The San Diego County Sheriff's Department is testing out three new patrol vehicles to replace the Ford Crown Victoria police squad car.
Last week, one prototype — a Dodge Charger — could be seen driving around Encinitas. The department has three Chargers patrolling.
There are two other models being tested in the county, with a decision to be made by next spring. Two Chevy Caprices are on the road, as well as two Ford Interceptor Utility Vehicles — a Ford Explorer–type vehicle.
With the life of an average patrol vehicle being around four years, the sheriff's vehicle coordinator, deputy Kevin Dalton, said the department will be purchasing about 100 new patrol cars next fiscal year.
The department will choose one from among the three as its standard patrol vehicle. Having one type of vehicle in the sheriff's fleet saves the department money with standardized training and cost of repairs.
“If it were on looks alone, the Charger would win, hands down,” said Dalton. “It looks and sounds mean.” But the department is researching the interior room and comfortability, blind spots, reliability, and repair costs.
The future changeover was brought about because Ford Motor Company ceased manufacturing the standard police cruiser — the Crown Vic; 2011 was the last model year. Even with a built-in market to police agencies across the country, the vehicle’s low gas mileage brought down the Ford product line's average fleet gas mileage. The Environmental Protection Agency has mandated that auto manufacturers gradually raise their average gas mileage.