The Chevrolet Suburban is an American institution dating to 1935, and enabling an American tradition, the big family hauler.It began its 12th generation in 2015 with fresh styling and a refined cabin, and hasn't changed for 2017.
The chassis is body-on-frame, like a truck, and comes from the 11th generation.The engine was all new in 2015, a direct-injected 5.3-liter V8 EcoTec3 with aluminum block and heads.It makes 355 horsepower (380 hp on E85 fuel) and 383 pound-feet of torque (416 lb.-ft.on E85).It's mated to a smooth six-speed automatic, but don't be surprised if that's soon replaced by a transmission with more gears, to increase fuel mileage.
Suburban's only rival is the Ford Expedition EL with its EcoBoost turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 that makes 365 horsepower, 420 pound-feet of torque, and a 9200-pound towing capacity.
It would be nice if the more powerful 6.2-liter EcoTec3 engine that's available in the Tahoe and Silverado would also be optional for the Suburban, that needs it the most.The Suburban is rated to tow 8300 pounds with rear-wheel drive, but that's making 355 horsepower work awfully hard.That much towing needs the bigger engine that can't be had.
The handling is impressive for a nearly three-ton vehicle, that's 224 inches long on 103-inch wheelbase.It's surprisingly brisk, which contributes a lot to family safety.And the ride is smooth, which contributes a lot to family happiness.So does the quiet cabin.
The Suburban gets 15 city and 23 highway miles per gallon with rear-wheel drive, a whisker less with all-wheel drive.
The 2017 Chevrolet Suburban comes in LS ($49,915), LT ($55,515) and Premier ($64,840) models, all with 5.3-liter V8 engine, rear-wheel drive, six-speed automatic transmission, and fold-flat second- and third-row seats.All-wheel drive is $3000 more.
All Suburbans come standard with a rearview camera, seven air bags, anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control, trailer sway control, traction control, and more.
Suburban LS comes with cloth upholstery, front bucket seats with 10-way power-adjustable driver and two-way passenger seats, tri-zone climate controls, AM/FM/CD audio, satellite radio, remote vehicle starting, rear view camera, rear park assist, manual-adjustable second- and third-row seats.A font bench seat is optional.
Suburban LT upgrades with leather trim for first- and second-row seats, heated power front seats with memory feature, Bose premium audio, MyLink infotainment system, power liftgate with programmable height, lane departure warning, forward collision alert.
Suburban Premier adds heated and cooled front seats, fog lamps, HID headlamps, LED daytime running lamps, heated power side mirrors, power tilt/telescope steering column with memory, heated leather steering wheel, keyless entry, pushbutton start, power folding second- and third-row seatbacks, power adjustable pedals, 110-volt power outlet, 20-inch aluminum alloy wheels, blind spot warning, lane change assist, rear cross traffic alert.
Options include navigation, power-folding second- and third-row seats, power liftgate, cargo management system, Blu-Ray DVD entertainment system, and as many as six USB ports and six power outlets.
Safety features on all models include a safety alert seat that vibrates if the system determines the driver is at risk of colliding with another vehicle.A rear vision camera comes standard that shows the area immediately behind the vehicle on the audio screen, very helpful for hooking up a trailer.Bucket-seat models include a front center air bag that deploys from the inboard side of the driver's seat and inflates between driver and front passenger for added protection in a side-impact crash.Also available: side blind-zone alert, lane-change alert, rear cross-traffic alert, forward-collision alert, lane-departure warning, adaptive cruise control, crash-imminent braking.
GM designers paid attention to aerodynamics as well as angular aesthetics.
The character line that runs the length of the body just below the greenhouse is distinctive.
The standard wheels are 18-inch, but 20- and 22-inch wheels are available.
The main thing about the cabin of the Suburban is it's really really quiet.You can only hear the engine when you floor it, and then it's a pleasant baritone coming into the cabin.
The curved console of the upscale interior counterpoints the angular exterior.We wish the Suburban had the GM head-up display that's available on the Yukon.
It's hard to find fault with the standard cloth upholstery.Leather is available, but it's not as rich as the Yukon Denali's.
Seating is flexible, with an optional front bench seat making it a nine-passenger, or optional captain's chairs in the second row, making it seven.The standard second row and third row fold flat manually, and with power optionally.Despite all that length, 224 inches, they still can't find adult legroom for the third row.
Throughout the cabin there's useful space for small things, a bunch of cupholders, and a center console that can hold a tablet or notebook computer.
The chassis engineers get a bravo for suspension tuning, as the handling is impressively quick for a three-ton bus.For the redesign, they worked on improving the roll stiffness.A vehicle this shape wants to tip, mass will always have its say in the dynamic equation, but engineers found the right spring rates and antiroll bar thickness to limit body roll and enable rapid transitions.It helps that the weight distribution is close to 50/50.
The electric assist power rack and pinion steering is a little numb and rather slow at 3.4 turns lock to lock.But even so, the Suburban is agile by big SUV standards, which gives the driver a better chance of staying out of trouble.
The ride is on the firm side, with spring rates needed to handle big loads, but they still keep away all but the sharpest bumps.
Braking is another strong suit, for the vehicle's size.The brake pedal feel is firm, it's easy to modulate pedal pressure, and the Suburban stops straight and true.We can't testify to fade resistance, other than to say we failed to provoke any fade with a few hard stops.
Smooth, exceptionally quiet, comfortable, capable, and powerful, the latest Suburban remains the big cahuna of family haulers.
Sam Moses contributed to this report, with staff reports from New Car Test Drive and The Car Connection.