Shopping Tools * Advertisement 2012 Chevrolet Caprice PPV - First Drive Review

As evidenced by the law-enforcement community’s loyalty to the Ford Crown Victoria, dynamic prowess is not a high priority for police cruisers. Neither is interior space. In fact, the Crown Victoria’s success suggests that the only things police departments look for in their cruisers are a V-8 and rear-wheel drive.

Nevertheless, in the new Chevrolet Caprice PPV (Police Patrol Vehicle), the cops are getting much more than just any old rear-drive, V-8 sedan. Basically, they’re getting a stretched Pontiac G8, with all that car’s attendant strengths. And then some. The front struts were stiffened, as was every component in the rear suspension. Talking to the Caprice’s chassis engineers, you’d think they’d been developing a track package for the defunct G8. They say they focused mostly on strengthening transient response. Their new cruiser feels planted but will happily wag its tail when properly coaxed.

Officers transitioning into this car from a Crown Victoria are in for a surprise the first time they spin the Bow Tie’s steering wheel. What is this? Effort? Feedback? Revelation? A car this planted and responsive seems like overkill for patrolling broad, flat highways, but officers and troopers in twisty locales will be praying for pursuits.

Two Engines One Price

Chevy will offer two engines in the Caprice PPV, a 3.6-liter V-6 and a 6.0-liter V-8. The six makes 301 hp and 265 lb-ft of torque, while the eight ups the count to 355 and 384, respectively. The last V-8 G8 we tested needed 5.2 seconds to get to 60 mph and 13.8 to rip through the quarter-mile; figure on the new Caprice needing a couple extra tenths, thanks to a few additional pounds. The V-6 car should need an extra second to hit the same marks. Departments hoping to put on drifting exhibitions with their cruisers will have to opt for the V-6 car, as the V-8’s stability-control system can’t be fully disabled to keep the cops in the more-powerful cars from getting in over their heads.

Interestingly, the Caprice’s price with either engine will be the same $31,495—before contract and bid pricing enter the picture to lower it, anyway. Considering that the bulk of GM’s development costs for pushrod V-8s was amortized sometime, oh, say, in the early ’70s, and that the V-6 is a modern—and recently developed—dual-overhead-cam aluminum piece with direct injection and variable valve timing, that actually makes some sense. It also leaves each department to choose more freely whether it wants the higher performance of the V-8 or the better fuel economy of the six. With the eight, the Caprice is rated at 15 mpg in the city and 24 on the highway. The V-6 car hasn’t been tested by the EPA yet, but figure on it bettering those numbers by a couple mpg in each category. (Should probably go with the sixes, fellas. Fuel costs and whatnot. And, the higher the speed in a pursuit, the greater the danger to the public.)

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Both engines will be paired with six-speed automatics. Like the civilian G8, the transmission has a Sport mode that holds gears longer and downshifts under braking, but we take issue with the name for that function. Shouldn’t it be Pursuit? Or, if two Ps on the shifter surround are going to be too confusing, maybe Chase? As opposed to other police cars, which have their shifters relocated to the column—somewhat clumsily in the case of the last Dodge Charger police car we drove—the Caprice’s shifter remains on the center console, albeit offset to the driver’s side. This is done to make room for computers, but we drove a car with the computer mounted on a pedestal that lifted it above the shifter, which seemed fine. The PPV also will be offered in a “detective package” set up for stealthier duty; in this car, the shifter remains where we remember it from the G8, and even retains its manual-shift gate. (We’d be very impressed to see the in-car footage of an officer banging off manual shifts during a pursuit.)