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Los Angeles and Michigan State Police 2010 police pursuit car tests:
2011 Dodge Charger, Chevrolet Caprice, and Ford Taurus

Dodge Charger police cars - main page2009 Test ResultsMSP numbers are courtesy of Jalopnik.

Summary: The Dodge Charger, the decisive winner of past police car shootouts, is no longer the front runner; the Caprice beats it by a wide margin, nearly across the board, while the Ford Taurus AWD Turbo has higher performance. There is a cost to both; one source told us the Caprice costs C$7,000 more than the Dodge, and the Ford is expected to be even more costly. What's more, for the same reason police departments stayed away from the Dodge Intrepid and Chevy Impala back when they turned in credible performance (and high gas mileage) compared with Crown Victorias, the Ford could be shunned for having front wheel drive (or all wheel drive, which is more complex and costly to fix) and a turborcharger on the performance model, which requires more maintenance. In the first year all three are available, some departments may buy a limited number of Chevys and Fords for evaluation. That said, the Dodge boys may have a lot of work to do, getting their numbers up.

Los Angeles Police and Sheriff's Department

The high speed driving course is designed to weed out unstable or unsafe cars. Four drivers take each car out, for eight laps (each) around a speedway track. Comments are from this part of the testing. Following the high speed course is a pursuit course, open only to police-package pursuit vehicles, which takes place on a closed 2.5 mile "city street course which closely resembles the environment most urban law enforcement agencies must contend with."

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The drivers seemed to like the Chevrolet and Ford (both old and new) in general, and their brakes in specific. The Charger V6 was praised for cornering, handling, engine power, and (except for one driver) brakes, though there were complaints about the transmission not wanting to be in a low enough gear.

ImpalaCapriceCharger V6Charger Hemi 2.65Charger Hemi 3.06Ford CV 3.27Ford PI FWDFord PI AWDFord Turbo
Average Speed34.5235.0834.8035.4335.2834.8635.2835.4935.6
Stopping Distance149138144141142150144139143
0-609.15 6.018.366.886.148.958.277.815.83
Quarter mile time17.20 14.6216.5115.2614.7216.8116.5616.0014.30
Quarter mile mph88.58 100.79 91.5795.9799.9986.3990.6890.82101.69
Gas mileage17.518.9no test15.016.613.9no testno testno test

The urban road course was handled most quickly by the turbocharged Ford Taurus, followed by the AWD Taurus, and, close behind, the Hemi Chargers. Of the naturally aspirated cars, Caprice was the quickest in raw acceleration but the Ford's AWD was an advantage in the road course, and Dodge's Chargers were close behind. Overall, for practical police cars, the Caprice seems to have come out on top.

For the Hemi Charger with 2.65:1 differential, there was more brake fade cited after the first laps; the cornering, handling, and engine were again praised; and this time the transmission was highly rated by three out of four officers. With the 3.06:1 differential, the brakes were clearly more heavily criticized, but the suspension and engine were again praised.

On the urban course, the Caprice, Charger Hemi with 3.06 ratio, Crown Vics (except CNG), and Taurus-based Police Interceptors (except Turbo) got all "10" ratings from the drivers for steering, body lean, bounce, brake fade and pull, and ABS operation; the Charger V6, 2.65 Hemi, and Impala did not do so well.

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It seems hard to balance the praise lavished onto the Crown Victoria with its numeric results. As much as drivers loved the brakes, power, and handling, its numbers were not exceptional; it barely beat the Charger V6 in average speed, took around 6-10 feet longer to stop than most other cars, and got the worst mileage of those tested. The Caprice, on the other hand, is clearly a serious challenge to Dodge's squad car credentials, with the best stopping distance of any car in the test, the best gas mileage of any tested car, and acceleration that beat the Dodge V6 and "economy ratio" Hemi.

Michigan State Police

The Michigan State Police held their eagerly awaited 2011-model-year pursuit car tests in September 2010 at Chrysler's Chelsea Proving Grounds and Gratten Raceway Park.

After the tests, Dodge engineers raised the maximum speed of the Pentastar V6-based Charger, fixed a flaw in the Hemi computer which had affected performance, and added a performance-ratio rear axle as a speed option (these were all done before the LA tests).

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The Dodge Charger was the clear winner from 2005 through 2009 (calendar years), and may have been the most successful car since the MSP tests were begun in 1978. (In that year, the 440-powered Plymouth Fury won, with a Corvette-beating 133 mph top speed and the lowest bid. It ran 0-100 in 24.8 seconds, beating every other car in the test by 12 seconds, would have been beaten by every car in the 2010 test.) The Charger Hemi similarly had little serious competition from 2005 through to 2009, but this year, both Ford and Chevrolet had brand new cars to run - the Chevy Caprice V8 (355 hp), and the turbocharged Ford Taurus (365 hp).

Acceleration testing the police cars

Acceleration testing is done with slick tops and no spotlights, with full acceleration trials from 0 to 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90, and 100 mph, and the ¼ mile time and speed. Michigan targets 100 mile an hour times, as well as ¼ mile marks, and the usual 0 to 60 mile an hour times. One driver does 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.

Vehicle Car Automotive exterior Automotive lighting Auto part

Acceleration superiority went to the Chevy - with the Ford AWD turbo only winning in 0-40 and 0-50, and the Dodge in 0-70 and 0-80. The Charger Hemi and Caprice were close overall. The Ford turbo kept up in outright acceleration, ending up just half a second off in 0-100 times, but the top speed was 131 mph - around the same as the V6 Charger. The big surprise may have been the performance of the standard V6 Taurus, which managed to beat the Pentastar V6-based Charger decisively in all but top speed, where it was 1 mph faster.

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The 2010 Charger Hemi was actually faster than the Caprice in every performance tests. This might reflect different ambient conditions (e.g. colder weather) or heavier weight in the 2011 model - which is possible given the (we believe) increased sound insulation and safety provisions.

SPEED Dodge Charger Chevrolet CapriceFord Taurus2010 Charger
(Sec)V6HemiV6GasE85FWD TurboV6Hemi
0-50 6.474.766.314.834.785.934.656.464.63
0-60 8.656.248.686.186.157.816.278.646
0-70 11.337.7811.208.067.9410.157.9611.217.44
0-80 14.269.7313.9010.019.9112.6510.0114.039.32
0-90 17.8612.3017.6512.1412.0215.3912.4717.8411.68
0-100 23.8514.9922.9414.7714.5819.2515.5322.7414.21
TOP SPEED130*146139148148131131137146

* Top speed to be 140 mph in the production version.

Squad car braking

The next test is braking. 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. This not only tests the absolute braking power, but the ability to stop after the brakes are well heated, which may be more appropriate for trooper use (think of a chase where the brakes are frequently applied).

Deceleration Rate Charger V6Charger HemiFord FWDFord Turbo Caprice
2010 Charger V62010 Charger Hemi
Stopping Distance133.2133.9133.4127.9128.3?137.9143.4

Last year, Charger dominated the tests for braking with a stopping distance of around 138-143 feet. This year, they came in last among the new cars, not counting the old Crown Victoria (142), Impala (140), or Tahoe (141). Dodge engineers have some catch-up work on braking, though the difference between best and worst was not dramatic.

Vehicle dynamics and cornering

VehicleAverage Time
Ford AWD Turbo1:36.14
2010 Dodge Charger 5.7L 1:36.90
2011 Caprice E851:37.02
2011 Caprice1:37.35
2011 Caprice V61:42.78
2011 Charger V81:38.47
2011 Charger V61:38.49
Ford AWD1:38.93
Ford FWD1:39.75
2010 Dodge Charger 3.5L 1:40.03
2011 Crown Victoria 3.271:40.57

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.

Ford's new, Volvo-based Taurus Turbo did very well ino these tests, with the Caprice taking a close second and the Charger lagging somewhat. Oddly, last year's Dodge Charger Hemi beat nearly all comers this year, including the revised Charger; and the V6 Charger was almost dead even with the V8. (The difference between the two Caprice V8s was larger.)

The standard Ford V6 cars, both front and all wheel drive, were outperformed by both of the Chargers. All of them beat the 2010 Charger 3.5 liter and the final-year Crown Vics.

In the end, all things considered, all the squads were in the same ballpark for handling. The best performer was within five seconds of the worst.

Police car gas mileage

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The Ford AWD Turbo came out as an intriguing car, not least because of its AWD capabilities, though departments may not trust turbocharged engines for heavy duty use, and may not think AWD is up to the rigors of police work (which is presumably why there is no AWD Charger).

While there is no clear winner this year, Justin Hyde, who wrote up the process for Jalopnik and was on the scene, seemed to prefer the performance of the Caprice but felt the Charger would dominate purchasing, given "the constraints of the real world" and the Caprice's floor shifter. The Ford is estimated to be far pricier than the Chevy and Dodge; and the Dodge is "close enough" in performance for departments to consider the possible issues of getting parts for the Australian-built Chevy (which has no direct civilian equivalent, yet) and issues of the untested-in-police-work turbo-and-AWD combination of the Ford.

A major factor in the formula which is not available yet is the gas mileage. Police departments, not surprisingly, burn a lot of fuel, and while gas prices are low now, many departments were badly burned by the sudden spike in fuel costs three years ago.

Charger has proven itself well in police work, and many departments may hold off on the Chevy and Ford, waiting to hear how it holds up for the early adopters (which would include many departments who hold their relationship with local dealers above price, performance, and reliability); and during that time perhaps Dodge can beef up its brakes and V6 performance.

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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