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Ride & Drive: Charger, Durango, RAM

Every police automaker knows the key to sales is getting officers behind the wheel of their police and special service vehicles. Some automakers conducted regional Ride & Drive events with early production models and then let their local dealers take over via a demo fleet. This works.

Chrysler, however, has continued to host regional Ride & Drives long after their police vehicles hit the streets. There was always a good, meet-the-competition reason to keep the Ride & Drives going: new model introduction, competitive vehicles going and coming, and introduction of new and upgraded features.

In conjunction with Petty Enterprises and piggybacking on the SRT Driving Experience, Chrysler runs six to eight police Ride & Drives a year. These are all regional events: Texas Motor Speedway (Fort Worth); Autobahn Country Club (Joliet, IL); Michigan International Speedway (Brooklyn); Daytona International Speedway (FL); Auto Club Speedway (Fontana, CA); NOLA Motorsports Park (Avondale, LA); Englishtown Raceway Park (NJ); and Pittsburgh International Race Complex (PA).

The exact driving courses and the exact vehicles available to drive vary from event to event. The 3.6L V6 Charger Pursuit and the 5.7L V8 Charger Pursuit are at all the events. Many of the events also include the RAM 1500 4x4 SSV and the Durango SSV. Even when the RAM and Durango are not driven on the high-speed pursuit courses, fully upfitted versions are still on static display.

Generally, the attendees are divided into four groups. One group takes the V6 and V8 Chargers out on the high-speed racetrack. Another group heads out to a low-speed, precision driving course. Yet another group drives the RAM and Durango on a standard EVOC cone course. Finally, the last group goes to an upfit session.



The high-speed road course almost always involves a hound and fox exercise. The fox (the bad guy) is usually in a 6.4L HEMI Charger SRT or 392 Charger Super Bee. The hound (the good guy) is in either a 5.7L HEMI V8 Charger Pursuit or a 3.6L Pentastar V6 Charger Pursuit. When the flag drops, the pursuit is on.

Even though a 292 hp V6 Charger Pursuit seems a mismatch against a 470 hp V8 Charger Super Bee, that has always been the case with police cars and some retail cars. The point is the 292 hp Charger is better able to keep the fox in sight than the old 250 hp CVPI. Of course, the 370 hp V8 Charger Pursuit always proves to be the real high-speed answer.

Speeds on the high-speed courses generally reach 90 mph. For example, the event at Chicagoland’s Autobahn Country Club was conducted on the North Circuit of the track. This is a nine-turn, 1.5-mile road course with a 1,240-foot straightaway, which is nearly ¼-mile.

To emphasize hard braking from high speeds, many straights (including that on the North Circuit) end with either a sharp, tight 90-degree turn, or even worse, a 180-degree U-turn. Of course, hard braking from 100 mph and making an aggressive U-turn is the very essence of traffic enforcement.

Evasive lane changes and accident avoidance drills, high-seed controlled braking, low-speed brake and turn, and the serpentine (slalom) to test left-right-left transition steering and weight transfer are all part of the high-speed course. The immediate turn-in response and minimal body roll are obvious on both the V6 and V8 Chargers.


Precision Driving

The low-speed precision driving experience is a very tight cone course that emphasizes everything important in a crowded urban environment. The cone course requires the officer to back into tight spots. They must know precisely where the corners of the car are. Ever since 2011, the Charger has had excellent visibility out the back glass.

The outside rear-view mirrors show much more of both blind spots. This also demonstrates the triple gearshift charge from Drive to Reverse back to Drive. The new gear shift arc is immediately obvious. It is much more ergonomic.

The tight cone course also challenges the forward and side visibility, much like maneuvering down a tight alley or side street with haphazardly parked cars. Again, the emphasis is the street-wise visibility from the driver’s seat of the Charger.


Special Service Vehicles

Most of the Ride & Drives include the RAM 1500 SSV and the Durango SSV. Chrysler wants your feedback on this truck and SUV. Should the RAM or Durango be upgraded from special service package to pursuit-rated police package? One of them? Both of them? Which one first? Is the special service package good enough for your use? Tell your regional sales manager. Or e-mail us and we will pass on the word.

The RAM 1500 Special Service is a Crew Cab 4x4 powered by the 395 hp 5.7L HEMI V8 and 6-speed trans. It has a 220-amp alternator, certified speedometer, power seats with center seat deleteable, column shifter and available RamBox® lockable cargo management system.

The Durango Special Service is available with either the 3.6L Pentastar V6 or 5.7L HEMI V8 and as either a RWD or 4x4. Both engines use an 8-speed trans. The Durango also has a 220-amp alternator and police-spec engine cooling. Rear HVAC is standard.

The RAM and Durango cone courses are a bit more open, a bit higher speed than the tight precision driving course designed for the Charger. The idea is to get a feel for the driving dynamics when pushed hard. As the fleet managers experienced, the RAM and the Durango can be very aggressively driven. Both are easy to drive hard.


Mopar Crown Upfit

The final phase of the Ride & Drive is an introduction to the complete “factory-authorized” upfitting from Crown North America. Crown installs a variety of Mopar-brand upfit components from a plug-n-play wiring harness to a completely finished (except radio) patrol car. These are some of the most respected names in law enforcement: Mopar by Setina, Mopar by Whelen and Mopar by Havis. As a part of the Mopar parts line, these all carry the factory warranty and are dealer-serviceable.

Crown offers six basic packages, and dozens of individual components, to start or finish the upfit. The Basic-Police Package has front and rear wiring harness, a power distribution center, trunk tray and cooling fan and siren speaker and bracket. Of the five Patrol or Patrol Slick Top Packages, the most complete is Patrol Package Three. In addition to the Base Police Package are floor console, front and rear corner LED lights, and push bumper. Exterior lightbars, interior dash, headliner and deck lights, grille lights and B-pillar lights are also available.

The introduction of the 2006 Charger Pursuit and the 2011 NextGen Charger Pursuit have kept the regional Ride & Drives a valuable educational tool. And next year? The introduction of All-Wheel Drive on the 5.7L Charger Pursuit. Watch for it in 2014.


Published in Police Fleet Manager, Nov/Dec 2013

Rating : Not Yet Rated

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Ride and Drive Durango

Posted on : Feb 4 at 1:54 PM By Chris Fine, KHPD

Customer Comment on Durango(s). I am a 30 year veteran Police Officer and EOV instructor with Indiana . We are a small rural department in north central Indiana.

Our Department now has two Dodge Durangos. A 2008, 4.7 V-8 with close to 100,000 miles and a 2013 3.6 V-6 with about 20,000.

The 2008 has been amazing. I have only to replace the rear pads and rotors, one battery and tires the entire time we've owned the truck. (and it is a truck) The overall performance is very good and the second gen. 4.7 revs well. The BEST police vehicle I've ever had for usability and cost wise!

The 2013 is very different.. it is a car. As such, you may have made it to "civilian" and not as police user friendly. The ' 13 has very good performance and GREAT MPG, but has some things that would be low cost simple to change. First is the mag wheels.. uh .. has anyone there tried to wash this car?? IF you are going to use mags, make them a simpler design! Second, The front valance lip is to low and we've smashed ours on deep snow. I think when I fix it, I'll leave the lip off. Next is the chrome moulding down the lower side. Please remove this, as whey you exit the car, you rub your pants on this chrome! Yuck. The '08 was a straight step down. Finally, I'm sure you've been told this before... Column shifter Please... Like the '08. Thanks, and I'll keep buying !

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