The 2008 Chevrolet Suburban excels at towing and transporting big loads, but its on-road performance is better than expected, and even fuel economy is less dismal than it might be.
Cars.com reports a "320-horsepower, 5.3-liter V-8 engine" for the 2008 Chevy Suburban 1500; ConsumerGuide also notes that "a 366-hp 6.0-liter V8" is offered as an option for the smaller 2008 Chevrolet Suburban 1500. According to Car and Driver, there is a larger "aluminum-block 6.0-liter V-8" for the 2500, which ConsumerGuide reports puts out 352 horses. The larger Suburban 2500 is in definite need of this extra horsepower, as it outweighs its smaller sibling by as much as 800 pounds. Edmunds reports that "for such a big truck, the Chevrolet Suburban is relatively quick when unloaded and can reach 60 mph in under 9 seconds"--though the review does not specify which model or engine achieved this. Kelley Blue Book says that acceleration in "is vigorous from a standstill, if less so to pass or merge."
The engine in the larger 2008 Chevrolet Suburban 2500 model is mated to a "6-speed automatic transmission" reports ConsumerGuide, while Car and Driver says the standard transmission for the 1500 is a four-speed automatic. Kelley Blue Book notes "with four-wheel drive and the 6.0-liter V8, the automatic transmission sometimes seems to shift a little abruptly." However, in a describing a towing test, Motor Trend says, "once up to speed, the six-speed does a good job of choosing the right gear."
Obviously, fuel economy is not a strong point of the Suburban. Chevrolet’s big SUV achieves 14/20 mpg fuel economy, as reported by Kelley Blue Book for the 1500; when towing a full load, Motor Trend reports that the 2500 gets less than 7 mpg. However, when factoring in the vehicle's towing and cargo capacity, both 2008 Chevy Suburban models are remarkably efficient. Like a freight train, the Suburban's pound-per-mile fuel efficiency is actually good. AutoWeek points out that one would "have to have two cars getting 28 mpg each to haul a similar load." And while nobody buys a vehicle like the Suburban for its great mileage (even some of the recent "hybrid" SUVs are not stellar in this regard), GM does offer its Active Fuel Management technology on the larger engine, reports ForbesAutos. This shuts down half of the cylinders under "low stress driving situations" such as cruising empty on level freeways, allowing it to operate on four cylinders.
Two- and four-wheel-drive versions of the Suburban are offered. Cars.com reports the towing capacity of the 1500 model at 8,100 pounds, while Kelley Blue Book rates the 2500 with two-wheel drive at a whopping 9,700 pounds--nearly five tons. Motor Trend was pleased to report that the Chevrolet Suburban 2500 they tested remained comfortable and stable when towing a 3.5-ton (7,200 pounds) powerboat, saying that "the 2500 was quite comfortable dragging this load...No endless bobbing and bounding, no loss of steering feel, no tail wagging, just point it and go." However, they observed the heavy-duty vehicle's gear-and-pinion steering "gives up some precision and lock to the 1500's rack-and-pinion.”
ForbesAutos notes that the Autoride suspension available with Chevrolet's top-of-the-line LTZ Suburban makes "nearly instantaneous adjustments in stiffness according to changing road and driving conditions to help maintain a smooth and controlled ride at all times." The reviewer at Cars.com says that "while it's no sports car, the Suburban didn't feel as unwieldy as other large vehicles, and its highway ride was much more comfortable than the [Ford] Expedition's." Edmunds is similarly complimentary, praising the 2008 Chevy Suburban's "new suspension system" with its "coil-over shocks up front and a five-link setup out back, plus more precise rack-and-pinion steering." They go on to say that although it's "not exactly nimble around corners," it has "more composed handling and a smoother ride than before," with the ride "always comfortably controlled."