"In heads-up performance, it is a dead heat."
The Michigan State Police conducts its annual patrol vehicle evaluations at two locations. The acceleration, top speed and braking phases are conducted at Chrysler’s Proving Grounds near Chelsea, Mich. The vehicle dynamics testing are performed on the 2.0-mile road course at Grattan Raceway near Grand Rapids, Mich.
Performance-wise, this year was a three-way tie between some very different sedans: the Dodge Charger 5.7L HEMI® V8, the Chevrolet Caprice 6.0L V8 and the Ford Police Interceptor Sedan 3.5L EcoBoost V6. The acceleration, top speed, braking and race course lap times were extremely close for all three of these sedans. Likewise for the group of V6 (or non-turbo) versions of these sedans. So very close. A dead heat. A virtual tie.
This year, the MSP tested 11 police package sedans, and two police package SUVs-crossovers. Some of these were the same sedan and engine but using a different axle ratio.
The MSP did not test any special service package (not intended for pursuit) vehicles like the 4x4 Tahoe, Expedition or Suburban, and they did not test any special service package pickups. This remains an emphasis that the special service package vehicles are not designed for, nor intended for, emergency or pursuit driving. Only the emergency-driving, pursuit-capable vehicles, identified as such by the respective carmakers, undergo MSP testing.
2013 Police Vehicles
From Chevrolet, the police package vehicles included the Caprice PPV powered by the 6.0L V8 and 3.6L V6, the Impala 9C1 powered by the same 3.6L V6, and the 2WD Tahoe PPV 5.3L V8.
From Dodge, the police package sedans included the Charger Pursuit powered by the 5.7L V8 with both 2.65 (standard) and 3.06 (optional) axles; and the Charger Pursuit powered by the 3.6L V6 with both 2.65 (standard) and 3.07 (optional) axles.
From Ford, the police package vehicles included variations on the Police Interceptor Sedan: 3.5L V6 in FWD, 3.5L V6 in AWD, and 3.5L V6 EcoBoost in AWD. The Police Interceptor Utility 3.7L V6 was tested in only in AWD, which is standard. The big news from Ford – introduced at the MSP testing – was the 300 hp 3.7L V6, which is now an option in the Police Interceptor Sedan. Borrowed from the Mustang, this is the same powerplant that is standard in the Police Interceptor Utility.
The acceleration is recorded in 10 mph increments from 20 mph to 100 mph. The score for the event, however, is based on the zero-to-100-mph times. The tests are conducted slicktop, with no spotlights and with two troopers on board.
The fastest accelerating sedan was the Ford PI Sedan with the 3.5L EcoBoost V6. The twin-turbo PI Sedan was about a ½-second faster to 100 mph than the closely grouped pack of Caprice 6.0L V8, Charger 5.7L V8 3.06 axle, Charger 5.7L V8 2.65 axle.
Leading the pack of the 300-ish hp V6 sedans, about five seconds behind the 350(+) hp sedans, were the Impala 3.6L V6 and Ford PI Sedan 3.7L V6. Of the SUVs-crossovers, about two seconds behind the V6 sedans, the Ford PI Utility 3.7L V6 and Tahoe 5.3L V8 were virtually tied.
For the record, all the vehicles tested, sedans and SUVs alike, were faster to 100 mph than the now-discontinued Ford CVPI.
The second MSP test is top speed. At the end of the last acceleration run, the MSP troopers continue to accelerate the car around the 4.7-mile oval until they hit the electronic top speed limiter or the vehicle obviously stopped accelerating. All police and special service vehicles are electronically speed limited for reasons that include tire speed ratings, but not all vehicles actually reach that preset, limited speed.
The Chevy Caprice 6.0L V8 turned in the highest top speed at 154 mph. The Charger 5.7L in both axle ratios, and the Ford PI Sedan EcoBoost all ran at least 149 mph. Most of the lower-powered V6 sedans ran in the 140 mph bracket, led by the Impala 3.6L V6 and Caprice 3.6L V6.
A side note on these top speed tests: The police department may not see the same top speeds from the in-service car as these cars achieve during testing. The fully upfitted patrol car weighs much more than these cars as tested. The addition of spotlights and lightbars adds aerodynamic drag, and so does the addition of a front push bumper.
In some cases, depending on the extra weight and aerodynamic load, the car may or may not shift into the gear producing the most top speed, or may select a certain gear, hit the engine rpm limiter, and shut off without upshifting. If your department has a specific top speed the vehicle must reach, put it in the bid spec.
The brake tests show braking performance as heat is steadily added to the braking system. The best 10 out of 12 stops from 60 mph are averaged for the final deceleration rate. This braking rate is converted to a projected stopping distance from 60 mph.
The best braking performance from a sedan was a virtual tie between the Ford PI Sedan 3.7L V6 and the Caprice 6.0L V8. The variations of Charger Pursuit were about a foot behind in braking from 100 mph. The Chevy Tahoe slightly outbraked the Ford PI Utility, but both were in the same range of stopping distances as the sedans.
The Grattan Raceway is a 2-mile, 13-turn, road-racing course with a 3,200-foot front straightaway. By the end of the straight, for example, the Charger 5.7L reaches 120 mph. The course also has a number of twists and off-camber turns. On some parts of the track, the cars get nearly airborne while on other sections of track the suspension almost completely bottoms out. Each car is driven eight laps by four different MSP troopers from the Precision Driving Unit. The fastest five laps are averaged for the final score.
The road course times are the best overall assessment of the police vehicle. The road course incorporates acceleration, braking and cornering all into one number. A shortcoming in any one area will show up in the lap times. The separate tests for acceleration and braking will simply identify the area that the road course times tell us exists somewhere.
On the road course, the fastest police package vehicle was the Ford PI Sedan 3.5L EcoBoost V6. Again, all the other 350(+) hp sedans from Chevy and Dodge were within a half-second of the twin-turbo PI Sedan. In a cluster right behind these 350 hp sedans were three 300 hp RWD sedans, the Charger V6 in 2.65 axle, the Charger V6 in 3.08 axle and the Caprice V6, and the Ford PI Sedan 3.7L V6 AWD. About two seconds behind these higher performance sedans were the FWD and the base model AWD sedans. The Ford Utility PI 3.7L was likewise two seconds faster than the Tahoe 5.3L around the road course.
Fleet managers divide police cars into so many categories, it is impossible to identify any one car as a “winner” based on the NIJ-funded MSP tests. Across the nation, fleet bid categories are subdivided into FWD and RWD, into V-6 and V-8, etc. The “winning” car, the car with the best overall performance may be the best V-6 powered sedan, or the best RWD sedan, or the best V-8 RWD sedan.
For their part, regardless of vehicle platform, the MSP is careful to point out that these tests (the minimums, the maximums and the category weights) are all designed for the way the MSP uses its highway patrol vehicles. Other departments will certainly use their vehicles in a different way, and this should put a different emphasis on the test results.
The MSP weighs the six test phases to suit the needs of a state police or highway patrol. The needs of city and county law enforcement agencies are probably very different. While subtle changes have taken place from time to time, the MSP typically weighs the tests as 30 percent for the road course, 20 percent for acceleration, 20 percent for braking, 15 percent for top speed, 10 percent for ergonomics and 5 percent for fuel economy. These numbers are plugged into a bid adjustment formula available at the NLECTC website.
Different weightings may be selected. For example, an urban department may want to emphasize fuel economy, ergonomics and braking while deemphasizing road course, acceleration and top speed. Since most bids are close, this change in weighting may point to a different “most bang for the buck” police vehicle.
It won’t be performance that will be a deciding factor among these patrol vehicles. All the 350 hp(+) V8 or V6 sedans perform the same. All the 300 hp-ish V6 sedans perform the same. Instead, the decisions will be based on front seat room, rear seat room, trunk-cargo space, fuel economy and bid price.
Photos courtesy of Larry Lee.