Where the rubber meets the Road

      Each vehicle for a law enforcement agency is unique, like a snowflake — a V6-powered, horsepower-injected, industry-designed snowflake with four tires hammering away at miles upon miles of road, taking each curve and maneuvering to the vehicle's utmost apex of capabilities. Police vehicles enforce the speeding to tap the brakes, hold a revering symbol of authority and order to its public and bring its drivers home safe each and every day. Perhaps these vehicles are not like snowflakes at all.

   You guessed it, the 2010 model's Michigan State Police Vehicle Tests went underway this September, holding the program's unbiased professionalism and results to its historical standard.

   Each vehicle assessment was designed by the program to bring relatable data to law enforcement — numbers officers might have to deal with on a day-to-day basis. Going on 35 years, the testing continues to deliver relevant results. The tests includes: Acceleration and Top Speed (Page 20), Braking (Page 20), and Road Dynamics (Pages 16 and 21). Each vehicle, motorcycle, SUV and sedan alike, is sent through the same rigors of the year's schedule.

   This year's testing evaluated the following vehicles:

  • BMW R1200 RTP
  • BMW G650 GS-P
  • Chevrolet Impala 9C1 3.9L and E85 3.9L
  • Chevrolet Tahoe PPV (2WD) 5.3L and E85 5.3L
  • Dodge Charger 3.5L and 5.7L
  • Ford Police Crown Victoria Interceptor 3.27 4.6L and 3.55 4.6L
  • Harley-Davidson Electra Glide
  • Harley-Davidson Road King
  • Harley-Davidson Buell Ulysses

Testing

   Testing was split up for the required space and appropriate environment. Acceleration, braking and top speed were held at the Chrysler Proving Grounds in Chelsea, Mich. Motorcycle road dynamics ran the track in Lansing, Mich., while the Grattan Raceway Park, Grattan, Mich., hosted the vehicle road dynamics.

   While specific details on the Chrysler Proving Grounds are kept a bit secret, acceleration, braking and top speed testing consisted of each vehicle charging forward while a Corrsys-Datron non-contact optical sensor tracked speed and distance — thus recording the relevant data. Since the Chrysler Grounds are oval, the Grattan River Raceway represents real-world driving.

   The Raceway, according to its Web site, includes a curvy 2-mile (roughly) road course with multiple turns of varying degree angles as well as a number of straight-aways allowing drivers to "stretch their legs" pushing the gas pedal down as far as safely possible.

   That said, the drivers deserve much more praise than typically received. Each year drivers take each vehicle into testing producing precise test results, with only a slight range in findings. This year's drivers included (all from the Michigan State Police): Sgt. James Flegel, Sgt. Ronald Gromak, Sgt. Matthew Rogers, Trooper Michael McCarthy, Trooper Nathan Johnson and Trooper Marcus Trammel.

   According to the program's information packet:

   Acceleration — Each vehicle was driven through four acceleration sequences (two northbound and two southbound to allow for wind direction). The four times for each target speed are averaged and reported.

   Top Speed — Following the fourth acceleration run, the vehicle continued to accelerate to the top speed attainable within 14 miles.

   Braking — Vehicles make six measured impending skid (threshold) stops from 60 mph with, if equipped, the vehicle's ABS on at specific predetermined points. Following a 4-minute heat soak, the entire sequence is repeated. The exact velocity at the beginning of each of the 60 to 0 mph decelerations and the distance required to make the stop are recorded by non-contact optical sensors. Data from the total 12 stops are used to calculate the average deceleration rate, which is the vehicle's score for the test.

   These tests were developed overtime from the program working with auto manufacturers with requests of law enforcement agencies.

   "It's been a long history of 35 years that [the program has] been doing similar testing," says Commanding Officer of the Precision Driving Unit Keith Wilson. He recently took over the testing program from 10 years experience as a driver.

   Looking at its long history, Wilson explains that the program had to decide which aspects of the vehicles and what testing parameters they had to set up in order to provide the most useful information. Yet, as the years progressed and industry technologies manipulated vehicle performances, testing had to adapt to the engineering. "Every once and awhile we'll tweak the program to provide additional information or to better reflect the actual abilities of each vehicle."

   However, he adds, "as far as the future goes, our testing remains on a steady course from year to year. There's nothing in the immediate future that needs to be changed or tweaked. Manufacturers and law enforcement agencies tell us that we are providing pertinent information to the community in order to help them make purchasing decisions."

Analyzing

   The tests are not done to discern a winner in the evaluations. By no means does any element of the program resemble a race. The only "winner" is the vehicle that best matches an agency's automobile requirement.

   Wilson looks at each aspect (acceleration, top speed, braking, and road dynamics) as part of the potential events of an officer's shift. It is understood that harmonizing the vehicle to the shift is imperative to efficiency, effectiveness and safety. He says that when someone thinks about a police officer in a high-speed emergency run or in a pursuit, those are the top of the list of items when it comes to deciding which vehicle to purchase.

   In analyzing the data, he suggests to compare the numbers from each vehicle. "We will never make a determination of which vehicle is best or which vehicle — some agencies say — 'won the test.' There are no winners or losers. We provide objective data that agencies can use to help them decide which vehicles they want to purchase."

   He adds that individual agencies should decide what is important to them. "Are they working in an urban environment where they don't need a top speed; are they working in a rural environment where greater top speed is necessary? It all depends on the mission each law enforcement agency has and they make a decision on what aspects of each vehicle are important for them."

News

   Recent announcements of the vehicle manufactures may affect the law enforcement vehicle market.

   • The Ford Motor Co., in a news article from the Kalamazoo Gazette (Mich.) Sept. 30, announced the halt of production of the Crown Victoria sedan after Sept. 2011.

   In the article, Wilson said, "We're confident that whatever Ford brings to the table as a replacement for the Crown Vic will be a quality product. They're very aware of the needs of law enforcement."

   He added that Ford told state police officials it plans to work closely with police agencies and aftermarket vehicle outfitters before 2011 to allow departments to purchase whatever equipment they might need for the new patrol vehicles.

   • In an article from the Associated Press, Harley-Davidson saw an 84-percent profit slide in its third-quarter.

   The article continues: "The motorcycle manufacturer also plans to stop making Buell motorcycle products and will sell its MV August division as it looks to concentrate efforts more on its namesake brand.

   "The Milwaukee-based company will sell off its remaining Buell inventory, including motorcycles, accessories and apparel, through its authorized dealerships while supplies last. Dealerships will continue to provide replacement parts and service Buell bikes, with warranty coverage continued as well. The line's closing will likely result in a $125 million one-time cost for Harley-Davidson, with approximately $115 million expected this year."

   It seems while crime continues, even this country's recession finds a way to bring some wheels to a screeching halt. It will most definitely be an interesting 2011 test program.

   Editor's Note: All test results are preliminary and are subject to change upon confirmation of data with the Michigan State Police. Once available, additional information on the 2010 and previous year's police vehicle evaluations can be found online at the Michigan State Police Web site, www.michigan.gov/msp.

Returning to duty

   Announced at the recent International Association of Chiefs of Police show, which took place in Denver from Oct. 3 to 7, hidden underneath a black shroud of secrecy, Chevrolet unveiled its newest Caprice Police Package Vehicle. Along with some custom-designed-for-law-enforcement highlights, this latest model features everything the Caprice's history represents: Full-size four-door sedan, a rear wheel drive and a powerful 6-liter 355 horsepower V8 (with optional V6).

   While the Caprice retains its show-floor looks, as any officer sitting in his or her vehicle knows, your car is your office. Because of this, Chevrolet paid special attention to specific elements inside.

   Dana Hammer, manager of law enforcement vehicles for the General Motors Corp. (GM) , says "[The company] has been working with [our law enforcement customer board] and getting their input, bouncing questions off of them — their input has been very valuable to the development of this vehicle."

   With this attention to detail, it is important to recognize that this Caprice is a law enforcement-only model. "This car is only available for police agencies, there is not a retail vehicle," explains Hammer.

  •    Seating: Its seats have been designed for police officers. As written in GM's release, seats have been sculpted to "pocket" the equipment belt.

       "The Chevrolet Caprice PPV's seats represent a revolution in comfort and utility for officers who spend long hours in their car," says Bob Demick, lead seat design manager.

       "The shape also enhances entry and egress, making it easier for officers to exit the vehicle quickly. The seatback bolsters, for example, have been purposefully contoured to help pocket the equipment on the belt, which includes the gun, Taser and handcuffs, which rest comfortably in the sculpted lower bolsters. That also increases the longevity of the trim cover surface."

  • Battery: A common problem in the law enforcement vehicle is power for equipment required for an officer without wasting fuel. The Caprice includes an auxiliary battery to run aftermarket equipment. This will allow the vehicle to start even if the power drains.
  • Side curtain airbags: Another thorn in the engineering of police vehicles — how to provide side curtain airbags without forcing a gap in the partition. The Caprice offers front-only side curtain airbags, which allow the full prisoner partition yet still complies to federal safety standards for the backseat. Full-length side curtain airbags are available as an option.
  • Dash: The Caprice's AM/FM radio has been designed to enable its removal for trunk installation. This allows an aftermarket in-dash touchscreen computer monitor for the officer — ridding hardware and mounting brackets.

   "Many people at the IACP show came up to us and said, 'We're glad that Chevy is back,' " mentions Hammer. Yet, he explains "we've always been in the marketplace with our Impala and Tahoe, we feel our Caprice is going to deliver and be a great entry for law enforcement."

   Looking in the future, he adds that the Caprice will be at next year's Michigan State Police Tests and the LA County Tests. Adding that Chevrolet should be able to take orders around this time next year and have delivery of the vehicles in the first quarter of 2011."

   Editor's Note: For more information, the news release can be found at http://www.officer.com/product/10170126/general-motors-corp-chevrolet-caprice-police-patrol-vehicle.

History of the Caprice

   1959 — Chevy Biscayne police model capable of 135 mph with specially tuned, police-only version of the 348-cubic-inch V8 engine.

   1965 —The new "big-block" 396 engine is offered in Biscayne and Bel Air police cars; a 427 V8 was added in 1966.

   1976 —The 9C1 order code is given for the first time to a full-size Chevy police car package. It carries the Impala name.

   1977 — The full-size Chevy is downsized. The 9C1 police package is retained, as is the Impala name.

   1986 —The Caprice name replaces Impala, as the car is updated for the mid- and late-1980s — including the option of a 5.7-liter small-block V8.

   1991 —A new-generation Caprice is launched, with the 9C1 police car still on the beat.

   1994 — The 260-horsepower (194 Nm) LT1 V8 engine is offered in the Caprice 9C1.

   1996 — Caprice police car production ends.

   2011 — The Caprice PPV returns to active duty.

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