The Presidential Motorcade is one of the most visible manifestations of a President's might. At the same time, it is a huge rolling reminder of the immense security bubble that surrounds the President even when making short trips within the confines of the National Mall. As time marches on, new vehicles are added to the motorcade fleet, some of which are quite exotic, while older models get pushed down to lower-risk diplomatic security missions or retired altogether. Just over two years ago, the newest Presidential Limousine, popularly referred to as "The Beast," emerged. Now, a new Chevy Suburban-based Presidential limousine has joined the fleet.
You can read all about the various vehicles of the Presidential motorcade and what they do in this past feature of ours.
The Secret Service's heavily armored Suburban limousines don't get the same attention that the traditional Presidential Limousines get. The reality is The Beast has far more in common with a Chevy Suburban than with a Cadillac sedan, but that's another story. Still, these specialized SUVs are used extensively, especially when the President travels across the United States and the Vice President seems to ride in them even more regularly.
The use of the large sport utility vehicles for transporting the President and Vice President began in the early 2000s. Now they are a largely interchangeable staple, along with iconic Beast limousines, for many of POTUS' and VPOTUS' trips.
Prior to the arrival of this new vehicle, these highly modified Suburbans were based on the tenth generation of the big family hauler. The production run of those vehicles ended in 2014. The new one that has been popping up from time-to-time in recent months is based on the 11th generation, which just ended its production run in 2020. As such, it seems that it was time for an upgrade.
The Presidential Suburban in question is somewhat of a rare breed even before its modifications. It is a 2500 HD model, with heavy-duty running gear. The Drive's Caleb Jacobs told The War Zone that "Chevy actually discontinued the Suburban HD a few years back and even then, it was only available to fleet and military consumers. The vehicle shown here is based on the previous-gen Suburban though there have been rumors an updated model may be coming for the 2021 model year."
Obviously, the Secret Service has the funding and a mandate to get the configurations they need, and the heavy running gear is necessary to support the thousands of pounds of additional armor, communications, defensive systems, and other electronics that are installed during the vehicle's conversion. Chevy is also fully aware of the high-level exposure the Presidential Motorcade gives its products. So, I think it is safe to say that the Secret Service will get what it wants, regardless of the state of a vehicle's commercial production.
The Tweet below includes a picture showing Vice President Pence getting out of one of the Suburbans at Joint Base Andrews. Note the gold Presidential seal embedded in the door:
The new Suburban limo introduces something fresh to the Presidential Suburban lineage—a raised roofline. It is unclear what the exact reason for this modification was, but it would make it easier for passengers to get in and out of the vehicle's deep cabin. It could also make up for some space taken up by ventral and dorsal armor. The threat posed by drones, in particular, has ballooned in recent years, which may have resulted in heavier topside armor.
From what we can tell, this particular configuration first showed up nearly a year ago, and apparently, it even carried the President back in December of 2019, although it was for a short stint within Joint Base Andrews as you can see in the video below.
Advance to 6:13:20 if the video does not start there automatically:
But, as with the new Beasts, it seems like these vehicles were used sparingly during their initial entry into service, before they became well-proven in actual operations. They are likely to become more plentiful and end up being regular fixtures in the Presidential Motorcade as time goes on. It's also worth noting that many of the other vehicles in the motorcade have been converted over to this same generation suburban.
Like all of the Presidential Motorcade, these new super-SUVs will live quite the remarkable lives during their time in service, ferrying around the first and second families. They will be constantly flown on C-17 and C-5 transports around the world from locale to locale. In fact, the vehicles in the Presidential Motorcade are certainly the most well-traveled (via air) vehicles in the world.
While the existing fleet of older armored Suburbans isn't likely to disappear in the very near term, if everything goes right, we should expect them to slowly fade away with this new configuration taking their place.
Contact the author: Tyler@thedrive.com