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Ford CVPI vs. Dodge Charger V-6

Equal. Deadlocked. Toss-up. Draw. Tie. Breakeven. Comparable. Same.

That is what the Berwyn, IL Police found when they compared the costs and the function of the 2007 Ford CVPI and the 2007 Dodge Charger V-6. Based on initial and operating costs, these two sedans are equal. One significant maintenance black mark went against one of sedans, which we will get to later. Based on suitability for the task and officer feedback, including performance, comfort and cargo, these two police sedans are equal.

The Berwyn, IL Police have 133 police officers and civilian employees. The city of Berwyn is as urban as it gets. It is a land locked, inner ring, suburb of Chicago. Berwyn is 3½ square miles of tree-lined streets, sturdy brick bungalows, large Victorians and many multiple-family buildings. The city has 14 elementary and middle schools, one high school, one hospital and a multitude of churches.

The Berwyn police officers transitioned at the same time from a fleet of V-6-powered Explorers to the Ford CVPI and Dodge Charger V-6, so this really was a heads-up comparison. It was not like introducing just one new make or model of vehicle into an already established fleet. The Berwyn Police did have much older CVPIs in their fleet, but their most recent generation of patrol vehicles was all Explorers.

The Berwyn Police maintained careful records of two 2007 Dodge Chargers with the 3.5L V-6 and two 2007 Ford CVPIs with the 4.6L V-8. All four sedans are hot-seated, i.e., driven 3 shifts, 24/7/365. They are driven about 100 miles a day and are rarely shut off. With a city population of 56,000 people, the Berwyn Police get up to 100 calls per service in an eight-hour shift.

These four sedans have exactly the same patrol tasks and calls for service, i.e., all are front-line, primary zone cars used by uniformed patrol. The CVPIs went into service just before the Chargers. The two CVPIs have an average of 29K miles, while the two Chargers have an average of 14K miles.

Great Expectations

Question: when is a tie really a loss? Answer: when a claimed or expected superiority doesn’t happen. And this cut both ways with both these sedans. The biggest disappointment of the comparison was gas mileage. The Berwyn Police expected clearly better gas mileage from the 3.5L V-6 in the Dodge than from the 4.6L V-8 in the Ford. It didn’t happen.

No one, of course, believes the EPA fuel economy estimates for retail use, let alone for police use. And the 2008 change in the EPA test protocol really only makes it more realistic for the very high gas mileage and hybrid cars. These EPA figures should remain suspect until proven realistic.

The real leader in fuel estimates is the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. A part of its annual police vehicle test program is a fuel mileage driving loop. To its credit, the test protocol was made more realistic for the 2007 vehicles. The driving loop is divided equally between urban, suburban and freeway driving conditions. The vehicle’s headlights are on, and so is the air-conditioning. Each car is driven the 100-mile course two times by different drivers.

Compared to the earlier test protocol, the current LASD method involves much more stop-and-go driving in Los Angeles traffic and involves much more idle time. The sheriff’s deputies strive for an average patrol officer driving style, neither too aggressive nor too easy. This mileage estimate is something an administrator or investigator will probably see, as opposed to a full-time traffic task force car.

In the LASD test of 2007 police vehicles, the Ford CVPI (3.27 axle) averaged 14.4 mpg, and the Charger V-6 averaged 16.7 mpg. That is a 2.3-mpg advantage for the V-6, and a major selling point as gasoline is back over $3.00. The Berwyn Police fleet management expected to see a 2- to 4-mpg difference between the V-6 Dodge and the V-8 Ford…and didn’t.

The Ford CVPI and Charger V-6 have been in service with Berwyn for a year and logged more than 14,000 miles. In front-line patrol use, the Ford CVPI averaged 8.5 mpg, and the Charger V-6 averaged 8.9 mpg. This is both a tie and an advantage not realized.

Brake Pad Woes

Heads-up comparisons like the CVPI versus Charger are supposed to be no-holds-barred, and let the chips fall where they may. The Ford police platform has been tweaked every year since 1979. In comparison, the Charger platform is just in its second year. You decide if that makes this a match race or a handicap race. The timekeeper with the maintenance data recorded that the Charger had too many pit stops, which cost it the race.

Berwyn’s Chargers, like most of the rest of the police Chargers, ate up brake pads and chewed up front rotors. On the other hand, thanks to the North Carolina Highway Patrol, the reason for those frequent pit stops has been both diagnosed and fixed. And the Charger is ready for the next “racing season.” The police Charger brake woes are very well-known, and the solution should be equally well-known.

The original goal for Dodge engineers when developing the police Charger was class-winning braking performance, period. When the Charger was introduced, the Chevrolet Impala had produced the best braking performance at the Michigan State Police tests six years in a row. In its first appearance at the tests, the Charger grabbed that honor by the horns. The Charger has kept “best braking” for three years now (2006, 2007, 2008). The problem was the pads were so aggressive that rapid pad and rotor wear and excessive brake noise and dust were the result. Of course, anyone with a 2006 or 2007 Charger knows that.

Berwyn officers replaced the Charger front pads an average of every 4,800 miles. In comparison, they replaced the CVPI pads every 13,800 miles. In addition to the pad replacement, rotor wear was also a concern. By 14,000 miles, each Charger had the front rotors replaced twice. In comparison, by 29,000 miles, each CVPI had the front rotors replaced once and refaced (machine turned) once.

For the late 2007 models, Dodge fixed the brake pad wear problem by a change in brake pad compound. The North Carolina Highway Patrol, and a dozen other beta-site test departments, has confirmed the fix. And the Michigan State Police has confirmed the continued superior brake performance during its annual vehicle tests.

Irritating Little Things

The Charger brake issue aside, all vehicles have unscheduled maintenance, whether under warranty or not. In the first 14K miles with the Chargers, both developed a trans leak from an O-ring connector on the trans case by around 8K miles. One Charger broke a motor mount at 3K miles, and one had a burned out taillight bulb at 8K miles.

In the first 29K miles with the Ford CVPIs, both overheated and needed a replacement cooling fan motor at around 28K miles. One needed a seat belt buckle replaced at 22K miles, while the other needed a turn signal switch replaced at 29K miles. With the exception of the brake pads and rotors on the Charger, the unscheduled maintenance on the Charger and CVPI may be considered “similar.”

Trunk Space

A tie. When it comes to how the Berwyn officers view these two sedans for patrol use, some of the claimed advantages for the CVPI either don’t matter or didn’t exist. On paper, the most obvious advantage of the CVPI over the Charger is trunk space. The CVPI holds a 20.6 cubic feet to 16.2 cubic feet dominance over the Charger. (The Berwyn Police use the mini-spare in the Charger.) That extra CVPI trunk space simply was not needed or used by Berwyn.

Everything the Berwyn patrol sedans need is placed inside a large trunk organizer. Actually, this is a portable plastic tub with locking lid. This tub fits neatly in the CVPI trunk and just as neatly in the Charger trunk. Nothing else is carried in the trunk, i.e., everything needed for patrol work is inside the tub. The extra trunk space is simply not used, so having clearly more trunk space in the CVPI just doesn’t matter.

Office Space

The passenger compartment is likewise a subjective, functional tie between the CVPI and the Charger. Again, on paper, the CVPI has slight edge with an interior volume of 106.4 cf versus 104.0 cf. And again, that didn’t translate into an advantage in Berwyn patrol use.

To be clear, these Berwyn sedans are fully upfitted, which is to say, every cubic inch outside the airbag deployment zones are definitely used for cop stuff. Both cars have laptops, radars, in-car video and, of course, interoperable radio gear. Both cars also have prisoner partitions. Both cars have a gun rack with an AR-15 pattern rifle and a Remington 870 shotgun. In-car printers for at-scene accident reports were just added.

In patrol use, both the CVPI and Charger have enough room for the officer. (Berwyn deploys single-officer units.) Both have enough rear room for prisoners, which is to say both are equally uncomfortable. In spite of more measured leg, hip, shoulder and head room for the CVPI, the “really big” officers are equally comfortable in both sedans. (Really big means up to 6 feet 5 inches and up to 300 pounds.)

This equality in room and comfort between the CVPI and Charger is especially significant when compared to their previous patrol vehicle. The Explorer is clearly easier to get into and out of than either the CVPI or Charger. And the Explorer clearly has more interior room than the sedans.

The ergonomic equality between the CVPI and Charger in the Berwyn Police patrol experience confirms the Michigan State Police, 28-point, subjective evaluation, which is part of the annual testing. In the “Ergonomics and Communications” category with 2007 models, the CVPI scored 191.1 points versus 192.9 points for the Charger. Again, a tie between these two RWD sedans.

The Berwyn police officers enjoy driving both the-Ford CVPI and the Charger V-6, and they don’t see a downside to either of them. With the Charger, even in a heavily urbanized area, visibility out the vehicle is just not a problem. Visibility upward and to the front was mentioned only on the slicktop Chargers with a headliner-mounted, internal lightbar. However, it was not mentioned at all for the patrol units with roof-mounted lightbars.


In an urban setting, acceleration doesn’t really matter unless it is bad, and top speed doesn’t matter at all. Even still, obvious questions arise when comparing any V-8 police sedan to any V-6 police sedan. Both the Ford 4.6L SOHC V-8 and the Dodge 3.5L SOHC V-6 produce the same 250 horsepower. The Ford V-8 makes 297 ft. lbs. of torque, compared to 250 ft. lbs. for the Dodge V-6, but the CVPI weighs 4,157 pounds, compared to 3,918 pounds for the Charger. The Charger uses a 5-speed auto compared to a 4-speed in the CVPI.

In its test of 2007 models, the MSP conducted acceleration and top speed tests. The CVPI (3.27 gears) hit 60 mph in 8.7 seconds, while the Charger V-6 took 8.8 seconds. The CVPI hit 100 mph in 24.0 seconds, compared to 24.1 seconds for the Charger V-6. The CVPI reached 130 mph compared to 132 mph for the Charger V-6. Again, this is all a tie.

In terms of braking power, the 2007 version of the Charger V-6 stopped from 60 mph in 131.9 feet compared to 142.4 feet for the CVPI. The 2008 Charger, with longer wearing brake pads, stopped in 142.1 feet, compared to 143.6 feet for the CVPI. It wasn’t a tie in 2007, but with 2008 models, it is.

Traction Technology

One technology advantage claimed by the Charger did not come into play in the Berwyn experience: electronic stability control. During a relatively easy Chicago winter, on streets very well maintained by Berwyn’s street department, the two sedans got along equally well. The CVPI uses an open-track (not limited slip) axle, while the Charger’s stability control includes all-speed traction control. The Berwyn Police do not switch to snow tires during the winter months.

During a winter of snow and a spring of rain, the traction technology used by the Dodge didn’t translate into a patrol advantage in the Berwyn experience. And the ContiProContact tires on the Charger are better under wet conditions than the Goodyear Eagle RS-A tires on the CVPI. And all the officers were used to 4x4 Explorers before they were issued the CVPIs and Chargers. Again, traction or lack of it just didn’t seem to be a patrol concern.

Lessons Learned

A number of “lessons learned” arise after any in-depth study of any maintenance program like the one Berwyn just completed. First, check out the various extended warranty plans offered by all three police car makers. Be sure you understand what the various levels of coverage are. Also, if you want an extended warranty, be sure you purchase it in the timeframe required by the manufacturer. Better yet, roll it into your request for quote.

Second, be sure your local dealer knows what a police package vehicle is. Most dealerships (Chevy, Dodge, Ford) seldom work on police package vehicles, and some never do. Dealing with these out-of-touch dealerships on police-specific maintenance problems can be more than frustrating. In fact, a local dealer who really knows police cars may be a deciding factor in which make of police car to buy.

Third, on the topic of frustration with the local dealer, don’t argue with the people there! In many cases, they really cannot help, especially in warranty issues. So, find out who your factory regional sales rep is and put his number on your speed dial. Let him do the heavy lifting for you. Finally, get plugged into the factory’s fleet Web site. You want to immediately know about every single technical service bulletin, special service message or vehicles recall.

The Same

The Ford CVPI and Dodge Charger V-6 are not “the same but different.” They are the same. Both are rear-wheel drive. Both use 250-hp engines. Both get the same gas mileage. Both have the same officer roominess. Both accomplish the same tasks in urban patrol. Should you expect better gas mileage from the Charger V-6 than the Ford CVPI? No. Is the bigger Ford CVPI a better patrol office than the Charger? Probably not. Is the larger Ford trunk an advantage? Maybe. Will Dodge ever get longer-lasting brake pads? Already done. How does the Dodge V-6 perform compared to the Ford V-8? The same, all the way to 130 mph. What are the fleet prices? Virtually identical.

A tie…and nobody likes a tie. In America, we want a winner and a loser. We want the advantages to make a triumphant difference, and we want the disadvantages to take a toll. In the patrol experience of the Berwyn, IL Police, with the clear asterisk of Charger brake pad wear, the Ford CVPI and the Dodge Charger V-6 are deadlocked in a tie. So, the real question is, “What is the tie-breaker for your department’s needs?”

Published in Police Fleet Manager, Mar/Apr 2008

Rating : 9.2

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