- A tough, capable SUV
- Still looks good
- Tremendous interior space
- Good V-8 performance
- Poor gas mileage, in the grander scheme
- Immense, and can be hard to park
- Top versions have Cadillac prices
- Third-row seat doesn't fold flat or tumble into floor
Old-school, mostly in the right ways, the Chevrolet Suburban's survived the big-SUV shakeout for a reason.
The 2012 Chevrolet Suburban is one of the widest, longest sport-utes on sale today. Closely related to the GMC Yukon XL and Cadillac Escalade ESV, it's about 20 inches longer than the Chevy Tahoe. Most of the additional length (14 inches of it) goes to stretching the SUV's wheelbase, which gives the Suburban more room around its third-row seat and more cargo space in the back, as well as larger rear doors that give passengers better access to the third-row seat.
A heavy-duty Suburban 2500 can haul the heaviest of loads, at a penalty in ride quality and fuel economy, but most drivers who need a full-size ute will be fine with the Suburban 1500. It's equipped with GM's 5.3-liter V-8 and a six-speed automatic tranmission, and is good for 320 horsepower. Rear-wheel drive is standard, and four-wheel drive is an option. The engine is flex-fuel capable and has cylinder deactivation, which shuts off fuel delivery to four cylinders when full power isn't required. The Suburban's drivetrain is smooth and powerful, and delivers EPA-rated gas mileage of 15/21 mpg. It's also capable of towing up to 8,100 pounds.
It's not so much about handling in this size class--the Suburban simply keeps good control over its body motions, and does so quite well for its size, though its sheer mass and length can get in the way of maneuverability. One of its best features is its sophisticated, smooth ride.
Inside, the Suburban is nearly the size of some Japanese hotel rooms we've occupied, with 137.4 cubic feet of cargo space behind the first row of seats. First- and second-row seats can be buckets or benches, while the third-row seat is a folding bench that unfortunately doesn't go completely flat when it's not needed, unlike the one in the Ford Expedition. It can be removed entirely, though it's bulky and heavy, and really requires two people to do so. Not only that, the seat's mounting tabs stick up from the floor and can scratch cargo. Properly specified, the Suburban can seat up to nine people, even some smaller adults in back, though ideally the third row is reserved for kids.Just as with the Tahoe, the Suburban can be equipped in LS, LT, and LTZ trims, with either rear- or four-wheel drive—though no Hybrid model is offered. Luxury features on offer include Bluetooth connectivity (now standard); a DVD navigation system that's very easy to use and has a clear, large LCD screen; a rear-seat DVD entertainment system; real-time traffic; a rear air conditioner; leather upholstery; power-adjustable pedals; remote start; ventilated seats; heated second-row seats; up to 22-inch wheels; a towing package; luggage racks; and an Autoride electronic suspension.
For more information, see our review of the 2012 Chevrolet Tahoe.