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Test Drive: 2012 Chevrolet Caprice PPV Detective Package

If you work in law enforcement and are looking to create a kindler, gentler image for your agency, Chevy’s got just the ticket.

The Caprice Police Patrol Vehicle is General Motors’ new top cop. Aimed at departments in need of something a little more substantial than an Impala, the big rear-wheel-drive sedan is the long wheelbase version of a car from GM’s Australian division, Holden, that goes by the suitably authoritative name of Commodore.

If that seems foreign to you, think of it as a stretched version of the late and lamented Pontiac G8 sports sedan, which is exactly what it is. As such, the Caprice is simply enormous, by far the largest car that GM currently sells in the United States.

In a pinch its jumbo trunk could pull double duty as a Paddy Wagon, but that won’t be necessary as the rear seat offers the accused more room than a Mercedes S-Class can. Catherine Tramell would have no problem crossing her legs back there.

Available with either a 301 hp 3.6-liter V6 or a no cost option flex-fuel 355 6.0-liter V8, the Caprice is a pursuit-rated cruiser designed with high-speed driving in mind. Along with typical upgrades like a high-output alternator and heavy-duty coolers for the engine oil, transmission and power steering, the stability control system and anti-lock-brakes have been calibrated to deliver quick and safe response times, while the six-speed automatic has a performance mode in case The Bandit comes to town and you need to turn things up to 11.

I recently spent a night in a black Caprice PPV Detective Package model cruising mean streets of New York City, the arguably meaner New Jersey Turnpike and the entirely fun drag strip at Raceway Park -- the last to see for myself how it might fare against some atypically quick getaway cars.

Cop shocks aren’t known for providing an especially plush ride, but you could spend all day in the Caprice on pothole patrol and not have to worry about busting the Preparation H budget. Some credit goes to the cushy bucket seats, which manage to be supportive despite having a deep cutout in the lumbar region to accommodate a utility belt. The CD-equipped stereo isn’t a half-bad partner to have on a double shift, either.

On a slippery, hot summer evening track, the Caprice ran a couple of 14.5 sec. quarter miles without any fancy footwork on my part. Just floor it and hang on as you radio your 20 to HQ. It’s a little slow off the line, as was the G8 when powered by the same engine, but the momentum builds quickly once you’re underway. Unfortunately, most of the modified cars that show up for test and tune nights run 13s or better, so here’s hoping that their owners are the upstanding members of society they appear to be.

The Caprice is more at home on the highway, where it cruises down lanes without a hint of drift and responds nicely to a punch of the throttle as it takes off toward its terminal velocity of 154 mph. On exit ramps, it’s not quite the precision instrument that the G8 was, but handles predictably and does as good of a job as one can expect from a 17-foot long car riding on tiptoe-tall, 8-inch wide rubber donuts.

Compared the Robocop-like moves of the all-wheel-drive, twin-turbocharged V6-powered Ford Police Interceptor, the Caprice has a decidedly old school feel. Officers one month away from retirement, or otherwise used to the dynamics of a well-seasoned Crown Vic will find it more familiar than that Taurus-based competition.

Test Drive: Ford Police Interceptor and Interceptor Utility

As for the rest of us, it’ll be a while before any of the above matters. Chevy isn’t selling the Caprice to the general public, so we’ll have to wait until they start coming out of service and go to auction before we can get our hands on them. Not that we’d really want to at that point.

In the meantime, the next time you see one of these in your rearview mirror, rest easy. You still may be in big trouble, but at least the ride to the station won’t be brutal.

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2012 Chevrolet Caprice PPV Detective Package

Base Price: $31,745

As Tested: $32,305

Type: 5-passenger, 4-door sedan

Engine: 6.0-liter V8

Power: 355 hp, 384 lb-ft torque

Transmission: 6-speed automatic

MPG: 15 city/24 hwy