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Los Angeles Sheriff 2011 Vehicle Tests

­­­NEWSFLASH: The 2012 Ford Utility Police Interceptor will come standard with the 300hp, 3.7L Ti-VCT V6 from the Ford Mustang. This was the version tested by the Los Angeles County Sheriff! More details coming in a future issue!

Each year, 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 it took over for the Los Angeles Police Department. The LAPD begun testing police vehicles in 1956. The current testing involves both agencies; each department supplies EVOC instructors to evaluate the vehicles.

In comparison with the annual vehicle tests performed by the Michigan State Police, the Los Angeles Sheriff testing program places less emphasis on top speed and more emphasis on handling, braking and fuel economy.

For more than 50 years, the police vehicle testing had been held at the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds in Pomona, the home of drag racing’s Winternationals. In fact, this famous drag strip is still used for some parts of the police vehicle tests. The Pomona road course is 1.57 miles long and flat (i.e., no banks, no hills and no valleys). The asphalt course has several turns and two long straights, allowing up to 100 mph speeds at the end of the straight.

Fontana’s Road Course

This year, for the second time, some of the testing was held at the Auto Club Raceway in Fontana. This is a fairly new track, located on the site of the former Ontario Motor Speedway. This track hosts events such as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Pepsi 500 and Auto Club 500 races. Formerly called California Speedway, this is a modern, 2-mile, high-speed banked oval.

Because the LASD vehicle testing protocol emphasizes braking and handling characteristics, rather than top speeds, the banked oval track in Fontana was not used. Instead, the Interior Circuit track was used. Located inside the speedway, this is one of the additional tracks for sports cars, drag racing, go-karts and motorcycles.

Fontana’s Interior Circuit road course is remarkably similar to the old Pomona road course. Both are flat and asphalt-paved. The new course contains some 90-degree turns, S-curves and hairpin curves, with 13 turns in all. However, at 1.47 miles, the Fontana course is slightly shorter than the old 1.57-mile Pomona course. Fontana is a high-speed road course, and speeds in excess of 100 mph are possible at the end of the straight.

LASD and LAPD test drivers noted that the new course (with banked turns) is far more abusive on the vehicles, especially tires and brakes. They commented that handling and braking deteriorated as the vehicles progressed further through the 32-lap Preliminary Handling Tests. They deduced that as the tires heated up, their grip deteriorated. After the test runs were concluded, it was evident that the tires had taken a considerable amount of abuse as indicated by tread wear at the end of the course.

Test Vehicles

A wide variety of production and prototype vehicles were tested by the LASD this year. The Ford CVPI 4.6L V8 in both axle ratios (3.27 and 3.55) served as the baseline. The prototypes from Ford included the 2012 Taurus-based Sedan Police Interceptor in three versions—3.5L V6 FWD, 3.5L V6 AWD and 3.5L EcoBoost V6 AWD.

Another Ford prototype was the Explorer-based 2012 Utility Police Interceptor. When tested by the Michigan State Police in mid-September, this prototype vehicle was powered by a 280 hp, 3.5L V6. However, the version tested by the LASD had a bigger, 305 hp, 3.5L V6 borrowed from the new Mustang.

The LASD tested the brand new 2011 Dodge Charger in both 3.5L V6 and 5.7L V8. One of the 5.7L HEMI® Chargers had the standard 2.65 axle ratio, while the other ran with a new option, the 3.06 axle.

From Chevrolet were the 3.9L V6 FWD Impala and the 5.3L V8 RWD Tahoe PPV. This was also the West Coast debut of the new 2011 Chevrolet Caprice PPV powered by the 6.0L V8. This Aussie-made sedan swept the earlier Michigan State Police tests.

Preliminary Handling

All police package (pursuit-certified) vehicles must undergo the Preliminary Handling Test. Each vehicle is driven eight laps by a test driver. Two EVOC instructors from the LASD and four EVOC instructors from the LAPD are used for each vehicle, for a total of 32 laps.

Significantly, the SUVs like the Chevrolet Tahoe PPV and the crossovers like the Ford Utility Police Interceptor carried 400 pounds of ballast (cargo) for testing purposes to simulate loaded conditions. All the other vehicles were run empty. The LASD is the only major agency to test SUVs and crossovers in a fully loaded condition.

This cargo affects acceleration, braking and cornering. It also makes direct comparisons to other vehicle testing impossible. However, as SUVs and crossovers are designed to carry a lot of cargo, and the extra weight changes the vehicle dynamics, this is an excellent way to test police vehicles.

Both the fastest and slowest laps are deleted, and the remaining six laps are averaged. Each driver also subjectively evaluates each vehicle at the end of this phase. Vehicles that are rated as “unacceptable” are disqualified and are not allowed to participate in further testing. While some vehicles have been disqualified in the past at this stage in the testing, all the vehicles passed this year.

The average speeds of the pursuit-certified vehicles on the new Fontana high-speed course were a bit slower than on the old Pomona high-speed course. The average lap speed at Fontana was 61 mph compared to an average lap speed at Pomona of 66 mph.

The fastest production police vehicles during the Preliminary Handling Test were the two versions of the 5.7L V8 Charger, followed by the 6.0L Caprice. Among the production vehicles, the Charger V6 was well behind the leading V8 sedans but well ahead of the rest of the production sedans and SUVs.

At this stage of development, the prototype Sedan PI and Utility PI did well. The Sedan PI with the twin-turbo EcoBoost engine topped the results, while the base engine versions turned in middle-of-the-pack performance. The Utility PI with the Mustang engine (and 400 pounds of ballast) equaled the two versions of the outgoing Ford CVPI and outran the V8-powered Tahoe.


Immediately after the Preliminary Handling Tests are completed, the brakes are tested. This simulates actual police operating conditions with hot brakes and tires. It duplicates conditions after an emergency run or a pursuit. This brake test is acknowledged by all the automakers as the most severe brake test performed by the police community.

The test vehicle is accelerated up to a speed of 80 mph, and the brakes are applied at a force near ABS activation. This is performed four times. The vehicle is allowed to sit stationary for five minutes. It is then accelerated to a speed of 60 mph and decelerated at a maximum rate, again, just short of ABS activation. After a two-minute heat-soak period, the procedure is repeated. The vehicle is then accelerated to 60 mph and stopped to simulate a “panic-stop” with ABS activation.

The production police vehicle with the best brakes was the 6.0L Chevrolet PPV with a 138.4-foot stopping distance from 60 mph. The V8 and V6 Chargers were a few feet behind. The longest stopping distance was from the Ford CVPI, which took 150.3 feet. In fact, all of the new, newly redesigned or prototype vehicles stopped shorter than the outgoing Ford CVPI.

Again, the prototype 2012 vehicles from Ford (Sedan PI and Utility PI) did well. The Sedan PI EcoBoost was near the top, the Sedan PI with the base engine was in the middle, and the Utility PI was in between the two CVPIs and ahead of the Tahoe.


Acceleration times to various speeds are measured, as is quarter-mile acceleration, but maximum top speeds are not attempted. The production vehicle with the fastest acceleration to 60 mph was the 6.0L Caprice PPV at 6.01 seconds. However, the second place Charger V8 with the 3.06 axle turned in the fastest quarter-mile time—just 14.7 seconds. The Charger V8 with the 2.65 axle was close behind the top two sedans.

The Charger V6 turned in a respectable, middle-of-the-pack performance, redeeming itself from the lackluster performance during MSP testing. Dodge engineers did not have time to tune the brand new 3.5L Pentastar V6, pulled right from the brand new Jeep Grand Cherokee, to the lighter Charger for the mid-September MSP tests. They got everything figured out in time for the mid-November LASD tests.

Once again, the prototype 2012 Ford vehicles turned in a good performance. The Sedan PI EcoBoost topped the tests, the Sedan PI with the base engine was in the middle, and the Utility PI tied the Tahoe, both beating both versions of the Ford CVPI.

All of the 2011 production and 2012 prototype vehicles successfully passed all of the test phases. While the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department does not recommend any specific vehicle or tire, its test results are published in hardcopy and posted to its Web site at

John Bellah is the technical editor of Police Fleet Manager and a retired corporal with the California State University, Long Beach Police. He may be reached via e-mail at


Brake Test
(from 60 mph)

Vehicle, Stopping distance

Chevrolet Caprice PPV 6.0L V6, 138.44 feet
Ford Sedan PI AWD 3.5L V6*, 139.40 feet
Dodge Charger 5.7L V8 (2.65 axle), 141.18 feet
Dodge Charger 5.7L V8 (3.06 axle), 141.71 feet
Ford Sedan PI AWD 3.5L EcoBoost V6*, 143.34 feet
Dodge Charger 3.5L V6 (2.65 axle), 143.57 feet
Ford Sedan PI FWD 3.5L V6*, 143.82 feet
Ford CVPI 4.6L (3.27 axle), 145.21 feet
Ford Utility Police Interceptor 3.7L V6*, 146.34 feet
Chevrolet Tahoe PPV 5.3L V8, 148.68 feet
Chevrolet Impala 3.9L V6, 148.76 feet
Ford CVPI 4.6L V8 (3.55 axle), 150.32 feet

* prototype 2012 vehicle

Preliminary Handling Test
(1.46-mile, high-speed course)

Vehicle, Lap Time

Ford Sedan PI AWD 3.5L EcoBoost V6*, 1:21.45 minutes
Dodge Charger 5.7L V8 (2.65 axle), 1:22.38 minutes
Dodge Charger 5.7L V8 (3.06 axle), 1:22.53 minutes
Chevrolet Caprice PPV 6.0L V8, 1:23.08 minutes
Dodge Charger 3.5L V6 (2.65 axle), 1:24.32 minutes
Ford Sedan PI AWD 3.5L V6*, 1:24.34 minutes
Ford Sedan PI FWD 3.5L V6*, 1:25.24 minutes
Ford CVPI 4.6L V8 (3.55 gear), 1:25.82 minutes
Ford Utility Police Interceptor 3.7L V6*, 1.26.61 minutes
Ford CVPI 4.6L V8 (3.27 gear), 1:26.72 minutes
Chevrolet Impala 3.9L V6, 1:27.73 minutes
Chevrolet Tahoe PPV 5.3L V8, 1:29.38 minutes

* prototype 2012 vehicle

Acceleration Tests

Vehicle, 0-60 mph, ¼-mile time

Ford Sedan PI AWD 3.5L EcoBoost V6*, 5.85 sec, 14.30 sec
Chevrolet Caprice PPV 6.0L V8, 6.01 sec, 15.29 sec
Dodge Charger 5.7L V8 (3.06 axle), 6.14 sec, 14.72 sec
Dodge Charger 5.7L V8 (2.65 axle), 6.88 sec, 15.26 sec
Ford Sedan PI AWD 3.5L V6*, 7.81 sec, 17.56 sec
Ford Sedan PI FWD 3.5L V6*, 8.27 sec, 16.56 sec
Dodge Charger 3.5L V6 (2.65 axle), 8.36 sec, 16.51 sec
Chevrolet Tahoe PPV 5.3L V8, 8.60 sec, 16.81 sec
Ford Utility Police Interceptor 3.7L V6*, 8.68 sec, 16.68 sec
Ford CVPI 4.6L V8 (3.27), 8.77 sec, 16.70 sec
Ford CVPI 4.6L V8 (3.55), 9.03 sec, 16.84 sec
Chevrolet Impala 3.9L V6, 9.17 sec, 17.04 sec

* prototype 2012 vehicle

Published in Police Fleet Manager, Mar/Apr 2011

Rating : 9.8

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Fleet Supervisor

Posted on : Jun 1 at 3:15 PM By Alex Nelson

I really like this artical and look forward to it each year. The LA test seems to one of the best for steet driving that I have seen and it shows how a vehicle really works in true street driving conditions. 2012 is the year most all of the fleets need to make a change. We will miss the CV but it looks like we are going to get a good replacement that will meet the needs. I guess next year we can see what changes work and what changes did not.

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