Dodge vs Chevy and Ford in the LA Sheriff pursuit car tests

When Plymouth created the first police car package, it was a heavily upfitted sedan; and from then until the Jeep Cherokee “XJ,” nearly all police cars were sedans. In this year’s test of police cars, though, there was only one sedan entered, and it was a Dodge Charger.

The tests are somewhat incomplete, since the only pickup was the Ford F-150 “Responder” special service vehicle; the Ram 1500, 2500, and 3500 SSVs were all excluded, along with the Chevrolet 1500 SSV.

LASD police car tests

While the Tahoe was the most expensive vehicle in the test, and the sole GM entry, the LASD (Los Angeles Sheriff Department) had a hard time with it; with transmission temperature issues now resolved, the test drivers started having problems with brake fade.

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As for Dodge, the all wheel drive version of the Charger Pursuit was rated higher in nearly every category than the lighter rear wheel drive model. Both had eight speed automatics.

The LA tests are designed for combined city and highway work, and unlike the Michigan State Police (MSP), the main focus is on city and suburban streets; the MSP tends to focus much more heavily on highways. The two departments’ tests are very complementary, and tend to pick different winners.

The Chargers did well in ergonomics, taking the top spot, followed by the Durango; the Chevy and Ford Explorer did not do very well.

The Ford pickup did extremely well in a straight line, and could store and tow more than the other vehicles; however, the Tahoe and Durango V8 did nearly as well in utility, with the Durango being much cheaper.

In communication noise evaluations, important in a working police car, the Dodges did best and the Fords did worst.

2021 Dodge Charger pursuit police car

Fuel economy for the Tahoe was not tested completely—it was lacking 400 pounds of ballast in the cargo to simulate a command box; gas mileage was 14.3 mpg RWD, 12.9 mpg 4×4. The Charger ran to 22.5 mpg V6 and 16.1 mpg V8; the Durango hit 17.7 mpg with the V6, and 15.3 with the V8. Ford’s Explorer ran to 18 mpg with the base V6, 15.7 with the V6 twin turbo, and a surprisingly not-that-high 20 with the hybrid (which ran 318 hp with gasoline and electric combined, so it was still a good deal better than the Durango). The pickup’s mileage was not estimated.

In the high speed course, the Tahoe did not rack up high marks, though braking earned a score of 10 when the issues had been resolved. The Charger V6 took scores of 9 in every category, including acceleration, while the Hemi mainly took scores of 8 with 9s in acceleration, driving performance, and body roll. The Durango V6 also racked up mainly 8s, with 7s in acceleration and transmission performance, and 9 in ABS/traction control; while the Durango V8 took all 8s, except for 9s in steering, braking, and ABS/traction control.

The Ford Explorer did quite well, too; the base model took all 9s except in brake pull, nearly matching the Charger V6. The turbo scored equally with the Charger, with 9s in every category except an 8 in driving performance and a 10 in acceleration. The hybrid pulled 9s in every category except an 8 in driving performance. Finally, the pickup scored 9s except for 10s in engine and transmission performance, and 8s in steering, brake pull, and ABS/traction control; next year it is likely to be the vehicle to beat.

The high speed course was likely to favor the Chargers. The Tahoe RWD had 10s in brake performance and pull again, but dropped to 7 in steering and body bounce, with an average speed of 33.4 mph. The 4×4 was similar, with the same average speed. The V6 Charger turned in an average speed of 35.1 mph and scored mainly 9s, with 3 10s and one 8 on the subjective evaluation; adding the Hemi dropped braking performance down to a 7, and average speed actually fell to 34.6 mph. The Ford pickup turned in the third lowest time on the city course, with an average speed of 33.4 mph, though ratings were all 8s, 9s, and 10s.

Among the midsize SUVs, the Durango V6 turned in an average speed of 33.3 with all 8s (except one 9); the Hemi raised the speed to 34.1 and it turned in mainly 9s, with three 8s. The base Explorer could not compete in time, with 32.6 mph—the lowest so far—but scored 10 in body roll and bounce and ABS/traction control, with mainly 9s elsewhere, and a 7 in acceleration. The turbo Explorer actually beat the V6 Charger’s speed, hitting 35.4 and making it the best of the entire field, garnering three 10s, six 9s, and one 8 in the subjectives. Finally, the hybrid had an average speed of 32.5 mph (the lowest of any vehicle) and ratings of 8 and 9 across the board.

Dodge had the best brakes again, by a pretty good margin; the Durango stopped from 60 mph in 130 and 131 feet (V8 and V6), and the Charger in 139 and 140 feet (V6 and V8). Fords stopped from 137 to 148 feet (in order, base Explorer, turbo Explorer, hybrid Explorer, F-150), while the two Chevys finished in 142 feet and, with 4×4, a stunning and somewhat dangerous 159 feet.

Raw acceleration was really the province of the Ford, with its turbo V6; it did 0-60 in 5.9 seconds, once the territory of a few muscle cars, and a quarter in 14.44@98 mph. The next best was Charger Hemi, with a 6.5 second 0-60 and 14.85@100 quarter; the Explorer Turbo was extremely close, beating the Charger’s 0-60 by a tenth while losing in the quarter by .05 and 2 mph. The V6 Charger was respectable, with a 7.4 0-60 and 15.8 quarter. The Explorer hybrid was also in the respectable zone, with a 7.7 0-60 and 15.95 quarter.

The only “slow” vehicles, really, were the base Explorer (8.9 0-60, 17 quarter), Tahoes (9.0 and 9.4 sprints, and 14.5 and 15.5 quarters), and the Durango V6 (9.8 spring, 17.45 quarter mile). It’s worth noting that the Durango V6 would still have made mincemeat of any of the Crown Victorias or Dodge Diplomats.

Vehicles tested:

  • 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe (5.3 RWD and 5.3 4×4)
  • 2021 Dodge Charger (V6 AWD and V8 RWD)
  • 2021 Dodge Durango (V6 AWD and V8 AWD)
  • 2021 Ford Explorer (3.3 AWD, 3.0T AWD, 3.3H AWD)
  • 2021 Ford F-150 (3.5T AWD)

The full report is at the LASD. Thanks to AHBGuru at Allpar for digging this out.

David Zatz started what was to become the world’s biggest, most comprehensive Mopar site in 1994 as he pursued a career in organizational research and change. After a chemo-induced break, during which he wrote car books covering Vipers, minivans, and Jeeps, he returned with some friends to create StellPower.com, which is intended to end up as an enduring partnership. Contact him at (973) 925-6058 or check out the new junkyard/slant six book he edited.

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