Chevrolet Suburban

2016 Chevrolet Suburban

The Chevy Suburban is the grandfather of all SUVs, about 80 years old. But its 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 thats 130 inches long, and measures 220 inches from bumper to bumper. In parking terms, thats more than 18 feet.

The Chevrolet Suburbans 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 Suburbans 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 trucks 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 Suburbans 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 doesnt 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 drivers seat. These things factor into the NHTSA test results, but still the Suburban only gets four stars overall.


2015 Chevrolet Suburban

The Chevrolet Suburban holds title as Americas oldest continuously sustained nameplate, a legacy that dates to 1935, suggesting that the basic idea, a big family hauler capable of seating eight or nine passengers, hauling lots of cargo, towing substantial loads, or combinations of all three, has made sense to a lot of buyers for a long time.

This is the 12th chapter in the ongoing story, a makeover that Chevrolet characterizes as all-new. However, just new seems a little more accurate. The foundation, an updated version of the rugged GM 900 truck frame (the Suburban has always been a body-on-frame design), is basically the same one that supported the 11th generation, and chassis and body dimensions are essentially the same.

On the other hand, the sheetmetal, with a distinctive character line running the length of the body just below the greenhouse, is all new. So is the interior. So is the 5.3-liter V8 EcoTec3 engine, although the specs may not reflect this at a glance. Same bore, same stroke, same displacement, and those bore centers date all the way back to the small-block Chevy V8 of 1955. They seem to have become as inviolable as holy scripture at General Motors powertrain engineering.

But this is a much different 5.3-liter V8, with a new aluminum block, new aluminum cylinder heads, new crankshaft, new pistons, higher compression ratio, direct fuel injection. More power: 355 horsepower (380 hp on E85 fuel) versus 320 in the previous version, 383 pound-feet of torque (416 lb.-ft. on E85), enough grunt for a towing capacity of 8000 pounds with four-wheel drive, 8300 pounds with 2WD.

More impressive, theres improved fuel efficiency to go with the increased thrust: 15/22 mpg City/Highway with 4WD, according to the EPA, 16/23 mpg for rear-wheel-drive versions. Pretty impressive for an engine configuration, pushrod-activated overhead valves, that pre-dates World War I.

Equally impressive is how well the new Suburban comports itself on the road. We hear the term car-like driveability in connection with a lot of crossover SUVs, but its a non-sequitur with vehicles in this size class. Still, the Suburban is gratifyingly prompt in its responses, an active safety plus for a vehicle thats likely to be loaded with kids, and its a smooth operator in terms of ride quality.

The new skin isnt exactly head-turning, its hard to make a big two-box truck look like anything but a big two-box truck, but there are enough styling tweaks to differentiate it from generation 11, its unmistakably Chevy, and aerodynamic efficiency has been improved. Aerodynamic efficiency isnt a concept we associate with a vehicle that has the contours and dimensions of a small garden shed, but the improvement contributes to fuel economy as well as reduced interior noise levels. Much reduced.

There are elements that could be even better. For example, though the new 5.3-liter V8 is robust, theres a senior member of the EcoTec3 family, 6.2 liters, substantially more power, but even though its an option in the Chevy Silverado, its not offered for the Suburban. If you want 6.2 power, youll have to visit a GMC store, its limited to the Yukon and Yukon XL.

The 5.3-liter is the only Suburban engine for 2015, and the 6-speed automatic is the only transmission, although this last, the transmission, is likely to change in the not-too-distant future.

In this area at least, power, Fords 2015 Expedition EL will have a slight edge on the Suburban when the facelifted Ford begins rolling into dealerships in the second half of 2014. The extended wheelbase Expedition is the Suburbans only real direct rival, and Ford is replacing its rather tepid 5.4-liter V8 with an Ecoboost (read: turbocharged) 3.5-liter V6. That will give the biggest Ford a little more power than the Suburban, 365 hp, 420 lb-ft, a higher max towing capability (9200 lb), and probably a slightly higher EPA fuel economy rating.

However, the Suburbans makeover is otherwise far more extensive, and based on our exposure thus far we think Chevys hefty family wagon continues to rule this class.


2013 Chevrolet Suburban

The Chevrolet Suburban can tow a sizable trailer. It can safely transport up to nine passengers. And, equipped with genuine four-wheel drive, it can haul a load of cargo over primitive roads. Its an adept workhorse and arguably the best SUV you can get for towing trailers. Launched during the Great Depression in 1936, the Suburban was last redesigned for the 2007 model year.

Changes for 2013 include three new paint shades, and the automatics grade-braking is active all the time now, not just in tow/haul mode.

The Suburban can hold 137 cubic feet of cargo, or up to nine passengers and 45 cubic feet of cargo, or myriad combinations in between. Two weight classes are offered, the normal 1500 and the heavy-duty 2500. The 2500 is a good choice for towing trailers.

The Suburban is available with two-wheel drive or four-wheel drive. The 1500 and 2500 are available in LS and LT trim levels, and the 1500 is also available in a more luxury-oriented LTZ trim level.

Suburban 1500 models come with a 5.3-liter V8 engine of 320 horsepower, 335 pound-feet of torque and a 6-speed automatic transmission. The engines in 1500 models with two-wheel drive have an iron block, while models with four-wheel drive have an aluminum block; both versions have aluminum heads. Fuel economy for a Suburban 1500 is an EPA-estimated 15/21 mpg City/Highway.

Suburban 2500 models get a 6.0-liter V8 with aluminum block and heads and variable valve timing rated at 352 horsepower and 382 pound-feet of torque. It also comes with a 6-speed automatic. The minibus-size Suburban 2500 4WD is rated at a bus-like 10/15 mpg. There are no optional gasoline or diesel engines.

The Suburban 2500 uses a different transmission, steering gear, brake parts, suspension, alternator, wheels, tires, axles and fuel tank than the 1500 series. The primary reasons for selecting the 2500 over the 1500 are its greater towing and weight-carrying capacity. A Suburban 2500 4WD is rated to tow up to 9,400 pounds, or 9,600 pounds with 2WD, and carry at least 2450 and 2181 pounds, respectively. Comparable Suburban 1500 values are 8100, 8200, 1528 and 1576 pounds.

All 1500-series engines are E85-compatible, which means they will run on 85-percent ethanol fuel, and all have Active Fuel Management (AFM) which switches off half the cylinders when the additional power or idle smoothness isnt needed. Fuel economy with E85 is a dismal 11/16 mpg for the Suburban 1500, however.


 

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