Living where I do, smack in the middle of the frozen North, I have a great appreciation for vehicles that will get me where I want to be, when I want to be there. For years that meant struggling through snow drifts or deep mud with a standard patrol unit that would bottom out on a regular basis.
Way back when, surplus jeeps, and eventually pick-up trucks were the answer, followed by police adaptations of civilian sport utility vehicles, or SUVs. I even know a couple of departments that adopted minivans as their primary patrol vehicles. Finally, some manufacturers began seriously looking at public safety needs, and started designing modifications to their heftier vehicles in order to meet those needs.
Now, however, we have a vehicle designed specifically for law enforcement, from the ground up. The 2007 Chevrolet Police Tahoe is that vehicle. The engineers at General Motors Corp. were given three basic criteria for designing this police-specific SUV: space, performance and utility. They did well on all counts.
The company has created a pursuit-capable vehicle that handles well, is environmentally and fiscally responsible, can carry a lot of gear, and won't break the bank. That's a pretty tall order.
From the outside, a casual observer might not notice much difference between the civilian and law enforcement version of the Tahoe. The Police Tahoe is a big, beefy vehicle, with nicely rounded corners, and a strangely solid, compact look for such a large vehicle. It seems to squat on the road, ready to pounce.
That's partly due to the fact that the Police Tahoe is lower to the ground than the civilian version. Couple that with wider front and rear tracks, and a lower center of gravity, and you have a big vehicle with a very positive, controlled feel that seems to hug the road.
Driving the vehicle bore that out at the Media Drive and Ride hosted by Chevrolet November 29 to December 1 in Scottsdale, Arizona. Changes to the frame (fully boxed), and a tight, coil-over-shock front suspension, keep the vehicle stable in cornering. Positive rack-and-pinion steering adds to the feeling of control. The day of our test drive was very windy, and the road was a bit rough, but the vehicle handled well, and the ride was quiet, thanks to that new boxed frame, which is stiffer, thereby reducing vibration to the passenger compartment.
Under the hood
The new Tahoe's engine is a 5.3-liter V-8, newly enhanced for 2007. The Vortec engine delivers 320 horsepower and 340 foot-pounds of torque, a significant improvement over the 2006 version. Even so, the 2007 model gets great fuel economy, with initial ratings in the 20.5-mpg range for the two-wheel drive (2WD) model. This is due, at least in part, to the fact that under normal cruising conditions, the engine runs on only four of its eight cylinders, only kicking in the other four when the need arises.
The Police Tahoe is an E-85 vehicle, meaning that it can burn fuel that contains 85 percent ethanol. That's environmentally responsible, while at the same time providing the power needed for a police vehicle. When the 5.3-liter V-8 engine is connected to a four-speed transmission (with overdrive), officers should get the type of performance they need to deal with modern highway driving conditions.
Performance and handling
Many other elements of the new Police Tahoe are designed for police performance as well. As a police EVOC (Emergency Vehicle Operations Course) instructor, I appreciated the high speed rating on the standard tires. The Tahoe rides on H-rated (135 mph), 17-inch Goodyear RSA steel-belted radial tires, mounted on steel rims. These tires are designed to "slip sideways" before a roll-over point is reached (sometimes a skid is a good thing - or at least the lesser of two evils).
The vehicle is equipped with tire pressure monitors, including the spare tire, so officers will know if they're losing pressure. That's an important piece of information during precision, high speed driving, or when operating in inclement conditions.