Ford Interceptor or Chevy Caprice PPV. That's the choice the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office has to make since the mainstay of its 1,400-plus police car fleet, the Chevrolet Impala, won't be sold after 2014.
Police begin testing a 2013 Interceptor and Caprice PPV in a few weeks after one of each was bought in August and outfitted with lights, sirens, radios, prisoner cages and stripes. After a week's test in each of the city's six police zones to get "the voice of our customers," a choice will be made, said Assistant Chief John Lamb.
Sheriff John Rutherford said he's checked out both models but wants to hear what officers say first.
"I might like one vehicle over the other, where the guy who sits in it for 12 hours might like something different," Rutherford said. "I mainly want to hear from the troops."
The front-wheel-drive V-6 Impala started police work in Jacksonville in 2005, replacing the aging rear-wheel-drive V-8 Ford Crown Victoria police cruiser. Now a replacement is needed again as Chevrolet pulls the plug on the current V-6 Impala. One possibility is the police version of the Ford Taurus in either a front-wheel-drive 280-horsepower V-6 or all-wheel-drive turbocharged 365-horsepower V-6. The other is the rear-wheel-drive Caprice PPV with 301-horsepower V-6 or 355-horsepower V-8.
Ford and Chevrolet have re-engineered them for police use with strengthened frames, brakes, cooling systems and electronics. Both are roomy for officers up front with carved-out seat cushions to fit gun belts and have wider center consoles for radios and computers. Jacksonville's motor pool installed ultra-bright flashing lights on top, in the front and rear as well as in the fender vents.
"The Caprice is a great car," Lamb said. "The Ford seems roomier with more handling and seems really well put together."
The Sheriff's Office makes the decision in March, then bids in October for 100 new cruisers that go into service in January 2014. Lamb said they don't have final prices yet, although Motor Trend's tests list base prices for fully equipped cruisers at $29,155 for the Ford and $31,745 for the Chevrolet.
Area sheriffs don't have many of the new cruisers yet. St. Johns County has two new Caprice V-8s, while Ford Interceptors could be coming. Clay County Sheriff's Office Capt. Carl Harter said some new Chevrolet pickup trucks have been "very useful" in rural areas, and he is waiting to see if an economical replacement for the current Impala is offered. Nassau County purchased some Dodge Chargers to supplement its relatively new Impalas.
The Florida Highway Patrol has new Dodge Charger Pursuits as it phases out Ford Crown Victorias.
Copyright 2012 - The Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville
McClatchy-Tribune News Service