The Dodge Charger is available to fleets with one of three engines. Police fleet managers already know about the 340-hp, 5.7L Hemi® V-8 and the 250-hp, 3.5L DOHC V-6 because these two engines with their 5-speed transmissions are available on police package and special service package sedans.
A third powertrain exists, the 190-hp, 2.7L DOHC V-6 teamed with a 4-speed transmission. This powertrain is not well-known by most dealers because has been available only to commercial fleets. This engine is not currently available with the police or special service package. It just became a retail engine for the Charger in 2007.
The Ride & Drive in the 2.7L Charger for this article is more than a frivolous cruise in a low-powered retail car. This may be a future police or special service package engine! This smaller V-6 is the absolute cheapest way to go for some police fleet applications. This combo has the lowest initial cost and the lowest operating cost (fuel, oil, tires, brakes). It may be the right answer for admin and investigator duties.
The Charger’s 2.7L V-6 engine, when installed in the Dodge Stratus, is E85-rated. Even though gasoline has dropped well below the $3.00 mark gasoline (for a while), a flex fuel or alternate fuel vehicle just makes sense. With Ford and Chevy rushing to make E85 police engines more widely available, this engine could be an alternate fuel option in the Charger, especially the low-cost government-oriented fleet Chargers. Of course, some state bids require the E85 powertrains.
The 190-hp, 2.7L V-6 in the Charger has a similar power to weight ratio to the 160-hp, 3.0L V-6 in the current Taurus and the 160-hp, 3.1L V-6 in the old Lumina. The 2.7L V-6 engine uses a Double Over Head Cam (DOHC) valvetrain to make the most of the engine size. It is teamed with a 4-speed automatic overdrive trans.
Exactly how SLOW is the 2.7L Charger? With two, 180-pound officers on board, no lightbar and no cargo, the 2.7L Charger hit 60 mph in 11.5 seconds and 100 mph in 29.9 seconds. The 2.7L Charger was electronically speed limited to 115 mph (observed). This is very similar to the late-model, 3.0L Taurus. In comparison, the 250-hp, 3.5L Charger with two officers on board reaches 60 mph in 8.6 to 8.9 seconds.
Since acceleration, either slow or fast, is relative, let’s put this into perspective. The 2.7L Charger is as fast to 60 mph, as fast to 100 mph and has the same top speed as the fastest police sedans from all of the 1980s. Specifically, the 2.7L Charger is as fast to 100 mph as the 1989 5.7L 4-bbl Caprice and much faster than the 1989 5.2L 4-bbl Diplomat and 1989 5.8L 2VV Crown Victoria. No police sedans from that entire decade went faster than 118 mph.
You really only notice the lack of power at ¾ throttle or more. Under nearly all other driving, the 2.7L Charger does fine. When you need to accelerate, change your mind about torque. The tiny 2.7L engine has very little low-end torque. However, the Double Over Head Cam engine has good high-end power. Just like the SOHC V-8 in the Ford CVPI, to make a DOHC engine work, you have to rev it up. If you give the 2.7L Dodge V-6 enough throttle, it does pretty well. But don’t expect a lot of response from slight throttle changes.
Optional Safety Features
The base Charger has a 140-amp alternator and 600 CCA battery. In comparison, the police versions use a 160-amp alternator and 730 CCA battery. It has a “touring” suspension, not a police package. Specifically, that means it does NOT have the heavy-duty springs, shocks and sway bars. That also means it has standard-duty steel wheels and retail-oriented brake pads.
At this base trim level, the Charger is missing three safety items that should give some pause. It does not include ABS brakes, it does not include side-impact airbags, and it does not include stability control. In fairness, no other make of police sedan has stability control, either. But every other make has ABS brakes as standard.
We almost forgot what it was like to drive a car without ABS…locked brakes...non-responsive steering while hard braking...longer braking distances...more avoidable collisions. ABS should be a non-delete, standard feature. As it is, when you get ABS on the Charger, you get their outstanding stability control.
The base-level tires may not be suitable for much more than granny-style people moving. The non-police Charger uses 17-inch tires, versus 18-inch on the police package Charger. The problem is not the wheel size but the tire. The test car had Goodyear Integrity (general touring class) tires. The non-pursuit Continental ContiTouringContact, frequently used on non-police Chargers, is no better.
No ABS, no traction control, no stability control and retail touring tires make for some exciting driving under adverse weather conditions, i.e., rain. Remember, tire adhesion means both wheel spin during acceleration and wheel lock during braking. With the combination of light rain and mere touring-class tires, we actually got the Charger sideways in an intersection simply from too much throttle during the turn, even with the miniscule torque from the little V-6.
All of these items are optional on the Charger. The safety package includes four-channel ABS, all-speed traction control, electronic brake assist and electronic stability control. This package also comes with an eight-way adjustable power driver’s seat. The adder for this safety option, which should be a no-brainer, is about $500. Side (thorax) airbags are optional for about $400.
Actually, the lack of GO is not the real concern in urban pursuits and emergency driving. Instead, it is the lack of WHOA. Even if this Charger is optioned with ABS, it still has standard size brake calipers, touring-class tires and retail-oriented, non-metallic brake pads. This will make low-speed emergency driving totally inappropriate. The good news is that police-oriented tires, like the ContiProContact, and semi-metallic brake pads can be installed at the first replacement cycle.
The admin Charger uses exactly the same base trim level as the police package Charger. This comes from the low trim version of the retail Charger SE. The grille treatment is body color, instead of chrome. The interior is mostly matte plastic (black or gray), instead of brushed aluminum. The admin car comes with carpeting, and cloth seats, front and rear, full wheel covers and a center console including floor shifter. It also has a tilt/tele steering wheel, dual front airbags and power windows, locks and mirrors.
The manual seat adjusts for legroom, fully reclines and has a manually adjustable lumbar. It does not, however, adjust for height. Officers of a shorter stature will absolutely need the height adjustment from the power seat.
We drove the admin package Charger for a full week, thanks to Thomas Dodge of Orland Park, IL. We put 1,600 miles on it under a combination of urban, rush hour gridlock, suburban stop and go traffic, and high speed interstate. It was all people-moving type of driving and no traffic enforcement. The average fuel economy was 22.1 mpg. Under exactly the same driving routes and same driving conditions, a 3.5L V-6 Charger averaged 19.0 mpg.
While the exact gas mileage you will get depends entirely on driving style and conditions or routes, the difference between the two V-6 engines will remain the same. Whatever you are getting with the 3.5L Charger, the 2.7L Charger will get 3 mpg more.
When you test drive a Charger, pay special attention to the noise, vibration and harshness (NVH). You may find this sedan has much lower NVH than some of the other sedans you have used and might be considering for admin. We certainly did.
The 2.7L Charger worked fine in most heavily urban, urban and suburban settings. It is acceptable in every area except acceleration. It is great for normal, retail-type of driving, but is comparatively slow in getting up to speed. It pulled away from traffic lights acceptably, but worked pretty hard to merge into interstate traffic. Once up to speed, the cruise was effortless, even at 80 mph.
The 2.7L Charger simply does not “feel” very powerful during hard acceleration. Even with just the driver on board and no police gear or trunk cargo, the passing performance in rural driving, i.e., 50 mph to 80 mph is pretty slow. In this kind of patrol jurisdiction, the 2.7L V-6 might not be a good choice. In the city, where the need for acceleration is a non-issue, where bicycles move through traffic faster than cars, this engine might be an excellent choice.
Lansing, IL Police
The Lansing, IL Police in south suburban Chicago is among the first to get a small fleet of 2.7L Chargers. They opted for the low trim level, zero-option Charger to replace their aging admin fleet in this heavily urban area. They have been in use for about six months.
Sgt. Pat Gammon, LPD’s fleet manager, said, they went with the lowest price vehicle, not for it (the 2.7L V-6) as much for fuel economy as for the lowest initial cost. “Compared to the patrol units, the detectives don’t put enough miles on their cars to make gas mileage a big factor,” he said. “The detectives don’t need an upgraded engine, the bigger V-6. No one has said much about the smaller V-6. We have a no-pursuit policy, and don’t want unmarked cars with minimal lights in a pursuit or high-speed run anyhow.”
Bill Kushner, chief of the Berwyn, IL Police, is testing a number of different sedans for patrol and admin use. He is conducting a cost analysis on all the new types of vehicles in comparison with older sedans and SUVs. He purchased the 2.7L Chargers strictly for admin use and so far has received “no complaints.”
“Our city is only 3 ½ square miles, and we don’t have any speed limits over 40 mph. The small V-6 produces more than enough power,” the chief said. “One of our division commanders drove the marked but slicktop Charger to a training course near San Antonio, TX. He loved the car. The only drawback was being stopped along the way by state troopers who wanted to look at it.”
By all accounts, the 2.7L Charger is doing extremely well as an admin and detective unit. It is a large, comfortable, quiet (low NVH) and very economical four-door sedan. The initial pricing is in the mid-15s, and ABS, power seat and side airbags push it just to the mid-16s. And with a legit 22 mpg, this 2.7L Charger-lite has promise in law enforcement.