- Unabashedly an SUV
- Much-improved cabin
- Excellent new V-8 drivetrain
- Very angular styling
- One powertrain fits all
- One of the biggest vehicles you can buy
The 2015 Chevy Suburban hasn't forgotten it's an SUV--but the new interior and infotainment features are welcome crossover cues, while the powertrain gets some welcome modernization.
The 2015 Chevrolet Suburban traces its name all the way back to the 1930s, making it both the original SUV and one of the oldest nameplates on the market today, from any brand. Today’s Suburban is anything but old-school, however, with abundant equipment and technology, a luxurious cabin, and some of the most impressive capabilities in the luxury SUV space.
For this year's new 2015 Suburban, Chevy has turned to some traditional touches--big shoulders, big V-8 engines, big towing capacity--and some crossover cues like fold-flat rear seats, to bring the Suburban into the same modern family as the recently revamped Chevy Silverado 1500 pickup truck.
Chevy says the new Suburban doesn't share any sheetmetal panels with the Silverado, but like its close kin--the 2015 Chevy Tahoe SUV and the 2015 GMC Yukon--the Silverado's roots are common to the big new SUV, from its frame construction to its V-8 powertrain.
While GMC puts all its full-size SUVs under one umbrella, the Suburban leaves the short-wheelbase duties to the Chevy Tahoe. The long-wheelbase model in Chevy's portfolio is 130 inches long in wheelbase--as it was in the previous generation--and more than 220 inches long overall, slightly stretched from the last Suburban.
Tradition is the keyword for the Suburban's new styling: it's a highly angular, creased-and-pressed look. Still, GM says the design is more aerodynamic than the 2007-2014 Suburban. The interior's where the conservative movement takes a breather: it's a suavely sculpted place, with a large touchscreen interface for audio controls, and a curved console countering the square-jawed exterior. In person, the new interior looks and feels markedly more up-scale than the previous generation's, particularly in LTZ models, where it moves beyond even the previous Escalade's quality and appearance.
There's just one powertrain on tap for the 2015 model year--no six-cylinder, no hybrid drivetrains, not even the new 6.2-liter V-8 found in the companion 2015 GMC Yukon Denali. The Suburban gets the same 5.3-liter V-8 found in the Silverado; its output of 355 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque is channeled through a six-speed automatic, to either the rear wheels or all four wheels. The new engine is rated for more power output than the previous version, and it feels strong in the new Suburban, offering plenty of acceleration for freeway mergers, long mountain climbs, and passing maneuvers.
EPA gas mileage estimates show a small improvement over last year's Suburban, with the 2015 2WD model earning 16 mpg city and 23 mpg highway for a combined rating of 18 mpg; the 4WD Suburban scores 15/22/18 mpg. Chevy says the Suburban should be the most efficient vehicle in its class, thanks to standard cylinder deactivation and direct injection. In our time behind the wheel, we found the Suburban to report considerably better gas mileage than its predecessor, operating the majority of the time in "V4" mode, with half of the cylinders deactivated, in normal driving. The transition from V8 to V4 modes is seamless, completely transparent to the driver, with no vibration or other indication of the crossover point.
Electric power steering also helps improve gas-mileage figures, as does a stronger frame with more high-strength steel--which also gives the Suburban a stiffer body structure, GM claims. Electric power steering is often criticized for a lack of feel, but in a vehicle like the Suburban, sports car-like feel is largely unnecessary, and Chevy makes the most of the ability to deliver effortless steering forces at any speed. The suspension--like the Silverado--remains a leaf-spring design in the rear, though the Suburban LTZ can be ordered with Magnetic Ride Control, a sophisticated setup that uses magnetically charged fluid to change suspension damping rates. When equipped with the MRC package, the Suburban's ride quality is remarkable, smooth and supple, yet with even better control of the large body than you'll find in the already capable standard suspension. The Suburban can tow up to 8,500 pounds.
With the Suburban, Chevy has one of its most popular people carriers--but until recently, accessing its third-row seat has been a chore. With the 2015 model, GM has made the trip to the way-back easier, with more second-row leg room, and with flat-folding third-row seats with power assistance. The extra space in the third row is immediately noticeable, though it's still best-suited to shorter adults and children for anything more than short trips. The cabin's storage bins are more useful too, with a center console bin deep enough to hold tablet or small notebook computers.
The Suburban buffs up its safety credentials with GM's new front-center airbags, on models with front bucket seats. Adaptive cruise control is an option, as are a lane-departure warning system with seat-mounted haptic alerts, blind-spot monitors, forward collision alerts, and front parking sensors. A head-up display relays key information into the driver's line of sight, making a welcome addition to the Suburban's feature set. The seat-mounted haptic driver alert system, first deployed in the Cadillac brand, is intuitive and attention-getting; it's a definite boon to safety and driver awareness. One side note, however, regarding traditional occupant safety: The federal government this year separately tested a Suburban, and it didn't do quite as well as the Tahoe in frontal protection, or in the side pole test; both models add up to a four-star (out of five-star) Overall Rating, though.
Other available features include keyless entry; pushbutton start; an 8.0-inch LCD touchscreen radio with Chevy MyLink connectivity; a head-up display; a power tailgate; a cargo-management system; and up to six USB ports and six power outlets. A Blu-Ray DVD entertainment system will also be an option on the Suburban, as will wheels sized up to 22 inches.
The Suburban starts from a base price of $48,950 (including $995 destination charge) for the 2WD LS model. The LT starts from $53,695, and the LTZ starts from $62,695. Adding 4WD to any trim level brings a premium of $3,000.