Blue Line


December 8, 2012  By Dave Brown

2065 words – MR

Michigan State Police 2013 police vehicle tests

by Dave Brown

Police officers love traditional, full-size, V8-powered rear-wheel-drive sedans. The problem is, they won’t be able to get them… at least not here in Canada. Ironically, the last of the great American rear-wheel-drive V8 sedans isn’t even built in America anymore; it’s built in Australia.


Canadian police agencies are going to have to contend with a selection of rear-wheel-drive, front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive mid-size sedans, an all-wheel-drive crossover or a big honking two-wheel-drive SUV.

The much-loved Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor (CVPI) is now out of production and stockpiles of new 2011 vehicles are dwindling fast.

The good news for 2013 is that the Ford CVPI is not going to be fondly remembered for long once officers get their hands on the new breed of police car. They are faster, safer and better in nearly every aspect, except perhaps interior room.

Even with all this selection, there will never be one perfect police vehicle for every agency. Choosing vehicles will always be a complex task. They act in a variety of roles – office, transportation, jailhouse, protection – for the officers out on the streets, and agencies all have differing priorities. No one car fits everyone.

This is why the highly regarded head-to-head testing by Michigan State Police (MSP) every fall is so invaluable in assisting agencies in making these important decisions.

(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 administrators alike.

The MSP publish the results on its web site at and Blue Line Magazine is once again reporting the preliminary figures. Final figures and a summary of the results should be ready by the time you read this article.


Police vehicles are evaluated in two categories: police-package vehicles (PPV) and special-service vehicles (SSV). Police-package vehicles 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 for adverse weather conditions and not intended or recommended for pursuits.

13 vehicles were submitted PPV category for 2013:

  • Chevrolet Impala 9C1 (3.6 litre V6)

  • Chevrolet Tahoe PPV (5.7 litre V8)

  • Chevrolet Caprice 9C1 (3.6 litre V6 and 6.0 litre V8 versions)

  • Dodge Charger (3.6 litre V6 and standard 2.65:1 axle ratio)

  • Dodge Charger (3.6 litre V6 and optional 3.07:1 axle ratio)

  • Dodge Charger (5.7 litre V8 and standard 2.65:1 axle ratio)

  • Dodge Charger (5.7 litre V8 and optional 3.06:1 axle ratio)

  • Ford Police Interceptor sedan (3.5 litre V6, front-wheel-drive)

  • Ford Police Interceptor sedan (3.5 litre V6, all-wheel-drive)

  • Ford Police Interceptor sedan (turbo charged 3.5 litre V6, all-wheel-drive)

  • Ford Police Interceptor Utility (3.7 litre V6, all-wheel-drive)

  • Ford Police Interceptor sedan (3.7 litre V6, all-wheel-drive)

Here is the lineup of PPVs for 2013 (with preliminary figures from the 2013 MSP vehicle tests and additional comments from ).


As we predicted, GM went ahead with its decision to not sell the Chevrolet Caprice in Canada. Manufactured by the General Motors Holden plant in Elizabeth, Australia, the Caprice is a full-size, traditional body-on-frame, rear drive vehicle powered by a 6-litre V8 engine. It has acceleration and handling figures that brought it to the very head of this market segment and a lot of officers were hoping for a return to a body-on-frame, rear-wheel-drive V8.

GM Canada offers us the choice of a Tahoe SUV in two-wheel-drive and the front-wheel-drive V6 Impala.

The big Tahoe has proven to be popular and reliable, selling in significant numbers. The Impala manages to improve every year and it is both fast and nimble. What it can’t do is grow two inches of front shoulder space and suddenly convert to rear-wheel-drive (even though most of us admit that rear-wheel-drive sucks in the winter).

The current Impala is scheduled for a major redesign in 2014 and GM hasn’t announced any plans for a 9C1 police version after May 2014.

Sales of the Caprice in the US have been disappointing but General Motors is not marketing it very aggressively. We really felt this was the optimum time to be pushing the Caprice but GM obviously has other plans. We highly doubt they are going to just roll down the shop doors and turn out the lights on the police market so it will be interesting to see what the General has up its sleeves.


Dodge still makes the most aggressive-looking police car on the planet. (In fact, one agency administrator is quoted as saying that the Dodge was “too aggressive looking” and went with the new Fords.)

The Dodge Charger Pursuit comes in two versions: a 3.6 litre V6 and a 5.7 litre V8 (with a choice of two final axle rations in both models).

Since the new 2011 Charger, cockpit size and visibility are vastly improved over earlier versions by an additional side window, a lowered hood line and windshield angle and a windshield cut back almost four inches further back into the roof line.

Dodge has worked hard to address some early problems. One of the biggest complaints was the short brake pad life. Dodge gave the Charger Pursuit some of the best brakes on the market but the cost was increased pad wear. It has now redesigned the compound for better wear and released the new pads for retrofitting on older versions.

An all-new Electronic Vehicle Information Centre (EVIC) communicates to the driver using a Thin-Film Technology (TFT) LCD display.


Ford surprised us. We thought a lot of agencies were going to wait and see how the new Fords worked out as police vehicles but initial sales, especially here in Canada, have been strong. Is it possible to take a Ford Taurus economy front-wheel-drive mid-size sedan and turn it into a police car by dropping the Taurus name, developing a police-calibrated all-wheel-drive drive train and splashing its image on every corner billboard?

Well, it seems to have worked. It is actually surprising to see how fast the Fords have caught on, especially considering it is tighter inside in every single dimension except rear legroom than the Chevrolet Impala. Just based on interior dimension figures alone, we predict sales figures of the Police Interceptor Utility version, built on the new Ford Explorer crossover, may one day match and perhaps even exceed those of the Taurus-based sedan. (One large Canadian agency has already told it is going exclusively to the Ford Utility SUV for general patrol duties.)

Mind you, if life starts to get boring, one can always take the AWD sedan equipped with the 3.5 litre EcoBoost V6 out for a spin and see what it is like to drive a police car with 115 more horsepower (365 versus 250) than the old Crown Victoria AND better gas mileage.

The Police Interceptor Utility test figures also show that it can hold its own with most other police cars when it comes to handling and acceleration and ergonomic numbers (which measure factors such as officer comfort to ease of up-fitting equipment) show it is on par with the Chev Impala.

Early reports on both vehicles are generally positive, although some officers are uncomfortable with the lowered seat height needed to increase front headroom. In some cases, it almost feels like you are sitting on the floor.

While neither the sedan nor crossover are what we would label particularly roomy, we are looking forward to how both vehicles evolve as they mature. Who knows; maybe one day we might even see a Police Interceptor Utility with the 3.5 litre EcoBoost engine; now THAT would wake someone up!

{Carbon Motors}

Notable by its absence (yet again) is the purpose-built Carbon Motors E7. It’s as good as dead in the water and instead of trying to find new financiers, Carbon Motors should call someone in to say last rites.

has always viewed the company’s business model as unworkable; no police agency is going to want a very small volume specialty police car that costs twice as much, needs to be kept twice as long to pay for itself and must be returned to the factory for any repairs. Styling is right out of a 1980’s sci-fi movie and there is no possible way Carbon could have delivered on its overly optimistic mileage or curb weight figures.

The US Congress recently turned down Carbon Motors’ request for a $300 million loan and the City of Connorsville, Indiana is now trying to sell its empty factory space out from under the company to recoup environmental cleanup costs.

Carbon has been trumpeting its rah-rah-America line and promoting the built-in Weapons of Mass Destruction detectors in its cars, obviously in a failed attempt to sell Congress on the loan. Carbon might even roll out a prototype SUV version for 2013 but not one single inch of production line has been built; Congress ain’t biting and neither are we. The E7 is dead.

{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 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 Raceway road course. (All dimensions and measurements given are in US numbers.)

{The results}

Vehicle dynamics testing

The objective is to determine high-speed pursuit handling characteristics. Except for the absence of traffic, the two-mile road course simulates actual pursuit conditions, evaluating the blend of suspension components and acceleration and braking ability.

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

Acceleration and top speed

The objectives are to determine the ability of each vehicle to accelerate from a standing start to 60 mph, 80 mph 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.


The objective is to determine the deceleration rate attained by each vehicle on twelve 60-0 mph full stops to the point of impending skid and with ABS in operation. 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/sec<2> 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 interpolation of results.

Ergonomics and communications

The objectives 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 assess the relative difficulty of installation.

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 installing equipment. A total of 28 factors are evaluated on a scale of one to ten and averaged among all the testers. The final score is the total cumulative score from the average of each of the 28 factors, including seat design, padding, ease of entry, head room, instrument placement, HVAC control placement, visibility, dashboard accessibility and trunk accessibility (2012 figures).

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