Big, for better or worse.
Apologies to General Motors, but when it comes to full-size, truck-based SUVs, the Detroit-based automaker is no longer king of the hill. In terms of refinement, technology, efficiency, and overall driving goodness, GM’s cross-town rival, Ford, is eating its lunch with its biggest offerings.
But unlike its half-ton pickup trucks, GM still has some sharp arrows in its SUV quiver, and the Chevrolet Suburban is chief among them. Big, simple, and unmistakably stylish, the long-wheelbase version of the Tahoe offers capability and space in equal quantities. And with the optional RST package, it adds a bit of the charm that Chevrolet’s sports cars have in spades.
Scroll down to see our favorite and least favorite things about the Chevrolet Suburban, a delightfully blue-collar approach to sport-utes.
Our Suburban tester was blacked out, and if years of movies and TV shows have taught us anything, a blacked-out Suburban is as cool as it gets. The ride of choice for mobsters and crooked federal agents, these vehicles exude ominous intent. And our Suburban takes it even further, with a black bowtie badge, black Suburban badges, black window molding, and a complete lack of chrome trim. This is a sinister looking SUV.
The Suburban RST is available with the Suburban’s base 5.3-liter V8, but trust us, you want the bigger option. Like the Silverado we tested recently, the Suburban’s 6.2-liter is a charmer. Packing 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque, the big engine easily shoves the 6,000-pound Suburban down the road. Like the Silverado, a 10-speed automatic is also present; keeping the engine in its happy place. This is a supremely likable combination that GM also features in its pickups, other truck-based SUVs, and the Chevrolet Camaro muscle car.
It’s a truck-based, long-wheelbase SUV, so of course it’s big inside. But until you’re behind the wheel, it’s hard to understand how spacious the cabin is and how long the body is. The Suburban packs 122 cubic feet of passenger space. Even with the third row in place, it offers 39 cubic feet of cargo space. Fold the second and third row down and the Suburban can accommodate 121 cubic feet of stuff. This is a huge vehicle.
Ignoring our tester’s unpleasant poop-brown interior finish, the overall material quality simply isn’t up to the level of cross-town rival Ford. That’s not all that surprising, as the current Suburban is very long in the tooth. But the cabin also sounds cheap. Its innards creak and groan and build quality is subpar. The Suburban simply doesn’t feel all that well screwed together.
The Suburban is almost 19 feet long, it’s nearly seven feet wide, and its wheelbase spans almost 11 feet. All of these qualities make it a nightmare to maneuver in anything resembling tight quarters. The turning circle is simply enormous, and while Chevy compensates with responsive and enjoyable steering, the reality is that vehicles this size are inherently more difficult to manage than their smaller counterparts. Think long and hard if you need such a huge footprint during your daily commute.
Say what you will about the real-world fuel economy of Ford’s EcoBoost six-cylinder engines, but their EPA figures are simply better than big naturally aspirated V8s. Our Suburban RST returns an EPA-estimated 14 miles per gallon in the city and 20 on the highway. Our real-world figures, even in mixed driving, are closer to the city metric. There are certainly less efficient vehicles in this class – the ancient Toyota Sequoia, for example – but not many.