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Michigan State Police 2010 police pursuit car tests: Dodge Charger and other cars

Dodge Charger police cars - main page

The Michigan State Police have announced the results of their 2010 vehicle dynamics tests held on September 19 at Chrysler's Chelsea Proving Grounds, and September 21 at Gratten Raceway Park, also in Michigan.

For the fifth straight year, the top dog is the Dodge Charger. Even the hallowed Chevrolet Caprice, which held sway for ten straight years in Michigan's tests, did not fill in all the top categories as the Dodge Charger has done.

MSP dodge charger patrol car

This year, the Michigan State Police did not test "special service" vehicles (such as large SUVs); from this year forward, they will only test pursuit units. The only severe service vehicle that was ever openly used for police pursuit work was the Ford Mustang, starting with the California Highway Patrol in 1982. By 1993, the SSP Mustang was gone; when the 1994 LT-1 engined Chevrolet Caprice Police Package hit 135 miles per hour, there was no need to have two vehicles.

1978 Plymouth FuryThe Michigan State Police began their dynamic testing in 1978. At the time, many departments bought by lowest bid to their specifications. Some would just buy cars off the dealer lots. If the department engaged in active patrol work, in my fleet manager opinion, those would be a nightmare!

There was no serious way to see if the departments were getting the most "bang for their buck" until the MSP started making their testing public (followed by the CHP).

In the MSP tests' first year, the B-body 1978 Plymouth Fury, with a 440 cubic inch V-8, won the testing. It had the highest top speed of any vehicle built that year, including the Chevrolet Corvette, at 133 miles an hour. They also had the lowest per-unit bid ($5,397), beating out the Dodge Monaco by $185; the Plymouth beat entries from Chevrolet, Pontiac, Buick, and Ford (LTD) by over $300 per unit.

The 1978 Plymouth Fury reached 100 miles an hour in 24.8 seconds, over 12 seconds faster than anything else submitted for evaluation. The new Charger would blow it straight into the weeds.

Police cars entered for the 2010 model year

For 2010, the Dodge Charger Hemi beat all the competitors in every category. Acceleration, top speed, braking, road course, and top fuel economy for a V-8. It has been so since the Charger came on to the police package scene. There is also a V6 police package which is close to the Ford V-8.

Chevrolet submitted four vehicles, two being the W bodied Impala; the Impala is the only car on this platform. It is a well designed front wheel drive unit, handling the routine abuse of pursuit work.

Chevy Impala squad

Both the Impala cars had the 239-horsepower 3.9 liter V-6. One was fueled by regular unleaded gasoline, while the other was operated by E85 ethanol fuel, with only 15% being gasoline; both had the same horsepower. The engine shuts down up to 3 cylinders for economic cruising.

Impala squads

The other two Chevrolet vehicles were the rear wheel drive pursuit rated Tahoe, with one powered by regular unleaded gasoline and the other by E85; both could shut down up to four cylinders for economy. Like the Dodge 5.7 liter V-8, the MDS functions seamlessly, and no notice can be taken when the system functions or not.

Ford once again submitted two cars, both Interceptors née Crown Victorias, with different rear axle ratios to provide buyers with a choice of emphasizing mileage or acceleration.

ford crown victoria police car

Acceleration testing the police cars

The first test is the acceleration testing. All vehicles tested are slick tops, as well as not having spotlights or any normal police gear carried in a car's trunk. Testing involves outright full acceleration trials from 0 to 20, 30, 40, 50, the benchmark 60, 70, 80, 90, ¼ mile,  and 100 miles an hour. Michigan targets 100 mile an hour times, as well as ¼ mile marks, and the Tom McCahill (once the country's foremost car tester)-inspired 0 to 60 mile an hour evaluation.

There is only one driver for the top speed and acceleration testing; he and a trooper who runs the computer equipment moves from car to car, running through the same sequence in each car. While those two are conducting the acceleration testing, two troopers conduct the brake testing, also moving as a team from car to car.

The first two stops are from 90-0 at 22 feet/second squared, warming up the brakes; then they run right into six 60-to-0 stops, a 4 minute heat soak, then repeating two 90-0 stops and the 6 60-0 stops. At Grattan Raceway, all four drive each car for an 8 lap series, where the best 5 laps are posted.

SPEED Dodge Charger Chevrolet Tahoe Chevy Impala Ford Interceptor
(Sec) V6 Hemi Gas E85 Gas E85 3.27 3.55
0-20 2.1 1.7 2.09 1.96 1.94 2 2.02 1.85
0-30 3.44 2.61 3.24 3.12 3.18 3.26 3.3 3.05
0-40 4.81 3.58 4.68 4.53 4.47 4.57 4.69 4.39
0-50 6.46 4.63 6.41 6.27 6.19 6.32 6.63 6.4
0-60 8.64 6.00 8.33 8.13 8.53 8.72 8.88 8.42
0-70 11.21 7.44 10.9 10.67 11.01 11.3 11.29 10.73
0-80 14.03 9.32 13.93 13.61 13.72 14.08 14.22 13.68
0-90 17.84 11.68 17.37 16.98 17.38 17.8 18.42 17.72
0-100 22.74 14.21 21.8 21.29 22.99 23.26 23.73 22.44
TOP SPEED 137 146 133 132 139 139 129 120

The Hemi® Charger took just 14.2 seconds to hit 100 miles an hour. All the rest of the vehicles fell into the 100 mile an hour mark between 22 and 23 seconds. The second fastest accelerating vehicle was the big Chevrolet Tahoe, with 320 horsepower in the 5.3 litre V-8; it hit 100 in 21.8 seconds. The 0-60 times were 8.33 for the Tahoe, and a flat 6.0 seconds for the V-8 Charger.

Florida Highway Patrol Dodge Charger

The California Highway Patrol bypassed one unit in 2009 for the real top end of the Charger. It hit close to 165 mph, with no other modifications (the computer limits top speed to 146 mph).

Most West Coast departments base their purchases on the LA County testing; most East Coast departments use the Michigan State Police testing.

One interesting car was the Charger V6, which got off to the slowest start but by 50 mph had outraced the gas Tahoe and 3.27:1 Ford; by 0-100 it was roughly middle of the pack, beating both Impalas and one of the Fords.

There was no apparent real differences noted with the Chevrolet vehicles; the times were noted as quite nearly the same for either fuel model, although the E85 equipped Tahoe was a tick faster in acceleration. No explanation was offered. I would attribute that to the engine computer system.

The Ford CVPI can run on E85, but neither of the test models were equipped to use it for the MSP tests.  The Ford with the 3.27 rear gears got to 60 miles an hour in 8.88 seconds, while the 3.55 rear gear equipped model hit 60 in 8.42 seconds, very similar times. The Fords hit 100 in 23.73 seconds and 22.44 seconds respectively; slow by today's standards, they still (barely) beat the terribly unaerodynamic 1978 Fury to 100 mph.

Charger squads

Dodge does not offer E85 in any of the Charger models. However, their excellent gas mileage can be attributed to the engine computers and the MDS system on the 5.7 liter V-8.

The second test involves absolute top speed. The cars are given their head, and run out. With the 4.7 mile long Chrysler Chelsea proving ground track, there is plenty of safe space to accomplish this. Here again, for the fifth straight year, the Dodge HEMI® was the best of the best. It ran up against the computer limiter at 146 miles an hour.

Nothing else was close, although the two Impala sedans did hit 139 miles an hour each. The Tahoe stopped at 133 miles an hour. The CVPI with the 3.27 rear hit 127 miles an hour. The 3.55 geared CVPI was limited to 120 miles an hour; Ford claimed that it was set low for "vehicle harmonics" (I would have disqualified the unit on that basis). To me that indicates that Ford hasn't figured out a way to prevent drive line "whip" under power and speed. Even after all the years to develop the drive train for better top end, Ford has let it ride. It is just as well. Ford has informed customers that the Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor will CEASE production in August 2011.

For 2011, Chevrolet is introducing a new Caprice Police Package Vehicle. It is stunning. Allpar was given a close up ride and evaluation of a test unit. A separate article is being put together on the experience.

As a side note, the slowest of five tested motorcycles was quicker 0-60 than the fastest of the police cars, by a decent margin.

Squad car braking

The next test is braking. If it goes well, it must stop just as well. I will say right out, that for years, Ford PI brakes, even when equipped with their disc brakes, were just abysmal! No apology to any Ford fans either. It wasn't until about 1992 that Ford finally got its act together, and actually had the best brakes that year. We used to say that the 390-equipped Ford meant that 3 hard stops from 90 would result in the biggest crash you have experienced!

Deceleration Rate Charger V6 Charger Hemi Ford Impala Tahoe
Phase 1 Average 27.97 27.01 26.81 27.28 26.69
Phase 2 Average 28.21 27 26.52 26.54 26.48
Overall Average 28.09 27.01 26.66 26.91 26.59
Stopping Distance 137.9 143.4 145.2 143.9 145.6

The Dodge Charger V-6 once again lead the way with the best stopping distance and dynamics of all the vehicles tested. No explanation has ever been offered, however, the V-6 Charger has been the brake leader for the past 5 years. [Editor's note: it is possible the police Chargers both run the same brakes, so that the lower weight of the V6 engine would cause the better performance.]

interior - police equipment

The 3.5 engined Dodge Charger stopped in 137.9 feet. Nothing else was in that category. The 5.7 liter Charger V-8 was close at 143.4 feet. Dynamically, the V-6 Charger hit a solid 28.21 deceleration rate. Which would mean that anything loose in the back seat would become your new best friend in the front! The higher the dynamic rate, the better. The V-8 Charger hit 27.01, the best of all the rest.

Dodge changed its brake pad compound in 2007, in time for the 2008 models, in response to complaints about the pad longevity. At the time of introduction, Dodge had determined that it would achieve the absolute BEST braking power available on their police package. It affected the life of the brake pads, some reporting failures in as little as 4,000 miles! Not good for budgets.

Chrysler Fleet is certainly responding far better than it ever did when I tried to work with them in the 70s and 80s. In any event, Dodge achieved much longer pad life, without sacrificing braking power. The distances and dynamics have remained the same. 

Not that the rest of the vehicles were poor, in fact, far from it. The Chevrolet Impala averaged 143.9 feet from 60 to 0. Dynamically, that is 26.54 which is about nose bleed territory too. Even the Ford CVPI braking was excellent coming to rest from 60 in 145.2 feet. Dynamic effects measured 26.66. The big Tahoe hit zero in 145.6 feet. Dynamically the Tahoe was 26.48 which is also right up there with loose objects flying about the cabin.

Vehicle dynamics and cornering

Vehicle Average Time
Ford Police Interceptor 3:27 1:41.80
Ford Police Interceptor 3:55 1:41.02
Chevrolet Impala 9C1 3.9L 1:43.87
Chevrolet Impala E85 1:43.14
Chevrolet Tahoe PPV 2WD 1:43.31
Chevrolet Tahoe PPV 2WD E85 1:42.68
Dodge Charger 3.5L 1:40.03
Dodge Charger 5.7L 1:36.90

The next test involves moving over to the Gratten Race Track. It is a 2 mile long closed course, with 13 turns, and some wicked off camber turns, and dips and rises. The front straight away is 3,200 foot long affair that allowed the vehicles to get up to a good head of steam. The Ford CVPI was clocked at 110 miles an hour at the end of the straight.

However, even at that speed the CVPI couldn't catch the second fastest car, which was the capable handling, and powerful Dodge Charger V-6. It covered the course in 1.40 seconds. Naturally, the fastest unit, for the 5th straight year, remained the Hemi® Charger, which covered the course in 1 minute and 36 seconds. Again, the second fastest unit overall was the V6-powered Charger — beating the two Ford V8s and the two Chevy Tahoe V8s.

The Ford CVPI with the 3.55 rear gear was a full second behind the V-6 Charger at 1 minute and 41 seconds, while the 3.27 equipped CVPI was at 1 minute and 42 seconds. While the Chevrolet Impala units were a full 3 seconds off the V-6 Charger pace, and a full 6 seconds behind the V-8 Dodge. The Tahoe was right behind the Impala models with a fraction, like about a ½ car length behind at 1 minute and 43 seconds too. Again these tests are run by four different troopers who run four laps apiece with each unit.

Police car gas mileage

The final test is the overall fuel mileage, which relies on the EPA ratings. The Dodge Chargers won out, with the best V-8 mileage and V-6 mileage, in their weighted fuel test loop.  

MSP weights fuel mileage heavily; a small increase in price, or a dip in overall achieved mileage per unit, can break a budget. In Florida, in 2007, when fuel costs were spiraling out of control, the Troopers were ordered to cut patrol miles in areas that did not have high crime rates! (Apparently, it was sort of a ploy, because the Governor's office ordered the ruling rescinded within hours when the telephone switchboard was swamped with irate public calls. The FHP did get their fuel.)

RI police cars

For more information

Squad cars | Insider's Guide to Chrysler | Rear-Drive Chrysler, Dodge, and Plymouth cars

Dodge Charger Police Cars | CHP Test Results

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