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All-new 2015 Chevy Tahoe PPV 2WD

Every year since its 2005 introduction, the Tahoe PPV has achieved the highest ergonomic rating of any police vehicle in the evaluation conducted by the Michigan State Police. Not just the highest human-machine interface rating among crossovers/SUVs, but the highest rating of any police package vehicle, period. And not just by a point or two, but 10 percent better ratings than the closest competitor.

In terms of room, cargo and overall “officer’s office” the Tahoe PPV easily beat the Ford CVPI every single year from 2005 to 2011. By an even larger margin, the Tahoe PPV has beat the Ford Police Interceptor Utility every year from 2011 to 2014. Of course, the Tahoe PPV has had clearly higher ergonomic ratings than the Dodge Charger for nine straight years.

See the Michigan State Police website for a complete listing of the 28 different areas involved in the ergonomics evaluation, including front seat, rear seat, instrumentation, vehicle controls and visibility.

For the fully outfitted officer, that means room for a radio and a Taser on one side; pepper spray and a pistol on the other. For the fully upfitted police vehicle, there’s room for all of the communications, enforcement and computing gear; room for a prisoner partition that allows full-driver seat track and seat back adjustments and plenty of space for the rear seat prisoner. Room in the back to stow all the gear most of us are required to carry.

If the question is: Why a Tahoe for routine patrol? One answer is room—for the officer, for the mobile upfit gear, and for the cargo. You say you want a V8-powered, body-on-frame vehicle that has both the passenger room and cargo capacity of the old Ford CVPI? It is the police package Tahoe.


Overall Size

Even though the full-size SUV has been re-engineered and re-styled inside and out, the Tahoe is still the Tahoe law enforcement knows so well. The overall size (interior and exterior) of the NextGen Tahoe is the same as the current Tahoe. The new Tahoe uses the body-on-frame construction with a stiffer frame and a wider track but the same 116-inch wheelbase.

As new as the 2015 Tahoe is, GM officials indicate a full equipment transfer is possible, i.e., all of the consoles, partitions, push bumpers, K9 cages, lightbars and cargo boxes from the current Tahoe will fit on the new Tahoe. Of course, new mounting brackets may be required.

Virtually all of the cargo boxes and K9 kennels from the 2014 generation Tahoe will fit the 2015 Tahoe.

The new Tahoe has increased space between the front seats for equipment mounting.


New Interior

On the interior, the Tahoe has a new instrument panel, new seat contours and fabrics, new center console design and new interior trim. From the inside, the 2015 Tahoe is definitely a new SUV. Compared to the 2014 Tahoe, the NextGen 2015 Tahoe has almost 2 inches more front headroom, ½-inch more front hip room, and a whopping 4 inches more front leg room. The rear leg room is unchanged.

The cargo capacity is 3 cubic feet larger.

The top of the rear door opening is wider, the widest (mid-height) of the rear door is wider, and the rear door now opens to a 38-inch arc.

For 2015, a double pull on the inside door handles allows the door to unlock and open before the gear selector goes into Park.

The Tahoe comes standard with 40-20-40 front seats with the option to delete the 20-percent center seat. That is the recommended way to do it.

Do not order the optional bucket seats. First, the console is fully integrated into the dash and is not easy to remove and upfit around. Second, a driver’s seat inboard airbag is included, which could potentially interfere with aftermarket equipment. Straight from GM Fleet officials: Don’t make the mistake of ordering bucket seats. A cloth rear seat is standard while a vinyl rear seat is a no-charge option.

Both the cloth covering over the seats and the inner foam inside the seats are completely new. The new layers of different kinds of foam are designed for the subjective balance between initial comfort and day-long support. The high-wear fabric underwent a more objective test in its development: A simulated driver slid in and out of the vehicle across the seat covering and engineers checked for “linting” and “pilling” that could lead to premature wear. The new seats have a low-medium bolster on the seat bottoms and medium-high seat back bolster. Even with a full duty belt, the seats were very comfortable.


New, Direct Injection Engine

For 2015, the Tahoe got an all-new truck engine, the 5.3L EcoTec3 V8. This was first introduced on the 2014 Silverado 1500. The displacement for the new Gen5 small block V8 is the same as the old engine; however, the new engine is totally different. The engine is still an overhead valve, pushrod truck engine designed for maximum torque at lower rpms as opposed to a high rpm-oriented, car-based overhead cam engines.

The new 5.3L V8 has the latest three gasoline-engine combustion technologies, hence the name EcoTec3. These are Variable Valve Timing, Direct Injection and Active Fuel Management (cylinder deactivation). Both Variable Valve Timing and Direct Injection increase overall torque, flatten the torque curve, and lower the rpm at which peak torque occurs. Thanks to direct injection, the new 5.3L V8 has 11 percent more horsepower (355 hp) and 14 percent more torque (383 lb-ft).

Variable Valve Timing and Direct Injection mean more usable torque at all engine speeds, and that means better throttle response—something you can feel in the seat of your pants. For example, the 355 hp 5.3L V8 produces the same torque at 2000 rpm as a similar, competitive V8 without these tech advances has at 3250 rpm.


Comfort During Long Shifts

The time we spent in the Tahoe PPV was not a mere drive around the block. Half of the miles put on the Tahoe PPV were in full eight-hour stints. At the end of a busy shift, the comfort of entry-exit, and the comfort of adequate interior room, are really noticeable.


Getting out of some of the small NextGen police sedans and into the Tahoe is like a breath of fresh air. In full uniform, with full duty belt and body armor, the Tahoe is extremely easy to enter and exit. Inside, there is plenty of head, shoulder, hip, knee, leg and foot room for both the driver and front seat passenger.

The Tahoe has so much room, compared to so many of today’s cramped police vehicles, it takes a while to get beyond the roominess to see the Tahoe’s other features. One of these features is less body roll during aggressive driving. In the past, the Tahoe has handled well, but has always had a bit of body roll. That feel definitely changed. The new Tahoe also has a wider rear track for even better high-speed stability. It has ½-inch wider wheels with the same wheel diameter and same tire size, for less tire flex and more responsive steering.


Stiff Suspension

The new Tahoe definitely has a harsh ride, even when empty of cargo. “It is set up just about like a race car to perform well on the MSP and LASD road racing courses,” according to Dana Hammer, Manager of Law Enforcement Vehicles with GM Fleet & Commercial Operations. “That is how the Tahoe is tested, and it is produced how it is tested.”

With a stiff suspension comes extremely responsive steering and handling. The Tahoe PPV 2WD could be aggressively driven with total confidence. It was a pleasure to toss around during traffic enforcement, emergency lane change, evasive drills and accident avoidance drills. On wavy roads, the tightly sprung Tahoe precisely follows the rising and falling road surface. The Tahoe may seem to wander and float when, in fact, it will be sticking to the uneven road.

It can be bossed through a cone course or a road course with confidence. Judging by the big smiles at the Police Fleet Expo’s recent Ride & Drive in Louisville, the Tahoe did everything right even on a very tight course with sharp turns and backing exercises.

The 2015 Tahoe has a new electric variable-assist power steering system. Electric-assisted steering reduces the load on the engine from the hydraulic pump and the maintenance issues with hydraulic hoses.


The variable-boost steering reduces steering effort at lower speeds, and produces a firmer feel at higher speeds. The system is designed to improve overall handling and make a better on-center feel.

Speaking of a responsive turn-in for cornering, the electric-assist power steering is absolutely transparent. No one driving the Tahoe during our seven days with it noticed anything unusual or quirky about the steering. The low-speed steering effort, the on-center driving at highway speeds, and the stability at very high speeds were all police-spec. If we were not told the Tahoe had EPAS steering, we would not have questioned it by the way the Tahoe felt.


Much Better Performance

The much more usable torque at all engine speeds from the direct injection was immediately obvious. The Tahoe pulls especially hard above 80 mph. In other words, it accelerates from 80 mph to 120 mph just as briskly as it gets up to 80 mph. No flat spots in performance. The Tahoe might be a big SUV, but it is now a fast and responsive SUV. It has the highest top speed of any police package or special-service package crossover/SUV.

Long before the NextGen Tahoe was released, GM Fleet said the performance would increase. In fact, the exact promise was that the 2015 Tahoe PPV would perform like the legendary 1994-1996 LT1 Caprice 9C1.

As a three-year average, that 5.7L Caprice hit 60 mph in 8.2 seconds. The new 5.3L Tahoe does it in 7.3 seconds. The popular old Caprice hit 100 mph in 21.8 seconds. The 2015 Tahoe hits it in 19.0 seconds. The Caprice sedan had a top speed of 138 mph. The Tahoe SUV ha a top speed of 139 mph. The big Caprice stopped from 60mph during MSP testing in 139.8 feet. Under a new, more challenging MSP test protocol, the big Tahoe stops in 135.7 feet.

OK, the Caprice was clearly the police vehicle of choice 20 years ago. But how does the new Tahoe compare to the competition today? The older Tahoe has always had slower acceleration than the Ford PI Utility, and much slower road course times. No longer.

Comparing standard engine to standard engine, the new Tahoe with its high-torque, direct-injection 5.3L V8 is faster than the 3.7L V6 Ford PI Utility. In both 2WD and 4WD versions, the Tahoe is an average of one second faster to 60 mph and three seconds faster to 100 mph. On the Grattan road course, both the 2WD and 4WD versions of the Tahoe now have exactly the same lap times as the Ford PI Utility. At 139 mph versus 132 mph, the 2WD Tahoe has a higher top speed. The 60 mph braking distances are within


2 feet of one another.


Improved Fuel Economy

The Tahoe PPV has seen steady improvements in fuel economy. It started with the 6-speed trans introduced in 2010. The 6-speed produced two immediate benefits—better fuel economy and faster acceleration. The 2009 model 2WD Tahoe PPV with a 320 hp, 5.3L V8, 4-speed trans and 3.73 rear gears had EPA ratings of 14 mpg City, 19 mpg Highway, and 16 mpg Combined. The 2010 model 2WD Tahoe PPV with the same engine but 6-speed trans and 3.08 rear gears is rated at 15 mpg City, 21 mpg Highway, and 17 mpg Combined. That was a 6 percent improvement.

The next change was the just-introduced direct-injection, 5.3L EcoTec3 V8 engine. The EPA Estimates for the new 2WD Tahoe PPV are 16 mpg City/23 mpg Highway/18 mpg Combined. That is another 6 percent better fuel economy due strictly to the new, direct-injection engine.

We put 1,800 miles of county and suburban calls for service on the 2015 Tahoe PPV. EPA Estimates aside, we averaged 17.8 mpg. This is 1.5 mpg better than a similar evaluation of the 2011 Tahoe PPV. The new 5.3L EcoTec3 V8 is the only difference. Both vehicles were 2WD, and had the 6-speed trans and 3.08 rear gears. The new engine definitely delivers better fuel economy—and performance.


Total Cost of Ownership

The Tahoe is a body-on-frame, V8-powered, RWD, police package vehicle. The truck-based, Tahoe PPV has a 250,000-mile duty cycle, making it one of the lowest-total-cost police vehicles available. Initial price is part of the total cost of ownership, but only part. One police department reported on average residual value of $11,000 for a Tahoe PPV with 100K miles. This compares to an average of $2,900 for 100K-mile Ford CVPIs from the same department.

The latest ALG estimates are a too-obvious-to-miss clue about how much improved the 2015 Tahoe is over the street-proven 2014 Tahoe. The ALG residual value estimates jumped 13 percentage points from 44 percent (2014 generation) to 57 percent (2015 generation). That is the best early evidence that the NextGen Tahoe will be much better than even the venerable, current generation Tahoe.

That said, the Tahoe pricing has gone up for 2015. Fleet pricing varies state to state. A common transaction price for the 2014 Tahoe (2WD) PPV may have been around $26K. Expect to pay about $3K more for the 2015 version of the 2WD Tahoe PPV. Expect to pay another $3K more for the 2015 version of the pursuit-rated, 4x4 Tahoe PPV.

The 2015 Tahoe PPV is more expensive than the 2014 Tahoe PPV but comes standard with about $2,500 in features that were optional on the 2014 Tahoe PPV. These include the backup camera; auxiliary, isolated battery; rear park sensors; Class IV trailer hitch and wiring; Bluetooth; 110-volt outlet and rain sensing wipers. Of course, the 2015 Tahoe PPV both has more performance and gets better fuel mileage. It is simply a better, safer vehicle.

Next up…a driving evaluation of the pursuit-rated Tahoe PPV 4WD: 1,000 miles of calls for service in the blowing and drifting snow of early-January.


Heads-Up on the NextGen Tahoe Upfit




Much of the upfit gear from the current Tahoe and the Ford CVPI will fit in the new Tahoe. The prisoner partition will fit but new mounting brackets will be needed. The distance between the front seats is 1.5 inches greater on the new Tahoe than the current Tahoe. That means virtually any center console box from any in-service vehicle will fit. A much tougher question is how much upfitting should be done by the factory versus how much should be done by a local upfitter or in-house technician.

Kerr Industries is General Motor’s factory-approved upfitter. Their facility is just one block from the Tahoe’s Arlington, Texas Assembly Plant. Kerr can do a complete turn-key upfit with a wide variety of internal and external lightbars, sirens/speakers, corner lights, trunk/cargo trays, prisoner partitions, K9 cages, and push bumpers; in other words, a complete upfit.

Understanding that a police department may want to patronize a local company or keep in-house techs busy, the question is not so much what “can” Kerr do but what “should” Kerr do. According to Tom Stevens, Kerr Technical Integration Engineer, the police department is time, money and headache ahead by having Kerr do at least two critical and difficult areas.

The first is the A-pillar mounted spotlights. The mild sheet steel on the A-pillar covers three layers of ultra-high-strength boron steel. You must drill the outer later at precisely the right X-Y-Z axis to hit the square cutout in the middle layer of boron steel. The bit strikes those layers at very different angles. And boron steel itself requires a diamond-cobalt drill bit. These bits are only good for drilling two holes, assuming perfect alignment through the A-pillar.

The overall installation is difficult due to the hardened steel pillars needed to meet rollover protection standards. There is no room for error and if a mistake is made with any part of the operation, damage to the pillar strength or airbag tethers, rain leaks or misalignments will occur. The counter sunk rivets must be installed correctly to the mounting bracket into the A-pillar or the bracket may come loose and misalignment will occur. Kerr has the alignment fixture, the tools and the experience. Let them do it.

Kerr Industries has spotlight field installation kits available for the Tahoe, Suburban and 1500, 2500 and 3500 pickup trucks. The kit includes a decal template that has the precise hole locations for the ½-inch shaft and the two bracket mounting holes. Included in the kit is the correct size spring-stop drill bit for the bracket holes and the counter sunk rivets, which are available only from Kerr.

The kit also included the A-pillar trim, which is pre-drilled for the shaft of the spotlight. For those ordering the dual spotlight kit, templates are supplied for both sides. Also included in the dual spotlight kit is the custom, right-side A-pillar trim that has the grab handle removed and close-out panel installed.

The other area to let Kerr do is the front headlight and rear taillight corner LED lights. You just can’t use a hole saw to drill away at these complex, multiple-layer plastic housings. You will never be able to moisture seal the installed LED, so the LED will fail prematurely or the lens will fog up, or both.

For the front headlamp, Kerr has developed both a wig-wag option and a front LED corner light option. The front lens is a complex plastic molding with three layers from the outside to the inside. And the front fascia is a significant job to remove just to get to the lens. You simply cannot drill into the main headlamp reflector and have any hope of moisture sealing it.

Instead, Kerr mounts the correct color (or white) LED below the big front reflector. Kerr techs access the clear section below the headlights for their multiple-flash color LEDs. Their wig-wag function is totally independent of the projector headlamps, and visible with the headlights turned on.

The rear lens has a full perimeter LED ring and a LED corner light cannot be inserted. In the rear, there is simply no room for an LED corner unit inside the LED tube lights. Instead, the white backup light is swapped with a combination LED white and triple-flash unit. Kerr buys the OE tail lamp lens, re-machines the housing to accept a new socket behind the clear OE reverse light lens.

In the rear, the LED will function as a triple-flash emergency lamp and cancel out to steady burn white when the vehicle is placed into reverse. The LED modules are available in red, blue, clear and amber for the emergency flash portion. The reverse white light output meets FMVSS standards, the only one on the market to do so. Their specially developed socket has a 6-LED light that has multiple flash pattern, lights of red, blue, amber, white or green. Their LED also has a white steady burn to serve as a backup light. This special-built tail lamp is also available as a replacement unit.


Factory-Warrantied Work

Kerr has a number of factory-warrantied options for the exterior, interior and rear cargo areas. They also have safety and power management options. These are parts that can be ordered when the vehicle is ordered, an orderable option from the factory through the local Chevy dealer.

Importantly, Kerr can do either a vinyl wrap or a two-tone paint job. Kerr can also install steering wheel switches. One is the momentary Push-To-Talk that is compatible with any P25 global connector. The other is an on/off switch to control any light/siren function.

Anyone can do a lightbar, siren, push bumper, center console and prisoner partition. Let Kerr do the hard stuff. These are the jobs where lots of pieces have to be removed (the pieces that can break or can’t be fully moisture-sealed) and the almost-impossible hole drilling that must miss the airbag tethers. Located next to the factory, they know how to do a factory-installed job…the first time. This is a job that carries a three-year warranty.

Published in Police Fleet Manager, Jan/Feb 2015

Rating : Not Yet Rated

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