10 Police Cars That Aren't Legal In The U.S. (And 10 That Are Just Bad)

Many police interceptors are two-door muscle cars but many departments now are looking for smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles.

The job of a large to average metropolitan police department is never-ending. Responding to various calls and catching evasive criminals puts a huge demand on the types of vehicles used to catch these lawbreakers. A police car must meet U.S. regulations such as driver and passenger airbags, fuel requirements, ride heights, crash bumpers and MPG for fleet vehicles changed from 30 to 35 MPG.

Police cars generally are used for many different jobs. There are regular marked and unmarked patrol vehicles, detective cars, transport vehicles, tactical vehicles and pursuit units (Interceptors).

In the U.S. most police patrol cars are domestic sedans and some lack fully independent suspensions. There are usually an even mixture of front wheel drive, rear wheel drive police cruisers and now all wheel drive police cruisers. Mostly these vehicles transport one or two officers and have a cage in the back to carry one or more criminals to jail or a holding facility.

Many police interceptors are two-door muscle cars but many departments now are looking for smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles that can maneuver through congested areas and have the power of a larger police vehicle. These interceptors need to be able to carry equipment such as radios, laptop mounts, lights, stop sticks and a long gun such as a shotgun or a patrol rifle.

Detective units are usually just unmarked and different color patrol vehicles. They don’t require much speed or special abilities and they need to blend in with the rest of the vehicles on the road.

20 Toyota Crown (Emissions and right hand drive)


The Toyota Crown police car is a primarily used in Japan as a patrol vehicle but also in many European countries and is comparable to the now defunct Ford Crown Victoria here in the United States.

According to Topgear.com, the Toyota Crown comes equipped with a 3.5L V6 (345 HP), 2.5L V6 engine (181 HP) and 2.0 inline 4 turbo (181 HP).

The Lexus LS and GS models are the American versions of the Toyota Crown and the Toyota Chaser (Lexus ES). The Toyota Crown is a roomy and powerful vehicle. Since Japan does not have MP5s or assault rifles in their vehicles. The Toyota Crown pictured above has Russian Samara Police livery.

19 BMW 5 Series (Right hand drive, MPG, and Emissions)


The BMW 5 series is BMW’s flagship and has helped the company through tough times. The 4 door sedan has near 50/50 weight distribution. The 530d is the 5 series model used for police work in the UK and in Germany. The BMW M5 Police car is in Germany with green and silver Polizei livery. According to MotorAuthority.com, the M5 sedan has a 4.4 liter V 8 and has 560 HP, 0-60 in 4.4 seconds and a top speed of 190 MPH. Maybe having the local Bail Bondsman on speed dial isn’t such a bad idea.

18 Lotus Carlton (Right hand drive, MPG, and emissions)


The Lotus Carlton A.K.A Vauxhall Lotus Carlton/Lotus Omega/Opel Lotus Omega needs no introduction. According to Evo.co.uk, The Lotus Carlton began production in 1990.

The Carlton had a 6 speed transmission sourced from the first gen ZR1.

The mil was a 24 valve inline 6 displacing 3.0 liters to 3.6 liters while also sporting a pair of Garrett T25 turbos which produced 377 hp and 419 lb. ft. of torque. The 1990s shoebox rocketed from 0-60 in 4.8 seconds with a top speed of 177 MPH. The Carlton had a multi-link suspension which made the vehicle handle exceptionally well.

17 Nissan R34 Skyline (Emissions, RHD, and MPG)

According to Road and Track magazine, the Nissan R34 police car was spotted conducting highway patrol on the expressway in Japan. The 276 HP 2.6 liter twin turbo inline 6 with an advanced all-wheel drive system and a 6 speed manual transmission.

The Nissan Skyline is not your average police interceptor. The engine was capped at 276-280 HP due to a gentleman’s agreement to keep down on speed-related crashes but there is no way to contain all of this madness.

At this time, the skyline was not U.S. compliant and the radios operated on a different frequency and also the driver is on the right-hand side.

16 Audi RS4 Avant (Emissions, MPG, and RHD)


The Audi RS4 Avant is an Uber wagon that the United States will not see in this form. Car and Driver praises its “relentless acceleration and lofty top speed”. The front engine all-wheel-drive 5 door hatchback is powered by a twin-turbocharged DOHC 24 Valve V6. Power numbers for the Avant are 444 HP with 443 lb. ft. torque mated with an 8 speed automatic with manual shifting mode. Performance is very impressive, 0-60 at 4.0 seconds and a top speed of 174 mph (Unrestricted). The project with Audi and Porsche produces a wagon that hands you your own behind with plenty of space to actually carry it as well.

15 2000 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution (Emissions and MPG)

via auto power girls

The London Metropolitan Police has a wide selection of police cars and very fast interceptors and the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution is no exception. With a proven rally track record, the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution according to Car and Driver, has models with horsepower ratings from 291 – 303 HP.

The engine is a turbocharged 16 valve inline 4 cylinder mated to a 5 speed manual.

This Japanese made screamer is no slouch with 0-60 at 4.4 seconds and a top speed of 146 MPH (redline limited). A top speed of 146 mph will catch or hang with most vehicles on the road. The lower top speed was a result of a high gear ratio of 4.53 which allows blistering acceleration.

14 Porsche 911 (993) Polizei (Emissions, MPG, and height)


The Porsche 911 (993) was the last of the air-cooled engines. Also, the 993 was the first Porsche to receive a 6 speed transmission. Topspeed.com claims the 3.6 liter horizontally opposed 6 cylinder engine produces 272 HP and a 0-60 time of 5.4 seconds. With a curb weight around 2,976 lbs. in your rearview mirror, you will be giving your autograph to the officer and the ticket will not be to your favorite band. The Porsche 911 can be hustled through the corners by a skilled driver or part of the scenery by a novice but no matter your skill level, you will look good doing it.

13 Peugeot 406 (Emissions and MPG)


The Peugeot 406 has sharp European styling from Pininfarina and with the 3.0 V6 mated with a 5 speed manual or 4 speed automatic transmission. Auto Evolution claims the 3.0 V6 mated to the automatic transmission produces 210 HP while the same engine mated to the 5 speed manual produces 194 HP.

The popular versions were the diesel models which were fitted with a 1.9 liter turbo diesel.

With a curb weight of 3,197 lbs (Automatic transmission) and 3,152 (5 Speed manual). 0-60 times for the Auto is 9.6 seconds while the less powerful 5 speed does it in 8.2 seconds.

12 Range Rover p38 (Emissions, and MPG)

via flickr

The Range Rover P38 European model has either cloth or leather seats, a manual transmission or automatic and is right hand drive. The Range Rover has been used for the Royal Elite Protection Squad and tactical response with the London Metropolitan Police. According to Auto-data.net, the Range Rover P38 is huge weighing in at 2,220 kg, which is 4894 lbs. The engine options are as follows: 4.6 (224 hp HSE), 4.6 (218 hp), 4.0 (185 hp), 3.9 (190 hp) and a 2.5 diesel (135 hp). No matter the terrain or conditions, the driver can press a button to raise or lower the suspension and game on.

11 Holden SS Commodore (Emissions, and MPG)


The Holden has a menacing appearance and has the power to back it up. Topspeed.com, the Commodore SS police car is equipped with a 6.2 liter V8 with 362 Horse power and 391 ft. lbs. of torque.

The vehicle weighs over 4,000 lbs. and is perfect for pit maneuvers for those criminals that don’t want to stop.

There are many different V8 engine options and they all produce well over 300 hp, mated with a six speed manual or a six speed automatic transmission. The Commodore SS is large enough to accommodate two officers, a criminal in the back, traffic radar equipment, stop sticks and radio equipment while doing triple digits in comfort.

10 Smart ForTwo


I will start off by saying, it’s difficult to respect the law when they are driving in a car that looks like it was made by Fisher Price. The smart car is an excellent way of getting around a large and very congested metropolitan area.

According to Car and Driver, the Smart Car ForTwo has a 0.9 liter engine rated at 89 hp and has 100 lbs of torque with a 5 speed transmission.

0-60 is around 10.2 seconds but on the plus side, if you get the JBL sound system you can listen to good music while everyone passes. At least there are no rollover stories.

9 Suzuki Grand Vitara


The Suzuki Grand Vitara 2009 is an SUV that is great at emulating a small 4 door sedan. According to Motortrend.com, there are two engine options, a 2.4 liter four cylinder engine which produces 166 hp and a 3.2 liter V-6 (230 hp) mated to a 5 speed manual transmission or a 4 speed automatic. Motortrend.com also says the body is chunky and plain but in police livery, looks do not matter, a police car has to perform police duties. The Suzuki Grand Vitara Police vehicle needs a little help from other police vehicles. The Grand Vitara would be an excellent vehicle for a college student to haul ramen noodles and laundry to and from home.

8 Daewoo Lanos


The now Defunct Daewoo Motors November 1, 2008 produced the Daewoo Lanos and Kraków, Poland used a few of these vehicles for police cars. The Daewoo Lanos was a 1.6 liter 4 cylinder with a 107 HP and weighing in at about 2,500 lbs. according to CarFolio.com.

Daewoo did not have a reputation for reliability but due to financial crisis, the company closed its doors.

With proper funding, the Daewoo automotive company could have been great but Daewoo makes excellent busses and lots of them. Maybe there will be a Daewoo mobile command bus or SWAT van in the future?

7 Renault 21

via Police municipale de Villeurbanne

The Renault 21 did not get many good reviews due to reliability issues but many of these cars were sold all over Europe. Autoevolution.com has all of the engine stats ranging from a 1.8 to a 2.0 turbo 4 cylinder, these vehicles were decent on fuel and 175 hp back in the 80s was comparable. Also, two diesel engines were offered at 2.1 liters and horsepower numbers ranging from 67 – 89 HP. Most of the weight was in the front of the vehicle and handling was at best mediocre with models equipped with larger engines due to the increased mass. With more attention to quality, this vehicle could have been a good platform for a police vehicle. The Renault 21 was sold in the U.S. as an Eagle Medallion but only in 2.2L 4 cylinder, licensed through Chrysler, Eagle, American Motors Corporation.

6 Skoda Felicia


The Skoda Company was founded in 1895 in the former Czechoslovakia now known as the Czech Republic. Anyways, the vehicle produced there is known as the Skoda Felicia. With engines sourced from Volkswagen AG and according to Autodata.net, engines range from 1.3 liter (68 HP), 1.6 liter (75 HP) and a 1.9 liter diesel engine (64 HP). We will not talk about dragstrip numbers because quarter mile times are about the same time it takes to watch a commercial on television. The Skoda is a re-bodied Volkswagen polo and for many metropolitan police departments on a budget, this is the ideal patrol vehicle.

5 Hindustan Ambassador

Melbourne Walks

Based on the Morris Oxford III, this small yet very sturdy vehicle began production in India in 1958 but a company called Hindustan. Car and Driver claims there are four Isuzu engines available: A 1.8 which makes 71 hp, a diesel 2.0 at 50 hp and a 1.5 diesel at 36 hp. The officer driving this vehicle will not expect it to corner like a sports car but with its tough steel suspension parts, it can handle rough roads with ease. The only terrible thing is that this vehicle will not die so an officer will be waiting a long time before getting another one.

4 BMW Isetta 300

via Polizeioldtimer.de

The BMW Isetta, yes, that’s what Isetta. Many remember the BMW Isetta as Steve Urkel’s car from the television sitcom “Family Matters” but the BMW Isetta according to the Micromuseum.com, is a factory built police car.

This means there was a separate factory or part of a factory to produce BMW Isetta police cars in regulation green.

The vehicle features a blue flashing light and a radio with a telephone style receiver/microphone. The Isetta had a single cylinder 295 cc, 13 hp engine mated to a 4 speed gearbox. The total weight was 700lbs. The Isetta is small like the smart car but the classic styling makes it appear to be less mousey.

3 Lada AvtoVaz 2106

Wiki Commons

The Vaz 2106 also called the Sestyorka pronounced (Sest-york- ah) (The sixth generation), was based on the Fiat 124 sedan. Lada (pronounced Lad-yah) is a seemingly solid build vehicle with rudimentary mechanics such as rear drum brakes and old school distributors and point style ignition.

According to Auto-Data.net, the Vaz 2106 has a 1.6 liter (75 hp), carbureted 4 cylinder engine.

0-60 times are about 17.5 secs mated with a 4 speed manual transmission. This solid steel box that will get an officer from one patrol point to another and the more luxurious models were more like the Cadillac of the Eastern Bloc. Na zdorovye!

2 Mazda RX8

Wiki Commons

The Mazda Rx8 is a continuation of the Mazda Rx7 minus the turbo and quite a few modifications to produce a rotary engine that produces the same as a stock Wankel rotary engine in theory. According to Car and Driver, the Twin rotor Renesis engine produces 207-247 hp depending on the year and trim. The weight varies from 3000 lbs – 3050 lbs. 0-60 is a respectable 6.3 seconds and the RX8 has a top speed of 150 mph. The fault with the RX8 happens to be with emissions. The Renesis motor has a cooler than normal exhaust temperature which does not allow the catalytic converter the reach optimum temperature. Catalytic converters rely on stoichiometric combustion air/fuel ratio.

1 Carbon Motors E7


The Carbon Motors E7 looks like Robocop’s police car, if he was going to church on Sunday in a re-bodied Acura TL/Chrysler 300 and he was your aunt Mildred. The good part about this police cruiser is the inline six diesel engine and six speed automatic transmission. 0-60 time according to Carbon Motor’s website is 6.5 seconds and with top speed of 155 MPH. Since maintenance requires a 10,000 square foot building and six service technicians, this vehicle does not appear to be cost-effective for law enforcement use unless a department purchases one for a community service program. This car conforms to U.S. Emissions but the Environmental Protection Agency rules require small fleet vehicles to produce 35 mpg rather than the previous 30 mpg.

Sources: Caranddriver.com, auto-data.net, autoevolution.com

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