Michigan State Police puts cop cars to the test

Ford Taurus Police InterceptorConsumer Reports does not name a “Best Police Car” in its annual buyer’s guide, so how do police departments figure out what to buy? Every year, the Michigan State Police puts every cop car on sale through a battery of tests and publishes the results.

The cars are tested at Chrysler’s Chelsea Proving Grounds and at Grattan Raceway near Grand Rapids, Michigan. Performance tests include: acceleration (0-60 mph and quarter mile), braking (60-0 mph), and timed laps at Grattan. Michigan’s finest also test fuel economy and ergonomics (based on a point system).

This was a particularly competitive year for police cars, with the Big Three trying to fill the gap left by the discontinued Ford P71 Police Interceptor, known to civilians as the Crown Victoria, which was by far the most popular police car of the last two decades. Ford replaced the Crown Vic with a new Police Interceptor based on the Taurus. The new car ditches the old one’s body-on-frame chassis (which police departments found very easy to repair) for a unibody. Instead of a V8 and rear-wheel-drive, the Taurus has a V6 (the Taurus SHO’s turbocharged engine is optional) and front or all-wheel-drive.

Chevrolet brought the front-drive Impala Police Pursuit Vehicle (PPV) and the rear-drive Caprice PPV, which is based on the old Pontiac G8. Dodge sent a police version of its Charger.

Among the base V6/non-turbo cars, the results were fairly close. In 0-60 mph acceleration, the Impala clocked the fastest time at 7.46 seconds; the slowest was the all-wheel-drive Taurus at 8.19 seconds. The Caprice led in the quarter mile (15.78 sec) and braking (126.2 feet), while the all-wheel-drive Taurus again brought up the rear in the quarter mile (16.33 seconds), while the Impala had the longest braking distance at 132.6 feet. The Charger had the fastest lap time (1:37.7), while both Tauruses shared the slowest time of 1:39.6.

However, the Hemi V8 Charger pulled out a decisive lead over the V8 Caprice and V6 turbo Taurus. It set best-in-test 0-60 (5.83 seconds) and quarter mile (14.35) times, and set the fastest lap around Grattan (1.34.4).Dodge Charger police car

In fuel economy, all base models returned an average of 21 mpg, except the all-wheel-drive Taurus which got 20. The turbocharged Taurus beat its V8 rivals, but only by one mpg: it got 20, the Charger got 19, and the Caprice 18.

In ergonomics, the Charger scored 223.18, well ahead of the other cars. The Caprice scored 217.4, the Impala 209.99, and the Taurus 201.62. This was a major coup for Dodge; the 2006-2010 Charger scored low in ergonomics because of its small trunk and thick, visibility-reducing pillars.

The Michigan State Police did not name an official winner because prices for some of the cars have not been released. Based on the numbers, it seems like the offerings are pretty evenly matched, with a slight advantage going to the Charger. The Taurus is not as much of a no-brainer as the Crown Victoria, so expect a wider variety of police cars pulling you over in the near future.