Every year, the Michigan State Police test vehicles from the major manufacturers, in order to set the benchmarks for the coming year. Police administrators from all over the U.S., as well as other countries, rely on the results when selecting their fleets.
For the last 25 years, MSP has been doing their annual testing, and in 1981 the National Institute of Justice became the test's sponsor. Although the tests have changed over the years, the results have been consistently reliable, and the troopers of the Michigan State Police have continued to develop their testing protocols in order to discover ever more information regarding vehicle performance.
Acceleration and stopping distance, as well as top speed and pursuit/emergency high speed handling characteristics are tested. Ergonomics and comfort are also considered, as well as fuel efficiency
Every fall, testing of acceleration, braking and maximum speed is held at the Chrysler Proving Grounds in Chelsea, Michigan. High speed pursuit/emergency handling characteristics--otherwise referred to as vehicle dynamics--are evaluated at the Grattan Raceway in central Michigan. The tests are conducted over a weekend, with every effort made to avoid wet driving conditions. While such conditions are, indeed, typical patrol conditions--they would make fair comparison of the performance of different vehicles extremely difficult.
Vehicles are tested without any top lights or spotlights, in order to reduce wind resistance, and to assure a more even playing field. The vehicles are run with production-model tires that are available as original factory equipment.
Two different types of vehicles are tested. The first type are those vehicles that are to be used for "general service" patrol, and may be subjected to high speed and pursuit driving. The second group is made up of vehicles that are more likely to be used as "special service" vehicles. These are the four-wheel-drive vehicles, the SUVs, and the pickup trucks. Last year, a third category was added--for motorcycles.
Automobiles such as the ubiquitous Ford Crown Victoria that we're all so familiar with, make up the general service category, accompanied by some specially designed sport utility vehicles, such as the Chevrolet Tahoe. All vehicles are subjected to acceleration, braking and top speed testing. Only the general purpose patrol vehicles--and a few specially designated SUVs--participate in the high speed handling (vehicle dynamics) tests.
2008 Models Tested
This year's tests included vehicles submitted by General Motors, Ford and Chrysler. There were 11 vehicles in the General Service category:
- Dodge Charger 3.5 liter
- Dodge Charger 5.7 liter
- Dodge Magnum 3.5 liter
- Dodge Magnum 5.7 liter
- Ford Police Interceptor 3.27 4.6 liter
- Ford Police Interceptor 3.27 4.6 liter
- Ford Police Interceptor E85 3.55 4.6 liter
- Chevrolet Impala 9C1 3.9 liter
- Chevrolet Impala 9C1 E85 3.9 liter
- Chevrolet Tahoe PPV 5.3 liter
- Chevrolet Tahoe PPV E85 5.3 liter
There were five vehicles in the Special Service category:
- Chevrolet Tahoe (4WD) 5.3 liter
- Chevrolet Suburban 3/4 ton (4WD) 6.0 liter
- Ford Explorer (2WD) 4.6 liter
- Ford Expedition (2WD) 5.4 liter 3V
- Ford F-150 (2WD) 5.4 liter Super Crew Cab
Acceleration and top speed testing was rated in increments. Each vehicle's acceleration performance was measured in increments of 10 mph; so the first test was from 0 to 20 mph, the next from 0 to 30 mph, and so on, up to 0 to 100 mph, then a top speed was recorded.
Test numbers were pretty close from vehicle to vehicle, but the Dodge vehicles were the clear winners. In the General Service category, the Dodge Magnum 5.7 liter was quickest in the first three test brackets (0-20, 0-30 and 0-40 mph) followed closely by the Dodge Charger 5.7 liter, then the Ford Police Interceptor 3.55 4.6 liter. The Dodge Charger 5.7 liter took the next six test brackets, followed by the Dodge Magnum 5.7 liter. In other words, the two Dodges were number one and two in every test bracket. The Dodge Charger 5.7 liter also took top speed honors (148 mph), with the number two slot going to the Chevrolet Impala 9CI 3.9 liter (142 mph).
In the Special Service category, the first two test brackets were shared by the Ford Explorer 4.6 liter and the Ford Expedition 5.4 liter, with the Explorer taking the number one spot in brackets 0-20 mph up through 0-100 mph. The Expedition took the number two slot in the 0-30 mph, 0-40 mph and 0-50 mph brackets but then moved to number three behind the Chevrolet Suburban 3/4 ton for the remaining brackets up through 0-90 mph. The Expedition took second place in the 0-100 mph bracket. The fastest special service vehicle was the Ford Expedition 5.4 liter, at 105 mph, while the Ford Explorer 4.6 liter came in second, at 104 mph. Three vehicles topped out at less than 100 mph; the Chevrolet Tahoe (4WD) at 97.3 mph, the Chevrolet Suburban ¾ ton at 97 mph and the Ford F-150 5.4 liter, at 95 mph.
Vehicles were tested for braking capability in order to calculate their projected stopping distance from 60 miles per hour. In the General Service category, the winner was the Dodge Magnum 3.5 liter, with a stopping distance of 136.0 feet, followed by the Dodge Magnum 5.7 liter at 141.1 feet. The longest stopping distance was 148.0 feet, recorded by the Ford Police Interceptor 3.55 4.6 liter. In the Special Service category, the Ford F-150 Super Crew Cab 5.4 liter took the honors, at 147.3 feet, followed by the Chevrolet Suburban 3/4 ton at 156.4 feet. The longest stopping distance recorded was 173.7 feet, by the Chevrolet Tahoe (4WD) 5.3 liter.
Vehicle Dynamics Testing
The track used for this testing is two miles in length, and each vehicle was driven a minimum of eight laps by each of four drivers, for a total of 32 laps each. The score is the combined average of each driver's five fastest laps (for a total of 20 laps per vehicle). Once again, two of the Dodge vehicles earned top scores, with the Dodge Charger 5.7 liter coming in at an average time of 1:37.77, and the Dodge Magnum 5.7 liter a close second at 1:37.94. The Ford Police Interceptors were a little slower, at 1:40.59 and 1:40.70 respectively. The slowest in this test was the Chevrolet Tahoe PPV (2WD), at 1:43.82.
Both Harley Davidson and BMW brought bikes for consideration, and the testing was conducted at the Michigan State Police Precision Driver Training Facility. Three machines were tested:
- BMW R1200RTP
- Harley Davidson Police Road King
- Harley Davidson Police Electra Glide
The BMW was the clear winner In the acceleration and top speed testing, although the Road King beat it by .01 seconds in the 0-20 mph bracket (1.29 and 1.30 seconds, respectively). After that, the BMW was consistently faster in every test bracket, finishing with a 0-100 mph time of 10.01 seconds. The Harley Davidson Police Road King gained second in every test bracket, turning in a 0-100 mph time of 25.44 seconds. The Electra Glide was third on every test, with a 0-100 mph time of 26.05 seconds. Top speeds were 130.9 for the BMW, 109.1 for the Road King, and 106.2 for the Electra Glide.
The BMW also won the braking test, with a projected stopping distance from 60 mph of 139.0 feet. The Harley Davidson Police Road King score was 171.4 feet, and the Harley Davidson Police Electra Glide score was 173.3 feet.
Each machine completed a vehicle dynamics test similar to that completed by the other patrol vehicles. Here, a road course was negotiated by four riders doing six laps each. Each rider's best five laps were averaged, then the four riders' averages were again averaged to get a cumulative average for each machine (for a total of 20 averaged laps per machine). The BMW took honors, with a combined average of 5:49.4. The Harley Davidson Police Road King was next at 6:17.4, followed by the Harley Davidson Police Electra Glide at 6:19.0.
At this point, all of these scores for all types of vehicles are preliminary, pending the release of the MSP final report. More detailed results of the testing can be downloaded from the Michigan State Police website.
The testing conducted each year provides an extremely valuable service to the law enforcement community. The Michigan State Police take the challenge seriously, realizing the effect that their test results can have on thousands of officers and communities.
Stay safe, and wear your vest!