LOS ANGELES - The 2011 model-year evaluation by the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department has arrived, and it's a riveting read.

This year's report may feel a warmer to the touch (or click, because they've been posted online). It includes subjective driving notes from emergency driving trainers with the agency and the LAPD who evaluated the crop of new patrol cars in November during the LASD's annual vehicle testing. Experienced officers drove these new patrol vehicles, and filled out evaluation reports, giving their opinions of the performance, handling, braking and other aspects of driving the vehicles.

The driving notes, concise observations that read like a Zagat restaurant review entry, are included as one element of the in-depth evaluation of the performance and safety features of the 2011 Chevrolet Caprice PPV, 2011 Dodge Charger Pursuit, and 2012 Ford Police Interceptor sedan. Special service vehicles such as the Chevy Tahoe and Ford Police Interceptor Utility were also tested.

The nation's largest sheriff's agency evaluated 11 2011 model-year patrol cars and special service vehicles, four 2012 Ford prototypes, and five motorcycles. Four officer drivers provide driving notes for each vehicle for brakes, cornering/handling, transmission (shift points) and engine.

Chevrolet Caprice PPV (2011)

Officers who drove the Chevy Caprice's 6.0-liter, V8 engine, which was run on both unleaded and E85 blended fuel, gave the vehicle generally high ratings for power, handling and braking.

The engine is a "strong, strong powerplant," Dep. Ramiro Juarez noted. "Power [is] hard throughout rpm range."

In his handling evaluation, Officer Marc Hemsworth noted the Caprice's "moderate understeer," as well as the "inconsistency with stability control [that] made smooth exit turns challenging."

The Caprice won praise for its "flawless" shift points that "kept the engine in its powerband at all times."

Brakes delivered "little to no fade" and pedal travel was seen as appropriate. Officer Alex Penrith noted brakes were "very consistent" with a "good initial bite."

Dodge Charger Pursuit (2011)

Dodge brought its pair of Charger Pursuits - the 3.6-liter V-6 and 5.7-liter V-8 - that received generally high marks, as well. Officer drivers responded to the V-6 version's "good power" and said braking required "unusually high pedal effort." Deputy Juarez said the vehicle is "overall [a] good car, well mannered."

The V-8 Hemi was tested in 2.65 and 3.06 rear-axle ratios.  The 2.65-differential version received high praise for its "easy" throttle modulation, Deputy Robert Robinson wrote. Dep. Juarez noted the vehicle's "good steering feel, steering ratio was precise and reactive." Officers also noted a "great deal of brake fade." The 3.06-differential version also received high scores.

Ford Police Interceptor (2012)

Drivers tested the Ford Police Interceptors as 2011 prototypes, including the 3.5-liter V-6 in front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive, as well as the 3.5-liter turbo-charged V-6 all-wheel drive powertrain.

The front-wheel drive base version had "good power, easier to rev" with "quick and precise" steering turning into curves with only mild understeer. Deputy Juarez called it a "very well-balanced vehicle." Under the hand of Officer Penrith, the vehicle exhibited "some hint of torque steer" and steering that "bites hard on entries" into curves.

Officers praised the all-wheel version for its "excellent brake action" with no "fade or pull." Handling was "very neutral" and "bounce was non-existent." Officer Penrith praised the tires for their "excellent transitions between grip and loss," and said the engine is "acceptable, but the weak part of the package."

The turbo-charged version provides a transmission that "shifted very quickly and did a great job keeping the engine in its powerband." The car was "well balanced" and offered a "strong" engine that "pulled evenly and hard throughout the entire rpm range. Good torque band."

Read the full LASD Vehicle Test and Evaluation Program report.

By Paul Clinton