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TELLURIDE, Colorado — It’s new. It’s improved. And it will still take up to nine of your favorite travelmates just about anywhere. "It" is Chevrolet’s long-standing representative in the full-size SUV segment — the Suburban.
Unveiling its 2000 model of the stalwart Suburban, GM chose Telluride, Colorado, because of its "Like a Rock" image and views. And, judging from the two days of driving this newest version over the famed Million Dollar Highway, on rugged backcountry roads, and across the nearly 14,000-foot-high Imogene pass, it’s clear that the General’s PR flacks chose well.
This bow-tie offering has it all — a carlike ride, trucklike capabilities with a rugged exterior, and a baronial interior that turns heads at the grocery store, on ski vacations and in the backcountry. But now it has a true competitor when it comes to sheer size and towing capability: the new Ford Excursion.
The trappings of size
How does it stack up against Ford’s new goliath? At first glance, the Suburban falls short in the "wow" category. The new model has morphed from squared edges to more smooth but uninspired lines, accented by rounded edges around door handles, the bumper and fenders. A slightly raised roofline keeps the Suburban from looking like a brick on wheels, however, and Chevy’s distinctive front grille caps off a sporty front end. Attractive, vented trim marks the rear-pillar sheet metal with distinctive styling, as well.
Although Chevy designers emphasized the importance of size for the Suburban, they have created a 2000 model that is slightly shorter than its predecessor and "more efficiently sized" than the competition. In this case, "efficiency" translates into a turning diameter 5 feet shorter than that of Ford’s new Excursion, as well as improved "garageability." The Excursion is longer and taller.
The Suburban’s body panels don’t match the sleek designs offered by some other manufacturers' models, but they do hide what should be noticed — safety features and an improved overall platform. Front crush caps, for instance, assist in keeping passengers out of harm’s way in a high-speed frontal collision. And, for frame improvements, Chevy used a process called "hydroforming" (using high-pressure water presses to shape the aluminum pieces) for the first time in the SUV segment to increase general structural rigidity and strength by as much as 400 percent. (Suburban shares this frame with the award-winning Silverado truck series.)