At the Ride & Drive, fleet managers had two ways to experience the 2006 police cars. First, they could drive the cars through a lower-speed EVOC course. This had the typical challenges of all urban traffic: emergency lane changes, full ABS stops, lane change decision making, and a straight-line slalom that tested the transient response of the vehicle.
Transient response is how well the car goes suddenly from left to right to left to right. The emergency lane change tests how well the car makes one sudden turn to either the right or the left and how quickly it stabilizes after the sudden turn.
The EVOC course was more than a half mile of smashing the gas, snapping the wheel, and slamming the brakes. On the EVOC course, fleet managers drove the Ford CVPI, Ford Explorer, Ford Expedition, Chevy Impala, Chevy Tahoe 2WD and 4WD, and Dodge Charger. Speeds on this course reached 55 mph.
The second experience was for the fleet manager to accompany (as a passenger) one of the outstanding Grand Rapids Police EVOC instructors as they drove at higherspeeds around the Grattan Raceway. Grattan is where the Michigan State Police conduct their annual police patrol car tests. However, this is the home track for the Grand Rapids Police, and they conduct weeks of training here each year.
The road course was a mile of short straights, oncamber and off-camber turns, sweeping turns, dips, and wavy road surfaces. During the ride with the Grand Rapids officers, they demonstrated the unique abilities of each car on different sections of the track. They also explained the new features of each car...and a great deal was new with the 2006 Impala. On the road racing course, fleet managers rode in the Chevy Impala and 2WD Tahoe, the only pursuit rated SUV.
This year, the Ride & Drive was also a windshield wiper endurance test as it poured down rain the entire day. But that was a GOOD thing. While Ride & Drives are normally held during perfect driving conditions, the patrol car is exposed to a wide variety of adverse weather with slippery or snowy conditions. This particular Ride & Drive was a showcase for advanced traction features. Of course, all the vehicles had ABS brakes. But it was the few vehicles with Traction Control and Electronic Stability Control that won the day.
And this means the Ford Explorer and Dodge Charger. When driven aggressively, some of the other vehicles badly understeered or oversteered, or even got sideways during sudden lane changes. This was especially true in the accident avoidance section of the EVOC course: quickly turn to avoid the kid on the bike, then quickly return to your own lane to avoid oncoming traffic.
Even at speeds that threw rooster tails of spray into the air off the rear of the vehicles, the Explorer and Charger never lost control. Clip a cone on the tightly-spaced course? Yes. Understeer or oversteer that plowed over many cones? Never. And that could not be said of any other sedan or SUV.
Electronic Stability Control, known as Roll Stability Control (Ford), StabiliTrak (GM) and Electronic Stability Program (Dodge) is an officer safety feature on par with ABS and air bags. This years’ rainy Ride & Drive proved that.
Pirelli & Continental
The other lesson that came from the rain soaked EVOC and road racing courses involved makes of tire that may be new to the fleet manager, to a lesser degree, the Generals onthe Tahoe, but to a much greater and more significant degree, the Pirelli P6s on the Impala and the Continentals on the Charger. As it turns out, tires other than the Goodyear Eagle RS-A can work quite well.
The Goodyear RS-A is a superb police tire, but it is not the ONLY superb police tire. Goodyear tires are convenient to purchase, but so are other makes. Pirelli is an OEM tire for both Ford and General Motors, while Continental is an OEM tire for DaimlerChrysler. After the extensive evaluations done by GM Fleet and DCX to put these tires on their pursuit-capable vehicles, police fleet managers need to accept the reality that other true police-spec tires exist and can do the job as well.
We should know a bit more about both the Pirellis and Continentals when the Michigan State Police and especially the Los Angeles County Sheriff complete their vehicle tests, but the initial results are good. (The 32-laps during the LASD tests frequently push tire construction past their limits).
The big lesson from the high-speed road racing course was how well the pursuit-capable Tahoe performs during aggressive and high-speed driving. We expect that from a police sedan. And we get almost sedan-like performance from the 2WD Tahoe. No 4WD SUV from any automaker is designed nor intended for emergency, high-speed, or pursuit driving. (This disclaimer is in all their police literature). For this reason, MSP does not test 4WD SUVs on the road course, and subsequently, these were not used on the road course during the PFE Ride & Drive.
The Grattan infield is a perfect place for police demos and two deflation device demos took place this year. One involved the MagnumSpike. The other was the FedSig Stinger. In both cases, the fleeing vehicle hit the spike strip at around 50 mph. In both cases, the tires were immediately but progressively deflated. In both cases, the car was brought to a safe and straight stop.
In the case of the FedSig Stinger, immediately after hitting the spikes, NYSP Sergeant Callery slammed on the brakes, activating the ABS. The car came to a fast and uneventful stop as if the tires did not have a dozen spikes in them. Tire deflation devices are all about controlled deflation, reliable deflation, and vehicle stability during deflation. Both the Magnum Spike and the Stinger did exactly this during the demo.
The third day of the PFE began with a second morning of exhibits followed by separate tech and service sessions from Ford and Daimler Chrysler. The Ford service session was presented by Scott Clark, Modified Vehicle Specialist. Larry Baber, Fleet Service with Daimler- Chrysler, covered issues with the Intrepid and Durango. The fourth day of the PFE began with the tech and service session from Chevrolet. The GM Fleet duties were handled by Earl Gautsche, Fleet Service Manager. This presentation was followed by a number of educational sessions.