It’s 10:30 p.m. on a Friday night, and you and your partner are on your way to a “loud music” call at the same apartment complex you have been forced to visit every weekend for three years.
You want to get the call over with and move on to more important duties, but right now, you are stopped at a red light, three cars back waiting to go. And you’re no dummy, so you’ve tactically staggered the position of your patrol vehicle a bit back from the other vehicles on the road next to you.
From where you sit in a 2007 Chevy Tahoe patrol vehicle, you can see down into the other vehicles around you. The car to your left has three teenagers in it, but no beer is visible.
The car to your right has country music playing from the speakers. The music’s a little loud, but the guy driving looks like he just got off work and is heading home. No one else is in the car.
The light turns green and you begin to accelerate. Beneath the Tahoe’s hood a Vortec V8 engine with 320 horsepower growls confidently.
Your partner is monitoring the “hot” channel and an armed robbery call comes out of the precinct bordering yours less than a mile away. The suspect vehicle is an older model white minivan.
Your partner says how much fun he thinks it would be if you guys could run into them. And wouldn’t you know it, a mile-and-a-half up the road, you do.
You run the license plate on the minivan and clear on the radio to the dispatcher and anyone else nearby that you are behind the suspect vehicle and are about to make a felony stop. After you activate the Tahoe’s overhead lights, the minivan driver surprises you: He actually pulls over. You light up the vehicle with the driver and passenger side spotlights. The blinding lights, and the tinted windows of the Tahoe make it impossible for the occupants of the minivan to see into your vehicle so they don’t know how many people you have in there. They just know the cop car behind them is big.
Your partner clears on the outside speaker for the driver and passengers to put their hands out the window. With weapons drawn, and concealment held behind the A-pillar and the door of the Tahoe, you hold your position until a backup unit arrives and everyone is taken out of the minivan, one at a time until the scene is secure.
When the suspects are questioned later about the traffic stop, one of the reasons they gave for pulling over and not shooting or running is because the police vehicle was so large and they felt they were caught.
Size Does Matter
Contrary to some rumors, size does matter. This is just one of the many things the 2007 Chevy Tahoe has going for it.
The Tahoe makes a strong impression. While test driving the PD-equipped model for this article, I had many people stop to take a long look and ask me questions about it.
Fellow officers and civilians both were excited about the exterior and were amazed at the huge amount of usable internal space in the front and the rear cargo compartments. Patrol officers, special assignment officers, and supervisors eyed and touched the Tahoe much like an eight-year-old would handle a shiny new red bike that he or she desired very badly.
The 2007 Tahoe patrol vehicle is actually two inches lower than the 2006 model. It’s not a change that anyone notices from the outside.
Behind the wheel, however, the reduction is very noticeable. The two inches trimmed from the Tahoe’s height have lowered its center of gravity and really improved its handling at high speed and in quick turns. While driving the Tahoe that Chevy provided for this review, I never felt like it was going to tip even at a high rate of speed.
Other improvements over the 2006 Tahoe also enhance the 2007 model’s performance as a police pursuit vehicle. For example, its brakes are larger and the vehicle is wired for two batteries, not to increase the power of the vehicle but to extend the battery life. As any cop knows, battery life is especially important when the light bars have to run for an extended period of time.
Chevy has also given the 2007 Tahoe the same electrical system as its other police package vehicles, making it possible to painlessly switch out radios and computers from one vehicle to the next when necessary. Very smart.
Born to Patrol
And make no mistake, the 2007 Chevy Tahoe patrol vehicle is not just a civilian SUV with a police paint job. It was designed from the ground up to be a patrol car, and I believe any cop lucky enough to drive this SUV will appreciate the painstaking engineering and design that went into making it.
The police Tahoe handles fabulously while driving on multiple surfaces and in various conditions. Curbs, parking blocks, and stairs pose absolutely no challenge. I don’t recommend trying to take a barrier that is half the height of the vehicle, but for the typical urban setting, the Tahoe is superior to any patrol sedan.
ABS with vacuum boost gives the 2007 Tahoe the ability to decelerate from 60 to 0 mph in 138 feet, according to the Michigan State Police. My driving experience with the Tahoe was less scientific than the MSP test, but I can tell you that the brakes grab well in wet and dry conditions, and the ABS functions with great maneuverability while either breaking into a turn or breaking in a straightaway. Even backing up at a fairly quick clip, the breaking is precise, and the vehicle responds just as the driver commands.
Visibility is often a problem with SUVs. But I had no problem seeing out of the 2007 Tahoe. The rear- and sideview mirrors work great, and I could turn to look out the back windows while backing up and changing lanes in both daytime and night time conditions.
And of course, the size of an SUV can make it difficult to park. But the Tahoe handles really well in a parking lot. I parked in some very tight spaces, so small in fact that I had to fold in the driver’s side mirror to fit into one of them. I made it, and I was able to exit the vehicle from the driver’s side door. That’s pretty impressive for such a large vehicle.
A Versatile Vehicle
The Tahoe is not just designed for patrol. It’s an excellent special unit vehicle. Without a spit shield, it can fit five grown men in reasonable comfort. Mind you, we’re talking about normal-sized guys, and the middle guy in the back seat will not have as much arm room as he might like if everyone has on gun belts and rapid deployment gear, but five men can fit, get in and out quickly and easily, and wear their seat belts.
Tahoe is also great for K-9 units. Outfitted with aftermarket K-9 equipment, the rear cargo area, which is accessible via either the levered back window or the entire rear door, is well suited to quick dog deployment. In addition, the cargo hold is spacious and will fit the large amounts of equipment required by K-9 handlers. I only have one quibble with the cargo hold design: I wish GM had built in more secure hooks and cords to keep items from sliding around while the vehicle is in motion.
That’s a small concern, however, and it can be easily remedied with some aftermarket storage options. Some of the aftermarket storage made for the back of the Tahoe is so gorgeous and user-friendly that I would consider having it sit in my living room just to look at it. These specialty options make the Tahoe an extremely versatile police vehicle. It can be specifically outfitted for crime lab evidence collection, anti-terrorism response units, and as a supervisor command vehicle, just to name a few applications.
The Tahoe really shines as a supervisory vehicle. During the aftermath of a police shooting or in the middle of a barricade situation, it can be used as a command staging area. And the rear cargo area has enough room for white boards, allowing for planning of tactical entries as well as marking off the locations of the perimeter officers. The bumper is a convenient place to sit while the back door provides shade from the sun and elements. Folding down the back seat makes an additional flat area to take notes and move around needed supplies and gear.
As for hauling the bad guys, Chevy put in some nice touches that make the Tahoe very suitable for carting prisoners off to jail. Its interior surfaces are tough and easy to wash off and keep clean. This is important when removing vomit and other body fluids from the prisoner compartment regularly and thoroughly. No cop wants his or her car to smell like beer puke in the hot afternoon sun.
Worth the Price
The higher vehicle height of the Tahoe along with the intimidating exterior give it an advantage over many other police vehicles. It’s practical for daily use, and its size and solid structural design make it an excellent vehicle from a tactical perspective. The size and higher range of visibility make it superior to patrol sedans that sit lower and don‘t have as much room for clearance over objects and obstacles.
Lastly, from a cost and maintenance standpoint, the Tahoe will cost more on the front end but, in the long run, this versatile, powerful patrol vehicle offers a lot of bang for the buck.
Lori M. Connelly is a Phoenix Police officer as well as a freelance writer who reviews automobiles, police issues, and food.