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Crossover vehicles suit drivers who ferry people more than cargo--but when it comes to towing and hauling more than the usual load, SUVs like the Chevy Suburban get the call.
The Suburban, carried over for a brief 2014 model year before a new version arrives for 2015, is one of the most familiar SUVs in its niche. It's one of the longest, widest utility vehicles on the market, and fitted with all the available features, it can be one of the most capable, too.
MORE: See our 2015 Chevrolet Suburban preview
A relative of the GMC Yukon and Cadillac Escalade, the Suburban is essentially the extended-length version of the Chevy Tahoe. Some 20 inches longer overall, the Suburban has 14 inches more between its wheels than the Yukon, which amplifies its already vast cargo and third-row seating space.
Most shoppers will be fine with the light-duty Suburban 1500, which comes with a 5.3-liter V-8 and six-speed automatic transmission, 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. 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.
Handling isn't the priority in vehicles like these, but the Suburban's excellent ride quality is expected and delivered. It's also confident on the road, and as maneuverable as any vehicle this size can be.
The Suburban's cabin has more good than bad points. The good: the amount of raw space available (137.4 cubic feet behind the first row of seats) would put some Japanese hotel rooms to shame. The simple, straightforward instrument panel design is easy to understand and omits the high-end infotainment interfaces that lose drivers in translation. The downside of the Suburban's interior is that, looking up close at its trim, materials, and layout, it simply feels outdated.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.
The Suburban can be had with either rear- or four-wheel drive. 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; ventilated seats; heated second-row seats; and an Autoride electronic suspension.
See our review of the very closely related 2014 Chevrolet Tahoe for more information.
- Tough and capable
- Still good-looking
- Oodles of interior space
- Strong V-8 performance
- Fairly good handling
- Parking can be difficult
- Expensive versions hit Caddy prices
- Third-row seat is clumsy to fold, remove
- Gas mileage is low