The Chevy Suburban is the grandfather of all SUVs, about 80 years old.But it's a pretty cool grand-dad, because today it can do almost any athletic or high-tech thing imaginable for a car.
It has equipment galore, a luxurious cabin with three rows of seats, and capabilities that put it somewhere between a Land Rover and a school bus.It rides on a wheelbase that's 130 inches long, and measures 220 inches from bumper to bumper.In parking terms, that's more than 18 feet.
The Chevrolet Suburban's only equal is the extra-long Ford Expedition EL, which uses a turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 making more power and torque than the Chevrolet V8, and with a higher tow rating of 9200 pounds, compared to the Suburban's 8300.
Despite its name (which goes back to the 1930s), the Suburban is no crossover.The Suburban is related to the Chevy Silverado pickup.It uses the truck's box frame and 5.3-liter V8 that makes 355 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque, using a 6-speed automatic transmission.Even pulling the Suburban's weight of nearly three tons, the engine accelerates well for freeway on-ramps, mountain climbs, or two-lane passing.It may be big, but it can fly around small, slow cars.And it doesn't even suck that much gas when it does.
Chevrolet has developed that small-block V8 to an impressive place of efficiency.It was redesigned for 2015; now called EcoTe3, it got a new aluminum block, new aluminum cylinder heads, new crankshaft, new pistons, higher compression ratio, and direct fuel injection.While using only four cylinders at cruising times (the switch between eight and four is never felt), the Suburban is EPA-rated at 16 city/23 highway/18 combined mpg with two-wheel drive; with 4WD it gets one less mpg city and highway, but the same 18 mpg combined (go figure, government math).
Safety features include a standard rearview camera and seven airbags, including a front center airbag.Safety options include adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitor, front parking sensor, rear cross traffic alert, and forward crash warning by vibrating the driver's seat.These things factor into the NHTSA test results, but still the Suburban only gets four stars overall.
The 2016 Chevrolet Suburban comes in LS, LT and LTZ models, all with a 5.3-liter V8 engine, 6-speed automatic transmission, and fold-flat second- and third-row seats.The Suburban LS is well equipped, with trailer sway control and traction control in addition to stability control, although with cloth upholstery (and available front bench seat).The Suburban LT gets upgrades like a Bose audio system and MyLink infotainment.The Suburban LTZ gets adds foglamps, HID headlamps, LED running lights, power folding second and third rows, and 20-inch alloy wheels.
Four-wheel drive is a $3000 option.
The old Suburban was slab sided, and it showed.This latest Suburban is creased and pressed.The character line at the door handles especially gives the big SUV some dimension.
The Suburban is flexible, seating from seven to nine passengers with the optional front bench seat and second-row captain's chairs.It's hard to find fault with the interior, even with the standard cloth upholstery in the LS model.
It's just about the quietest ride in the class, with minimal wind and road noise.The engine is only audible when the driver stomps on the gas pedal, which opens valves in the intake and/or exhaust system, sending a pleasant V8 baritone to the cabin.
The curved console of the upscale interior is like a counterpoint to the angular exterior.There's an available eight-inch touchscreen with audio controls, and a head-up display with important data for the driver.If you want to stack on the features, there's a Blu-Ray DVD entertainment system and as many as six USB ports and six power outlets.
Throughout the cabin there is useful space for little things, a bunch of cupholders, and a center console that can hold a tablet or notebook computer.The rear seat folds flat, and allows good headroom and legroom.The wayback third row is livable for adults on a very short trip but best for kids.
The third row also folds flat for cargo, with power operation available, and there's an available cargo management system.
Given its giant wheelbase, its basketball-player height, and its scale-busting weight of nearly three tons, you can't expect it to handle quick and stop fast.Mass will always have its say in dynamic situations.But GM chassis engineers have done a great job with the suspension, working with spring rates and anti-roll bars.It helps that weight distribution is close to 50/50, front/rear.We could say that it leans in turns and lacks overall agility; or we could say that, for a huge SUV, it doesn't lean much in turns and is fairly agile.We will say that it recovers well during rapid transitions in switchback curves.
The electric power steering, a rack and pinion system, is a little numb yet effortless at any speed.
Like the Silverado, the Suburban uses leaf springs in the rear.The LTZ has optional Magnetic Ride Control, which uses magnetically charged fluid to change suspension damping and deliver a supple ride over rough roads, while improving control in turns.
The base ride is on the firm side, in order to achieve the good handling, but it's still sweet enough that the truck's occupants will only be bothered by the nasty bumps.
Braking is also strong, given the weight.The brake pedal feels firm and is easy to modulate, and the Suburban stops true.After a few hard stops there was no fade.
The seven-seat Suburban is smooth, quiet, comfortable, capable, powerful, efficient, handles and rides well, and can tow 8300 pounds.It's also more than 18 feet long.Its only competition is the Ford Expedition EL.