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2015 Michigan State Police Tests


he 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 is performed on the 2.0-mile road course at Grattan Raceway near Grand Rapids, Mich.

This year, the MSP tested 14 different police package vehicles: 10 sedans and four crossovers/SUVs. Many of these were the same vehicle with a different engine. In a few cases, only the rear axle was different. The big news for 2015 models was the new fascia on the Dodge Charger Pursuit, a totally new Chevy Tahoe 2WD and a police-package, pursuit-rated Tahoe 4x4.

The MSP does not test any special service package (not intended for pursuit) vehicles like the non-PPV 4x4 Tahoe, Durango, Expedition or Suburban, and they do 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 again 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 road-course lap times were extremely close for all these sedans. On the road course, just over a half second separated the four 350 (+) hp sedans. Likewise for the group of RWD and AWD V6 (or non-turbo) versions of these same sedans. Just over ¾-second separated the fastest sedan from the slowest…a dead heat…a virtual tie. Among the crossovers/SUVs, the Ford PI Utility 3.5L EcoBoost V6 continued to be the stand-alone performer.

2015 Police Vehicles

From Chevrolet, the police package vehicles included two Caprice PPVs, one powered by the 355 hp 6.0L V8 and the other powered by the 301 hp 3.6L V6. The Caprice PPV will be produced through the 2017 model year. The Impala 9C1 powered by the same 302 hp 3.6L V6 was tested. The Impala 9C1 will be produced through the 2016 model year.

The biggest news from Chevrolet in years is a pursuit-rated, police-package Tahoe PPV 4x4, which is virtually identical to the Tahoe PPV 2WD, except the 4x4 drivetrain, of course. Both are powered by the new 355 hp 5.3L V8. This is a direct injection, variable valvetrain, cylinder deactivation V8 called the EcoTec3. Horsepower is up, torque is up, and fuel economy is up.

The vehicles submitted by Dodge included the Charger Pursuit powered by the 370 hp 5.7L HEMI V8: one with Rear-Wheel Drive and one with All-Wheel Drive. The Charger Pursuits with the 292 hp 3.6L Pentastar V6 came in two different axle ratios, 2.62:1 and 3.07:1.

From Ford, the police package vehicles included three variations on the Police Interceptor Sedan: 288 hp 3.5L V6 in FWD-only, 305 hp 3.7L V6 in AWD-only, and the 365 hp 3.5L V6 EcoBoost in AWD-only. Two versions of the Police Interceptor Utility were tested, the 304 hp 3.7L V6 in AWD-only and the 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. The time to reach 100 mph is the scored value. However, the Ford PI Sedan with the 365 hp twin turbo V6 was also the fastest vehicle of the testing to 60 mph, and by a wide margin. This version of the Ford PI Sedan was a half-second faster to 100 mph than the Caprice 6.0L V8 and 1.5 seconds faster than both versions of the Charger 5.7L V8.

Leading the pack of the 300-ish hp V6 sedans, about five seconds behind the 350 (+) hp sedans, were (in order): the Caprice 3.6L V6, Ford PI Sedan 3.7L V6, Impala 3.6L V6, and both axle versions of the Charger 3.6L V6. Dodge Fleet has taken note of their last-place finishes among V6 sedans.

Among the SUVs/crossovers, the twin-turbo, EcoBoost Ford PI Utility was three to six seconds faster to 100 mph than the spread-out group of Ford PI Utility 3.7L V6, Tahoe 5.3L V8 2WD, and Tahoe 5.3L 4WD. The EcoBoost twin-turbo PI Utility was four seconds faster than the average V6 sedan and just a half second behind the 350 (+) hp sedans.

Top Speed

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.

All four 350 (+) hp sedans had top speeds between 147 mph and 149 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 147 to 150 mph. The low-bid Impala had the fastest acceleration to 60 mph among 300 hp sedans and the highest top speed of any vehicle tested.

The two versions of the Ford PI Utility are speed-limited to 132 mph, while the Tahoe 4WD is speed-limited to 121 mph. The Tahoe 2WD is opened up to 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 3.6L V6 with the new for mid-2014 Big Brake package. The projected stopping distance of 124.8 feet is the shortest stop ever recorded by the MSP under the current braking protocol. Most sedans stopped from 60 mph in 127 to 135 feet. The SUVs/crossovers stopped in a sedan-like 132 to 135 feet.

Road Course

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 again the Dodge Charger 5.7L V8 AWD. The Charger AWD broke the all-time lap record it set last year to once again become the quickest vehicle ever recorded by the MSP at Grattan.

The Charger 5.7L AWD was closely followed by the Caprice 6.0L V8, the Ford PI Sedan 3.5L EcoBoost V6, and the Charger 5.7L RWD. In a 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 and both versions (2WD, 4WD) of the Tahoe were virtually tied. The improved drivetrain and suspension of the all-new 2015 Tahoe were obvious.

The Winners

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% for the road course, 20% for acceleration, 20% for braking, 15% for top speed, 10% for ergonomics, and 5% for fuel economy. These numbers are plugged into a bid adjustment formula available at the NLECTC website.

Different weightings may be selected. For example, an urban department may want to emphasize fuel economy, ergonomics, and braking while de-emphasizing 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.

Photos by Clay Groot.

Published in Law and Order, Nov 2014

Rating : 8.0

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