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Sedgwick County Sheriff Patrol Vehicle Evaluations

Written by Brad Hoch, Joe Page

www.sedgwickcounty.org/sheriff

www.nlectc.org

www.michigan.gov/msp

 

"Exhaustive evaluation leads to a two-vehicle mixed fleet."

 

 

Sedgwick County Sheriff Patrol Vehicle Evaluations

By: Brad Hoch and Joe Page

 

In 2011, Ford rolled out the last of their Crown Victoria Police Interceptors, the flagship for most law enforcement agencies throughout the United States and Canada. For the Sedgwick County, Kan. Sheriff’s Office, the Ford Crown Victoria had been the one and only vehicle used in patrol since 1994. 

Sedgwick County is located in south central Kansas with Wichita being the principal city. Sedgwick County encompasses 998 square miles and a population of 503,000. The sheriff’s office has 538 employees and runs a fleet of 80 marked patrol vehicles.

Like many other agencies, the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office was faced with the unknown as to what vehicle would replace the Ford Crown Victoria. The three different police automakers had been working hard at producing a vehicle that would suit the needs and demands for current law enforcement. The Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office made the decision to purchase and test the different 2012 makes and models.

The goal for the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office was to test the new vehicles over a number of months in the real environment that they would be used in patrol. The testing and evaluation of the patrol vehicles took place on many different fronts. A group of deputies were selected to test and evaluate the performance of each vehicle while performing their duties in patrol. The new patrol vehicles were driven on the EVOC course at the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center, KLETC. 

New equipment was purchased and installed in the vehicles. The equipment was also evaluated. The Sedgwick County Fleet provided input on the installation process of the new equipment. The goal was to provide comprehensive information that would help the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office choose which vehicle/vehicles would work best for patrol.

There were five different makes and models of vehicles tested over a period of about five months. The specifications and statistics in this section were obtained from the Michigan State Police website. Along with the Los Angeles County Sheriff, the Michigan State Police’s Police Patrol Vehicle Evaluation and Purchasing Program is one of the two most significant patrol vehicle test programs.

The MSP publishes a yearly report evaluating the numerous makes and models of patrol vehicles on the market. The estimated total cost of the vehicles came from Sedgwick County Fleet. These costs were a combination of both the initial price of the police vehicle and the price of aftermarket accessories used to upfit each vehicle.

 

Chevrolet Caprice 9C1        

The Caprice was a brand-new vehicle design, produced exclusively for law enforcement. In fact, the 2012 Caprice was only sold to law enforcement agencies in the United States. The rear-wheel drive car was based on the similar design of the previous Pontiac G8. The vehicle was produced in Australia by Holden, GM’s subsidiary company. The vehicle was assembled in Australia and then shipped to the United States.

The Caprice was powered by a 355 hp, 6.0L V8 with a 6-speed auto. The RWD sedan hits 60 mph in 5.9 seconds, has a top speed of 154 mph, and a ground clearance of 5.6 inches. It has an EPA rating of 15 mpg City/24 mpg Hwy. The estimated upfitted price was $27, 695.

 

Chevrolet Tahoe PPV

The two-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive, pursuit-rated Chevy Tahoe has been around for a number of years and has become a very popular vehicle among law enforcement agencies. The Tahoe has the most interior room of all the vehicles tested. It is the only pursuit rated vehicle that is a body-on-frame design.

The Tahoe was powered by a 320 hp, 5.3L V8 with a 6-speed auto. The 2WD / RWD utility hits 60 mph in 8.0 seconds, has a top speed of 139 mph, and a ground clearance of 8.0 inches. It has an EPA rating of 15 mpg City/21 mpg Hwy. The estimated upfitted price was $26,029.

 

Dodge Charger

Like the Tahoe, the Dodge Charger has been used by law enforcement for a number of years. In 2011, there were a number of improvements made to the Charger, which included fixing noted blind spots from previous models, better suspension, improved brakes, engine improvements, and new steel wheels.

The Charger was powered by a 370 hp, 5.7L V8 with a 5-speed auto. The RWD sedan hits 60 mph in 5.9 seconds, has a top speed of 152 mph, and a ground clearance of 5.2 inches. It has an EPA rating of 16 mpg City/25 mpg Hwy. The estimated upfitted price was $26,563.

 

Ford Police Interceptor Sedan

One of Ford’s answers to replace the Crown Victoria was the 2012 Ford Interceptor. This is a brand-new vehicle with the body design and platform based on the retail Taurus. However, this is not a retail Taurus. Instead, the vehicle was designed with law enforcement in mind, including all-wheel drive, high-output alternator, and 75 mph rear-crash test rating.

The PI Sedan we tested was powered by a 365 hp, 3.5L EcoBoost twin turbo V6 with a 6-speed auto. The AWD sedan hits 60 mph in 5.9 seconds, has a top speed of 148 mph, and a ground clearance of 5.3 inches. It has an EPA rating of 16 mpg City/22 mpg Hwy. The estimated upfitted price was $27, 886.

 

Ford Police Interceptor Utility

Not stopping at just the sedan option, Ford came up with another option for law enforcement, the Police Interceptor Utility, based on the brand-new Ford Explorer body style.  The biggest advantage with the utility-crossover vehicle is the larger back cargo area and higher ground clearance than a car. 

The PI Utility was powered by a 304 hp, 3.7L V6 with a 6-speed auto. The FWD crossover hits 60 mph in 8.0 seconds, has a top speed of 131 mph, and a ground clearance of 6.5 inches. It has an EPA rating of 16 mpg City/22 mpg Hwy. The estimated upfitted price was $26,607.

 

Evaluation Process

The goal during the evaluation process was to determine which vehicle/vehicles, plus equipment would work best for the demands and challenges on patrol in Sedgwick County. A number of organizations and agencies have published performance results and specifications on each of the new vehicles. 

 

The Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office wanted to expand that process and test the vehicles as they would be used in a patrol setting over a long period of time. The testing of the vehicles would encompass the following variables: day, night, dirt roads, rain, snow, ice, riding squad, transporting prisoners, and driving the vehicles on the EVOC course at KLETC.

For our agency it was important to select a group of deputies that would test the vehicles on a daily basis for a number of months. A group of deputies from all three shifts were selected from patrol. The test group was comprised of deputies whose time on the department ranged from 4 to 16 years. One of the deputies was an EVOC instructor. The deputy’s physical size was also taken into consideration. For example, the height of the test group ranged from 5-foot, 4 inches to 6-foot, 4 inches.

  

There were five main deputies selected for the test group along with two alternates. Starting in August 2012, the first test vehicle was set up and the evaluation process began. Eventually each make and model was tested until the end of December 2012. During the evaluation process, the test group rotated through the different vehicles. 

Each deputy spent several weeks in one particular model before rotating to another vehicle. The alternates were given the opportunity to drive the new vehicles when the main five were on days off or gone for an extended period of time. During the evaluation process, between 6,000 and 11,000 miles were put on each test vehicle.

An evaluation form was developed to document the thoughts of the deputies and rate each vehicle and the equipment installed in them. The evaluation form consisted of several categories including performance, ergonomics and equipment. Each one of those categories was broken down with specific areas the deputies had to address and score including steering, traction, braking, seat comfort, visibility, trunk space, etc. 

The scoring of each category was set as the following: 1) Poor, 2) Fair, 3) Good and 4) Excellent. The deputies filled out an evaluation after they completed the rotation in each vehicle.  At the end of the testing phase, the scoring of each vehicle was recorded. Each deputy wrote a narrative report summarizing his/her evaluation input. 

 

Caprice Pros and Cons

The Pros of the Caprice include acceleration and handling. The Caprice was very impressive. From the Michigan State data, the Caprice had the highest top end speed at 154 mph. The rear-wheel drive and traction control made the Caprice a very maneuverable vehicle in everything from pursuit driving to inclement weather. The interior room was the largest among the cars tested.

The Cons include delivery time. Since the Caprice is made in Australia, it took nearly six months from the time it was ordered until the time it arrived in Sedgwick County. Even though the maneuverability is very impressive, the actual ride is stiff and noisy. When the police equipment was installed in the vehicle, there was a noticeable amount of rattling and shaking of the equipment. The test group thought the trunk felt very small inside.

The transmission hump in the middle of the car sat up so high that the dual gun mounts our agency had from the Crown Victoria would not fit in the vehicle. Out of all the vehicles, the Caprice was the only vehicle this occurred in. The test group did not like the floor shifter. (Ed. Note: A column shifter is standard on the 2014 Caprice.) Besides its awkward location, the gears shift was loose and moved too freely. It was also difficult to recognize the selected gears. The Caprice V8 has poor gas mileage. Many times the data showed the Caprice would make between 9 and 14 mpg.

 

Tahoe Pros and Cons

The biggest advantage the Tahoe has over the other vehicles is the amount of interior room. The cargo area is very large with plenty of room. The spare tire is mounted under the frame so one can easily put a trunk tray in the back. Even though the Tahoe is only RWD, it has the highest ground clearance of all the vehicles tested. The pursuit-rated Tahoe performed surprisingly well on the streets and on the EVOC course. For the size of the vehicle, the test group noted it handled as well or better than the Crown Victoria.

The test group noted because of size and the ability to sit up high, running in the emergency mode probably worked the best in the Tahoe. Motorists seemed to move over or out of the way sooner than in a patrol car. The deputies felt sitting up higher gave them the advantage to see farther down the road and around intersections than in a car.

If the officer needs to haul a lot of equipment or squad up on a regular basis, the Tahoe provides the versatility to meet those demands better than any of the other vehicles tested. The Tahoe had the lowest price among all the vehicles tested.

The Cons include lower performance. Due to the sheer size and weight of the Tahoe, the acceleration is not as impressive as the cars. Despite this, the acceleration was better than the Crown Victoria. A number of deputies in the test group were able to get into pursuits with the Tahoe. Some noted that not only was acceleration a little slower than the other test cars, but there was some brake fading, which they did not experience in the cars. Since the Tahoe is a SUV, a second cage has to be purchased to divide the back seat from the cargo area.

 

Charger Pros and Cons

The Dodge Charger acceleration and handling were very impressive. The Dodge Charger 5.7L Hemi V8 developed the highest amount of power at 370 hp. The rear-wheel drive and traction control made the Charger a very maneuverable vehicle in everything from pursuit driving to inclement weather.

The fit and finish along with the quality of ride were at the top of the field. The interior room was the second largest among the cars tested. A circulating fan from the factory was installed in the trunk area to keep radios and data components cool in the summer.

Sedgwick County Fleet noted the Charger was the easiest vehicle to set up among the test vehicles. The Dodge Charger was the least expensive sedan tested. The appearance of the vehicle was voted as the best-looking vehicle among the test group.

The Cons include the lowest ground clearance among all the vehicles tested at 5.2 inches. A number of deputies in the test group were able to get in pursuits with the Charger and a few of those pursuits left the paved road and went through ditches and fields. Even though there was no damage to the car, the deputies noted they could hear and feel the bottom of the car hitting the ground at times.

 

Ford PI Sedan Pros and Cons

The AWD made the Ford Sedan one of the best-handling vehicles out of the group. On dirt roads, snow and ice the vehicle had amazing traction. The EcoBoost 3.5L EcoBoost twin-turbo V6 engine made the Ford Sedan one of the quickest vehicles especially from 0-60 mph.

The Cons include interior room. The Ford PI Sedan by far had the smallest interior of all the vehicles tested. The deputies 6 feet or taller complained about head room and problems getting in and out of the vehicle. The side pillar of the car on the inside was scraped up because of the deputy’s duty belts hitting all the time. Having a passenger in the car with the MCT was virtually impossible due to the lack of room.

The trunk space was also very small. Due to the high design of the trunk area of the car, backing was a challenge because of poor visibility. In the summertime, the trunk area of the car reached over 150 degrees and caused the radio and data components to shut down. Unlike the Charger, there was no circulating fan in the trunk area.

 

For PI Utility Pros and Cons

The Ford Utility Vehicle had better front interior room compared to the cars. The cargo area had the advantage to store more than in the trunk of the cars tested. The FWD worked well in the snow and ice. The PI Utility has nice ground clearance for off-road or bad weather conditions.

The SUV’s maneuverability and handling was almost equal to the patrol cars. On the EVOC course, the Ford PI Utility was pushed just as hard as the cars and it performed very well.

As a Con, the Ford PI Utility our agency tested was FWD instead of AWD. (Ed. Note: For 2014, AWD is standard on the PI Utility.) We would assume the AWD would be as impressive as it was on the Ford PI Sedan. The FWD-only drivetrain made the vehicle awkward and difficult to handle because of the noticeable torque-steer under heavy acceleration. 

Even though the cargo area gave ample amount of room, the design of placing the spare tire in the bottom of the cargo area would cause the officer to unload every piece of equipment to get the spare tire out. Placing a cargo trunk tray in the back of the PI Utility would not be practical because of the spare tire compartment design.

Since the vehicle is an SUV, a second cage has to be purchased to divide the back seat from the cargo area. The test group thought the foot well design was awkward and caused them to trip at times trying to get in and out of the vehicle. The back seat area was small, especially when a full cage was installed in the vehicle.

The Ford PI Utility was the slowest of the vehicles tested. The EcoBoost 3.5 liter twin-turbo engine was not offered in the Utility Vehicle at the time of our testing. (Ed. Note: the 3.5L EcoBoost V6 is an option on the 2014 PI Utility.)

 

Mixed Fleet

After all the meetings and review of the data, the test group recommended a mixed fleet for our agency. Two vehicles were recommended, the Dodge Charger and the Chevy Tahoe. It was obvious that having ample amount of interior room was very important to the deputies. The Chevy Tahoe met that need. The Chevy Tahoe was viewed as a very versatile patrol vehicle.

 

The only concern of the group was the fact that the Tahoe was not quite as maneuverable and quick as the patrol cars. The group discussed that the general public has access to a number of passenger cars that could easily outperform the Tahoe. That is why the group recommends having a mixed fleet with both the Dodge Charger and Chevy Tahoe. The Charger with its high-performance engine and suspension would help fill that void. At the same time, the size of the Charger and interior room was acceptable for a car. 

Another reason for the mixed fleet is the fact that even though the testing of these two vehicles was conducted over a five-month period, the longevity and reliability of these vehicles is still in question. Picking a single vehicle could be very costly if the reliability of the vehicle becomes a problem over several years. 

 

Brad Hoch is a Lieutenant with the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office and may be reached at bhoch@sedgwick.gov. Joe Page is a Deputy with the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office and may be reached at jpage@sedgwick.gov. The evaluation team included Lt. Brad Hoch, Deputy Joel Blogref, Deputy Jason Burley, Deputy Jeremy Jameson, Deputy Ken Kooser, Deputy Scott Louthan, Deputy Shawn McMahon, and Deputy Noah Stephens-Clark.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Chevrolet Caprice 6.0L V8 RWD

 


Published in Law and Order, Nov 2013

Rating : Not Yet Rated


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