The Chevrolet Suburban is a full-size SUV that wears an iconic nameplate that is nearly 80-years old. Like the smaller Tahoe and the mechanically-identical GMC Yukon XL, the Suburban soldiers on with a rugged body-on-frame architecture that gives it excellent off-road and towing capabilities.
The Suburban is instantly recognizable as a member of the Chevrolet family thanks to a generously-sized bowtie emblem proudly affixed to the grille. The SUV stretches 222.4 inches long, 76.8 inches tall and 79.1 inches wide, dimensions that make it roughly the same size as the Ford Expedition EL, one of its toughest rivals. The bulk comes at a price, and the Suburban tips the scale at 5,672 pounds with two-wheel drive and 5,824 pounds when equipped with the optional four-wheel drive system.
As can be expected given the exterior dimensions, the Suburban boasts a cavernous interior with room for eight passengers spread out over three rows of seats. An available nine-person configuration swaps out the front bucket seats for a three-passenger bench.
The Suburban offers 45.8 cubic feet of trunk space with nine passengers aboard. That figure goes up to 90 cubic feet with the third row removed, and 137.4 cubic feet with the second row folded flat. In addition to sheer cargo space, the SUV offers plenty of storage compartments scattered throughout the cabin and the industry's largest center console-mounted bin.
A color touch screen mounted towards the top of the center stack enables the passengers to control the navigation (if equipped) and audio functions.
Under the hood
Two-wheel drive 1500 Suburbans are powered by a Vortec 5.3-liter V8 engine with a cast-iron block that makes 320 horsepower and 335 lb-ft. of torque. It packs General Motors' Active Fuel Management technology which seamlessly switches between eight- and four-cylinder power in order to save gas. The behemoth returns 15 mpg in the city and 21 mpg on the highway and can tow up to 8,100 pounds.
The 5.3-liter V8 engine found under the hood of four-wheel drive 1500 models is nearly identical to the one that powers rear-drive variants but its block is made out of aluminum in order to save weight. It makes 320 horsepower and 335 lb-ft. of torque while returning 15 mpg in the city and 21 mpg on the highway.
Both engines are linked to a six-speed automatic transmission and can run on either gasoline or E85 fuel. Rear-wheel drive comes standard and four-wheel drive is available at an extra cost.
Mostly aimed at fleet buyers, heavy-duty 2500 models pack a 6.0-liter V8 that churns out 352 horsepower and 382 lb-ft. of torque, enabling the SUV to tow up to 9,600 pounds. Linked to a six-speed automatic transmission, the eight-cylinder mill returns 10 mpg in the city and 16 mpg on the highway.
Trim level breakdown
The trim levels start with the base LS, followed by LT and the upmarket LTZ. With the exception of LTZ, all models can be ordered in either light-duty or heavy-duty spec.
LS comes standard with cloth upholstery, power front seats, power adjustable pedals, an ultrasonic rear park assist with a rear-view camera, a remote vehicle starter, tri-zone manual climate control, navigation, Bluetooth connectivity, rear audio controls and headphone input jacks, a six-speaker audio system and a three-month long trial subscription to Sirius XM Satellite radio.
Outside, LS models feature body-colored door handles and a mirror caps, 17-inch aluminum wheels, halogen headlights, tinted windows and daytime running lights.
Buyers who opt for the LT trim gain leather upholstery, a premium Bose sound system, heated front seats and halogen fog lights.
LTZ buyers get heated second-row bucket seat seats, cooled front seats upholstered in perforated leather, power-folding exterior mirrors, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, a power liftgate and 20-inch wheels. LTZ models also feature NavTraffic, which provides real-time traffic information.
The Z71 Off-Road appearance package includes a heavy-duty suspension with high-pressure, gas-charged monotube shocks, 18-inch wheels, an automatic locking rear differential, frame-mounted tow hooks, several skid plates and a high-capacity air cleaner. Body-colored fender flares, a more aggressive front bumper and bright chrome grille inserts create a more dynamic appearance.
LT and LTZ models can be equipped with an entertainment system that includes a remote-controlled DVD player with overhead displays and two seats of two-channel wireless headphones. A power sunroof and a wide palette of 20- and 22-inch alloy wheels are also available.
Standard safety features include dual front, front side and side curtain airbags, traction and stability control systems, a tire pressure monitoring system and a wide array of accident assist functions provided by OnStar.
The only SUV that can rival the Suburban in terms of sheer bulk is the Ford Expedition EL. Smaller full-size body-on-frame SUVs include the Nissan Armada and Toyota Sequoia.