Chevrolet

The Caprice PPV is the most capacious contender with 112 cubic feet of interior space — more than 7 cubic feet larger than the competition, according to Chevrolet. Even with the prisoner partition, the front seat can recline and the steering wheel telescopes forward. The extra space is appreciated by the many officers taller than six feet who spend long hours in the driver’s seat.

The Caprice is a big car, but its large interior didn’t slow it down at the 2011 Michigan State Police performance test, where the PPV earned best-in-class marks in several categories against Ford’s Crown Victoria and both Dodge Chargers, including 0-60 mph acceleration, 0-100 mph acceleration, 60-0 mph braking and top speed, clocking in at 148 mph.

Dana Hammer, General Motors’ manager of law enforcement vehicles, said that like its competitors, Chevrolet worked closely with its law enforcement product council to make the Caprice PPV what police want and need: a large, no-nonsense, rear-wheel-drive sedan in a V8 or V6. The 2011 Caprice has a 6.0L V8, and Chevrolet will release a 3.6L V6 Caprice PPV next year with additional safety features, such as knee-airbags and rollover detection for improved timing of airbag deployment.

To supplement the Caprice, Chevrolet also offers the 3.9L V6 2011 Impala. The 2012 Impala will receive a makeover as it switches to the same 3.6L V6 engine found in the Caprice for a more streamlined fleet. In addition to the new powertrain, the 2012 Impala will be upgraded with bigger brakes, a six-speed automatic transmission, sports mode, StabiliTrack and a 50-50 weight distribution.

The Big Three go out of their way to point out that their police cars aren’t consumer vehicles — they’re specially designed for police work. And that’s seen in the significant changes made to transform the consumer vehicles. Be that as it may, one company is taking customization a step further.

Photo: Chevrolet says its new Caprice PPV is just what police departments want: a big, no-nonsense, real-wheel drive sedan.

Carbon Motors

Photo: The Carbon Motors E7 is a purpose-built police car with a long list of special features.

Stacy Dean Stephens, a former police officer, founded Carbon Motors in 2003 with William Santana Li, a former Ford executive. Teamed up with Lotus Engineering, Inteva Products and Bosch Engineering, Stephens and Li are on a mission to build the ultimate police vehicle from the ground up.

It’s borderline insulting, Stephens said, that police aren’t equipped with specialized vehicles designed exclusively for police work. After all, firefighters, soldiers and even mail carriers drive purpose-built vehicles. “You would not put a soldier in a station wagon and send him into battle,” he said.

Because Carbon Motors is developing its vehicle from scratch, the company can design the car exactly to its wishes, which means the specs can be entirely different. One of the biggest differences is the engine, which is a “forced induction” diesel. That engine was chosen, Stephens said, because it’s ideal for the job. “It fits police usage patterns — long idle periods followed by rapid acceleration,” he said. The result is an engine with increased performance and 40 percent greater fuel efficiency than the law enforcement vehicle average, according to Stephens.

The E7’s rear doors are coach doors, meaning they open backward, creating a larger opening and allowing for easier access. The rear seats are made of a durable plastic for easy cleanup and are fitted with special seat belts so officers don’t need to lean over detainees to buckle them in. There are also video cameras in the rear compartment for monitoring and recording backseat activity. The front compartment also shows attention to detail — everything from the air vents in the headrests to the custom computer interface to the temperature-controlled cup holders.

On the exterior, the E7’s light bar is flush-mounted into the body and wraps completely around the top of the car. The body panels are made from thermoformed plastic, which don’t require paint because the color is inside the panels. The front doors and dash are fitted with ballistic panels, and the frame is made from hydroformed aluminum, a technology typically reserved for high-end sports cars.

The E7 has dozens of extras and options, including infrared cameras, a license plate recognition system that automatically scans adjacent cars and searches for warrants, a low-frequency siren that people can feel and hear, weapons of mass destruction sensors, and night vision-compliant interior lighting that won’t paint the officer inside as a target or steal his night vision.

“What we’re offering is not a vehicle, but a homeland security platform upon which law enforcement can build a vehicle to their specifications,” Stephens said. “We’re giving all these new technologies a breath of fresh air.”

The E7 isn’t available for test drives yet, but for the past few years, Carbon Motors has been taking its prototype on tour — and when people see the vehicle, they react very emotionally, Stephens said.

“The first thing out of their mouth is, ‘It’s about time,’” he said. “The next thing they say is, ‘You’ve really done your homework.’ And the third thing they say is, ‘When do I get to drive it?’”

More than 16,000 reservations for the E7 have been made, Stephens said, which includes agencies in all 50 states.

Police Vehicle Specifications
Manufacturer Ford Ford Chevy Dodge Dodge Carbon
Year 2011 2011 2011 2011 2011 2014
Engine 3.5L Ti-VCT V6 FFV 3.5L EcoBoost V6 6.0L V8 3.6L VVT Pentastar V6 5.7L VVT HEMI V8 Forced Induction Diesel
Fuel Type E85 Compatible E85 Compatible E85 Compatible E85 Compatible Unleaded Ultra-low sulfur diesel
Horsepower 280 365 355 292 370 250
Torque (ft. lb.) 250 350 384 260 395 400
Drivetrain FWD/AWD wAWD RWD RWD RWD RWD
Transmission 6 Sp. Auto 6 Sp. Auto 6 Sp. Auto 6 Sp. Auto 6 Sp. Auto 6 Sp. Auto
Passenger Volume (cu. ft.) 104.2 104.2 112 104.7 104.7 Classified
Wheelbase (in.) 112.9 112.9 118.5 120.2 120.2 122
Curb Weight (lbs.) Classified Classified 4,259 3,961

4,253

4,000

Colin Wood  |  Staff Writer

Colin has been writing for Government Technology since 2010. He lives in Seattle with his wife and their dog. He can be reached at cwood@govtech.com