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First look: Dodge delivers next Charger to police

Cop this: The 2011 Dodge Charger police car will be an intimidating sight in American rear-view mirrors.

New Dodge Charger could come to Oz, but GM says Holden's US cop car has it licked

Dodge logo4 Oct 2010

By MARTON PETTENDY

AN ALL-NEW Dodge Charger has emerged in the US as the strongest new challenger for GM Holden’s latest export hope, the Chevrolet Caprice Police Patrol Vehicle (PPV), and could also land Down Under as a direct rival to the Commodore.

However, General Motors has already claimed victory in the latest back-to-back shake-down tests by police fleets in North America, which pitted the Australian-built 2011 Chevy Caprice PPV against Ford’s new 2012 Taurus-based Police Interceptor and Dodge’s redesigned sports sedan.

Chrysler released the first image of the 2011 Dodge Charger Pursuit a month ago, but before US enthusiast website Jalopnik snapped it in action two weeks ago during the Michigan State Police Evaluation Program at Grattan Raceway near Belding - 200km from Detroit - few realised the partially obscured police car in the moody, back-lit alleyway image was actually the next-generation Charger SRT8 sedan.

Dodge’s current Charger – and the Australian-engineered Chevrolet Camaro’s arch-rival, the Challenger coupe - has long been coveted by Chrysler Australia as a smaller stablemate for the large but popular Chrysler 300C sedan, and redesigned versions of both models will be launched in North America by the end of this year.

But the all-new ‘300’ won’t be available in Australia until 2012 and – at least for the time being - the new Charger, which is based on the same rear-drive platform as the larger 300, is not yet scheduled for right-hand drive production because of a lack of demand from other RHD markets such as the UK and Japan.

That could change, however, according to the Chrysler group’s lead executive for international organization, Mike Manley.

Chrysler’s export chief told GoAuto at last week’s Paris motor show that, unlike the previous-generation Charger, Dodge’s flagship sedan replacement could still be engineered for some RHD markets, including Australia – which continues to “actively pursue” the sleek four-door.

“We never rule it out completely, but … the accumulative volume today means the business case is still not there for right-hand drive,” said Mr Manley. “It (the new Charger) is going to be launched in the back end of this year, along with the new 300.

“The investment is still relatively large because you still need a new IP (instrument panel). You have to make those changes, but you can’t rule it out for this generation… the (Charger) platform is very similar (to the 300) so all of the componentry under the skin is there.

“It is one thing that we continue to look at, particularly as in Australia we have just appointed a new managing director. Clyde (Campbell) is on board with us now and I know he has his own plans and his own thoughts, and I’m looking forward to talking to him about how he wants to develop the business there.” Last month’s single official image reveals the Charger that’s due on sale in the US within months will feature an all-new bodyshell with a bulging bonnet and larger renditions of the Charger’s trademark rear haunches.

41 center imageFrom top: Ford Taurus Police Interceptor, Chevrolet Caprice PPV, Chrysler Group lead executive for the international organisation Mike Manley.

Lurking behind the bulbar of the Charger Pursuit, which became available for US police fleet order in September before deliveries of both the pursuit car and its civilian sibling take place there in early 2011, is a larger grille with chrome-edged Dodge crosshair feature, a black hex-mesh lower air intake and, at least on the SRT8, beefy black steel wheels.

Dodge says its 2011 Pursuit provides law enforcers “the best combination of tactical technology, safety, power, efficiency and an iconic design that makes any suspect stop in a panic”.

Results of the Michigan police tests are preliminary and won’t be made public until later this year, before all three vehicles hit the beat in America next year.

However, GM has stated the long-wheelbase Caprice PPV was “faster from zero to 60 and zero to 100 miles per hour, and brakes in a shorter distance than its competitors from Ford and Dodge”.

It also claims the Adelaide-made patrol car, which opened for US police fleet orders on Friday (October 1), had the best top speed and overall average time per lap during a vehicle dynamics comparison.

While the Charger seen lurking underneath police livery is the top-shelf SRT8, powered by a 317kW/570Nm version of Chrysler’s legendary 5.7-litre HEMI V8, Dodge has advised its 2011 Charger Pursuit will also be available for police fleets with an E85 ethanol-compatible 3.6-litre Pentastar V6.

Vying for the same lucrative annual market of up to 80,000 vehicle sales to law enforcement agencies across the US, Holden’s Caprice PPV will be powered by both 265kW/521Nm 6.0-litre V8 and, in 2012, 3.6-litre V6 engines from the Commodore.

The Caprice PPV will next year join GM’s front-wheel drive Impala PPV and Tahoe PPV on the beat in the US, in a deal that could become the single biggest export opportunity for GM Holden since exports of the Commodore-based G8 sedan ended with the death of the Pontiac brand under GM’s bankruptcy plan.

Then there is Ford’s new Taurus Police Interceptor to replace the aged but still dominant Crown Victoria PI when it is finally put to pasture next year, powered by a 196kW/338Nm 3.5-litre V6 driving the front wheels and a 272kW/465Nm turbocharged direct-injection Ecoboost version based on the all-wheel drive Taurus SHO. It will be joined by a new SUV Police Interceptor based on the new Explorer.

“Police departments around the country told us they needed a modern, high-performance rear-drive pursuit car,” said GM fleet and commercial operations product director Joyce Mattman.

“These results are proof that the Caprice PPV delivers the performance officers want, without compromising safety or comfort.” Jerry Newberry, the fleet manager of the Texas Department of Public Safety, which purchases up to 1000 vehicles annually, welcomed the competition between the three car-makers.

“I’m tickled to death to see all of the manufacturers back into (police cars) in a big way after a period of stagnation,” he said.

“It’s still a work in progress for all manufacturers, but that’s been the nice thing in the development of this Caprice – GM is doing what it takes to bring the best car to the market.” For its part, Chrysler said the all-new Dodge Charger Pursuit was designed with the guidance of its Police Advisory Board and will feature performance suspension tuning, heavy-duty anti-lock vented-disc brakes, front and rear anti-roll bars, 18-inch performance tyres on steel wheels, police-duty front seats, a column-mounted automatic transmission gearshifter and red/white LED interior lighting for night-vision equipment.

On the safety front, the Charger has two-mode police-specific electronic stability control calibration, plus twin multi-stage front airbags, seat-mounted side-thorax airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, a driver’s knee bag and tyre-pressure monitoring.

“For world-class ride and performance handling dynamics, the Dodge Charger Pursuit features a rear-wheel drive design and redesigned front and rear multi-link suspension geometries to deliver a smooth comfortable ride for law enforcement officers who spend long days protecting our streets,” said Chrysler.

While the new 300C is at least 18 months away from Australia, Chrysler says it will release both the mid-size 200 sedan – a heavy facelifted version of the discontinued Sebring sedan - and the larger Charger sedan alongside the larger-still 300 here if they are approved for RHD production.

As we’ve reported, Chrysler is also working on a plan to launch the all-new Dodge Durango SUV in Australia, where the Chrysler group’s next all-new model will be the 2011 Grand Cherokee early next year, followed in the second quarter by the facelifted 2011 Voyager.

Chrysler is readying facelifted versions of the Dodge Journey people-mover, Avenger sedan and Challenger coupe for the US next year, and is expected to release an all-new Viper supercar in the US by 2012.

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