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.
This year, the MSP tested 12 different police package sedans
and three different police package SUV/crossovers. Many of these were the same
vehicle with a different engine. In a few cases, only the rear axle was
different. The big news was the Dodge Charger Pursuit with new All-Wheel Drive and
new oversize brakes. Just as interesting was the Ford Police Interceptor
Utility with the new 3.5L EcoBoost twin turbo V6.
The MSP did not test any special-service package (not
intended for pursuit) vehicles like the 4x4 Tahoe, Durango, 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.
Performance-wise, this year was a four-way tie between some
very different sedans: the new Dodge Charger 5.7L HEMI® V8 All-Wheel Drive, the
Chevrolet Caprice 6.0L V8 Rear-Wheel Drive, the Ford Police Interceptor Sedan
3.5L EcoBoost V6 All-Wheel Drive, and the Charger 5.7L HEMI Rear-Wheel Drive.
The acceleration, top speed, braking and race course lap
times were extremely close for all these sedans. On the road course, just one
second separated the entire group. One Mississippi.
Likewise for the group of V6 (or non-turbo) versions of these same sedans. So
very close. A dead heat. A virtual tie. That said, the Ford PI Utility with the
new 3.5L EcoBoost V6 was a stand-alone performer among SUV/crossovers.
2014 Police Vehicles
From Chevrolet, the police package vehicles included the
Caprice PPV powered by the 355 hp 6.0L V8 and 301 hp 3.6L V6, the Impala 9C1
powered by the same 302 hp 3.6L V6 and the 2WD Tahoe PPV with the 320 hp 5.3L
The vehicles submitted by Dodge were more diverse. The
police package sedans included the Charger Pursuit powered by the 370 hp 5.7L HEMI
V8 and the 292 hp 3.6L Pentastar V6. However, Dodge also submitted three 2014 ½
model year Chargers. Two of these 2014 ½ Chargers used the same powertrain as
the 2014 versions, but the sedans were fitted with the mid-year release Big
Brake package. (More on the standard for mid-2014 Big Brakes in the Sidebar.)
The other 2014 ½ Charger was a 5.7L V8 in All-Wheel Drive, again with the Big
From Ford, the police package vehicles included four variations
on the Police Interceptor Sedan: 288 hp 3.5L V6 in FWD-only, 305 hp 3.7L V6 in AWD-only,
365 hp 3.5L V6 EcoBoost in AWD-only and the 3.5L EcoBoost versions with
mid-2014 brake pads. Two versions of the Police Interceptor Utility were tested,
the 304 hp 3.7L V6 in AWD-only and the new, 365 hp 3.5L EcoBoost V6 in AWD-only.
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 again this year was the Ford
PI Sedan with the 3.5L EcoBoost V6. (It is the time to reach 100 mph that is
scored.) The twin-turbo Ford PI Sedan was about a ¾-second faster to 100 mph
than the closely grouped pack of Caprice 6.0L V8, Charger 5.7L V8 3.06 axle AWD,
and 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 Caprice 3.6L V6, Ford PI Sedan
3.7L V6, Charger 3.6L V6, Impala 3.6L V6 and Ford PI Sedan 3.5L V6. Among the
SUVs/crossovers, the twin-turbo Ford PI Utility was more than five seconds
faster to 100 mph than the virtually tied PI Utility 3.7L V6 and Tahoe 5.3L V8.
The EcoBoost twin-turbo PI Utility was just one second off the group of 350 (+)
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
155 mph. The Charger 5.7L in both axle ratios and drivetrains, and the Ford PI
Sedan EcoBoost all ran at least 148 mph. Most of the lower-powered V6 sedans
topped out between 130 and 140 mph, except the Impala 3.6L V6 and Caprice 3.6L
V6 which reached 148 to 149 mph. The SUVs/crossovers ran in the 130 mph
bracket, led by the Tahoe at 139 mph.
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 any police sedan was from
the Dodge Charger 5.7L V8 with the new for mid-2014 Big Brake package. Most
sedans stopped from 60 mph in 126 to 129 feet; however, a few sedans stopped a
half car-length longer along with all the SUVs/crossovers. The new brake pads
planned for the Ford PI Sedan showed almost a 2-foot improvement.
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 Dodge Charger 5.7L V8 AWD. This new version of the Charger was closely
followed by the Caprice 6.0L V8, both versions of the Ford PI Sedan 3.5L EcoBoost
V6 and the other versions of the 5.7L V8 Charger. In a three-second cluster
behind these 350 (+) hp sedans were the 300 hp FWD, RWD and AWD sedans, with
the twin-turbo Ford PI Utility 3.5L EcoBoost V6 in the middle of that pack. The
Ford Utility PI 3.7L V6 was three seconds behind this group and two seconds
ahead of the Tahoe 5.3L V8 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 and even AWD, or into V6 and V8. The “winning” car may be the best-performing
V6 powered sedan, or the best-performing RWD sedan, or the best AWD 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
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.
With the overall results so similar, it won’t be performance
that will be the deciding factor among any of 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.
The MSP tests the police vehicles in the drivetrain mode
requested by each automaker. The Ford sedans and crossovers are run in the
default mode. That is the condition the vehicle is in at the beginning of each
key-ON cycle. The Dodge sedans are run with the Electronic Stability Program
(stability control) in partial-OFF mode. This must be manually selected by the
driver with each key-ON cycle. The Chevrolet sedans and SUVs are run in
performance mode (where equipped) in which the stability control and traction
control are partially OFF, and with the Caprice, with the transmission in Sport
mode. Both of these settings must be selected by the officer with each key-ON