the Police Patrol Vehicle that’s based on the Australian-made Commodore and Caprice makes a convincing case for police in North America.
“this is the shiny side – we want you to keep the shiny side up.”
With that I’m directed to the fleet of police-ready Holdens that are now wearing Chevrolet badges in the blaring sunlight of an Arizona race track in the south-west of the United States. some have lights and sirens, while others are awaiting fitment with police features.
Fresh from the Adelaide factory that produces the Commodore and Caprice, the PPV has the daunting task of replacing iconic police vehicles such as the Ford Crown Victoria (awful to drive but loved by many police for its ruggedness), the potent Dodge Charger and the bulky and blocky Chevrolet Tahoe off-roader that’s found a soft spot for its high seating position and kerb-hopping ability.
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My mission for the day is to play policeman. unlike the 40-or-so others in the room, I don’t have the gun or the badge to live up to the task wholly, but sitting alongside a cross section of police gets me ready for the task at hand.
They’re here to trial the latest weapon in law enforcement in the US – the Chevrolet Caprice PPV, or police patrol vehicle. It’s available in two guises:
- patrol-ready 9C1, which has an offset gear selector and foot-operated park brake to allow room for computers, radios and other gear a marked patrol car is fitted out with in the US.
- The 9C3 detective pack, which is identical mechanically but retains the Australian Commodore and Caprice’s regular handbrake and gear selector.
Inside, the Caprice feels more like a basic Commodore. There’s a sea of grey up front and controls from the base-model Omega – all chosen to keep the price down while still giving police the features they need to do the job.
For now, though, my mind is on the sprint to 100km/h before launching on the brakes, a task designed to highlight the effectiveness of the larger brakes, chosen specifically for the police vehicles but likely to make it to performance Holden Commodores sometime down the track.
Like any Holden V8 there’s plenty of punch off the line, with the six-speed auto doing a good job of transmitting it all to the bitumen. There’s 355hp to play with (260kW), which combines with the 517Nm of torque to launch the large five-seater enthusiastically.
It’s all accompanied by that classic V8 thrum, although firing through the dual exhausts it doesn’t quite have the burble I remember from the quad exhaust set-up in Holden V8s sold here.
Jump on the brakes and they fire the ABS system into life, helping stop the car faithfully. It’s not so much the single application that’s impressive but the fact this car is doing it time and again, despite more aggressive driving and quick driver changes.
The brakes are noticeably more resistant to fade than those fitted to regular Commodores and Caprices sold here.
The Caprice PPV also steers confidently, with a nicely weighted tiller that reassures the driver. It’s not as sharp as some, but reacts well enough and consistently.Higher riding but firmer suspension is designed to better cope with punishment up gutters, through potholes, over rough intersections – or whatever else police can throw at it.
Combined with durable Goodyear tyres it’s tailor made for a day on patrol.
While the Caprice leans into corners, it’s well controlled and sits relatively flat for the size of vehicle. Quick direction changes highlight its inherent ability to control the shift in momentum.
One thing hasn’t changed with the transition to the US, though – the blind spot at the front of the car. the pillars on either side of the front windscreen (A-pillars) can occasionally block vision through corners
A faster section of race track allows me to better unleash the Caprice PPV. Sitting back and watching the police officers each have a turn also gives an insight into the punishment each Caprice PPV could endure on the job in America.
The stability control system has a special “Performance” setting tailored for police work. unlike the Australian Caprices – which can shut the stability control off altogether by pressing a button – the Caprice PPV only reduces its effectiveness to allow the car to slide around more without electronic interference that in some cases can slow the car.
The Performance mode is well tuned, allowing the car to squeal its tyres and slide without too much interference. Get the tail too far out, though, and the engine temporarily cuts power as part of its strategy to straighten things up.
It’s not till I jump behind the wheel of the full detective car with lights and sirens that I get the full police feeling.
While there are no baddies around, the thought of lights and sirens blazing in full pursuit gives an inkling to the adrenalin that must build for the real thing.
A brief drive of the fully market pursuit car is also a buzz.
Crammed full of electronics – including a computer, radios and switches for the lights and sirens – it’s a busy environment, especially with the chunky perspex partition behind the seats.
In the back (yes, I played “perp” briefly!) the luxuriousness of the Caprice’s spacious rear pews isn’t eroded by that separator between front and rear, and although leg room is impeded slightly for taller people there’s significantly more room on offer than other police sedans already in use in the US.
The offset gear selector that’s closer to the driver falls more naturally to hand than the regular stick, although it’s lost some of its elegance – hardly an issue for what is a work vehicle.
It’s easy to see why police are impressed with the Chevrolet Caprice PPV package, although they’re being cautious about jumping into them straight away.
Early orders are believed to have been slow, as was expected, with the Caprice instead gearing up to prove itself in the field.
Going on initial reactions it should stand up well. Sure, it’s still a Holden, but not as we (or the US police force) know it.Chevrolet Caprice PPV (police patrol vehicle)Models: 9C1 (police version) or 9C3 (detective or unmarked version)Price: US$30,995 (recommended)Engine: 6.0-litre V8Power: 355hp (260kW)Torque: 517Nm at 4400rpmTransmission: 6-speed automaticAvailability: Only to police and fire departments and government officials
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