What's coming 'round the bend

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...


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.

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