Which Vehicles are Fastest?

Each fall, the Michigan State Police conduct in-depth testing of the coming year's police package vehicles.

The track was wet, and that was a big problem.

As several hundred of us gathered at a rural raceway in central Michigan, we couldn't wait for the sun to come out. Aside from the chill and dampness in the air, a wet track meant that vehicle testing was going to be delayed. After all, while pushing police vehicles to their limits can only be described as a really good time, it's not at all reasonable to ask the test drivers to do it on a wet roadway.

The 2007 Model Year Patrol Vehicle Tests were conducted by the Michigan State Police, as they are every year. Each year, different manufacturers bring their police package vehicles to mid-Michigan for these tests, which have become the benchmark for many law enforcement agencies. There are two separate categories for test vehicles; general service patrol vehicles, such as the Ford Crown Vic unit we're all so familiar with, and "special service vehicles," which includes vehicles with a higher center of gravity, generally deemed inappropriate for high speed, pursuit driving. This latter category includes the Chevrolet Tahoe four wheel drive and Ford Expedition SUVs, as well as others. The general purpose vehicles go through all the tests, while the special service vehicles are not subjected to the high speed vehicle dynamics tests.

Typically held in September for the coming year's models, the tests include many different dimensions of vehicle performance. On this particular day, we were observing high speed handling tests at the Grattan Raceway in Grattan, Michigan. The setting is rural and very peaceful, if you don't count the constant sound of vehicles traveling at high speeds.

Due to the wet roadway, volunteers were driving the vehicles around the track in order to speed the drying of the pavement. Dozens of chiefs, sheriffs, and other law enforcement personnel, as well as manufacturers' representatives and media types milled around on the infield of the raceway, consuming food that was tasty, but quickly getting cold. Finally, after what seemed like a very long time, the MSP safety monitors pronounced the track ready for testing, and we were underway.

Two days prior to this, most of the same folks were standing in the fog at the Daimler-Chrysler Proving Grounds in Chelsea, Michigan, doing much the same thing--waiting for conditions to improve. That time it was fog, which significantly impacted visibility.

Once testing began, we observed a variety of vehicles from Ford, Chevrolet, and Chrysler being put through their paces. Vehicles were tested for braking capability in order to calculate their projected stopping distance from 60 miles per hour. In this 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.

Acceleration and top speed testing was broken out a little differently. 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.

The results were interesting. While the spread from vehicle to vehicle was pretty close, the Dodge vehicles were 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 number one and two in every test bracket. The Dodge Charger 5.7 liter also took top speed honors (148 mph), with the number two slot going to the Chevrolet Impala (139 mph).

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