It's Fall 2007. The leaves have slowly started their turn into the colors of autumn; the weather has slowly shifted its gears, and geese have begun their long haul to a warmer climate. This also means the Police Vehicle Evaluation and Purchasing Program has gone into overdrive pushing 2008 police vehicle models to their utmost limit.
Knowing this limit allows law enforcement agencies to compare police vehicles side-by-side to enhance the decision in choosing the right vehicle for the right mission.
The program, sponsored by the Michigan Department of State Police, National Law Enforcement & Corrections Technology Center and Michigan Department of Management & Budget, began more than 25 years ago with the dedication to provide an objective look into the mechanical abilities that next year's new police vehicle models have to offer. The only limitations enforced are rain days and the fortunate absence of traffic in the testing. Testing included the standard evaluations the program has developed: driving dynamics, acceleration, top speed and braking. Drivers evaluated different models such as: general service, sedans and a sport utility vehicle (SUV); special Service, SUVs and a truck; and (for the second year) motorcycles. Ford, General Motors, DaimlerChrysler, Harley-Davidson and BMW put their police vehicle packages through the rigors of the police vehicle tests.
This year's general service category included:
- The Ford Police Interceptors 3.27 4.6L SPFI and 3.55 4.6L SPFI, both vehicles also with its equivalent E85 model;
- Chevrolet Impala (9C1) 3.9L SPFI;
- Chevrolet Tahoe PPV 2WD 5.3L SPFI and its E85 counterpart;
- Dodge Charger 3.5L SPFI and 5.7L SPFI; and
- Dodge Magnum 3.5L SPFI and 5.7L SPFI.
The special service category included:
- The Ford F-150 2WD Super Crew 5.4L SMFI;
- Ford Explorer 2WD 4.6L SMFI;
- Ford Expedition 2WD 5.4 3V SMFI;
- Chevrolet Tahoe 2WD 5.3L SPFI; and the
- Chevrolet Suburban 3/4 ton 4WD 6.0L SPFI.
The motorcycles included:
- The Harley-Davidson Police Road King;
- Harley-Davidson Electra Glide; and the
- BMW R1200RTP.
Acceleration, top speed, brake and motorcycle driving dynamics were tested at the DaimlerChrysler Proving Grounds in Chelsea, Michigan, Saturday, September 15, with the rain day Sunday, September 16. The Grattan Raceway Park in Grattan, Michigan, hosted the testing of the remaining vehicle's driving dynamics — save the special service vehicles, which were not involved in any driving dynamic testing — on Monday, September 17, that rain day being Tuesday, September 18.
The vehicle dynamics evaluation's objective was to compare each vehicle's high-speed pursuit-handling characteristics and performance. The 2-mile course is a road racing-type course containing hills, curves and corners and is 2 miles long. Simulating actual conditions encountered in pursuit situations in the field, with the exception of other traffic, the evaluation is a true test of the success or failure of the vehicle manufacturers in offering balanced packages in terms of their blending of suspension components, acceleration capabilities and braking characteristics.
All vehicles were driven over the course a minimum of 32 timed laps, using four separate drivers, each driving an eight-lap series. The final score for the vehicle is the combined average (from the four drivers) of the five fastest laps for each driver during the eight-lap series.
Two of the Dodge "team" came out on top by 2 seconds above the third-place vehicle. The Dodge Charger won with an overall average of 1:37.77 minutes, with the Magnum 5.7L not far behind at 1:37.94 minutes — a difference of only 17 hundredths (0.17) of a second. Following the Magnum in third and fourth were the Ford Police Interceptors 3.27 4.6L E85 model at 1:40.59 minutes and 3.55 at 1:40.70 minutes. The third Interceptor, the 3.27, took fifth place at 1:40.78 minutes.