By John Croop, CAFM
Assistant Fleet Manager, Geauga County (Ohio) Sheriff's Office
Special Contributor to PoliceOne
Recently, I was able to test drive the 2011 Chevy Caprice Police Patrol Vehicle as NAFA’s representative at a press event at the GM Proving Grounds in Milford, Michigan. The Caprice will be available in the two familiar order codes, the 9C1 marked patrol unit and the 9C3 undercover unit. With an MSRP of $30,995 it is appropriately priced for the market. The Caprice will not be available for retail sale — it is a police-specific application.
With the return of the Caprice name plate after a 15-year absence, Chevrolet also marks the return of the V-8 to its police sedan. The E85 capable 6.0 L engine produces 355 hp and 384 ft lb of torque. Promising best-in- class acceleration from 0 to 60 MPH in under six seconds, the engine is mated with a 6-speed automatic transmission that is performance-calibrated for police duty. The transmission also employs a performance algorithm (more on this later). All this power is funneled through a 2.92 limited slip final drive and unleashed through Goodyear P235/50R18 tires. The drivetrain will be covered by the GM five-year/100,000 mile powertrain limited warranty. Stabilitrac is employed for handling precision. A V-6 optional engine will be available in model year 2012.
The Caprice was designed with officer comfort and safety in mind. This goal was accomplished with input from the Chevrolet Law Enforcement Product Council. This group is made up of police officers and police fleet managers from around the country who work with Chevrolet design and engineering staff with the goal to produce the best police vehicle for those who serve.
Keeping the officer safe is a key concern at Chevrolet as evidenced by the employment of dual-stage driver and passenger air bags and a total of six standard air bags. The choice is available to order front only side curtain air bags, thus allowing the use of a secure prisoner partition, or a full side curtain airbag. These options will depend on your agency’s application. High-strength steel is used to surround the passenger compartment and protect the officer in the event of a crash.
Heavy-duty seats with low-friction mil-spec covering have been engineered with dense foam on the seatback side bolsters to help hold the officer in position during high speed maneuvering but are sculpted at the lower portion to accommodate an officer’s side arm and gun belt. Full seat travel for even the tallest of officers is a result of the longer wheel base and wide stance. The seat comes complete with 8 way power adjustments and a security panel (anti-stab plate) in the seat back. Interior volume is larger than the Ford Crown Victoria. The Caprice has a floor-mounted gear selector. If I say that this has created a little controversy, it would be an understatement. The floor mounted selector will cause a lot of agencies to rethink their equipment installation. I have faith that the aftermarket police console manufacturers will develop the right console for the Caprice application. The floor shifter should not be a problem for most police agencies.
The optional full size spare stows in a well under the flat trunk floor; the vehicle battery is also located in the trunk, neither detracts from the amount of available trunk space. An auxiliary battery can be ordered to power the electronic police equipment and is isolated from the service battery. This means that even if the officer leaves equipment on for an extended time and the auxiliary battery is dead, the car will still start. Once the car is started power is restored to the police equipment and the auxiliary battery is charged by the 170 amp alternator.
The Caprice PPV is very swift from a standing start. When making emergency lane changes the car holds traction via the Stabilitrac, allowing the driver to maintain control and continue with the maneuver without losing traction. The previously mentioned performance algorithm is referred to as “sport mode.” Sport mode is a program for the powertrain that determines what gear the vehicle should be in based on acceleration, deceleration, lateral forces, and multiple inputs. Test drivers commented that driving the Caprice PPV reminded them of the Corvette or Camaro. The latter may be more accurate as the Caprice shares the same Zeta-based platform as the Camaro.
The handling characteristics were evident when I had the pleasure of attending the Michigan State Police vehicle testing the following weekend. The Caprice PPV took top honors the first day of testing with the best top speed of 148 mph and the best 0-60 time with a 6.15 second time with E85 fuel. The next stop was at Grattan Raceway, a winding road course which is traversed by four different drivers for five laps for a total average lap time. The Caprice took second place in this arena bested only by the Ford Police Interceptor in all wheel drive with twin turbochargers. Still there was less than one second in the average lap time with the Ford at 1:36.14 and the Caprice right behind at 1:37.02.
The braking for the Caprice promises to be much better than the current Impala. With weight distribution of 50/50 front to rear, four wheel independent suspension, and four wheel disc brakes the MSP brake testing gave the Caprice a average 60-0 stopping distance of 128.3ft.
The Australian-built Caprice PPV will be available starting in April 2011 in the 9C3 version and June 2011 for the 9C1 patrol version. With the power, handling, interior room, and a robust electrical system the Chevrolet Caprice has all the makings of the next generation police car for the USA.