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Caprice Detective Package: A Lot of Time In-Service

The all-new 2011 police package Chevrolet Caprice comes in two forms—the 9C1 Patrol package and the 9C3 Detective package. The first of these large Caprice sedans to hit the streets have the Detective package, aka Admin package, aka Street Appearance package. The Caprice 9C3 Detective sedans started shipping from the Benicia, Calif. port of entry to the dealers in May. The Caprice 9C1 Patrol sedans started to ship to dealers in July.

Very important differences exist between the Detective and the Patrol versions. Apart from chrome trim and full wheel covers, the Detective (street appearance) package has a retail center console and floor shift. This was the model available first while the upfit-friendly center console was developed and produced for the Patrol package.

The Detective package has a wide, dual gate, center-mounted, floor shifter. The center console also includes a hand-operated parking brake lever, power window controls, power mirror controls and twin cup holders. These are straight from the retail Holden (GM of Australia) Commodore and Statesman…and from the just discontinued Pontiac G8.

However, the Patrol package has a narrow, single gate, offset, floor shifter. This gear selector has been moved both forward toward the dash and left toward the driver. That leaves room beside and behind the floor shifter for a full array of communication and emergency gear—radios, light / siren controls, radar controls, etc.

On the Patrol version, the parking brake hand lever has been replaced by a foot-activated lever. The brake mechanism in the console has been laid on its side and connected to the foot pedal by cables. The power mirror, power window and power door lock controls have been relocated off the console; the cup holders have been deleted—all to make room for the police-specific, aftermarket center console.

Extended Drive

During a 10-day period, we put more than 1,000 miles on a Caprice 9C3 Detective. We used it as an unmarked traffic enforcement unit on a busy Memorial Day holiday weekend, and then used it as an admin unit in urban, suburban, rural and interstate driving.

Since the Detective unit uses so many retail components, we got a glimpse of the Aussie auto world. It has an upscale, dual-zone climate control and touchscreen HVAC but a manual-dimmed rear view mirror. It has an eight-way power driver’s seat but a manual fore-aft seat adjustment. The recommended front tire pressures (39 psi) are way different from the rear tire pressures (44 psi). None of these are problems…just quirks.

The Best Police Seats

The Caprice has the most comfortable, supportive, duty belt-compatible seats in all of policing, period. The police seat has been under development since 2006 and it shows. The right amount of seat bottom and seat back bolsters for support. The right amount of sculpting for the police duty belt—both relieved for the duty gun, and soft-cushioned in the area of the belt with handcuff case, etc. The seat back has anti-stab protection.

The multiple-foam layer seats are covered with two kinds of fabric. The center sections of the seat back and cushion use high-wear, medium-friction fabric to somewhat secure the officer in the seat—keep him from sliding around. The bolsters on the seat back and cushion use high-wear, low-friction fabric to allow officers to quickly slide in and out. The challenging and seemingly contradictory issues of lumbar support in the same exact seat location as the duty belt location have been successfully (amazingly so) addressed.

We can’t speak highly enough about this seat. It was developed by the same GM seat experts who design Cadillac seats. It has the right amount of initial comfort followed by all-day support—the right combinations of foam of different densities. During the five years of development, it was beta site tested by real police officers in full duty gear. This seat sets the standard for police-specific seats.

Amazing 6.0L V8

The 2011 Caprice sedans, all variations of 9C3 Detective and 9C1 Patrol, are powered by the 355 hp, 6.0L V8. This Corvette “LS2” powerhouse is the only engine available. For the 2012 model year—starting in December 2011—both versions of the police Caprice will come standard with the 301 hp, 3.6L V6.

The 6.0L V8 will be an option in 2012. The 6.0L V8 has Active Fuel Management, GM’s version of cylinder deactivation. Under light throttle, the engine controller shuts off the lifters in four cylinders, giving the 6.0L V8 the fuel economy of a 3.0L V4.


The Caprice has a manually adjustable, tilt and telescoping steering wheel. The range of adjustment, both up-down and fore-aft is impressive. With the Street Appearance center console, access to the seat belt receptacle while wearing a duty gun is a challenge, both to fasten it and to release it. On the other hand, the upcoming 9C1 Patrol version of the Caprice has a 10-inch width between the seats to mount equipment to the center platform.

The police Caprice comes standard with a front-only head curtain (roof rail) side airbag. This allows the use of a full-width, fully rigid prisoner partition. A full-length, front and rear roof-rail side airbag is an option.

All that said, the new Caprice has two areas of concern. First, the outside rear view mirrors are quite small. This issue is partially offset by the generally excellent visibility in nearly all directions. The outward visibility is generally excellent. Visibility out the rear glass is excellent, even with a package tray-mounted, directional arrow stick. Second, the A-pillars are quite thick. In combination with the outside mirrors, this may form a rather large blind spot forward at an intersection angle.

Largest Rear Seat

The rear seat? There is nothing like it in any police sedan, period. The huge rear seat volume allows the front seats to be moved far enough to the rear—including a significant seat back recline—and still leave room for a full prisoner partition and the prisoner. If your department arrests a lot of people and puts them in the rear seat, the Caprice is definitely the patrol sedan for you.

The trunk is massive—both wide and long. The available space, the volume above the flat load floor, measures 17.4 cubic feet. A full-size spare is below the load floor and not part of the trunk volume calculation.


Three very different sedans are in a three-way tie for top performing police sedan. Based on the MSP and the LASD vehicle tests, these are the 2011 Chevy Caprice 6.0L V8, the 2011 Dodge Charger 5.7L HEMI® V8, and the 2013 Ford Sedan PI 3.5L twin-turbo V6. These cars differ greatly in overall size and roominess, but the overall performance is the same.

At the MSP tests, the Caprice beat the Charger on the road course by a tick of the stopwatch. At the LASD tests, the Charger beat the Caprice on the road course by a tick of the stopwatch. All three cars have the same braking power…ending up within a half car-length of one another. Just one-half second separates all three in getting to 100 mph.

All three have top speeds over 145 mph. As impressive as the 148 mph top speed is on the Caprice, it can be electronically limited to 130 mph. The result is exactly the same acceleration but a lower top speed.

Tweaked Suspension

Since turning in the fastest lap times and the best braking performance at the Michigan State Police tests, GM Fleet made some tweaks to the Caprice PPV before it went into full production. The brake hop has been resolved with revised rear cradle mounts on the independent rear suspension. The bushings are now higher durometer. The Caprice now has gas-charged shock-struts all the way around. About the revisions, MSP Lt. Keith Wilson said, “The Caprice is capable; without any issues.”

Repair and Service Parts

GM Fleet knows that Aussie-made repair, replacement and service parts need to be immediately available—and not on a slow boat from Down Under. Based on producing police cars since 1955, GM Fleet has identified over 200 critical police parts on the ones made in New South Wales. And they put these parts—including body panels—in inventory in the States.

However, many parts in the new Caprice are made in North America and shared in common with other GM vehicles. The six-speed trans and many Zeta-platform driveline and suspension components are shared with the Camaro. The 6.0L V8 comes from the Silverado pickup trucks. The future 3.6L V6 is currently used by the Camaro and Cadillac.

The Caprice 9C1 and 9C3 both carry a five-year / 100K mile powertrain warranty and a three-year / 36K bumper-to-bumper warranty. By the way, that bumper-to-bumper warranty covers brakes and tires; however, they are pro-rated by mileage up to 36K miles. The tires, for example, are covered 100 percent up to 12K miles.

Like all NextGen police sedans and crossovers, the Caprice PPV uses a unibody construction. The ability to engineer selective and progressive crush zones makes the unibody safer (really) than the old body-on-frame construction.

For ease and speed of collision repair with the Caprice unibody, the new sedan uses a “flexible front end module.” This is different from the old-style welded upper cross-members, beams and support brackets. Instead, the new Caprice uses a “bolt-on, bolt-off” front end module that saves total repair costs—less cutting, welding and painting to fix a damaged front end.

No Charge Tech Training

Through Raytheon, GM Fleet is conducting police Caprice-specific tech training at locations all over the United States. This training is at no charge to the departments. Since it is hands-on training, it will be geared around class sizes of eight techs.

The three-day course is recommended for techs with no prior experience with GM police fleet vehicles. If a tech is familiar with GM police fleet vehicles from the past, but not recently, the two-day course may be more appropriate. If the tech is currently working with the Police Impala or Police Tahoe, the one-day course should be enough.

Topics include the SI-2000 software; police-specific powertrain, drivetrain and chassis; charging, starting and electrical systems; fey fobs and theft deterrent systems; tire-pressure monitoring systems; and serial data communications.

Driving Impressions

During the course of 10 days, we put 1,000 miles on the Caprice 9C3 Detective. In a combination of suburban calls-for-service, rural traffic enforcement with normal patrol idling, we averaged between 16.7 mpg and 17.8 mpg. We didn’t really drive the sedan very hard, except for heavy throttle and high speeds to overtake 30-Over speeders.

As such, it is very unlikely that you will ever get better mileage than the 16.7 mpg to 17.8 mpg bracket. This gas mileage could be lower, of course, depending on idle time. Don’t expect it to ever be more than 19.1 mpg, regardless of how it is used, even steady cruise on the interstate.

Competitive Differences

The overall performance is the same for the top sedans from Chevy, Dodge and Ford. The differences between these three sedans are interior space…and bid price. How much room do you need in the front seat room, back seat room or trunk space? The Caprice is as big as the Ford CVPI and clearly larger than the other two NextGen sedans. Expect bid prices to be about $2,000 above the other base-engine, NextGen sedans. And what you get is a truly big police sedan.

Published in Police Fleet Manager, Sep/Oct 2011

Rating : Not Yet Rated

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