2011 Michigan State Police Vehicle Evaluation Results

I had the pleasure of attending the Michigan State Police (MSP) 2011 Model Year Police Vehicle Evaluations and Purchasing Program this past September. There were many familiar faces, the reliability of the Crown Victoria, the aggressiveness of the Charger, the unmistakable thunder of Harley-Davidson. New this year, as I’m sure you’ve heard, are new developments from Ford Motors, General Motors/Chevrolet and even a new motorcycle model from Kawasaki.

This doesn’t even begin to explain the new changes from the remainder of the tested manufacturers, however “tested” might not be the most accurate word.

In all, participated in the event were nine different vehicles and four motorcycles:

  • Three versions of the Ford Interceptor brand, six models total — a Crown Victoria 3.55 and 3.27 (both with a 4.6L engine), two 3.5L Police Interceptor sedans in front-wheel drive (FWD) and all-wheel drive (AWD) with a third featuring an EcoBoost Turbo and finally the new 3.5L AWD all-utility SUV;
  • Chevrolet’s new Caprice 9C1 6L (announced fall of 2009), its Impala 9C1 3.9L and the Tahoe PPV 2WD 5.3L;
  • The Chrysler/Dodge Chargers 3.6L and 5.7L;
  • The Harley-Davidson Electra Glide and Road King;
  • The BMW R1200 RTP; and
  • The Kawasaki Concours 14 ABS Police (announced this past summer).

A quintuplet of tests

Acceleration — Using a Corrsys-Datron Non-Contact Optical Sensor, in conjunction with a personal computer, each vehicle is driven through four acceleration sequences, each time for each target speed — from 0 mph to 60 mph, 80 mph and 100 mph — are averaged.

Top Speed — After the fourth acceleration run, each vehicle runs to it’s highest speed attainable within 14 miles. Simple. Easy. Fast.

Brake Testing: Vehicles — As in year’s past, the vehicle’s brake tests procedures included the two heat-up stops and six 60 mph to 0 mph threshold stops with ABS in operation (if equipped) and repeated. Data from the 12 total stops are used to calculate the average.

The Acceleration, Top Speed and Vehicle Brake tests were conducted at the Chrysler Proving Grounds in Chelsea, Mich.

Brake Testing: Motorcycles — The MSP were interested in seeing how brakes transitioned in temperature, this year’s brake tests were adjusted for the participating four motorcycle models. The test began with ten 60 mph to 0 full ABS measured stops, a one mile lap for a cool down, then the ten stops again.

With this new procedure, “we can see … how the brakes on a particular motorcycle react when they are cold and then transition to a much hotter state,” says MSP Lt. Keith Wilson Commanding Officer of the Precision Driving Unit. He added that there are plans to follow this same format with the cars next year. 

Dynamics (high speed handling) — Save for the models themselves, not much changed from previous year’s dynamics procedures with the motorcycles run at the one-mile MSP headquarters in Lansing, Mich., and the vehicles run at Grattan Raceway, Grattan, Mich.

Without experiencing the tracks themselves it can be difficult to understand what six minutes and eight seconds may actually mean — other than offering a comparison to how one model performed on the same track from years past. Wilson added two turns (via traffic cones) into the motorcycle track making a nine-turn course. However this doesn't allow the opportunity to run “wide open” for a substantial period of time. 

“In order to produce as much separation numbers-wise to make it as logical as possible … the cumulative time for the motorcycles is adding all five [best five of six] laps together for each rider and then averaging the [results].

“If we were to do the cars the same way we do the bikes, we would add all the lap times to come up with a total cumulative lap time,” explains Wilson. There may be plans in the works to tweak the tests even further for following years, to show separation between the motorcycles, no solid information is available at this time.

Replacement Brake Pads — The MSP were contacted by the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center to conduct an evaluation on replacement brake pads; previously published last nine years ago in 2001. This test was ultimately intended to provide an evaluation to a select number of friction pad materials and the vehicle's original equipment (O/E) brake pad and rotors. To "limit" this field, MSP and Greening Testing Laboratories, Inc. (an ISO/IEC 17025 accredited laboratory) - who assisted at no-cost to the MSP - sent a solicitation to 28 friction material manufacturers offering a "severe duty" product.

It quickly became apparent to Chuck Greening, Jr., President of Greening Testing Laboratories, Inc. that testing on all brake pads available for the police fleets was next to impossible given the time constraints. Alleviating this issue, the labs then provided a screening tool to "whittle the field." This was Stage 1 of a three stage process.

This "prescreening" was tested to Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 135, (FMVSS 135), Greening Labs submitted double blind results to MSP, top performing brake pad candidates for each vehicle application were chosen and continued to Stage 2.

According to the completed report "2010 Aftermarket Brake Pad Evaluation," "not all submitted aftermarket candidate brake pads were able to meet the minimum requirements of FMVSS 135 and were, therefore, removed from the pool of eligible test candidates."

"The only names [manufacturer and brand] that will be made public ... are those manufacturers whose pads scored well enough in the screening process of Stage 1 to move onto Stage 2," says Wilson.

With the O/E as a control for each vehicle, Stage 2 included two series of ten measured 60 mph to 0 straight line full ABS stops separated by a cool down sequence. Stage 3 involved six measured 125 mph to 0 mph straight-line full ABS stops, each stop with a 4.5-mile cool down lap.

The models

BMW - Surprisingly alone in BMW's camp is the BMW R1200 RTP. Previously the 2010 model program included the G650 motorcycle. Frank Stevens, BMW's Authority Program Manager reports that there were no changes from last year.

The R1200, however, includes a newly designed cylinder head providing a more efficient combustion for a slight increase in torque, a servo operated exhaust valve in the muffler exhaust system and a slight facelift to the faring side panels and the windshield mounting to add a bit more protection for open-faced helmet riders. Also brand new for the 2011 model are new hand levers and switch controls.

"The rest of the bike is basically, from seat to back, is identical [to the 2010 model]," says Stevens.

BMW knows high speed. The company also manufactures the super sport bike, the S1000RR - the fastest production motorcycle in the world, according to Stevens. To compare, MSP reports the 2011 R1200 tops out at 127 mph, the S1000RR runs over 180 mph - special training is provided by BMW.

Further information on BMW's offerings can be found at www.bmwmc.net, best viewed with Microsoft Internet Explorer.

Chrysler/DodgeInformation regarding the 2011 Dodge Charger has not been released at the time of this article's writing.

However, Chrysler had announced the new 2011 Dodge Charger Pursuit model August 2010. According to the Chrysler Web site, "This vehicle features a redesigned interior and exterior while offering advantages in safety and capability from extensive structural enhancements including the use of high-strength steels and Unibody construction, to its rear-wheel drive configuration. For standard power it boasts the all-new 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 VVT mated to a 5-speed AutoStick transmission."

Further information on this vehicle can be found at www.fleet.chrysler.com.

Ford Motor Co. - With the ending of the Crown Victoria line in 2011, like a phoenix the Police Interceptor brand doesn't disappear in the rear-view mirror. Ford has "evolved" its Interceptor with a sedan (for a direct replacement) as well as a new SUV utility version - further information on this can be found on Page 46. And recently announced is a new undercover Interceptor with a design inspiration from the SR-71 "Blackbird" stealth airplane. 

Having to follow the Crown Victoria, Ford focuses on safety, durability and performance for its next generation Police Interceptors. While both versions are built from the same platform (the very same platform is used on the new 2011 Explorer, Lincoln MKT and MKS, and the Taurus) the mechanical underpinnings are world's apart - the Taurus and Explorer also share their sheet metal with the respective Interceptors. 

According to Lisa Teed, Ford's Fleet Brand Marketing Manager, there should be little to no issues with reusing Crown Victoria aftermarket equipment within and on the Interceptor sedan, requiring only a new light bar attachment strap. This is coupled with an easy-to-drop headliner to run wiring. 

"In regards to license plate readers and radios and in-car camera systems, all those can be easily transfer over," says Teed. Adding that the sedans console measurements are consistent with today's Crown Victoria. 

Further information on Ford's fleet vehicle offerings can be found at www.fleet.ford.com and www.fordpoliceinterceptor.com.

General Motors/Chevrolet - A lot of light surrounds the performance of the Chevrolet Caprice, it's V8 has been limited to the recorded top speed (148 mph). It joins the Chevrolet police line with the Impala and full-sized SUV Tahoe.

"We think we've got a great new vehicle that's going to provide, not only performance, but also the comfort and safety for the officers as they do their daily job," says Dana Hammer, Law Enforcement Vehicles Manager of General Motor's Fleet and Commercial Operations.

Illustrating the Chevrolet's drive to provide performance, comfort and safety to law enforcement, the company moved the traditional floor-mounted shift lever 3.5 inches towards the driver from center; this under the intent to free space for the center console. The vehicle also features a hoard of other features such as crumple zones, officer designed seats, new speed odometer functions, an additional battery for electronics and more.

Further information on all General Motors and Chevrolet's vehicle line-up can be found at www.gmfleet.com and www.chevroletcapriceppv.com.

Harley-Davidson Motor Co. - The always approachable Harley-Davidson model has been an icon within the law enforcement world - let alone the motorcycle universe. While this recognition is difficult to deny, the Electra Glide and Road King models highlight value, performance and durability and image.

According to Steve St. Thomas, director of worldwide police and fleet sales for Harley-Davidson Motor Co., the motorcycles serve their law enforcement riders with acceleration. Thomas mentions that studies show that most police vehicles spend a majority of time at 70 mph or under. Looking more towards acceleration up to this speed, he sees it relating to what the mission of the motor unit. "Is it going to be more community policing? More traffic? General patrol? Everyone of these are going to have different requirements, the agency itself will have to look at what they are trying to use the motor unit for, first," he says.

Harley-Davidson made three minor improvements over their 2010 model pair: an improvement in the clutch cable, the engine compensator was made more "heavy duty," and a different engine calibration due to a redone throttle body.

"We do use the results [from the Michigan State testing], they have shaped our product performance in the past and I'm confident they'll continue to shape how we plan the product, features and performance going forward as well," adds Thomas.

Further information on Harley-Davidson can be found at www.harley-davidson.com or www.harley-davidsonpolicemotors.com.

Kawasaki - The newest participating manufacturer in the MSP evaluations, while the Kawasaki has been available for police for years, is the new Kawasaki Concours Police Interceptor motorcycle.

The company focused on performance, rider control and value for its latest edition for police - the MSP results contend to its performance. Kawasaki electronically limited its Concours to about 130 mph. However, John Griffin, the government and fleet sales manager of Kawasaki, regrets suggesting too low of shift points for the driving unit. "I think that on the track test portion [of the LA Sheriff's Tests], the performance will continue to improve," he says.

In interest to more streamline the aftermarket process, up-fitting of Kawasaki motorcycles are done with Bodry Motors to the needs of the agency. "This is unique because agencies can get everything installed at one time ... without needing anyone else to tear it back apart to add on equipment later," adds Griffin.

Further information on the Kawasaki police offerings can be found at www.kawasaki.com and www.kawasakipolice.com.

Any vehicle with E85 capability, was tested with regular and E85 fuel.

With all the new offerings announced, the new changes to well-known and familiar models ran under the Michigan State Police's eye, I leave with one question: What’s in store for us tomorrow?  

Editor’s Note: Further information on each of the tests as well as extended results can be found at www.michigan.gov/msp.

The 2010 Aftermarket Brake Pad Evaluation report results can be found at www.justnet.org/pages/brakepads.aspx.