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Michigan State Trials


November 25, 2011
By Corrie Sloot

2012 will be a year of good news and bad news in the police vehicles market in Canada.

The good news is that auto manufacturers are getting serious about the police market. All combined, they may sell fewer police cars every year than companies like Toyota accidentally drop into the ocean, but you wouldn’t know it by the incredible lineup of police vehicles for 2012.

The other good news is that every single car on the market is faster accelerating, harder braking, better handling and overall safer than any previous models. The Big Three have taken a serious look at what police officers really want in a vehicle, and have responded with cars that are intelligently modified and specifically reinforced for the police market.

The bad news is that one of the most anticipated new police cars may not even make it to Canada. At press time, there were serious rumours that GM is not going to sell the Chevrolet Caprice in Canada.

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That would be a shame because the Australian-built Caprice was poised to take over from the previous Ford Police Interceptor as the most popular V8 rear-wheel-drive platform on the market. This leaves Dodge alone in the end of a market segment that has always proved the most popular with officers across North America.

The other bad news is that choosing a fleet of police cars for the coming year has always proved to be a bit of a daunting task. And it is about to get way more complicated for 2012.

There will never be one perfect police vehicle for every agency in Canada. They act as office, transportation, jailhouse and protection to the police officers out on the streets. The selection of these vehicles will always be a complex task, and head-to-head testing by the Michigan State Police is invaluable in assisting agencies to make those important decisions.

Michigan State Police Yearly Vehicle Tests

Every fall the Michigan State Police, 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 bean counters alike.

The Michigan State Police publish the results on their website at www.michigan.gov/msp, and Blue Line Magazine is once again reporting the preliminary figures. Final figures and a summary of the results should be ready on the Michigan State Police website by the time you read this article.

Vehicles
The NIJ and Michigan State Police evaluate police vehicles in two categories: police-package vehicles and special-service vehicles. 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 adverse weather conditions and are not intended or recommended for pursuits.

A record 19 vehicles were submitted to the NIJ in the police-package category for 2012: 
the Chevrolet Impala 9C1, 
the Chevrolet Impala 9C1 running on E85 (85% ethanol,) 
the Chevrolet Tahoe PPV, the Chevrolet Tahoe PPV on E85, 
the Chevrolet Caprice 9C1 with the new 3.6 litre V6, 
the Chevrolet Caprice 9C1 with the 3.6 litre V6 on E85, 
Chevrolet Caprice 9C1 6.0 litre V8,
the Chevrolet Caprice 9C1 6.0 litre V8 running on E85,
the Dodge Charger with the 3.6 litre V6 and the standard 2.65:1 axle ratio,
the Dodge Charger with the 3.6 litre V6 and the optional 3.07:1 axle ratio, 
the Dodge Charger with the 3.6 litre V6 and the standard 2.65:1 axle ratio running on E85,
the Dodge Charger with the 5.7 litre V8 and the 2.65:1 axle ratio,
the Dodge Charger with the 5.7 litre V8 and the optional 3.06:1 axle ratio, 
the all-new 2013 Ford Police Interceptor 3.5 litre V6 with the optional front-wheel-drive, 
the 2013 Ford Police Interceptor with the 3.5 litre V6 in standard all-wheel-drive, 
the 2013 Ford Police Interceptor with the turbocharged 3.5 litre V6 in all-wheel-drive, 
the 2013 Ford Police Interceptor with the 3.5 litre V6 in all-wheel-drive running on E85, 
the all-new 2013 Ford Police Interceptor Utility with the 3.7 litre V6 in optional front-wheel-drive, and 
the 2013 Ford Police Interceptor Utility with the 3.7 litre V6 in standard all-wheel-drive.

Here is the lineup for 2012 (with preliminary figures from the 2012 Michigan State Police vehicle tests and my additional comments.)

Police-Package Vehicles

Chevrolet

If GM goes ahead with its curious decision to not sell the Chevrolet Caprice in Canada, it is going to leave a huge whole in their lineup. 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.

The Caprice also combined a large interior volume with a tight turning radius. GM is not saying why they may drop the new Caprice from the Canadian market but they cite difficulties in meeting Canadian Department of Transport regulations and problems with moving the console-mount shifter far enough forward to accommodate both laptops and full-size police cars in full winter gear.

We believe neither of these rumours, and seriously hope GM rethinks this strategy.

GM is not ignoring us completely though. They still sell the nimble (if tight-fitting) Impala and the hugely popular full-size SUV Chevrolet Tahoe.

Dodge

When Dodge first starting building the Charger Pursuit, many people felt that Chrysler was simply taking a retro muscle car platform, strapping on a big hemi V8 motor and trying to squeeze in a couple of police officers into a small cockpit as a bit of a marketing ploy or a stop-gap measure.

They turned out to be wrong.

Not only was Dodge intently serious about this market, they looked at feedback from officers and fleet managers alike and made some intelligent changes to the 2011 Charger that is going to put them on top of the police car market in Canada.

Cockpit size and comfort took a big step upwards with the new 2011 Charger and visibility improved immensely by adding an additional side window, lowering the hood line and windshield angle and cutting back the windshield almost four inches further back into the roofline. There is an all-new ‘Pentastar’ V6 under the hood that utilizes variable-valve timing and a chain-driven camshaft and is also now rated as a flex-fuel engine.

The optional 5.7 litre V8 comes with Dodge’s Multi-Displacement System. All Pursuits are now standard with Chrysler’s Electronic Stability Program (ESP) that utilizes the ABS brakes, the traction control system, a yaw sensor and a steering angle sensor to help keep the car stable. Brakes rotors and front hubs have been strengthened and the front seats have been redesigned for more comfort and support for officers wearing police gear.

The transmission shifter is up on the column, and when Blue Line tested the new 2011 on the racetrack during our April trade show, we found significant improvements in outward visibility, cockpit room and brakes that seemed like they could suck out all your internal organs through your throat if you weren’t careful.

Plus, in another great tradition, Dodge still makes the most aggressive-looking police car on the planet.

Ford

Ford made two very smart decisions before they rolled out their new lineup of police cars for next year. One, they based their new SUV crossover Police Interceptor Utility on the all-new Ford Explorer, not the boxy (and ugly) Ford Flex like they had originally announced. Aside from the fact that not too many officers were going to like driving a vehicle that looks more like the crate it came in, basing the Utility on the brand-new Explorer allowed them to test it for the very first time in the police-package category and not just the special-service category like previous versions of the Explorer.

The other smart decision was to distance the new 2013 Ford Police Interceptor sedan from the Ford Taurus that it is based upon. In fact, Ford makes no reference to the Taurus whatsoever in any of its police advertising, and likes to call the Police Interceptor sedan a “purpose-built” police car. Well, we might consider it more a “modified-built” police car but nevertheless, the name Taurus does not exactly invoke images of confidence and high performance.

Ford makes both the Police Interceptor sedan and the Utility in standard all-wheel-drive, with front-wheel-drive available as an option. Obviously, Ford is looking carefully at what officers want and is trying to avoid the stigma that front-wheel-drive police vehicles were never able to overcome, in spite of their advantages in handling in adverse conditions. But both new Fords are still based on what is essentially a front-wheel-drive platform, which is a first for Ford police cars.

No one is going to let Ford skate into the police vehicles market on their laurels, so Ford needs to work very hard to prove itself to officers across Canada. It will be very interesting to see how serious Ford is about getting these new vehicles in the hands of test drivers and police officers for evaluation as soon as possible.

The Tests

Michigan State Police 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 the 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 road course at the Grattan Raceway. (All dimensions and measurements given are in U.S. numbers.


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