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If you need passenger space, yet you also need some of the capability of a traditional truck, the 2013 Chevrolet Suburban should be near the top of your shortlist. The Suburban is not only one of the widest, longest SUVs available; it's also, if you check the right option boxes, close to a luxury vehicle in features and cabin appointments--one with three spacious rows of seating.
The Suburban is 20 inches longer than the Chevrolet Tahoe, and it's closely related to the GMC Yukon XL and Cadillac Escalade ESV. Compared to GM's shorter-wheelbase SUVs such as the Tahoe and Yukon, the Suburban has 14 inches of added wheelbase--which translates quite directly to third-row seating space and cargo space. Larger rear doors also give better access to that third row.
Heavy-duty Suburban 2500 models maximize the Suburban's load capacity and towing capability, without changing the interior package, although they do have a stiffer, less passenger-approved ride. Fuel economy is also lower with the 2500 models, which pack a huge 6.0-liter V-6 making 352 horsepower. Most shoppers will be fine with the light-duty Suburban 1500, which comes with a 5.3-liter V-8 and six-speed automatic tranmission, all good for 320 horsepower. It's pleasant and responsive, with smooth shifts and quick downshifts, yet it can tow 8,100 pounds. And thanks to a cylinder deactivation system that shuts of half of the cylinders when coasting or decelerating, it's quite economical, with EPA ratings of up to 15/21 mpg.
We're probably safe in thinking that handling isn't a top priority for those looking for a buff SUV that can tow, but we do think that the Suburban's excellent ride quality plus its good maneuverability and confident roadholding all add up to a vehicle that's a lot more manageable than you might guess based on its intimidating exterior.
The Suburban's cabin has some good and bad. The good is that the 2013 Suburban maintains an interior that might put some Japanese hotel rooms to shame, with 137.4 cubic feet of cargo space behind the first row of seats. Furthermore its simple, straightforward instrument panel offers the transparency and directness that many high-end infotainment interfaces lose in translation. But the down side of the Suburban's interior is that, looking up close at its trim, materials, and layout, it simply feels outdated.
There's a lot of flexibility in how you get your Suburban (in terms of seating layout, materials, and features), but once you settle on one you may be a bit disappointed with the lack of flip-and-fold flexibility. First- and second-row seats can be buckets or benches, while the third-row seat can be disappointing in that it's a folding bench that unfortunately doesn't go completely flat when it's not needed. Unlike the one in the Ford Expedition, which can power-fold out of the way, this one needs to be removed entirely--but when you do it'll take two to move it, as it's so heavy, and then there's the question of where to keep it. 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.
LS, LT, and LTZ trims of the 2013 Chevrolet Suburban remain offered, and both can be had with either rear- or four-wheel drive—though unlike the otherwise closely related Tahoe, there's no Hybrid model available. Bluetooth hands-free connectivity is standard on all models, as are cruise control, tri-zone air conditioning, and a six-speaker audio system with USB port and satellite radio capability. Moving up the model line, you can get a DVD navigation system that has real-time traffic and is very easy to use; a rear-seat DVD entertainment system; Bose Centerpoint audio; leather upholstery; power-adjustable pedals; ventilated seats; heated second-row seats; remote start; and an Autoride electronic suspension.
See our review of the very closely related 2013 Chevrolet Tahoe for more in-depth information.