A Police car that was built to be cool: Dodge Charger By Michelle Wingard Published: May 3, 2006 NewAgeMuscleCars.com - In all of my 28 years, the phrase "police car" has always conjured up images of Ford Crown Victorias and Chevrolet Caprice Classics. I’m certain I'm not alone when I say that those cars are by no means edgy.......they are built for purpose and have always been associated with the term "land yacht". For all of my driving years, I've feared the oncoming headlights, as my paradigm tells me that I should associate the familiar shape with that of an approaching officer of the law. No matter how you slice it, a police car is a police car. Or so I thought, until I encountered the newest addition to the Amherst Police Department. Amherst, Ohio is a smaller town, with a population of around 14,000 folks. For as long as I can remember, the men in blue have always depended on the Crown Victoria police interceptors. While some departments have used Mustang GTs and Camaro Z28s, my hometown never experimented with either of those vehicles. When they received a new Dodge Charger, it was like a secret dream come true for me. Amherst has a cool patrol car at long last! According to information I gathered prior to the interview, the Charger police cars are receiving rave reviews from departments across the country. This comes as no surprise to James Kenyon, RWD product communications for Daimler-Chrysler. Kenyon states that he has received a great deal of positive feedback on the Chargers, and that the success was something DCX had anticipated. Further, he feels the Charger is definitely living up to the reputation it earned during the muscle car era, with the new Charger featuring superior performance, ride comfort, and a wide array of creature comforts that were unavailable in the predecessor. To the delight of police departments everywhere, James Kenyon assures that the Charger police program will continue on well into the future. So on a recent brisk day, I visited the APD to gather as many details as I could on this car. The first person I spoke with was Captain Dennis Seger. Capt. Seger was my initial contact, and he promised to have the Charger spotless and ready for pictures. As it turns out, this patrol car is driven by two Sergeants, making this day the very first time the Captain got behind the wheel of this car. Seger is beyond pleased with the newest member of the Amherst fleet. In his 20-plus years with the force, he has been driving the mainstay Crown Victorias. He literally beamed with glee as he talked about how responsive and sharp the new Charger is. Once the photo op was complete, he invited me to see for myself. I was really impressed with the layout of the interior. Even having all of the law enforcement necessities, the Charger had ample room and the seats were very comfortable. Once I buckled up, we were on our way. Captain Seger chose to demonsrate the Charger’s capabilities on a nearby highway. He nailed the gas on an on ramp, flashing a broad smile as the car accelerated at an unbelievable pace.. I felt pretty bad for the poor soul in the red Ford Focus who was in front of us, in the same lane. As he slowly merged to the right lane, I can only imagine the fear he felt as he saw this machine fly up in his rear view mirror. Seger demonstrated the tightness of the handling, and the outstanding agility of the Charger. I was surprised to find that the ride of the Charger seemed so perfectly tuned........not too harsh, but definitely not mushy or lofty. It was the perfect balance of sport and comfort. When we returned to the station, I met up with Chief Lonnie Dillon. As the Chief detailed what a great addition the Charger is to the existing fleet, he seemed so stoked. He loved the styling, and was very pleased with the way the graphics were applied to match up with the sleek bodylines of the Charger. He stated that everyone in the department is in love with the new car, and that overall, it’s a nice change from the cruisers they’ve become accustomed to. After wrapping up with Chief Dillon, I was introduced to one of the Sergeants who depends on this vehicle for daily duty. Sgt. Brian Brancatelli, like his colleagues, has a love affair with the Charger. When I asked him if I could start firing off questions about the specifics, he was eager to answer every query I threw his way. My first question was in regards to performance. “The car has performed well”, he stated. “In this line of work, with the abuse the cars must withstand, performance is a big concern and the cars have to be able to handle that. So far, this car has passed that test with flying colors”. Next, I was eager to find out how the Dodge Charger compares to the Crown Victoria. Brancatelli countered, “It doesn’t. One is a large family sedan, the other is a muscle car. The differences are night and day”. I was expecting an answer along those lines, however when Brancatelli started comparing horsepower figures between the Crown Vic PI and the Charger, I knew we were on the same wavelength. With that in mind, Brancatelli states he can see the Amherst Police Department adding more Chargers to the fleet. He states that this car commands attention no matter where he goes, with folks rubbernecking just to get a better look at something far away from the norm. “I see people doing that, and I just hope that they stop staring so they don’t cause an accident”, he laughed. At this point, I found myself wondering how well a Charger could handle police duty. Brancatelli told me that he feels the vehicle is “perfectly suited” to this line of work. “The Charger is very different. Some things took some getting used to, like where the blind spots are, but after just two weeks, I feel that I’m used to the vehicle, and I’m comfortable with it”, Brancatelli said. When I asked the Sergeant if he found the long hours in the Charger as comfortable as the Crown Victoria, he stated that the Charger is very spacious, and he finds it to be a very comfortable ride, even with the tighter suspension. Those elements are very important for someone who is patrolling the roads for 8-10 hours at a time, and I was enlightened to find that the Charger is measuring up. Generally speaking, when one asks “What would you change on your vehicle if you had the chance”, they’ll roll out a list longer than the wheelbase. Not Brancatelli. His one and only concern lies within the responsiveness of the transmission. “At times, when I’m in a hurry to back up and turn around for whatever reason, the transmission has a short pause when I change from gear to gear. That’s the only thing I would change”, Brancatelli states. At that point, he invites me out for a “westbound ride” so as he can demonstrate the full potential of this beast. We entered the same highway Captain Seger chose, only this time with a change in direction. The Charger was surprisingly docile under normal driving conditions, with the engine and exhaust sounds barely audible at that point. I was astonished by the accelerating ability displayed when merging into traffic. The power was unbelievable and even surprising, as I never expected such responsiveness from anything with four doors. The prowess displayed by the rebirth of the Charger was more than enough to convince me that the new model is every bit as muscular as the historical model. The car certainly lives up to its legacy. As we ventured back to the station, I savored my last few minutes in the car, checking out every angle of the interior, the many bells and whistles, and the plethora of electronics the police officers use to keep our highways safe. That’s when it happened............a maroon colored Ford Escape approached us at a high rate of speed. Before I was even aware of what was happening, Brancatelli hit the brakes, and turned into the nearest driveway. As he thrust the car into reverse, a short pause was noted as he tried to get the Charger back into drive. “You see, that’s the delay I’m talking about”, the Sergeant said. As The Sergeant unleashed the 340 horses contained within the nearly 6 liter mill, I pressed my feet into the floorboard, realizing the Charger caught up to the Escape nearly as fast as I could blink my eyes. While the Sergeant tended to the police business, I stayed in the Charger and continued to evaluate the gadgetry, still amazed at how much room remained. The driver of the Escape stated that we could use his driveway as a turn-around rather than trying to back out into heavy traffic. As the Charger made its way up the steep driveway, the Escape driver watched us and flashed a thumbs up, giving us his approval. He shouted “Looks good”, which prompted Sergeant Brancatelli to exchange a grin only found in a spirited car enthusiast or a proud papa. As my time with the Charger, the Sergeant, and the remainder of the Amherst Police Department drew to a close, I nearly had to force myself from the car. I was instantly hooked on the power and the menacing stance of what I feel is a very well rounded package. Upon my exit, Brancatelli invited me back to evaluate the car in three months, six months, nine months, and one year. Needless to say, I happily accepted, and look forward to discovering how the Dodge withstands the abuse in the line of duty. I’d like to thank Chief Lonnie Dillon, Captain Dennis Seger, Sergeant Brian Brancatelli, and the entire Amherst Police Department for offering me the opportunity to get up close and personal with their first performance-oriented cruiser, as well as an experience I’ll not soon forget. In closing, a word of advice. If you’re thinking about speeding through Amherst, please reconsider. If you’re pondering committing any other traffic offenses, you’ll likely need to re-examine. Because in the town of Amherst, if you mess with this ram, you’re likely to get the horns.