Law enforcement and vehicles have a special history, one that dates back to the early 20s and 30s when the first “police cruisers” were introduced. Cars offered the police needed mobility for patrolling large swathes of territory.
That, and catching runners who preferred to take the police on high-speed pursuits rather than turn themselves in.
Police cars have received more attention over the years, thanks in part to Hollywood. Movies like the 1980 hit Blues Brothers were particularly responsible for popularizing the notion of police cars using upgraded components.
Is it true that police cars are tuned to perform better than their civilian counterparts?
Police cars are more heavy-duty than civilian cars and need those upgraded systems to perform optimally for long periods. Engine, suspension, cooling, and electrical systems are some components that are modified to suit police needs.
Presently, law enforcement agencies depend heavily on vehicles in their daily operations.
Police officers travel in cars to get to crime scenes faster; neighborhood police patrol by moving around in their cars. This helps them catch lawbreakers and provides a visible deterrence.
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Are Police Cars Tuned In The US?
The American police force has a history of fitting its vehicles with some of the latest modifications available.
Why is this so? Well, some folks love using new tactics to evade law enforcement.
Early Criminal and Police Cars
One popular tactic was to use “modded” (modified) vehicles to outrace police cars during pursuits. Naturally, the police had to modify their cars to perform better than civilian vehicles.
However, early cars used by American police officers were slow.
So slow that felons like Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow (Bonnie and Clyde) frequently outpaced police cars in Ford Model B, which had a more powerful V-8 engine.
Keep an eye on our article which explains about Are Police Cars Always Marked?
Evolution of Modded Vehicles
The 50s arrived with the “Horsepower Race,” and car makers started producing powerful engines that pushed cars to unbelievable speeds. More criminals gained access to faster cars, forcing law enforcement agencies to make efforts to improve the performance of police cars.
The result was the production and release of a special “police package” car by Ford in 1950. Similar offerings from GM, Chrysler, and Dodge followed.
The new police cars were fitted with bigger and more powerful engines that could comfortably keep up with the fastest vehicles on the road.
However, it was not just about vehicle speed alone.
These patrol cars had certain components modified to increase the overall performance of the car (this represented the first attempt by American police authorities to tune their cars). The cars had stiffer suspensions for better handling, boosted batteries (police lights and radios had to run 24/7), and upgraded cooling systems to prevent overheating.
It is now a given for law enforcement agencies to tune their vehicles for optimum performance. In fact, the number of “police package” cars have increased, with more upgrades being created for the police cars.
Are Police Cars Tuned In The UK?
Unlike their neighbors across the Atlantic, the British have never been enthusiastic about tuning up their cars for improved performance. Some police cars released in the 70s and 80s had altered suspensions for better handling, and they also featured upgraded alternators to allow the car batteries to run for extended hours.
However, they weren’t as upgraded as their United States counterparts at the time.
Scotland Yard did little to improve engine performance or increase the power output of its vehicles.
Reports suggest some police cars manufactured by Vauxhall were modified for faster speeds (these cars were used predominantly for high-speed pursuits).
Nowadays, most of the cars used for police duty in the UK are still standard civilian cars with minor modifications (unlike the US where you have special “Police Package” cars).
The British Police, however, has added some fast cars for patrolling motorways or chasing criminals.
Some of these cars include:
- Subaru Impreza,
- BMW 535i,
- Mitsubishi Evo,
- Jaguar XF,
- and Volvo T5.
How Fast Can Police Cars Typically Go?
Law enforcement agencies in America use two main types of vehicles in their operations:
Police Pursuit Vehicles (PPV)
PPVs are the most popular police vehicles in the US. They used to handle a variety of tasks ranging from responding to reports of problematic activity to chasing getaway offenders.
Often called “cruisers or “interceptors,” they are optimized for high-speed car chases.
Below are some PPVs and their speeds:
1. Ford Taurus Police Interceptor:
It is a 4-door sedan created to replace the discontinued Crown Victoria line of police vehicles. This police interceptor has twin-turbocharged V-6 engines that produce 350 hp.
It has a top speed of 150 mph and goes from zero to 50 mph under six seconds.
2. Dodge Charger Pursuit:
The Dodge Charger is another 4-door sedan with a special police package for law enforcement agencies in the US. It is one of the fastest police cars, thanks to a powerful 5.7 Liter Hemi V-8 engine.
The Charger produces around 370 hp and 395 lb-ft of torque for a top speed of 149 mph.
3. Chevrolet Impala Police Vehicle:
The Chevy Impala Police is a full-sized car produced for police officers across the US. It comes with a 3.6 Liter V-6 engine that delivers 302 hp for a top speed of 150 mph.
4. Special Service Vehicles (SSVs):
These include Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) and vans used for special purposes. Law enforcement operatives use them for off-road patrols, transport prisoners, and other situations where 4WD capability is necessary.
Police rarely use them for pursuit.
Here are some popular SSVs:
- Chevrolet Tahoe Police Package:
The Chevy Tahoe is an RWD vehicle that is pursuit-rated (has enough speed for a car chase) and suitable for off-road conditions too. It comes with a 5.3 Liter naturally aspirated V-8 engine, which delivers 355 hp for a top speed of 132 mph. It has an impressive zero to 60 mph acceleration of 7.97 seconds.
- Ford F-150 Police Package:
This is a recent Special Service Vehicle from Ford. The vehicle has an impressive ground clearance that makes it perfect for street and off-road patrolling. It has a twin-turbocharged 3.5 Liter V-6 engine and produces 470 lbs-ft of torque and 370 hp for a top speed of 100 mph.
Other Special Service Package (SSP) vehicles are used for highway/freeway car pursuits.
An example of such SSP cars is the Ford Mustang Police Package and Chevrolet Camaro Police Cars. These cars are rarely used for pursuits anymore, though.
You will find them at police events.
What Is The Fastest Police Car Ever Made?
The Bugatti Veyron is currently the fastest police car in the world, with a top speed of 253 mph. This automotive beast has a turbocharged 16-cylinder engine that allows it to produce 1200 horsepower.
The Veyron can go from zero to 60 mph in 2.5 seconds.
The Dubai Police Department, famed for its fleet of high-performance cars, bought the Bugatti Veyron Police Car in 2017. Other supercars in the Emirati fleet include a Lamborghini Aventador, a rare Aston Martin One, and a Ferrari FF.
A Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4 owned by the Italian Police Department previously held the record for the fastest police car with a top speed of 203 mph.
What Other Modifications Are Made To Police Cars To Make Them Better?
Like we mentioned before, “Blues Brothers” was a popular movie at the time that expressed how cop cars were upgraded and gave civilians a new perspective on police cars.
There is a scene where Elwood Blues describes a police car to Jake Blues, his brother. He (Elwood) says of the car, “it is a cop car, it has cop motors…cop shocks, cop suspension, cop tires, cop shocks”.
Modern police cars have a certain “cop” difference to them, although they cannot flip backward or leap over open drawbridges like the “Bluesmobile” used by the Blues Brothers. They are tuned to handle the rigors of law enforcement operations.
These cars have to run for extended periods (24/7 on occasions), increasing the risk of overheating.
In addition, lights, radios, and other electrical equipment are in constant use, which exerts excess pressure on the battery. To handle these complexities, police vehicles undergo extensive modifications. The engines are optimized to produce more power for prolonged periods. Also, cooling and heating systems are modified to prevent engine parts from overheating.
Here is a list of the modifications American police cars undergo:
1. Upgraded cooling systems:
Police cars come with better cooling systems than the average civilian car.
Larger radiators and transmission coolers ensure temperature levels in the engines do not rise to dangerous levels.
2. Tuned-up engines:
Police cars have powerful engines that allow them to keep up with most civilian cars. However, the engines often have to balance power and fuel economy. Therefore, most police cars come with standard high-performance V-6 engines that are fuel-efficient.
The turbocharged V-8 engines are found on special pursuit vehicles used on high-speed highway pursuits.
3. Modified suspension and brakes:
Police cars sport modified suspensions and brakes to improve handling and allow law enforcement to make swift turns and sharp stops.
4. Boosted alternator and battery:
Most police vehicles have electrical equipment that needs a constant power supply. Lights, sirens, and radios are power-thirsty, and police cars may be on duty for the entire day.
To provide constant power, police cars feature upgraded alternators and batteries.
Improved batteries can run electrical equipment for a long period without draining completely. Better alternators crank out over 200 amps of power needed for lights, radios, and sirens to run non-stop (Alternators convert power from the engine to power a car’s electrical equipment).
Who Makes These Police Cars?
American police cars are manufactured by the “Big Three” (Chevrolet, Ford, and Dodge [General Motors]).
Dodge makes Special Police Packages of the following vehicles:
Chevrolet makes Special Police Packages of the following vehicles:
Ford manufactures Police Package versions of these models:
- Explorer (Utility interceptor)
- Taurus (Sedan Interceptor)
Police cars have come a long way from the early cruisers.
Now, law enforcement vehicles feature cutting-edge technology and performance features that rival even the best civilian cars.
So, if you think you can break the law and pull a Bonnie and Clyde-like escape, think again.