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- Unabashedly an SUV
- Much-improved cabin
- Excellent new V-8 drivetrain
- More safety and better infotainment features
- Very angular styling
- One powertrain fits all
- One of the biggest vehicles you can buy
The 2016 Chevy Suburban is a capable full-size SUV that can carry up to nine passengers in a refined interior and tow up to 8,300 pounds of family entertainment.
Tracing its name all the way back to the 1930s, the 2016 Chevrolet Suburban is both the original SUV and one of the oldest nameplates on the market 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 SUV space.
After a complete redesign last year, the 2016 model adds only Apple CarPlay to its MyLink infotainment system. Other changes center around equipment shuffling.
Chevy says the Suburban doesn't share any sheet metal with the Silverado pickup, but like its close kin—the 2016 Chevy Tahoe and 2016 GMC Yukon SUVs—the Silverado's roots are found in the construction of its ladder-type frame and V-8 powertrain.
While GMC puts all its full-size SUVs under the Yukon name, the Suburban leaves the short-wheelbase duties to the Chevy Tahoe. The Suburban has a 130-inch wheelbase and is more than 220 inches long overall, while the Tahoe’s wheelbase is 116 inches long and its overall length is 204 inches.
The Suburban’s styling is highly angular, with a creased-and-pressed look. The interior is a suavely sculpted environment, with a large touchscreen interface for audio controls, and a curved console countering the square-jawed exterior. The interior looks and feels upscale, particularly in LTZ models.
Under the hood, the Suburban gets the same 5.3-liter V-8 found in the Silverado. It sends its 355 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque through a 6-speed automatic to either the rear wheels or all four wheels. This engine feels strong in the Suburban, and offers plenty of acceleration for freeway mergers, long mountain climbs, and passing maneuvers.
Electric power steering helps improve gas-mileage. Though often criticized for a lack of feel, the electric power steering in the Suburban doesn’t need to deliver sports car feedback, and Chevy makes the most of the ability to deliver effortless steering forces at any speed. Like the Silverado, the Suburban’s rear suspension uses a leaf-spring design, though the LTZ model can be ordered with Magnetic Ride Control, a sophisticated setup that uses magnetically charged fluid to change suspension damping rates. When equipped with MRC, the suspension combines smooth and supple ride quality over broken pavement with improved body control through turns. The base suspension is very capable as well, but physics dictate that this large, heavy vehicle leans in turns, lacks overall agility, and is cumbersome to maneuver in tight spaces. The Suburban can tow up to 8,300 pounds.
The third-row seat in this generation of Suburban is better than ever before. Increased room makes it more livable, but it’s still best suited for children or shorter adults, unless the trip is quite short. The third row seat now folds flat as well, and a power-folding version is available. The second-row seat also offers plenty of head and leg room, and buyers can outfit the cabin to seat seven, eight or nine passengers thanks to an available front bench and second-row captain’s chairs. The Suburban also has lots of useful space for small items storage, including lots of cupholders and a center console bin deep enough to hold tablet or small notebook computers.
Safety credentials include GM's class-exclusive front-center airbag, which is offered 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. The seat-mounted haptic driver alert system does a good job of getting the driver’s attention, making it a boon to safety and driver awareness. One side note, however, regarding traditional occupant safety: The federal government has 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.
Other available features include a Blu-ray DVD entertainment system, an 8.0-inch LCD touchscreen radio with Chevy MyLink connectivity, a head-up display, keyless ignition, a power tailgate, a cargo-management system, up to six USB ports and six power outlets, and wheel sizes up to 22 inches. Rear-wheel drive is standard and 4WD is optional for a $3,000 premium.
EPA gas mileage estimates and real-world fuel economy are decent for such a large vehicle. With rear drive, the Suburban is rated at 16 mpg city, 23 highway, 18 combined, according to the EPA; the 4WD Suburban scores ratings of 15/22/18 mpg. Its relative efficiency is made possible by standard cylinder deactivation and direct injection. In our time behind the wheel, the Suburban spent a lot of time in "V-4" mode—with half of the cylinders deactivated—in normal driving. The transition from V-8 to V-4 modes is seamless, completely transparent to the driver, with no vibration or other indication of the crossover point.