannered the 2011 Caprice PPV really is. With a 118.5-inch wheelbase, most everyone expected the ride to be smooth, and were surprised (pleasantly so) to discover how nimble the vehicle is.

Caprice PPV skillfully handled abrupt lane changes and slalom course. Credit belongs to StabiliTrak, GM’s stability-enhancement system, and to the standard four-wheel independent suspension with heavy-duty components. Compared to the Holden Statesman — from which this vehicle is derived — Caprice PPV features unique shocks, rear bushings, front struts and 18-inch brakes with fade-resistant pads.

Caprice PPV is shod with 18-inch Goodyear P235/50 tires mounted on steel wheels, with bolt-on center caps and wheels covers.

Comfort
“Caprice PPV fills a void in the law enforcement market, and input from the Law Enforcement Product Council helped us design it to be the most useful and comfortable police car on the market,” Small said. That input is most readily apparent in the vehicle’s comfort factor.

For police officers, their car is their office. Spending shift after shift in a cramped, uncomfortable environment can lead to a host of issues, including leg and back pain. Chevrolet took specific steps to address these issues.

“The Chevrolet Caprice PPV’s seats represent a revolution in comfort and utility for officers who spend long hours in their car,” said Bob Demick, lead seat design manager. “The shape also makes it easier for officers to enter and exit the vehicle quickly. The seatback bolsters, for example, have been purposefully contoured to help pocket the equipment on the belt, which includes the gun, TASER, and handcuffs.”

Demick explained that he interviewed 80 police officers prior to designing the seats and conducted 3D body scans on officers in the 50th, 82nd and 95th percentile.

“To ‘walk in their shoes,’ police officers asked me to put on the gun belt and bulletproof vest while sitting in the vehicle. In return, I asked them to draw on a sketch of the seat where their issues were. Early research indicated that the side bolsters were crowned too much and were cutting into the officers’ sides,” Demick added.

In addition to redesigning the side bolsters, early feedback indicated the need for varying foam density in the seat back to provide optimal lower-back support while also accommodating the officer’s gun belt.

“We also lengthened the seat cushion as a result of what officers told us, delivering more leg support,” Demick said.

Those who took a drive attest that the seats are comfortable and supportive. They are made of high-wear, low-friction materials to better stand up to long hours of everyday use. The materials chosen, even the pattern design, also facilitate cleaning. Even during spirited maneuvers, our test driver felt fully planted in the seats, with no perceptible side-to-side movement.

The driver’s seat features eight-way power adjustability, with a reclining back and lumbar control – as well as quick-adjust manual fore and aft movement for additional comfort. There’s plenty of legroom — front and back — enough to accommodate the 95th percentile of males in the U.S.

The barrier between the front seat and rear seat can be positioned farther rearward, allowing for full front-seat travel and greater recline for officer comfort, while Caprice’s 17.4 cubic-foot trunk more easily accommodates most police gear.

Safety
Caprice PPV’s body structure features extensive use of high-strength steel and ultra-high-strength steel for greater strength and crash protection, while standard and available air bags offer great protection in the event of a crash.

Dual-stage driver and front passenger air bags are standard, along with head curtain air bags for the driver and front passenger and front seat-back-mounted thorax air bags. The front seat-only head curtain air bags enable the use of a full-width prisoner partition for greater officer safety. Combined front and rear head curtain air bags are available.

Pricing for the 2011 Caprice PPV has been announced at $30,995, including destination and will be available as detective (9C3) or patrol (9C1) models. Ordering for the 9C3 page begins in October, while orders for the 9C1 model beginning in January. Deliveries are expected to begin in April and June, respectively.

About the author

Doug Wyllie is Editor at Large for PoliceOne, responsible for providing police training content and expert analysis on a wide range of topics and trends that affect the law enforcement community. An award-winning columnist — he is the 2014 Western Publishing Association "Maggie Award" winner in the category of Best Regularly Featured Digital Edition Column — Doug has authored more than 900 feature articles and tactical tips. Doug is also responsible for planning and recording the PoliceOne Podcast, Policing Matters, as well as being the on-air host for PoliceOne Video interviews. Doug also works closely with the PoliceOne Academy to develop training designed to prepare cops for the fight they face every day on the street.

Doug regularly represents PoliceOne as a public speaker in a variety of forums and is available for media interviews — he as appeared on numerous local and national radio and television news programs, and has been quoted in a host of print publications. 

Doug is a member of International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA), an Associate Member of the California Peace Officers' Association (CPOA), and a member of the Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA).

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