Like many police departments and sheriff’s offices, the Carol Stream, Ill. Police planned ahead for the
replacement of the Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor. To their credit,
Ford Motor Company gave plenty of notice to the law enforcement community that
the CVPI was going to be discontinued. This included at least one extension to
the model year build, and the production capability to fill the sales orders
for those departments who bought ahead on the CVPI.
This advance notice gave departments plenty of time to
research the NextGen vehicle. Even though Ford’s replacements for the CVPI were
not necessarily available well in advance, solid glimpses certainly were. Their
two-vehicle strategy turned out to be the Police Interceptor Sedan and the
Police Interceptor Utility. Even though differences exist between the police
package vehicles and retail vehicles, early impressions of these NextGen police
vehicles were made possible by driving the retail Taurus and the retail
Like many police departments, the Carol Stream PD used
vehicle test results from the Michigan State Police and the Los Angeles County
Sheriff to get a better view of how the NextGen vehicles might perform. These
test results include much more than acceleration, top speed, braking and
handling. Importantly, taken together they also include driving impressions,
fuel economy estimates, interior room calculations, and ergonomics ratings.
Law enforcement is all about making decisions based on both
the totality of the circumstances and the best information available at the
time. And that is exactly how the Carol Stream Police went about their
evaluation of the replacement vehicle(s) for the Ford CVPI. Yet they took this
a step further than most departments. They factored the residual value in their
overall assessment. And they got a V8 that paid for itself over a V6.
The Carol Stream Police tested gasoline and E85 versions of
the Chevrolet Caprice 6.0L V8, the Chevrolet Tahoe 5.3L V8, the Dodge Charger
3.6L V6, the Dodge Charger 5.7L V8, the Ford PI Sedan 3.5L EcoBoost V6, the
Ford PI Sedan 3.5L V6 FWD, and the Ford PI Utility 3.7L V6. In all the
evaluation categories, the results from the Ford CVPI were listed as a
reference. Special note was taken where the NextGen vehicle was less than—worse
than—the Ford CVPI.
Like virtually every study, the Carol Stream Police
evaluation is a snapshot in time. This is a credit to the police automakers
that are constantly responding to the voice of the customer. Some departments
were required to make purchase decisions before the powertrain or feature that
disqualified a certain vehicle became available.
Of course, the best example of this is the now-available,
3.5L EcoBoost V6 in the Ford PI Utility. However, lesser examples exist, i.e., the
upgrade from 3.5L V6 to 3.7L V6 in the Ford PI Sedan, the availability of a 4x4
police package in the Chevrolet Tahoe, the column-mounted shifter in the
Chevrolet Caprice, the availability of a V6 in the Caprice. The police always
need to go with the best information available at the time.
The Carol Stream Police did their evaluation the right way—they
got test vehicles, put them in-service, and asked for feedback from patrol and
senior officers. The subjective high-speed handling comments from the LASD/LAPD
test drivers were compared and contrasted with their own patrol-oriented driving
impressions on the streets of this urban city.
In most cases, multiple officers from all platoons drove the
vehicles for a number of patrol shifts. In addition to patrol, the vehicles
were driven by command staff, detectives, crime scene techs and others involved
in fleet operations. The driving impressions included such patrol-specific
drills as drawing a holstered duty gun while seated in the vehicle. The road
conditions during the evaluation period were both dry and wet.
A couple of other aspects of the Carol Stream Police study
stand out as exemplary. First, they gave special attention to the
order-to-delivery time of the vehicle. In the same manner, they considered the
turn-around time for replacement parts. Second, they took note of totally new drivetrains,
flagging the brand-new engines or brand-new transmissions as unproven in police
service…not good, not bad, just uncertain.
Third, a step missed by some departments, they gave the
appropriate weight to the interior ergonomic evaluation conducted by the MSP. This
was an extremely important step since only one of the NextGen sedan has the
interior volume of the outgoing Ford CVPI. If this room and cargo evaluation
includes only the front seat and the trunk, none of the NextGen sedan or
crossovers and only one large SUV has the room of the Ford CVPI. The widely
published MSP evaluation includes a 27-point ergonomic rating. (Failure to heed
the MSP ergonomic evaluation has led to buyer regret in some departments.)
Fourth, the Carol Stream Police review included a horsepower
comparison but also a torque comparison. Torque wins drag races. While all of
the NextGen V6 engines produce more horsepower than the Ford CVPI 4.6L V8, two
of them produce less torque—a lot less. Some of this can be made up for by
transmission with more gears, but not all of it, and you can feel it on patrol.
In the same way, the Carol Stream Police flagged the
vehicles that accelerate to 60 mph and to 100 mph slower than the Ford CVPI.
The number-one recurring complaint about the Ford CVPI? It does not accelerate
fast enough, even though Ford bumped the power from the 4.6L V8 a couple of
times. No one wants a patrol sedan slower than the Ford CVPI.
Fifth, the Carol Stream Police asked other departments the
specifics about the cost to operate vehicles for which they did not have
experience. Of course, this only applies to existing vehicles, and would not
have included the NextGen Caprice, Ford PI Sedan or Ford PI Utility. They found
that some vehicles under consideration had a much higher dollar-per-mile
maintenance cost than the Ford CVPI. The pre-2011 Charger had about the same average
maintenance and repair cost as the Ford CVPI.
Gas Mileage Surprise
The strongest advantage of most NextGen vehicles was better
performance than the Ford CVPI along with better fuel economy. That said, the
Carol Stream Police flagged any police vehicle that did not get at least as
good EPA Combined gas mileage as the Ford CVPI. Again, these EPA Estimates are
published by the MSP. Even better, the LASD/LAPD conduct 100-mile Driving Loop
actual fuel economy results. In at least one case, dreadful mileage from a
high-performance sedan has again led to buyer regret.
The gas mileage analysis is one area where the Carol Stream
Police analysis led to a surprising conclusion. Based on $3.56 per gallon gas, 25K
patrol miles per year, and EPA Combined mileage, they calculated the annual
fuel cost of all the patrol vehicles including the Ford CVPI. That would lead
to an important decision.
Fuel for the Ford CVPI was estimated at $5,236. Of the
performance-acceptable sedan, fuel for the Charger V8 was estimated at $4,684,
and fuel for the Charger V6 and Ford PI Sedan EcoBoost was estimated at $4,236.
That meant the total fuel expense would go down regardless. It also meant,
contrary to concerns, there was only a $450 annual difference in gas use
between the 3.6L Pentastar V6 and the 5.7L HEMI V8.
The Carol Stream Police could get the excellent performance
of the HEMI V8 and based on the EPA Estimates still better than split the
difference in fuel costs. Reality sometimes differs from estimates, but this
sword cuts both ways. The actual mileage from a V6 is not always a lot better
than a V8. Many departments have found that the actual patrol mileage from a V6
sedan is the same as from a V8 in the same sedan.
The same goes for a bigger V8 versus a smaller V8. In the
Carol Stream Police experience, the Charger 5.7L HEMI V8 and the Ford CVPI 4.6L
V8 get about the same mileage. The reality may be that HEMI V8 performance may
come at no extra cost over a comparable V6 or the old benchmark 4.6L V8.
Obviously, part of the Carol Stream Police evaluation was
the total cost of the patrol vehicle, i.e., base price minus any state bid
assistance. The actual cost varies state to state, sometimes region by region, and
sometimes during the model year. The actual costs are not as important for this
summary as the price differences at the time. All things factored in, the initial
price of the Charger 5.7L V8 was $760 more than the Charger 3.6L V6.
The next step is what sets the Carol Stream Police study apart
from most other, similar NextGen evaluations. They compared trade-in values of 100K-mile
pre-2011 police Chargers with the 3.5L V6 and the 5.7L V8. Again, residual
values are a moving target, business climate sensitive, regionally varying,
even model year dependent. That said, they found the 100K-mile police Charger V6
had a residual between $3,000 and $3,500, while the 100K-mile police Charger V8
had a residual between $6,500 and $7,000.
Doing the simplest lifecycle math, a comparison between the
V6 and V8 can be made. The V6 has an initial cost of $760 more than the V8 and
uses an estimated $1,800 more in gasoline over the life of the vehicle,
totaling $2,560 difference. The V8 has a residual value of $3,500 more than the
V6. That means, drive a HEMI Charger instead of a V6 Charger and save the
department $1,000 per vehicle.
For the departments where the V6 patrol sedans don’t get any
better gas mileage during actual patrol, that really means drive a HEMI Charger
instead of a V6 Charger and save $2,750 per vehicle over the in-service life.
Importantly, this is not a Dodge Charger specific solution. Exactly
the same logic, exactly the same concept, exactly the same math, also works for
the Ford PI Sedan with the 3.5L EcoBoost V6. In 100K miles, it will have the
residual value approaching a Taurus SHO. It works for the PI Utility with the
3.5L EcoBoost V6 that will rival the residual of the Explorer Sport. It works
for the Caprice V8 that will carry a resale value nearly that of a Chevrolet
Many fleet managers know that lifecycle costing will give
law enforcement the patrol and admin vehicles with the lowest total cost.
Thanks to the Carol Stream Police, we now know that those lowest cost vehicles
might also be the highest-performance police sedans on the market.