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First Look: Next Generation Police Caprice

Written by Bill Siuru

Drive a Pontiac G8 Sedan with a 3.6L V6 or a Pontiac G8 GT with a 6.0L V8. Imagine 4 inches more rear legroom. Imagine 2 cubic feet more trunk space. THAT is the next generation Chevrolet police sedan, just announced at the IACP convention in Denver.

Or, if you currently have Impalas in your fleet, take one for a drive, but you will really have to use your imagination. First, and most importantly, imagine it is Rear Wheel Drive. And that it is also available with a high-torque V8. And imagine a lot more rear legroom and a much larger trunk. THAT is the next generation police sedan.

Chiefs, sheriffs and fleet managers have been asking for a Rear Wheel Drive sedan from Chevrolet ever since the B-body (1977-1996) Caprice went out of production. In fact, since 1996, the nation’s police fleet managers have had a ready-made answer for Chevrolet: simply import one of the full-size, Rear Wheel Drive, V8-powered sedans made by Holden, the GM subsidiary in Australia.

That is exactly what is going to happen.

After months of speculation and hope, off-hand remarks and retracted statements, it is now official. GM will base their next generation police car on the Aussie-made Zeta platform currently used for a wide variety of vehicles, including the Pontiac G8, the new Chevrolet Camaro, the Holden VE Commodore and the Holden WM Statesman / Caprice.

Heads-up: The new Chevrolet Caprice Police Patrol Vehicle (PPV) is NOT a rebadged Pontiac G8, which is actually a rebadged Holden Commodore. Instead, the 2011 Chevy police car will be based on the Holden Statesman, also known as the Holden Caprice. The baseline Holden Statesman is typically powered by a V6, while the upscale Holden Caprice is typically powered by a V8. The new Chevy police sedan will be available with either a V6 or a V8.

The Pontiac G8 (Holden Commodore) and the new Chevrolet Caprice (Holden Caprice/Statesman) share the same basic Zeta-platform, except the Caprice/Statesman is a longer wheelbase variation of the Commodore. Thus, the new Chevy police car will be a longer wheelbase version of the outgoing Pontiac G8. The future police Caprice will not look anything at all like the current Pontiac G8, and will have a unique grille, different from the Holden Caprice.

The future Caprice will be built in Elizabeth, South Australia. This is where the Pontiac G8 was assembled. The new Camaro, also using a Zeta platform, is built in Oshawa, Ontario, home of the current Impala. Questions have been raised about the future Zeta platform Caprice also being built in Canada. For the time being, it will be Aussie-built.

Very Different Sedan

The future Caprice will be as different from the current Impala as the current Impala is from the old (1991-1996) Caprice. The future police Caprice and the current police Impala are based on completely different chassis platforms. The Impala W-body, designed for mid-size, Front Wheel Drive cars, dates back to 1982. With production starting in 1988, this W-body platform was updated for 2004. The current Impala is the only GM vehicle that still uses the W-body platform.

The future Caprice Zeta platform, intended for full-size, Rear Wheel Drive cars, dates back to 1999, with production starting in 2006. Engineered by Holden in Australia, the Zeta platform has become GM’s “global RWD architecture.” The Zeta platform is the basis for the 2006 (Aussie) Holden Commodore, the 2007 (Middle East) Chevrolet Caprice or Holden Caprice, the 2008 (US) Pontiac G8, and the (US) Chevrolet Camaro.

The future Caprice will have a 118.5-inch wheelbase. This is compared to the current Impala at 110.5 inches, the Ford CVPI at 114.6 inches and the Dodge Charger at 120 inches. The future Caprice is expected to be about 4 inches longer than the current Impala, which measures 200.4 inches.

Powertrain

When released early in the 2011 calendar year, the future Caprice will be available only with the 355 hp, 6.0L V8. This engine has Active Fuel Management, which is GM’s cylinder deactivation. In comparison, the Charger’s 5.7L V8 produces 370 hp and also uses cylinder deactivation, making these two V8 engines essentially equal in power and fuel economy.

For the later half of the 2011 production year, the 6.0L V8 will be the only Caprice engine. However, for the start of the 2012 model year, the police Caprice will be available with both the 6.0L V8 and the NextGen 3.6L V6. The future 3.6L V6 is expected to produce from 280 to 300 hp. The 3.6L V6 in the current Pontiac G8 produces 256 hp. The same 3.6L V6 upgraded to direct injection in the current Cadillac CTS and Chevrolet Camaro produces 304 hp. The new V6 will have direct injection.

The 6.0L V8 Caprice is expected to hit 60 mph in 5.5 seconds, which makes it just as fast as the 5.7L V8 Charger. The top speed is expected to be 150 mph, like the Charger. Lower top speed limits will probably be available, again, like the Charger. The 3.6L V6 Caprice is expected to hit 60 mph in the 7-second range. The 3.6L V6 Pontiac G8 has nice acceleration. The 6.0L V8 Pontiac G8 is breathtaking.

Exterior & Interior

The new Caprice will be “about” as wide as the current Pontiac G8, but it will be longer. The 4-inch longer wheelbase variation of the Pontiac G8 has most of this added length in the rear seat area. The current passenger volume of the Pontiac G8 is 107 cubic feet (cf) compared to 112 cf for the new Caprice. In comparison, the Ford CVPI is 106.4 cf, the current Impala is 104.8 cf and the Charger is 104 cf.

The future Caprice will have six airbags: two front, two seat (thorax) and two curtain (head). The new Caprice PPV will have the option of front-seat-only side curtain airbags, which will accommodate a fully-rigid prisoner partition.

The police-oriented front seats have been under development for more than two years. They have holster cut-outs on the sides. Importantly, the foam in the lumbar area has been specially selected to easily conform to the duty belt and all of the oddly shaped items randomly carried on the duty belt. This allows the officer’s back to rest properly on the seatback (more on seat development in a future article).

We found the front-seat travel to be excellent, easily fitting 6-ft, 4-in officers with some adjustment room still available. Adjustable pedals will probably not be available. The tilt and telescoping steering wheel made it easy to find a position that would make your EVOC instructor happy. With full duty belt on, the hip room is much better than okay. GM is considering door trim panel, center console and seat belt receptacle options to make even better use of the available hip room.

The rear seat space, with or without a prisoner partition, is hard to imagine—it is that roomy. In fact, it is the roomiest of any police sedan. The extra room resulting from the longer wheelbase promises to make the rear room, with partition, best in class. The rear door opening is wide enough for the good guys to help the bad guys into the rear seat. Don’t let your opinion about rear doors on the future Caprice be based on the rear doors of the current Pontiac G8. The Commodore (Pontiac G8) and the Statesman/Caprice (future police Caprice) have long had different rear doors.

Larger Trunk

The trunk on the future Caprice will be 18.0 cf with the full size spare, which is ½ cf larger than the current Impala with a mini-spare, and almost 3 cf larger than the current Charger. At 18 cf with a flat-mounted, hidden, full-size spare, the new Caprice trunk compares well to the current Ford CVPI at 20.6 cf with an exposed full-size spare. The new Caprice will also have two trunk-mounted batteries. The second battery will be a dedicated power source for upfitted police equipment.

Passenger volume plus trunk volume determines the EPA vehicle class. A combined total of 120 cf defines the low limit for the Large Car. The numbers are Ford CVPI: 127.0 cf, current Impala: 123.4 cf, Charger: 120.2 cf, retail Pontiac G8: 124.5 cf and future Caprice: 130.0 cf. That’s right—the future Caprice has about a bag of golf clubs more total room than the current Ford CVPI.

Floor Shift, Center Console

At production start, the future police Caprice WILL have a floor-mounted shifter and a center console. GM has worked diligently to free up the back half of the center control and replace it with some sort of police-oriented console. This will be similar in concept to the aftermarket center consoles for the special service package Ford Explorer that works with and around the floor shifter. Kerr Industries, GM’s factory off-line upfitter, has taken the lead on this. They have made an extremely clever center console for the car, which was displayed at the IACP and COPSWest conferences.

Importantly, the future Caprice will have a very large, 12-inch (diagonal measure) in-dash touch screen. Many of the police communications and emergency gear functions and controls are expected to be interfaced into this touch screen. This feature will dramatically reduce the need for a large center console space and hopefully eliminate the need for the MDT display or separate laptop. The future police package Caprice will have about a 170 amp alternator, a bit larger than the one on the current police Impala.

Police-spec Suspension

The current W-body police Impala uses MacPherson struts (front) and Tri-Link coil over strut (rear). The future Zeta platform police Caprice will use a sophisticated MacPherson strut with lower A-arm front suspension and a Quad-Link rear suspension. That means the new Caprice will have four wheel independent suspension. In compliance with federal law, the future Caprice will have StabiliTrak, GM’s version of electronic stability control, calibrated for police-only use. This includes all-speed traction control, ABS, electronic brake assist and electronic brake force distribution.

The future Caprice will have 18-inch wheels and tires, like the current Charger. This size wheel was needed to clear the Pontiac G8 GT brakes. The ride height and suspension will also be tuned for police use. A suspension similar to the Pontiac G8 FE2 “performance” suspension will be the starting point. We found the FE2 suspension on the Pontiac G8 to be just about right. It had enough stiffness for excellent high-speed handling and stability. This is what you would expect from a sporty Pontiac. However, the suspension was not so stiff that every crack in the road jarred your back. This was just fine for day-in, day-out traffic enforcement.

Police-spec Brakes

Chevrolet has a long history of outstanding brakes. In 1959, Corvette engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov added a bit of metal to the brake shoes on the police package Biscayne. Chevrolet has had dominating brakes on its police cars ever since. This is especially true for the 1994-1996 Caprice and the 2000-2005 Impala.

It is impossible to properly test brakes on any sort of Ride & Drive for a number of reasons. First, the future Caprice, a bit longer and heavier than the current Pontiac G8, is not yet in production. Second, the current Pontiac G8 uses retail-oriented brake pads. Third, proper testing involves an exact protocol with precise measuring equipment and is very abusive to brakes, which is not something that can be done on a Ride & Drive.

The good news, however, is that the current Pontiac G8 has good brakes. We drove a retail G8 GT (V8) on a short road course and then separately on an interstate. It had no fade after several zero to 100 mph stops. Pontiac G8 GT brakes will be standard on both the V6 and the V8 versions of the new Caprice.

Future production plans may change (literally) at any time in today’s volatile auto market. For the time being, however, we now know about the first of tomorrow’s police sedans: From GM, a long wheelbase version of the Pontiac G8, badged as the Chevrolet Caprice. Ford and Dodge will probably show their cards in the next few months.

Bill Siuru can be reached at wds@nethere.com.

Published in Police Fleet Manager, Sep/Oct 2009

Rating : 9.5


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