By Brad Brewer
This past October, the Michigan State Police (MSP) conducted its annual testing of police vehicles and police motorcycles. Also this year in October, the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department (LASD) conducted its annual vehicle testing. The MSP event runs over four days and takes place at several unique locations in Michigan, depending on the specific tests being performed.
The vehicle acceleration, top speed, and braking tests are performed at the FCA Proving Grounds. This 4.7-mile, 140-mph neutral steer banked oval provides the appropriate space to obtain accurate test results at top speeds. The ABS brake test is also performed at the FCA Proving Grounds.
This year due to a paving project at MSP Precision Driving Unit’s own facility, the braking tests were performed at the Chelsea. Both the motorcycle and vehicle dynamics testing are performed at Grattan Raceway. It is also appropriate to put in context as to why these vehicle tests are conducted and why they are so valuable to law enforcement across North America when they evaluate police vehicles to purchase.
MSP and LASD are not governing bodies who decide which vehicles get blessed with the sacred description of “Pursuit Rated”; that couldn’t be further from the truth. Both these agencies have a long history of testing vehicles designed for use in the rigorous environment, which is frontline policing. It is the nature of the job that requires frontline officers to do extraordinary things in order to keep the public safe. When officers are forced to escalate to high-risk activities, their vehicle must be able to perform consistently at a high level with a non-existent failure rate.
As of this writing, 2021 is already one of the deadliest years for struck-by incidents on record. 48 LODDs have occurred between January and September this year, including a record-breaking 20 law enforcement deaths.
Lights and sirens have been the only line of defense and protection on the road for generations of law enforcement officers. For decades, emergency lighting designers and manufacturers have worked to make lightbars more effective and conspicuous, and vehicle manufacturers have labored to design vehicles that are safer and less prone to injuring drivers in the event of a collision. However, the risk of danger to law enforcement officers on the road in the same time period has also increased at a dangerously fatal rate.
Since 2002, Move Over laws have been established in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. While the law varies by state, nearly all require that drivers slow down and move over for law enforcement and other emergency vehicles when their lightbars and/or sirens are activated. Despite these laws, statistics show that the risk to officers, troopers, and other law enforcement professionals on the road is higher than ever.
Every Fleet Manager has had someone in local government ask the question, “What does ‘Pursuit Rated’ actually mean?” The reality is no one can really define the term “Pursuit Rated” or give a specific vehicle that official designation. This is an excerpt from the MSP Annual Report that appropriately explains the rating:
The term ‘pursuit capable’ is more appropriate as there is no sanctioning body, or specific performance criteria, to determine if the vehicle meets a specialized designation. Each vehicle has been modified from a civilian vehicle to perform better under the rigors of police use. These vehicles are engineered to repetitively stop in a shorter distance, accelerate faster, and handle better than the base platform. Modifications to engines, cooling systems, transmissions and shifting parameters, brakes, tires, stability control programming, and other changes may all be included as part of the manufacturer’s police package.
The MSP has performance criteria attached to its purchasing specifications. The criteria has historically been that a vehicle must accelerate from 0–60 mph in 9.0 seconds, 0–80 mph in 14.9 seconds, and 0–100 mph in 24.6 seconds. The vehicle must reach 110 mph in 4,838 feet and 120 mph in 8,985 feet. The vehicle must maintain an average deceleration rate of 25.79 ft./sec2 while performing twenty 60–0 mph threshold braking stops. The vehicle must also successfully complete all 32 laps of the Grattan Raceway dynamics testing without major component failure. Meeting these criteria does not certify a vehicle as being pursuit rated; rather, it justifies a vehicle is capable of performing the job function the MSP requires in a police vehicle. When reading the testing results, it is up to each agency to determine if the vehicle is suitable for the mission of their agency.
Fleet managers must be aware the MSP tests are different from their counterparts out west at the LASD vehicle test, which is also run annually. MSP is a full-service agency that devotes a lot of time to freeway patrol depending on the geographical area being patrolled. As such, they devote considerable resources to highway traffic patrol. Therefore, performance at freeway speeds is important to them and their testing reflects that. MSP tests all vehicles for top speed, and since today’s vehicles are most often speed limited by software, it’s a simple verification of the manufacturer’s claims. Essentially, MSP wants to know, will it hit the advertised speed? Only the General Motors Chevrolet Tahoe has a mechanical top speed limit. The top speed testing methodology is designed to follow the fourth acceleration run; each test vehicle continues to accelerate to the top speed attainable within 14 miles from the start of the run. The highest speed attained within the 14-mile distance is considered the vehicle’s top speed.
Unlike MSP, LASD puts 400 lbs. of weight in the back of each SUV tested. LASD believes no police department would ever deploy an empty vehicle so why not test as it would likely be deployed in the real world. MSP does not add extra weight to any of the tested vehicles. MSP is testing the vehicle to verify it can meet their specific requirements and the advertised claims of the manufacturer.
During the 0–60 mph brake testing, the MSP allows each vehicle to have fresh burnished brakes (new pads and rotors). They do not require the vehicle to have been driven at all before the brakes are evaluated. The LASD method involves the vehicles being driven hard and the brakes are hot before the brakes are tested.
The MSP test begins with ‘cold’ brakes. The first five stops are performed in a southbound direction, the second set of stops in a northbound direction across the same surface. Once 10 stops are performed, the vehicle is driven 3.2 miles at 45 mph to allow the brakes to cool before the second sequence. After the cooling distance, the 10 stops are repeated. The exact initial velocity at the beginning of each of the 60–0 mph decelerations, and the exact distance required to make each stop, is recorded by means of a RaceLogic Vbox 3i GPS-based data collection unit.
For this year’s test of the 2022 model year vehicles, MSP tested 11 vehicles: The Chevrolet PPV Tahoe 5.3L RWD and 5.3L AWD; the Dodge Durango AWD Pursuit V-6 and V-8; the Ford PI Utility AWD 3.3L, AWD 3.0L EcoBoost, and AWD Hybrid; the Dodge Charger 3.6L AWD, Charger 5.7L RWD; and the Ford F-150 Police Responder. This was also the first year for the Ford Mach-E all-electric vehicle to be tested at MSP.
The Mach E was a first for MSP testing, as the first MSP’s test vehicle features an all-wheel drive configuration and the Mach-E GT’s powertrain, which means that it utilizes dual permanent magnetic motors, including an upgraded secondary electric motor that powers the front wheels for a combined output of 480 horsepower and 600 pound-feet of torque. Ford projects that the Mach-E GT will do 0–60 mph in 3.8 seconds and achieve an EPA-estimated 270 miles of range. Law enforcement use will likely change these figures and so will weather and equipment demands.
MSP drivers managed to do 0–60 in 4.0 seconds flat and hit 100 mph in 11.9 seconds in the Mach-E police tester. Contrary to popular belief, the Mach-E test vehicle only had police graphics; it did not have extra police lighting or equipment during the test. The Mach-E hit 124 mph in two miles, and after 18 miles of high-speed track testing, the Mach-E used 30% charge on each run; it wasn’t down to 30% charge left in the battery (i.e., it went from 80% down to 50% over the eight laps).
Likely, the heat on the electric motors is the reason for the diminishing speed after the five fastest laps. Charging was done after every eight laps. MSP called that performance “a good start” for EVs, but noted that charging infrastructure and speeds will need to improve before electric vehicles can completely replace ICE-powered vehicles in this capacity.
Ford has already increased the Mach-E’s usable battery capacity for the 2022 model year, which should translate to more range, and it plans on continuously improving the EV in that regard moving forward. It should also be noted that while the Mach E is not an officially sanctioned and pursuit-rated purpose-built police vehicle, Ford has released an upfitter’s document to assist fleet managers who will deploy one regardless. Ford recommends the purchase of the GT version and not the base model to ensure there is sufficient power available for aftermarket equipment demands.
Some of the highlighted results from the vehicle testing:
The 2021 Ford F-150 Police Responder accelerated from 0–60 mph in just 5.8 seconds versus 6.6 seconds for the previous model. The pickup reached its top speed of 120 mph in just over a half-mile, while its predecessor only managed to top out at 105 mph.
Much of this improvement likely comes from recalibrated tuning for the truck’s 10-speed automatic transmission, but that isn’t the only upgrade present in the newest F-150 Police Interceptor. The truck also rides on specially developed Goodyear LT265/70R18 LRC BSW Wrangler Enforcer all-terrain tires–the only all-terrain tires available on a pursuit-rated police vehicle–which are uniquely designed to handle rapid acceleration, high speeds, and aggressive cornering on paved roads. The tires can also endure tremendous amounts of heat without sacrificing off-road capability.
For the acceleration and speed tests, among sedans, The Mustang Mach-E was fastest at 4.0 seconds flat for the 0-60 and 11.9 for 0–100 mph. The Charger 5.7L AWD had a 0–60 mph time of 6.2 seconds and a 0–100 mph time of 14.1 seconds. The Charger Pursuit 5.7L RWD had a top speed of 140 mph, which was 10 mph lower than the Ford PIU EcoBoost AWD at 150 mph.
The 2022 Police Interceptor Utility (PIU) 3.0L EcoBoost turned a quick 0–60 mph (5.5 seconds) and 0–100 mph times (13.5 seconds). At last year’s MSP test, the EcoBoost PIU (SUV) had the highest top speed of any vehicle tested, at 150 mph. All vehicles tested at MSP met their theoretical speed limitations.
These results are a tribute to all three vehicle OEMs and their never-ending commitment to not only improve their own product development but the overall quality of police vehicles in general. Unfortunately, too many officers are lost each year while operating a police vehicle, but this type of engineering development will hopefully contribute to reducing those losses. It is a fact that officers today are protected by vehicles far safer than ones built even 10 years ago. All three OEMs deserve huge credit and we should applaud them for their never-ending commitment to keeping all first responders safe in their vehicles.
MSP found that in the driving dynamics test, the Charger 5.7L AWD had the fastest average lap speed of all vehicles tested at 1:36:31. The PIU 3.0L EcoBoost had the fastest average lap of all SUVs tested (1:36:52).
During brake testing, the Charger 3.6L RWD & AWD had a slightly longer stopping distance from last year from 60 mph. Last year was 127.2 feet versus 129.7 feet for this year. But the quickest stopping vehicle was the lighter Ford Mustang Mach E at 125 feet. For the big SUVs, the new brake package on the Tahoe PPV seems to be working as that stopped 0–60 in 129 feet for RWD and 131.5 feet for the AWD. The Durango Pursuit 3.6L came in at 133.8 feet and the V8 Durango in at 136.6 feet.
Last year, BMW submitted both the 750GS & 850GS for testing, but this year, they did not enter either of those models.
To obtain specific detailed test results for the motorcycles and the vehicles, see the MSP website or obtain a copy of their annual report that is normally released in November following the September testing.
Sergeant Brad Brewer is a 30-year member of the Vancouver Police Department. He was an eight-year member of the Ford Police Advisory Board and regularly gives presentations at law enforcement conferences on mobile computing, wireless technology and police vehicle ergonomics. He can be reached at email@example.com.