Los Angeles Sheriff Tests 2014 Police Vehicles

Each November, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department conducts performance and fuel economy tests on police package vehicles. The current LASD program dates back to 1974, when they took it over from the Los Angeles Police Department, which began testing police vehicles in 1956. The current testing program involves EVOC instructors from both agencies as test drivers.

The other major police vehicle testing program is conducted by the Michigan State Police. Both vehicle testing protocols are grueling. However, the operating environments of the two agencies are somewhat different. Being located in an urban environment, LASD places more emphasis on acceleration, handling, braking, and mechanical reliability. While maximum top speed is important to the MSP, this performance area is not attempted under LASD’s test protocol.     



Chevrolet submitted two versions of their RWD Chevrolet Caprice PPV. The standard engine, sourced from Camaro–Cadillac is 3.6L DOHC V6, which has Variable Valve Timing (VVT) and Spark Ignition Direct Injection (SIDI) developing 301 hp. The super-strong, Gen IV 6.0L V8, developing 355 hp, is available as a no-cost option.

The FWD Chevrolet Impala 9C1/9C3 is powered by essentially the same Camaro–Cadillac V6, with slightly higher compression, developing 302 hp and six-speed automatic. The handling and stopping was improved on the 2013 models, thanks to suspension upgrades, 17-inch wheels and tires, and larger front brakes. Also tested was the RWD Chevrolet Tahoe PPV, the industry’s only remaining body-on-frame police vehicle in production.



Dodge submitted three versions of their Charger sedan. Their base version is powered by their aluminum 3.6L Pentastar V6. The next step up is the legendary the 5.7L HEMI® V8, which develops 370 hp. Both of the tested versions are RWD and have 2.65 gears. The third was the All Wheel Drive version of the Charger scheduled as a mid-year release. The AWD version has 3.06 gears and is only available with the 5.7L V8. All of the Chargers are equipped with 5-speed overdrive automatics.



Ford submitted different versions of their Police Interceptor (PI) Sedan and PI Utility, both based on the same platform with shared drivetrain components. The base engine for the PI Sedan is a normally aspirated 3.5L V6 rated at 288 hp. The 3.7L V6, developing 305 hp is available as an option, as is the twin-turbocharged 3.5L EcoBoost V6, which develops 365 hp.

Both PI Sedans come with All-Wheel-Drive (AWD) standard. FWD is a delete option on the sedan with the base 3.5L engine. Ford states about 90 percent of their police customers purchased AWD vehicles. All of the PI vehicles come with 6-speed overdrive automatics.

For the 2014 model year, the twin-turbocharged EcoBoost engine is now available in the PI Utility, an option long awaited by many agencies desiring maximum performance and the added room of a SUV.


Preliminary Handling Test

All pursuit-certified police package vehicles must undergo the Preliminary Handling Test. Each vehicle is driven by four different EVOC instructors, two from LAPD, and two from the LASD. Each driver drives eight laps each and then immediately hands the vehicle over to another driver, for a total of 32 laps. Crossover and SUV vehicles are tested with 400 pounds of ballast, which simulates how an in-service SUV will perform in the field actually loaded with police gear. The sedans are tested with no added ballast.

The Fontana course is remarkably similar to the previous course at the Pomona fairgrounds. Both courses are asphalt-paved and have flat curves; however the new course contains some 90-degree, “S,” and hairpin curves, some13 turns in all. However, at 1.46 miles, Fontana is slightly shorter than the old Pomona course. Speeds in excess of 100 mph at the end of the straight-aways are not unusual.

In reality, these conditions are somewhat more severe than the average officer would encounter in the field during a “typical” emergency response run or a pursuit. If a vehicle can survive the preliminary handling test, it will survive most pursuits in the real world. Each driver independently evaluates each vehicle at the end of this phase. Any vehicle that is rated as “unacceptable” at this phase is disqualified and not allowed to participate in further testing.

On the 2014 models, the electronic stability control was set on the mode requested by the automaker. All of the Ford sedans and crossovers ran in the default setting, the mode that the vehicle is in each new key-ON cycle. The Dodge sedans were run in “partial off” mode, a setting that has to be manually made with each new key-ON cycle. The Chevrolet sedans and SUVs are run in Sport mode, if the vehicle has that mode, again a setting that has to be manually made with each new key-ON cycle. For next year, all test vehicles will run with the stability control in the default mode.

This year, the fastest police vehicle during on the Preliminary Handling Test was the Ford PI Sedan with the 3.5L EcoBoost V6. Running a close second and third were the Chevrolet Caprice 6.0L V8 in a virtual tie with the Dodge Charger 5.7L V8 AWD. Six of the other sedans and crossovers were clustered in a two-second group. The 3.5L EcoBoost V6 in the Ford PI Sedan allowed it to perform as well as all the other V6 sedans.



During the testing, acceleration times to various speeds up to 100 mph are measured; as is the standing-start ¼ mile acceleration times where Elapsed Time and trap speeds are recorded at the end of the quarter. Maximum top speeds are not measured.

The race to 100 mph was a close, four-sedan group led by the Ford PI Sedan 3.5L EcoBoost V6, followed in quick succession by the Chevrolet Caprice 6.0L V8 and both 5.7L V8-powered Dodge Chargers. The Ford PI Utility 3.5L EcoBoost V6 led the next pack of V6 sedans of all makes.


Brake Testing

Immediately after completing the Preliminary Handling Test, the brakes are tested under simulated real-world police operating conditions with hot brakes and tires. This duplicates conditions after an emergency run or a vehicular pursuit and makes this one of the most severe brake tests performed by the police community. All of the final brake testing is conducted in the same area of track surface, thus maintaining the same coefficient of friction.

The test vehicle is accelerated up to a speed of 80 mph, and the brakes are applied to maintain a deceleration rate of 22 fps (squared) without ABS activation. This is repeated three additional times. The vehicle then sits stationary for five minutes to heat-soak the brakes. The vehicle is then accelerated to a speed of 60 mph and is decelerated at the maximum rate, just short of ABS activation. After a two-minute heat-soak period, the procedure is repeated. Then the vehicle is accelerated to 60 mph and the brakes applied to simulate a “panic-stop” with ABS activation.

The police vehicle with the best brakes this year was the Caprice V6, followed by the Charger V8, and Ford PI Sedan FWD. The Caprice V8 was close behind, but especially noteworthy was the Ford PI Utility braking performance—far better than the average pursuit vehicle.


Fuel Mileage

The Fuel Efficiency Test simulates real-world conditions conducted over a 100-mile course. The protocol uses patrol deputies, in full uniform, to drive each vehicle through this course. Each vehicle is driven through the course four times with different drivers, during peak (rush-hour) traffic conditions. The course is divided with urban, suburban and freeway driving conditions. Headlights and air conditioning are turned on and the transmissions are placed in the default Drive position.

The vehicles are driven in a normal manner, i.e., neither “babied” nor driven for maximum performance. The fuel mileage obtained from each run is then averaged out. 

By definition, this test simulates the mileage that a detective or administrative vehicle would obtain. Experience shows that a marked patrol unit would obtain about 60 to 70 percent of these mileage figures.

This year, there was a three-way tie for first between the Chevrolet Impala 3.6L V6, the Dodge Charger 3.6L V6, and the Chevrolet Caprice 3.6L V6. All three attained at 20 mpg. At 19 mpg were both versions of the Ford PI Sedan, i.e., the 3.7L V6 AWD gets as good of mileage as the 3.5L V6 FWD while delivering better acceleration and driving performance. 


Subjective Evaluations

After the evaluation each deputy then fills out a checklist rating their impression of each individual vehicle. The evaluations are conducted separately and the ratings are averaged to minimize any individual prejudices for or against any of the vehicles. Vehicles are evaluated for general suitability and efficiency as a patrol vehicle, or other specific functions that the LASD may require. (Ed. Note: These driver comments are used as photo captions.)

While the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department does not recommend any specific vehicle or other equipment, such as tires, their complete test results are published annually and are available on their website.


John Bellah is a technical editor for Police Fleet Manager and is a member of SAE International. Bellah is a retired Southern California police officer with over 32 years of service including Patrol, Investigations, Training, Supervision, and fleet management assignments. He can be reached at pfmteched@yahoo.com. 

Published in Police Fleet Manager, Mar/Apr 2014

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