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2014 NIJ POLICE VEHICLE TESTS


December 11, 2013
By Dave Brown

2538 words – MR

2014 Police Vehicle Tests

by Dave Brown

2014 is destined to become the most memorable year in police vehicles since we first began reporting preliminary results from the National Institute of Justice and the Michigan State Police (MSP) Police Vehicles Test.

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To summarize some of the highlights: Carbon Motors is finally gone for good (yea) but the Australian-built Chevrolet Caprice still isn’t coming to Canada (boo.)

Ford has released its first-ever non-pursuit-rated Special Service Police Sedan with an economy 2.0 litre V6 engine for administrative duties. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Chevrolet is poised to offer its first-ever pursuit-rated four-wheel-drive (4WD) Tahoe, and Dodge is building an all-wheel-drive (AWD) version of the Dodge Charger.

Ford finally knocks Dodge out of first place for the fastest accelerating police car on the planet, a position it has held since the introduction of the hemi-engined Charger in 2006, and finally gets its fondest wish from last year’s test – a brand new 3.5 litre turbocharged Ecoboost version of the Ford Police Interceptor Utility – and it is very fast.

Rear-drive traditionalists can rejoice that the twin-turbocharger Fords may be quick on the drag strip but the naturally-aspirated 6.0 litre rear-drive Caprice turns in the second fastest lap times on the road course (topped only by the AWD 5.7 litre Charger) and the highest top speed (155 MPH) of the entire bunch.

This will soon be the year of all-wheel-drive. General Motors, Chrysler and Ford have taken careful note that fewer than three per cent of all police buyers in North America opted for the FWD option in the Ford sedan, even at a discount price. By mid-2014, all three will be offering at least one police vehicle in an all-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive configuration.

Just to illustrate how competitive the market is getting, both Ford and Dodge entered early versions of models slated for mid-2014 introduction (as 2015 models) in the testing procedures. As always, police buyers should look carefully at the numbers, evaluate their needs and, this year for the very first time, perhaps be prepared to wait a few months if the mid-year models better match those needs.

Agencies wanting to know which vehicles will be most popular with their officers should particularly note the ergonomic scores – after all, officers use them as their offices and homes for up to 12 hours a day. These scores almost exactly match our informal surveys on the forum.

Here in Canada, the Tahoe is considered the most comfortable place to spend a shift, with the Charger not far behind. The third-rated Ford Police Interceptor Utility crossover SUV is considerably more popular with officers than the Ford sedan version, even though both are based on nearly the same front-wheel-drive economy car platform. In fact, more than one Canadian agency is going exclusively with the Ford Utility for all patrol duties.

{MSP yearly vehicle tests}

Every fall the MSP, in conjunction with the US National Institute of Justice (NIJ), test the handling and performance of every new police vehicle on the market for the coming year in back-to-back acceleration, braking and lap time tests. These tests are seen as the most comprehensive analysis of police vehicles in North America, and the results are eagerly anticipated by officers and buyers alike.

The MSP publish the results on its web site at www.michigan.gov/msp, and is once again reporting the preliminary figures. Final figures and a summary of the results should be ready on the MSP web site by the time you read this article.

{Vehicles}

The NIJ and MSP evaluate police vehicles in two categories: police-package and special-service. Police-package vehicles (PPV) are designed for the full spectrum of general police activities, including high-speed pursuit. Special-service vehicles are designed only for specialized duties such as canine units or adverse weather conditions and are not intended or recommended for pursuits.

Fifteen vehicles were submitted to the NIJ in the police-package category for 2014:

  • 2014 Chevrolet Caprice 9C1 (with the 3.6 litre V6 or 6.0 litre V8)

  • 2014 Chevrolet Impala 9C1 with the 3.6 litre V6

  • 2014 Chevrolet Tahoe PPV with the 5.3 litre V8

  • 2015 Dodge Charger with the 3.6 litre V6 and standard 2.65:1 axle ratio

  • 2104 Dodge Charger with the 5.7 litre V8 and standard 2.65:1 axle ratio

  • 2014 Dodge Charger with the 3.6 litre V6 and optional 3.07:1 axle ratio

  • 2015 Dodge Charger with the 5.7 litre V8 and optional 2.65:1 axle ratio

  • 2015 Dodge Charger AWD with the 5.7 litre V8 and optional 3.06:1 axle ratio

  • 2014 Ford Police Interceptor FWD sedan with 3.5 litre V6

  • 2014 Ford Police Interceptor AWD sedan with the 3.5 litre V6 (normally aspirated or turbocharged)

  • 2014 Ford Police Interceptor Utility AWD with the 3.7 litre V6

  • 2015 Ford Police Interceptor AWD sedan with the turbocharged 3.5 litre V6

  • 2015 Ford Police Interceptor Utility AWD with the turbocharged 3.5 litre V6

Here is the lineup of Police Package Vehicles for 2014 (with preliminary figures from the 2014 Michigan State Police vehicle tests, and additional comments from ).

{Chevrolet}

The popularity of the Chevrolet Tahoe may have caught General Motors by surprise but it will run with it for as long as sales stay strong. The 2WD Tahoe is both fast and nimble considering its weight. The Caprice will again not be sold in Canada for 2014, an increasingly curious decision considering sales of the Impala have stalled.

GM is not going to give up its market share without a fight and is already planning to introduce the pursuit-rated 4WD Tahoe mid-year. This is significant for many Canadian police agencies who like the Tahoe for its room and adverse weather capability and will love the pursuit-rated 4WD version.

Unlike Dodge or Ford, the GM is a true switchable 4WD. You can drive in 2WD for best mileage and then switch to Automatic 4WD (A4WD) in variable conditions. This setting is similar to on-demand systems in that it can divert torque to the other axle when it detects slippage, but unlike the Dodge or Ford, it uses an actual transfer case that keeps five per cent of the torque always flowing to the front axle when engaged. This adds stability on slightly slippery surfaces and quickly engages more torque to the front axle when slippage is detected.

GM’s Autotrac system has two more settings when conditions get serious. In 4WD Hi, it locks front and rear axles together for true four-wheel-drive, and in 4WD Lo, it switches to a low range in the transfer case for descending slippery slopes or crawling over rocks at a walking pace.

Unlike older 4WD systems, officers can switch back and forth between 2WD, A4WD and 4WD Hi at any speed without slowing down or pausing to lock hubs.

GM has not announced plans for the police Impala after model year 2014, so it will be interesting to see if it continues the line. Maybe if we are really good this year, Santa will finally bring the Caprice to Canada for 2015.

{Dodge}

The Dodge Charger Pursuit will be available later this year with an all-wheel-drive option. It is basically a rear-drive system that can channel up to 100 per cent of the engine’s torque to either axle when it detects slippage. Both the AWD and traction control systems use special police programming, meaning that fans of big V8 rear-drive police cars from the past will feel right at home.

The Charger has always been known for great brakes but early models suffered from short pad and rotor life. This was corrected for 2011, and improved again for 2014 with even larger 14.5-inch high-performance brakes.

Visibility was vastly improved in 2011 and Dodge did some cleaning up of the exhaust pipe tips and rear fascia panels to prevent damage when crossing highway medians.

New convenience features include a Secure Park idling system that prevents cars from being driven off without the key fob in the car, and even an available rear park assist for cruising the malls.

Plus, Dodge still makes the most aggressive-looking police car on the market.

{Ford}

Ford uses a software-based AWD system computer to detect slippage and divert torque as required. The one substantial difference between this and the other two makes is that both Ford models are based on a front-wheel-drive mid-size economy car platform. This means that the AWD system is biased to front-wheel-drive but can divert up to 100 per cent of the torque to either axle.

Asking the front end to both steer and carry the power means understeer at the limits of traction, but Ford has done an amazing job disguising the fact that the sedan and SUV are both front-wheel-drive at heart.

Most (97 per cent) of all Ford sales are AWD and 60 per cent of all Ford police vehicles sold are the Police Interceptor Utility, so the biggest news this year is the introduction of an AWD Utility interceptor with the powerful twin-turbocharged 3.5 litre Ecoboost engine. This model may even help officers forget that Ford uses a curious seating position in both models that drops the seat toward the floor to increase front headroom. There were a few early reports of difficulty installing partitions in the utility but that seems to have been resolved.

Ford has also learned an important lesson from Dodge – a police car should look like a police car. Ford combines aerodynamics, styling, durability and speed into a strong package in every category.

As late as last year we were still lamenting the passing of the big Crown Victoria Police Interceptor, but with more new sedan and utility models hitting the streets every day, the old design just looks dated.

{Carbon Motors}

Carbon Motors is dead once and for all. We predicted this years ago, and now all that is left is for bankruptcy trustees to change the locks on the factory Carbon executives fast-talked from the people of Connorsville, Indiana, and auction off the one and only asset – a very tired old E7 mockup prototype vehicle.

An investigation showed that Carbon racked up more than $21 million in liabilities to creditors and managed to blow through $7 million in local government grants on salaries, vacations, resorts, unrestrained travel expenses, lavish hotel rooms and gifts to local councilors.

began seeing huge holes in the company’s business model shortly after its startup announcement; right around the time it chose to purposely ignore the substantial Canadian police market. Perhaps Canadians were just too savvy for the overblown hype; what we here in Canada refer to as “big hat; no cattle.”

The US energy department wasn’t buying the empty ‘rah-rah-Merica’ advertising either, or the unworkable promise of the built-in Weapons of Mass Destruction detector in every car, and turned down a $310 million bailout loan request – not surprising because it is hard to bail out a company with one car as its only asset. Carbon executives didn’t let that stop them from jet-setting across the country on taxpayer funds, including a so-called “marketing trip” to Dubai in 2012 that the company touted as their first tour visit to a country outside the US. It conveniently forgot that Canada probably loses more police cars falling off the back of transporter trucks in a year than Dubai has ever purchased.

has not yet substantiated rumours that the two failed company founders are now trying to market a robot security guard for schools.

{The tests}

MSP and the NIJ’s National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center (NLECTC) test all the vehicles together over a three-day period at the Chrysler Proving Grounds and Grattan Raceway. Each vehicle is tested without rooftop lights, spotlights, sirens or radio antennas in place. Tires are original equipment rubber provided by the manufacturer.

Acceleration, braking and top speed tests are performed at the Chrysler proving ground and vehicle dynamics tests are done using the two-mile Grattan road course. (All dimensions and measurements given are US numbers.)

{The results}

Vehicle dynamics testing

The objective of the vehicle dynamics testing is to determine the high-speed pursuit handling characteristics. Except for the absence of traffic, the road course simulates actual pursuit conditions, allowing evaluation of the blend of suspension components and acceleration and braking ability.

Four different drivers test each vehicle over eight laps, with the five fastest counting toward each driver’s average lap time. Final score is the combined average of all four drivers for each vehicle.

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Acceleration and Top Speed

The objectives of the acceleration and top speed tests are to determine each vehicle’s ability to accelerate from a standing start to 60, 80 and 100 mph, and to record the top speed achieved within a distance of 14 miles from a standing start.

Each vehicle is driven through four acceleration sequences, two in each direction to allow for wind. Acceleration score is the average of the four tests. Following the fourth acceleration sequence, each vehicle continues to accelerate to its highest attainable speed within 14 miles of the standing start point.

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Braking

The objective of the braking test is to determine the deceleration rate attained by each vehicle on twelve 60-0 mph full stops to the point of impending skid, with ABS engaged. Each vehicle is scored on the average deceleration rate it attains.

Each test vehicle makes two heat-up decelerations at predetermined points on the test road from 90 to 0 mph at 22 ft/sec2 using a decelerometer to maintain rate. The vehicle then turns around and makes six measured 60-0 mph stops with threshold braking applied to the point of impending wheel lock, using ABS if so equipped. Following a four-minute heat-soak, the sequence is repeated. Initial velocity of each deceleration and the exact distance required is used to calculate the deceleration rate. The resulting score is the average of all 12 stops. Stopping distance from 60 mph is calculated by interpolating results.

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Ergonomics

The objectives of the ergonomics and communications test are to rate a vehicle’s ability to provide a suitable environment for patrol officers to perform their job, accommodate required communication and emergency warning equipment and to assess the relative difficulty in installing this equipment.

A minimum of four officers independently evaluate each vehicle on comfort and instrumentation. MSP communications division personnel then evaluate each vehicle on the ease of equipment installation. A total of 28 factors are evaluated on a scale of one to 10 and averaged among all the testers. The final score is the total cumulative score from the average of each of the 28 factors, which include seat design, padding, ease of entry, head room, instrument placement, HVAC control placement, visibility, dashboard accessibility and trunk accessibility (2013 figures).

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Fuel economy

While not an indicator of actual mileage that may be experienced, the EPA mileage figures serve as a good comparison of mileage potential from vehicle to vehicle.

Vehicle scores are based on data published by the vehicle manufacturers and certified by the US Environmental Protection Agency. Mileage figures are given in US miles per gallon. (235/MPG = litres /100 kilometers)

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