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2017 Michigan State Police Tests

The 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, MI. The vehicle dynamics testing are performed on the 2.0-mile road course at Grattan Raceway near Grand Rapids, MI.


This year, the MSP tested thirteen different police package vehicles: nine 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 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.


Each of the three automakers walked away with different bragging rights. Ford totally dominated both the acceleration phase and on the road racing course. Among the high powered sedans, the standard engine sedans and the crossover/SUVs, Ford posted the fastest acceleration to both 60 mph and 100 mph, and was the quickest around the Grattan road course. Using the MSP process, these two phases make up 50 percent of the overall score.


Chevrolet turned in the highest top speed for all three kinds of patrol vehicles. The Caprice V8, Caprice V6 and Tahoe 2WD had the highest or tied for the highest top speeds in their respective classes. For Dodge, it was a sweep of the braking tests, i.e., the shortest stopping distances from pursuit-hot brakes. The shortest near-ABS stops under emergency conditions were from V6 and V8 Chargers.


Bragging rights aside, most of the best performance came from vehicles with very low take-rate powertrains, i.e., extra cost engines seldom ordered for police duty. More important to most fleet managers is the performance from the high take-rate vehicles. In other words, compare the results among the vehicles you actually buy.   


2017 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 dropped at the end of the 2017 model year. The Impala 9C1 was already dropped at the end of the 2016 model year.


Again this year, the pursuit-rated, police-package Tahoe PPV 4x4, joined the Tahoe PPV 2WD. Both are powered by the new 355 hp 5.3L V8, a direct injection, variable valvetrain, cylinder deactivation V8 called the EcoTec3.


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 is now available only in the 2.62:1 axle ratio.


From Ford, the police package vehicles included four variations on the Police Interceptor Sedan: 240 hp 2.0L EcoBoost I4 in FWD-only, 288 hp 3.5L V6 in FWD-only, 305 hp 3.7L V6 in AWD-only, and the 365 hp 3.5L EcoBoost V6 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 optional 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.


A full five seconds behind the 350 (+) hp sedans, but easily leading the pack of the standard engine V6 sedans, was the Ford PI Sedan with the 3.7L V6. The Ford PI Utility with the 3.5L EcoBoost V6 was likewise clearly the fastest crossover/SUV. This PI Utility was only about one second to 100 mph behind the highest performing 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.


Turning in the highest top speed of the day was the Caprice 6.0L V8 at 155 mph. The rest of the 350 (+) hp sedans had top speeds of 150 mph. Most of the lower-powered V6 sedans topped out between 130 and 145 mph. The Tahoe 2WD and PI Utility posted the highest top speed for a crossover/SUV at 132 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 came from the RWD Dodge Chargers with the 5.7L V8 and the 3.6L V6. Most sedans stopped from 60 mph in 125 to 130 feet. The crossovers/SUVs took a bit longer, stopping in the 127 to 138 foot range. Crossovers/SUVs simply don’t stop as fast as sedans.


Road Course

The Grattan Raceway is a 2-mile, 13-turn, road-racing course with a 3200-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 the Ford PI Sedan with the 3.5L EcoBoost V6. This was both a big “win” and a nod to the way that patrol officers actually drive their vehicles. In the past, some vehicles were tested in driver-selected modes, like ESC-off or Sport. All of these enhanced modes default back to the original setting with each key-ON cycle. Fords have always been tested in the default mode since that is how the vehicles will actually be driven. With all vehicles tested in default mode, it was a slam-dunk for the EcoBoost V6 PI Sedan. Same for the 3.7L V6 PI Sedan among its competition. Same for the EcoBoost PI Utility among the crossover/SUVs.


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 deemphasizing 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 about the same. All the 300 hp-ish V6 sedans perform about the same. Instead, the decisions will be based on front seat room, rear seat room, trunk-cargo space, fuel economy and bid price.

Published in Police Fleet Manager, Nov/Dec 2016

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