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Hendon Publishing

Dodge Charger: An Officer Survey

A black Dodge Charger R/T, built during the first week of Charger production, made the circuit of police departments in the greater Chicago area. More precisely, this Hemi® powered retail car ran the gauntlet, or was put through the wringer, by 77 different police officers.

Thanks to Thomas Dodge in the suburban village of Orland Park, officers from eight different departments had a chance to test drive the Charger. They subjectively evaluated the car, not for admin use, but for general issue, patrol use. All of the officers had driven the Ford CVPI for patrol, some had driven the Chevy Impala, and a few had experience with the Dodge Intrepid.

The departments ranged widely in their responsibilities and the demands they place on a patrol vehicle. At one extreme are the Illinois State Police troopers assigned to the Illinois Tollway. At the other extreme are the Erie, IL Police, representing small and rural police departments. The second largest sheriff’s department in the US (Cook County) tested the Charger. So did a number of “average” size, urban police departments like the Palos Hills, IL Police and Midlothian, IL Police. The officers varied from police officers and sergeants to chiefs and fleet managers. This survey is more than just a beat cop assessment.

Before presenting the results of this survey, a few caveats are in order. First, the results are a “first impression,” based on a limited time in the vehicle. Each officer spent more time behind the wheel than in any “Ride & Drive” but few spent an hour on patrol in the car. Opinions on seat comfort in a 15-minute cruise, playing with the Hemi® the whole time, may be different than after an eight hour shift.

Second, the car was a retail vehicle, since the formal police package will not be produced until September 2006. This did not seem to be a factor. Officers responded by knowing the police car would have cloth seats (instead of leather) and would have a dash-mounted gear selector (instead of floor console mounted). The “Braking” and the “Handling” were given high marks, and both of these will only get better with a police package.

Third, the Charger was not equipped with police gear of any kind. There was no rear seat prisoner partition. There was no gear (weight or bulk weight) in the trunk.

A fourth factor, which simply cannot be ignored in the search for valid opinions, is the incredible hype associated with both the newly-introduced Charger sedan, and the Hemi® V-8 engine. Most cops are coldly objective and emotionless about their job...until it comes to patrol cars.

In a variety of comfort and performance categories, the officer selected from five ratings: Poor, Fair, Average, Good, and Excellent. These were then assigned a numeric value from 1 (Poor) to 5 (Excellent).

Front Seat Room (4.4 out of 5)

The survey separated the topic of front seat room from front seat comfort. This is based on earlier comments about the Dodge Magnum seats. Some in the Charger found the officer’s “bubble” to be okay, while others found the seats to be smallish. Some had plenty of legroom, while the transmission hump intruded on the knee room of some officers. Overall, the front seat room was midway between Good and Excellent. Zero officers found the room to be Poor or Fair.

Front Seat Comfort (4.4 out of 5)

This category of comfort attempted to evaluate the Euro-style firmness of the seats. Are they firm and supportive? Or are they hard and unyielding? Again, the seats were found to be comfortable, midway between Good and Excellent. No one rated them worse than average.

Rear Leg Room (3.5 out of 5)

Ample rear legroom is important for a patrol car that will be transporting prisoners. This is an active issue for both of the current police sedans, the Ford CVPI, and Impala. Even though the Charger did not have a prisoner partition, rear legroom was the area of greatest concern by a cross-section of patrol officers. The average results were midway between Average and Good. However, 13% rated rear legroom as Poor or Fair.

Rear Head Room (3.6 out of 5)

The roofline of the Charger sedan has a semi-fastback taper. Independent of rear legroom, this roof taper affects headroom for taller prisoners (or other passengers). The rating midway between Average and Good tells one part of the story. And 17% of the respondents giving this area a Poor or Fair rating tells another part of the story.

Trunk Space (4.2 out of 5)

Trunk space is often a major complaint for fleet managers, and the Charger has the smallest trunk of any police sedan. However, the shallow but wide and long trunk seemed entirely workable for most officers. With a rating better than Good, and arguably well between Good and Excellent, the Charger trunk looks like it will meet the needs of patrol. There was no communications gear in the trunk, but most officers who visually accessed the trunk factored that in.

Brakes (4.5 out of 5)

From a performance viewpoint, the Hemi® Charger got all high marks. The oversize disc brakes, ABS, and Emergency Brake Assist added up to a rating solidly between Good and Excellent.

Handling (4.6 out of 5)

The Mercedes-based, independent rear suspension and Electronic Stability Program gave the Charger a rating midway between Good and Excellent. Other hard-written comments in this area included a comfortable ride and a nimble turning radius.

Acceleration (4.8 out of 5)

Hemi® pretty much answers any questions in the category of acceleration. The rating is near-Excellent. In fact, 84% of the respondents indicated that the Acceleration was Excellent, the highest percentage of Excellent ratings of the evaluation. One officer rated the Acceleration as just Average. What was he thinking?

Best Feature

Officers were also asked to fill in the best feature and the worst feature of the Dodge Charger. No surprise whatsoever, the best feature, Acceleration, was cited by the most officers (46%) followed by Handling (30%). Honorable mention goes to Braking and Styling.

Worst Feature

The biggest criticism of the Dodge Charger, a complaint by a full 50% of the respondents, was visibility. Some cited obstructed visibility to the front, some reduced visibility to the rear, and some cited limited visibility to both the front and to the rear. This, then, should be an area of intense focus when evaluating the Charger for police work. Rear seat room was cited by 24% of the officers as a problem feature. Limited trunk space and the difficulty in adjusting the tile/tele steering wheel were also mentioned. Many departments remain extremely interested in the Rear Wheel Drive, V-8 powered Charger sedan. Initial price and operating costs will, of course, be major issues, as the V-8 Charger competes against the Ford CVPI and the V-6 Charger competes against the Chevy Impala.

Participating Police Departments

Cook County Sheriff’s Police

Erie, IL Police

Illinois State Police (Tollway)

Palos Hills, IL Police

Lemont, IL Police

Worth, IL Police

Hickory Hills, IL Police

Midlothian, IL Police

Minooka, IL Police

Published in Police Fleet Manager, Nov/Dec 2005

Rating : Not Yet Rated

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