Who makes the best police cars?
When is a police car not a police car? When it’s a Chevy Tahoe, Ford Explorer, or Dodge Durango, or even an F-150 pickup. The only traditional police cars left are the Dodge Charger and, bending the rules a bit, the Ford Fusion Hybrid. (Ford does not actually use the civilian labels on its cars, but names like “Ford Police Interceptor Utility 3.0L EcoBoost AWD” are too long to be practical.) Despite its popularity with some agencies, the Ford Taurus-based Police Interceptor Sedan is gone for 2020 after a short 2019 production cycle. The Utility was 80% of Ford’s Police Interceptor sales in 2017, so the Sedan won’t be missed by many.
All wheel drive or four wheel drive were present in every body type other than the Fusion and F-150; the others were all rear wheel drive (except the front-drive Fusion).
The Tahoe may be tough, but it’s probably the worst cruiser for cities and suburbs, with EPA-rated gas mileage of 15/22 miles per gallon with rear wheel drive and 14/21 with 4×4. Troopers can expect to see far worse mileage, given long periods of idling and sudden acceleration. The Dodge Charger did far better, with 18/26 from the 292-horsepower V6, 16/25 from the V8 (roughly comparable to Chevy’s), and 15/23 with the V8 and all wheel drive.
Ironically, the big Dodge Durango Pursuit had better mileage than the Charger—18/25 mpg with AWD. Going to the V8 (also with AWD), though, only yielded 14/22, nearly identical to the Tahoe 4×4. The Durango V6 did so well because of its eight-speed automatic; the police Chargers use a five-speed automatic (no longer available to anyone else), allegedly due to fleet managers’ requests, but rather bad for fuel economy and V6 acceleration.
The Ford Explorers had no fuel economy estimates as yet, but the F-150 turned in a surprisingly good 16 city, 22 highway from its turbocharged V6. That truck had far more torque than the various V8s, and superior towing capacity. What it doesn’t have, you’ll see in a few sentences.
The mileage king was the hybrid Fusion, with its mere 129 pound-feet of torque; it was the definite city-pursuit choice, with 40 mpg in the city and 36 on the highway. Ford claimed $4,300 per year in fuel savings per car, while diverting complaints about speed by noting that its 0-100 acceleration was similar to the 2011 Ford Crown Victoria (which was hopelessly outclassed even then).
There were two definite winners of the speed and dynamics testing. The Dodge Charger did very well, with the V8 AWD hitting 97.1 seconds, the V8 RWD reaching 97.6, and the Charger V6 in 98.7. However, the Ford Explorer turbo V6 with AWD ran the course in 96.5 seconds, beating all of them.
Following those were the hybrid AWD Explorer (99.7) and the rest. The Tahoes finished in 100.6 and 101.2 seconds; the Durangos were nearly the worst, at 102.7 and 105.5 seconds. Taking absolute last place was, not surprisingly, the Ford Fusion hybrid, at 106.3 seconds. Finally, the Ford F-150 came in between the two Durangos, at 103.9 seconds.
If speed is your only concern, the turbo Explorer and Charger were king, with both Dodge V8s hitting 149 mph—and the Explorer hitting 150. The other Explorers didn’t fare anywhere near as well, and the F-150 only eked out 106 mph. The Tahoes hit 134 (RWD) and 121 mph), and the V6 Charger did nearly as well as the V8 at 141 mph. The Durangos again underwhelmed at 117 and 118 mph, limited by the speed rating of its tires (there’s a rumor that better tires are coming). The Fusion didn’t do too badly in top speed, at 119 mph, but acceleration was another story.
Most cars are measured in 0-60 times, but for police cars, 0-100 seems more fair; after all, they may be called upon to go from the shoulder to high-speed pursuit. The worst of the lot was the Fusion hybrid, at 26.0 seconds; the best, not surprisingly, was the Explorer turbo AWD, at 13.6 (drop the turbo and that dropped to 19.3 seconds). The Durango V6 disappointed with a 22.9 second time, while the Durango Hemi ran to 100 mph in 18.3 seconds—better than the Tahoes (18.9 RWD and 20.2 AWD), but not enough to beat the hybrid Explorer with 17.7 seconds. As for the Chargers, the V6 was hampered by its old five-speed, with a run of 20 seconds; but the two V8s turned in times of 14.7 seconds, with RWD and AWD separated by .05 seconds.
Stopping is also important; and the Durango truly outperformed the Chevys there. The Tahoes stopped in 146 and 142.5 feet (RWD and AWD), and the Ford F-150 in 152 feet—but they were the outliers in an otherwise safe field of cars. The best brakes went to the Charger V6, which stopped in under 127 feet; second best was the V8 Charger, with 128 feet. The Charger AWD took 134 feet, which was more in line with most of the Fords.
The Ford Fusion was the best non-Dodge in stopping distance, coming in at 129 feet—not enough to match the Durango V6, but better than the Durango V8 (133). The hottest police car of the bunch in acceleration, the turbo Explorer, stopped in 131.5 feet; and the hybrid Explorer took around one more foot, and the base Explorer took two more. So if you see a Ford pickup or Chevy Tahoe in your rearview mirror, flashing lights, don’t slam on your brakes!
The Durango was the clear winner for communications readiness, with a score of 9.8; the Explorer came in a close second, and the Tahoe, Charger, and F-150 followed in reasonable proximity. Only the Fusion was really dinged. Again, for ergonomics, the Durango was easily #1 (this despite some complaints about the console mounted dial shifter taking up room that could be used for other equipment if the shifter were moved to the column); the Charger was a close #2, and then the Tahoe was a close #3. There was a small gap and then the F-150 came in; then a larger gap for the Explorer and a large gap for the Fusion.
The best police car tends to depend on each department’s needs, and it now seems as though there’s truly a good choice for every department.
Mark has been a technical writer for many years, working for automotive suppliers. He has always been an avid reader of magazines and websites dedicated to the domestic auto industry, and spent a lot of time analyzing sales trends in changing automotive markets. Mark’s fascination with the automotive industry began by reading yearbooks as a young child that highlighted the yearly changes cars used to receive every fall. From that, he developed a love of model car building.
The cars of his childhood were mainly large Ford and Chevrolet sedans. Some of his previous restoration projects include a 1967 Plymouth Valiant, a 1980 Plymouth Volare Road Runner, and a 1989 Dodge Dakota Sport Convertible.
You can reach Mark at +1.516-531-4021.