As the average beat cop continues to carry more equipment for an ever-expanding list of duties, the need for larger law enforcement patrol vehicles is becoming evident. This means that law enforcement sport utility vehicles are not just for all-terrain or special duty use anymore.
In fact, pursuit-rated SUVs are now the best-selling law enforcement patrol vehicles in America, with Chevrolet and Ford currently battling it out for market share. Chevy's latest addition to the law enforcement SUV market is the completely redesigned 2015 Tahoe Police Pursuit Vehicle (PPV) based on the fourth generation of the civilian Tahoe SUV.
Chevrolet is no stranger to the law enforcement patrol vehicle market. The company has outfitted a variety of notable vehicles for law enforcement service, including the much-beloved by officers but long gone 1990s Caprice, the currently available Caprice PPV, the Impala, and the Nova, as well as a few less obvious models like the Silverado and Camaro. All have proven their quality and reliability under extreme use, as has the previous generation of the Tahoe PPV.
The Tahoe PPV is used by many police agencies nationwide. My own agency is knee-deep into the transition from sedans to SUVs, and the Tahoe has quickly become the favorite patrol vehicle among the troops.
And with good reason. Chevy's Tahoe patrol vehicle is fast and nimble, it corners well, and it has a good turning radius. It's also comfortable, offers a higher vantage point than a patrol sedan, and can carry a lot more gear than a car.
I have found there isn't much on the Tahoe's list of negative attributes. So when Chevrolet offered Police Magazine a chance to test and evaluate the new 2015 Tahoe PPV with four-wheel-drive, I couldn't wait to get behind the wheel.
My test Tahoe PPV was a brilliant silver with no markings, lights, or electronics added; just as it would arrive at an agency ready to be customized. This allowed for the fundamental styling of the new Tahoe to stand out.
For 2015 the soft curves of the previous generation have been sharpened to clean lines and a more boxy appearance. The front fascia is probably the most striking, as Chevrolet has added more chrome and a unique LED-accented headlight assembly to what used to be a very prudent front end. All of these redesigned exterior elements produce a very sharp-looking truck with only the spotlight, lower stance, and black wheels with V-rated tires advertising its role as a cop car.
Standard running boards, LED rear taillights, and a heavy-duty towing system round out the Tahoe's exterior features.
Comfort and Utility
Inside, the Tahoe is obviously built for its purpose as a law enforcement patrol vehicle. My test vehicle had heavy vinyl flooring, an exposed wiring harness, and console mounting bracket, but it wasn't barren.
Officers assigned the 2015 Tahoe PPV will quickly learn that the front bucket seats are very comfortable. That comfort is enhanced by the seats' 10-way power adjustments and excellent lumbar support.
The rear bench on the Tahoe PPV is also very comfortable and offers plenty of legroom. However, this will likely not be a concern for many patrol officers since they will be driving Tahoe PPVs that have been modified with dedicated prisoner cages in place of the bench seat. Still, the bench seat would serve well if left in place for the "good guys." There is no third row of seating on the police Tahoe, and I doubt there is any demand for it in this configuration.
Ergonomics for the driver are excellent. The gauge cluster is well laid out and the certified speedometer is easy to read. The center information display can be programmed to show everything from tire pressure to gas mileage, as well as a digital speed reading. The steering wheel is tilt adjustable, and cruise control is incorporated into the left side for ease of use.
The center entertainment and climate control area is where the Tahoe really shines. There is a small but easy-to-read center display at the top of the stack that doubles as the screen for the back-up camera, which comes standard.
If the visual display from the back-up camera is not enough to help you back safely, the standard rear park-assist system will give you an audible and tactile alert by way of a vibrating seat when you get dangerously close to hitting something. These are options that will surely appeal to the risk management folks and keep us out of the hot water that comes with denting the bumper of a patrol car.
When not backing, the driver can use the display to select between AM/FM and Sirius/XM satellite radio, navigation, OnStar, and the Bluetooth telephone controls. The navigation, OnStar, and satellite radio are subscription based of course so it will be up to the end-user to decide if they remain active.
I paired my iPhone with the Tahoe's controls in seconds, and the audio quality on calls was outstanding. I was also able to stream music from the phone, initiate and receive calls, and get text message alerts without taking my eyes off the road. With all the distractions patrol officers constantly have to juggle, these small luxuries pay dividends with the amount of additional safety they provide.
Below the display screen is the automatic climate control cluster with zones for driver, front passenger, and rear passengers. The additional ceiling vents in the rear ensure there is adequate air flow for all occupants, and they keep the entire vehicle comfortable. Temps reached the lower 90s during my test, but the climate system cooled the interior quickly, and it did a great job of keeping it at a constant temp. All of this in an interior with increased head, leg, and hip room over the previous model.
Quick and Stable
It's time to get down to the crux of any vehicle law enforcement vehicle evaluation: How does it drive? After all, the gadgets, design innovations, and creature comforts of the 2015 Tahoe PPV mean nothing if it can't perform like a true cop car.
Believe me, it can. This Tahoe PPV has a full-sized frame and a heart of American muscle. New for 2015 is a 5.3 liter EcoTec3 V8 engine with Active Fuel Management that pumps out 355 horsepower and 383 pound/feet of torque. Active Fuel Management automatically tunes the engine for optimal fuel economy while delivering power when it is needed most.
Acceleration off the line is downright neck-snapping, and the Tahoe launches and grips the pavement without the slightest chirp of the tires. The startling acceleration quickly mellows out and steadily propels the Tahoe's 5,500 pounds to 60 mph in just over eight seconds. I made several passes with my tester and never broke the nine-second mark. Granted, the Tahoe PPV I was driving is a stripped model, so I would expect it to be a bit slower once it is fitted with the additional weight of police equipment.
Top speed is estimated to be 135 mph and, even though I didn't have the opportunity to validate it, I can tell you this beast of an SUV is amazingly stable, quiet, and responsive at "higher than average" speeds.
Cornering is equally impressive. The low stance, performance tires, stiff suspension, and precise steering allow the Tahoe to remain rock-steady and carve curves with ease.
The big news on the 2015 Tahoe PPV is that it features an automatic four-wheel drive system with driver selectable full-time high or low 4WD gearing. This will likely be a welcome addition for officers patrolling in the snow. Unfortunately the lower ground clearance and performance tires will greatly limit the 2015 Tahoe PPV's abilities in rough terrain. If your mission requires a true 4x4, this may not be the truck for the job.
The electrical system is, of course, very robust and built to handle all the computers and electronics that have become part of the modern police cruiser. A heavy-duty alternator not only powers everything on board but also charges the dual batteries so there is never a power shortage. In short, Chevy has included everything the modern officer needs and more.
From an officer's perspective the 2015 Tahoe PPV is just about the best thing going. From a fleet management perspective it makes sense, too, as Chevrolet's reputation for rock-solid cop cars means a long service life. If you're lucky enough to have a seat at the decision table when your agency chooses your next patrol vehicle, make sure the redesigned Tahoe PPV gets a good look.
Editor's note: This article first appeared in Police Magazine. A.J. George is a patrol sergeant with the Scottsdale (Ariz.) Police Department who also serves as the SWAT team's crisis negotiation supervisor.