Pick Your RIDE

Every officer wants the best vehicle he can get his hands on. Every department wants the most cost-effective fleet possible. Somewhere in between is probably the best place to be.

What are your criteria for a patrol unit? Do you need a fast vehicle because you work for a state highway patrol, or are you more desirous of quick handling because you work an urban area? If you're of a certain size, then occupant comfort might be high on your list. Chiefs, sheriffs and municipal administrators want good fuel economy. Everyone wants safe vehicles.

How is your department supposed to figure out which vehicles meet your specific needs? After all, once upon a time, law enforcement agencies just purchased vehicles from dealers, although they were usually equipped with beefed-up components, such as a trailer-towing package and large engine. Many agencies that went this route have learned through bitter experience the increased cost of maintaining vehicles like these, and the shorter lifespan of such vehicles just makes the savings not worth the headaches.

What was needed was a reliable way to measure and compare police vehicles, so that governmental entities could make sound, responsible and fiscally justifiable decisions regarding vehicle purchases. After all, a department's vehicle fleet is its second largest expenditure, after personnel costs.

Filling a need
More than 25 years ago, the Michigan State Police (MSP) began testing vehicles in order to determine their suitability for use as police vehicles. In 1981, the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) became the sponsor of the MSP vehicle tests, through its technology assessment arm, the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center (NLECTC). Over the years, the tests have evolved into a set of standardized procedures that can be used to measure and compare various vehicles submitted by manufacturers. Tests are conducted to determine acceleration and stopping distance, as well as top speed and pursuit/emergency high-speed handling characteristics. Test personnel also evaluate vehicles for comfort and ergonomic design, and there is a comparison of fuel efficiency criteria.

Every fall, MSP conducts its bank of evaluations for the upcoming model year. Acceleration, braking and top speed are tested at the DaimlerChrysler Proving Grounds in Chelsea, Michigan. High-speed pursuit/emergency handling characteristics are evaluated at the Grattan Raceway, located just west of Michigan's capital city, Lansing.

The Proving Grounds tests are conducted on a Saturday and the Grattan Raceway tests on the following Monday. Sunday is reserved as a "rain day," as wet road and track conditions, while typical for patrol officers, would negatively impact on the testing procedures. Not only are wet roads less safe for the test drivers, but the differing levels of moisture likely to be on the road during the day could skew the test results, since the conditions wouldn't be the same for each vehicle.

Each year, different manufacturers bring their vehicles to be tested. Vehicles are production models, equipped as they would be if they were ordered and purchased from the factory by your city or county. Vehicles are tested in a "slick-top" configuration, and without "A" pillar spotlights, in order to keep the tests standardized for all vehicles. Additionally, the vehicles are run with production model tires that are available as original factory equipment.

Vehicles are divided into two categories — those rated for general service patrol, including high-speed and/or pursuit driving — and those that are not. The latter are referred to as special service vehicles, a classification that typically includes four-wheel drive (4WD) vehicles, as well as pick-up trucks. Automobiles, such as the Ford Crown Victoria, make up the general service category, accompanied by some specially designed sport utility vehicles, such as the Chevrolet Tahoe. All vehicles are subjected to the acceleration, braking and top speed testing. Only the general purpose patrol vehicles participate in the high-speed handling tests.

2007 vehicles
As it happens, this most recent test was held on a rainy, foggy weekend September 16-19. Because the conditions were unfavorable, testing was delayed until they improved. Saturday started out foggy, but eventually it burned off and things got underway.

This year's tests included vehicles submitted by General Motors, Ford and DaimlerChrysler.

In the general service category:

  • Dodge Charger 3.5-liter SPFI
  • Dodge Magnum 3.5-liter SPFI
  • Chevrolet Impala 9C1 3.9-liter SPFI
  • Ford Police Interceptor 3.27 4.6-liter SPFI
  • Chevrolet Tahoe PPV 5.3-liter SPFI
  • Ford Police Interceptor 3.55 4.6-liter SPFI
  • Chevrolet Tahoe PPV E85 5.3-liter SPFI
  • Dodge Charger 5.7-liter SPFI
  • Dodge Magnum 5.7-liter SPFI

In the special service category:

  • Chevrolet Tahoe (4WD) 5.3-liter SPFI
  • Ford Explorer 4.6-liter SPFI
  • Ford Expedition 5.4-liter 3V SMFI
  • Ford Expedition EL 5.4-liter 3V SMFI
  • Ford Escape Hybrid 2.3-liter SMFE
  • Dodge Magnum 3.5-liter SPFI
  • Ford F-250 Crew Cab 5.4-liter SMFI

Acceleration and top speed
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 close from vehicle to vehicle, but the Dodge vehicles emerged as the clear winners. In the general service category, the Dodge Magnum 5.7 liter was quickest in the first two test brackets (0-20 and 0-30 mph) followed closely by the Dodge Charger 5.7 liter, then tied with the Dodge Charger 5.7 liter in the 0-40 mph bracket. 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 No. 1 and No. 2 in every test bracket. The Dodge Charger 5.7 liter also took top speed honors (148 mph), with the No. 2 slot going to the Chevrolet Impala (139 mph).

In the special service category, the results were spread out a little more. The first two test brackets were taken by the Ford Explorer 4.6 liter, with the Dodge Magnum 3.5 liter tying with the Ford Expedition models for second place. The Dodge Magnum 3.5 liter took the rest of the test brackets (from 0-40 mph to 0-100 mph), with the Ford Explorer and the Chevrolet Tahoe 4WD splitting the second place honors. The fastest special service vehicle was the Dodge Magnum 3.5 liter, at 116 mph, while the Ford Expedition 5.4 liter came in second, at 104 mph. Two vehicles topped out at less than 100 mph — the Chevrolet Tahoe 4WD at 98 mph and the Ford F-250 5.4 liter at 95 mph.

Braking results
Braking was tested a little differently. Vehicles were tested for braking capability in order to calculate their projected stopping distance from 60 mph. In the general service category, the winner was the Dodge Magnum 3.5 liter, with a stopping distance of 129.9 feet. In the special service category, the Ford Escape Hybrid 2.3 liter took the honors at 139.3 feet.

High-speed vehicle dynamics testing was limited to the general purpose vehicles. The score here is the average time for four different drivers on five laps of the Grattan track (for a total of 20 laps per vehicle). Here again, the Dodge vehicles earned top scores, with the Dodge Magnum 5.7 liter coming in with an average time of 1:37.65, and the Dodge Charger 5.7 liter a close second at 1:37.69.

This year there was a pilot testing program with police motorcycles, held on Sunday (the rain day), at the MSP driver training facility. Both Harley-Davidson and BMW brought bikes for consideration. The testing isn't formally a part of the vehicle testing protocol, but serious consideration is being given for next year's tests.

More detailed results of the testing can be downloaded from the MSP Web site at www.michigan.gov/msp/. There are spreadsheets available in PDF format, containing all test results for each vehicle. Ultimately, the entire test report will be generated and published, as it has been in years past.

The MSP have undertaken to provide an extremely valuable service to the law enforcement community through this vehicle testing program. The MSP tests have become the benchmark for many departments in determining which vehicles to buy for their fleets. For one agency to provide such a service for more than 25 years speaks highly to MSP's level of commitment to excellence.

Acceleration and Top Speed Test Results: General Service Category
SPEED (seconds) Dodge Charger 3.5L SPFI Dodge Magnum 3.5L SPFI Chevrolet Impala 9C1 3.9L SPFI Ford Police Interceptor 3.27 4.6L SPFI Chevrolet Tahoe PPV 5.3L SPFI Ford Police Interceptor 3.55 4.6L SPFI Dodge Charger 5.7L SPFI Chevrolet Tahoe PPV E85 5.3L SPFI Dodge Magnum 5.7L SPFI
0-20 mph 1.96 2.02 1.95 1.81 2.07 1.84 1.57 2.04 1.55
0-30 mph 3.32 3.39 3.21 3.11 3.32 3.10 2.57 3.26 2.56
0-40 mph 4.77 4.86 4.56 4.48 4.61 4.52 3.57 4.52 3.57
0-50 mph 6.53 6.67 6.36 6.43 6.44 6.55 4.97 6.34 5.01
0-60 mph 8.83 8.99 8.82 8.71 8.66 8.72 6.53 8.49 6.54
0-70 mph 11.51 11.71 11.35 11.16 11.01 11.14 8.24 10.74 8.30
0-80 mph 14.52 14.80 14.21 14.19 14.28 14.42 10.69 13.85 10.81
0-90 mph 18.93 19.39 18.26 18.74 19.10 18.83 13.36 18.40 13.48
0-100 mph 24.13 24.95 24.11 24.01 24.52 24.01 16.32 23.45 16.53
TOP SPEED 132 131 139 130 136 119 148 137 131
Acceleration and Top Speed Test Results: Special Service Vehicles
SPEED (seconds) Chevrolet Tahoe (4WD) 5.3L SPFI Ford Explorer 4.6L SFI Ford Expedition 5.4L SMFI Ford Expedition EL 5.4L SMFI Ford Escape Hybrid Dodge Magnum 3.5L SPFI Ford F-250 5.4L EFI
0-20 mph 2.17 1.93 2.09 1.99 2.86 1.99 2.34
0-30 mph 3.45 3.09 3.31 3.36 4.65 3.32 3.79
0-40 mph 4.82 4.83 5.21 5.13 6.76 4.77 5.54
0-50 mph 6.92 6.69 7.14 7.04 9.45 6.52 7.59
0-60 mph 9.18 8.84 9.65 9.77 12.76 8.81 10.31
0-70 mph 11.64 11.93 12.67 12.68 17.09 11.44 13.39
0-80 mph 15.95 15.14 16.08 16.13 22.56 14.53 18.15
0-90 mph 20.82 19.06 20.32 20.94 31.31 18.90 24.56
0-100 mph 24.88 26.68 31.58 52.30 24.11
TOP SPEED 98 101 104 100 102 116 95
General Service Vehicles Brake Test Results
SPEED (seconds) Dodge Charger 3.5L SPFI Dodge Magnum 3.5L SPFI Chevrolet Impala 9C1 3.9L SPFI Ford Police Interceptor 3.27 4.6L SPFI Chevrolet Tahoe PPV 5.3L SPFI Ford Police Interceptor 3.55 4.6L SPFI Dodge Charger 5.7L SPFI Chevrolet Tahoe PPV E85 5.3L SPFI Dodge Magnum 5.7L SPFI
Phase 1 Average Deceleration Rate 28.95 29.94 27.69 27.10 27.97 26.77 29.30 27.97 29.48
Phase 2 Average Deceleration Rate 29.75 29.68 27.42 27.30 28.08 27.26 29.00 28.08 28.95
Overall Average Deceleration Rate 29.35 29.81 27.55 27.20 28.03 27.02 29.15 28.03 29.21
Projected Stopping Distance From 60.0 mph 131.9 129.9 140.5 142.4 138.2 143.3 132.8 138.2 132.5
Special Service Vehicles Brake Test Results
SPEED (seconds) Chevrolet Tahoe (4WD) 5.3L SPFI Ford Explorer 4.6L SFI Ford Expedition 5.4L SMFI Ford Expedition EL 5.4L SMFI Ford Escape Hybrid Dodge Magnum 3.5L SPFI Ford F-250 5.4L EFI
Phase 1 Average Deceleration Rate 26.79 24.48 25.66 25.66 28.05 26.99 24.96
Phase 2 Average Deceleration Rate 24.77 25.67 25.60 26.69 27.54 27.79 24.99
Overall Average Deceleration Rate 25.78 25.07 25.63 26.18 27.79 27.39 24.97
Projected Stopping Distance From 60.0 mph 150.2 154.4 151.1 147.9 139.3 141.4 155.0
Vehicle Dynamics Test Results
Vehicle Lap Time (minutes)
Ford Police Interceptor 3.27 SPFI 1:41.00
Ford Police Interceptor 3.55 SPFI 1:40.91
Chevrolet Impala 9CI 3.9L SPFI 1:42.95
Chevrolet Tahoe PPV 2WD E85 1:43.78
Chevrolet Tahoe PPV 2WD 1:44.08
Dodge Magnum 3.5L SPFI 1:41.82
Dodge Magnum 5.7L SPFI 1:37.65
Dodge Charger 3.5L SPFI 1:41.11
Dodge Charger 5.7L SPFI 1:37.69

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