Watch any recent American war-based action movie or high-level governmental drama on TV and you’ll notice there’s almost always a convoy of Chevy SUVs whisking VIPs around with heavily armed escorts on board. It’s actually one of the things Hollywood gets right. Far from product placement, the real life U.S. federal, state, and municipal governments, the military, and various security services depend heavily on a fleet of toughened Chevrolet Tahoes and Suburbans to help them get around safely and effectively.
And the specialized use of one of GM’s most successful model ranges in its history isn’t just confined to American soil. Wherever the U.S. has an official presence internationally, you can bet there’s a fleet of Tahoes and Suburbans at their disposal. Take the Army’s elite Delta Force, for example. When they’re deployed on a high-value target security detail or other special ops mission, chances are they rely on said fleet to accomplish their objectives.
In an effort to underscore how effective their vehicles are in intense, real world situations, Chevrolet invited us to The Range Complex (TRC) in North Carolina, about two hours outside of Raleigh. Set in between the Army’s Fort Bragg and the Marines’ Camp LeJeune bases on 978 acres, TRC is a special-ops training facility founded by Delta Force veterans, many of whom have some 20-plus years of experience in the field under their belts. The military’s most elite fighters and other special operatives train at TRC to prepare for highly dangerous, highly classified missions and other security operations, like the raid by the Navy’s SEAL Team Six that took out Osama bin Laden, or the defense of the U.S. embassy in Benghazi, Libya, during the siege of the facility in 2012. These guys are the real deal, and so are the Chevys they drive.
The first training exercise of the day is a simulation of a combat hostage situation. Suited up in bulletproof vests, we gather on a raised observation deck looking down on a makeshift building composed of impact absorbing concrete. Suddenly, a dust cloud appears in the distance. Like a scene straight out of “Sicario” or “The Kingdom,” a blacked-out Chevrolet Tahoe Midnight Edition emerges from the cloud at high speed and screeches to a halt just outside the training building. Five men decked out in combat gear egress and immediately assume an infiltration formation. In a matter of seconds, they clear four rooms of numerous enemy paper targets with their HK M416s while protecting one live hostage. The purpose: to showcase how quickly they can distinguish friend from foe in an extremely stressful combat situation where every millisecond counts. Did I mention they utilized live ball ammunition for the exercise? Like I said, the real deal.
On the two-hour road trip to the facility from Raleigh International Airport, our fleet of Midnight Edition Tahoes and Suburbans provided a quiet and comfortable refuge from the blistering 94 degree heat and 100 percent humidity. We were put in a vehicle with an instructor from TRC who went by the name of Tom with a beard to protect his identity. As the desolate North Carolina landscape whisked by, we were mesmerized by the stories Tom with a beard had to share. In order to increase your chances of survival while driving through a bombed-out shell of a city where the threat of IEDs, suicide bombers, and guerrilla attackers could lurk anywhere, Tom with a beard says it’s best to drive as fast as possible. The logic being, the faster you are the harder you are to catch.
Traveling down I-95 to Fayetteville while listening to his anecdotes, my heart began to race a bit as visions of our convoy being ambushed flashed briefly in my head. But that was nothing more than my imagination. For Tom with a beard, it’s been his reality for more than 20 years.
As the sun sets over the horizon and the light disappears, another fleet of Tahoes descends on our location. This time, they came fully equipped with the Z71 package, which features an off-road suspension, all-terrain tires, skid plates, a 3.42 axle, and a two-speed transfer case to name a few additions. A 5.3-liter V-8 with 355 horsepower provides the motivation. But these Tahoes also came with a feature you won’t be able to get off the showroom floor: special infrared light bars equipped to the roofs. We were about to experience a nighttime stealth driving exercise. As you may have guessed, no headlights were used during this one. Instead, we were all given military-grade infrared night vision goggles, which cost about as much as a brand-new Volkswagen Golf.
If you’ve ever seen an infrared night vision video before, it’s exactly how you’d imagined. Everything appears lit in a faint green hue while wearing the goggles, but when you take them off, it’s pitch black with zero visibility. To say they take some getting used to is an understatement. At first we rode shotgun with an instructor at the wheel, who was driving at speeds necessary to evade enemies in the dark and peeling out at nearly every opportunity around TRC’s roads. Then we were given a chance to navigate a closed course on our own while wearing the night vision setup. Suffice to say I almost wrecked a $60,000 Tahoe while representing Automobile. It’s that difficult.
While the special Midnight Edition Z71s seem a bit plush for heavy special-ops use on the inside, the mechanical upgrades the Z71 package offers make all the sense in the world for government and military use, especially in areas where the roads and other harsh environments can dole out significant punishment.
When you see them prowling the local mall parking lot or when you step into one that’s your UberXL, it’s easy to forget just how capable the Tahoe and Suburban are, and how important they are to our national and global military and security forces. The heroes that keep us safe need the best tools available, and when it comes to vehicles, they almost always turn to Chevy. And that’s not a Hollywood fantasy.