After the last Chevrolet Caprice 9C1 rolled off the assembly line in 1996, Ford's Crown Victoria Police Interceptor began a fifteen-year run as America's de facto squad car. But all good things must come to an end.
When the final CVPI is built in September of this year, police departments across the U.S. will suddenly be faced with a decision familiar to just about every American family: Which new four-door sedan to buy? Because their needs are similar in many respects--ability to carry passengers and their gear; reliability under extreme use; cost-efficient maintenance--we'll conduct the search for a new cop car standard in the same way an average family might look for their new transportation workhorse.
To get started, let's create a list of goals. First and foremost is performance. Speed and handling might not seem like obvious deal-breakers when choosing a new family car, but ask any red-blooded American sixteen-year-old kid--in fact or at heart--what he or she wants. And since today's newborn baby is tomorrow's sixteen-year-old, there's no shortage of families with teenagers about to get their driver's licenses.
Preference will be given to rear-wheel-drive V-8 powertrains. After years of watching back ends fishtail during police chases in movies and on TV, front-wheel-drive cop cars just won't cut it. Sorry, Impala. Out of necessity, we will also consider all-wheel-drive V-6 platforms. Otherwise Ford moves from industry standard to forgotten memory, and we simply can't have that. They are, after all, the only ones who didn't take bailout money from the government in 2009.
Next is the ability to carry passengers and gear. Back seat and front must be able to accommodate more than one person, and equipment of varying shapes and sizes has to fit in the trunk. Passenger comfort isn’t paramount, at least in the back seat, but there should be adequate legroom front and back.
Then there’s reliability under extreme use. Cops and families rely on their cars to start when it’s thirty below zero, to run for hours through stop-and-go traffic in positive triple-digit temperatures, and to tolerate thousands of miles of abuse at every point on the thermometer in between. And really, who do you think is harder on a car, a trained police officer or a sixteen-year-old who just got his or her license?
Finally, maintenance and repairs must be cheaply and easily performed. Again, who's harder on a car, a cop or a sixteen-year-old? Even though they want their police forces to catch the bad guys, taxpayers don't want to spend more than they have to on oil changes and the inevitable repair jobs.
Although European manufacturers build wonderful police cars, this last requirement eliminates them from our search. Anybody who's had the wheel bearings replaced on their Mercedes E Class, a tuneup performed on their Jaguar XF, or even just had the oil changed on their Audi A4 understands why. Japanese models weed themselves out because of maintenance and repair costs combined with payload capacities. Besides, what self-respecting American police department would drive a fleet of foreign cars? So we'll limit ourselves to choices built here in the good old USA.