Yes, It Has a Hemi

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The next time you’re toying with the idea of a high-speed police chase, you might want to think again.

The Idaho State Police unveiled the department’s newest toys, 33 2007 Dodge Chargers, which will be hitting the highways starting today.

Going from zero to 60 mph in just more than six seconds, and zero to 100 in 15 seconds, it’s almost a safe bet that you’re not going to outrun a cop behind the wheel of one these shiny, black muscle cars.

The new acquisitions will replace about a third of the agency’s aging fleet of Ford Crown Victorias, and are being issued to troopers across the state. While Sgt. John Burke told assembled media on Thursday that the Chargers were selected because Dodge outbid Ford for the sale, the unabashed smiles across the faces of the assembled officers pointed to the fact that the coolness factor hadn’t been forgotten.

“It never hurts,” said Rick Ohnsman, ISP public information officer, when asked about the eye-candy factor. “They turn a lot of heads.”

The sleek new cars cost the agency $22,500 each, $300 less than the price quoted for new Crown Victorias. And what is lost in trunk space is made up for with more horse-power (350 vs. 250), 390 pound-feet of torque and a 5.7 liter hemi engine with a multi-displacement system.

This is a fancy car-talk way of saying the car is designed to run on four cylinders for average driving, then jump up to eight cylinders when extra power is needed. This way the cars are more fuel-efficient, averaging between 14 and 19 miles per gallon.

As the lucky first eight troopers to be issued the cars took turns racing through the driving-training course at ISP headquarters in Meridian, it was clear they were having fun. Trooper Seth Uhlenkott even offered to take a certain BW reporter for a spin around the track. I admit, the tire-squealing, drifting-around-corners experience was enough to make this SUV owner contemplate the need for a muscle car.

Of course, the new Chargers aren’t all engines. The cruisers come with a new dashboard camera system that uses a DVD recorder in the unit, rather than a VHS tape recorder in a separate vault in the trunk, as in older cars. They new systems also record, non-stop, what happens both in front of, and inside the car. Additionally, the lightbar features LED lights, rather than the traditional rotating lights.

Burke said the agency hopes the more powerful engine will limit the distance of high-speed chases, since less time will be spent getting up to speed. Besides, the simple appearance of the new Chargers might be enough of a deterrent.

“If someone looks at the car and says ‘I don’t think so,’ that’s a good thing,” Ohnsman said.