2008 Chevrolet Suburban Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
June 17, 2008

The 2008 Chevrolet Suburban stands out as being a highly capable and usable full-size sport utility vehicle that drives well.

The SUV enthusiasts at TheCarConnection.com researched the new 2008 Chevrolet Suburban for you and read reviews from across the Web to put together this conclusive review. TheCarConnection.com's experts also drove the Chevy Suburban and have included driving impressions and details where they help you in the shopping and research process. This review also compares the 2008 Chevrolet Suburban with other vehicles in its class to give you the best advice even when other reviews present conflicting opinions.

The 2008 Chevrolet Suburban is an extended-length version of the capable Chevrolet Tahoe. Like the Tahoe, the Chevy Suburban is based on the GMT900 truck platform, and it was introduced in its current form in late 2006 as a 2007 model.

The 2008 Chevy Suburban is offered in two series: as a 1500 and a heavy-duty 2500. Each series can be decked out in LS, LT, and LTZ trims, with either rear- or four-wheel drive. StabiliTrak stability control, anti-lock brakes, traction control, and curtain airbags for all rows are standard. These features, combined with the Chevy's curb weight of nearly three tons, should make you feel very safe and secure.

The 2008 Chevrolet Suburban is really all about size and towing capabilities. Inside, the Chevy Suburban is nearly the size of a mobile home, with 137.4 cubic feet of cargo room behind the first row of seats. Should you need to trailer more gear, the 1500 models can tow a maximum of 8,100 pounds, while the 2500 models can tow up to 9,700 pounds.

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For 2008, the Suburban engine lineup for the 1500 series includes three V-8s. Two displace 5.3 liters, and one is E85 capable. Horsepower differs between two- and four-wheel-drive models, with slightly lower numbers (320 vs. 310) for the 4WD versions. The larger V-8 is an all-aluminum 6.0-liter that features sophisticated variable valve timing and is rated at 366 horsepower. The 1500-series engines get matched to a four-speed automatic transmission. Heavy-duty 2500-series models get a different 352-horsepower, 6.0-liter V-8 matched to a fuel-saving heavy-duty six-speed automatic. All engines feature fuel-saving cylinder deactivation, and this feature was totally imperceptible as it turned off cylinders when full power wasn't necessary. Every Suburban engine is powerful and smooth, but TheCarConnection.com's team prefers the 6.0-liters, especially with the six-speed. Fuel economy suffers accordingly.

Inside, the well-equipped Suburban LTZ features a beautiful interior that could have been lifted from a premium sedan. The quality of the materials is, overall, very good. The switchgear also works well and is easy to use. (GM's corporate non-navigation radio, by the way, is among the most intuitive and simplest to use--period.) Seating configurations differ by model and trim, but include variations that seat six, seven, eight, or nine. Comfort in the first two rows is excellent, and a three-person front bench seat is available; however, the optional third row is not perfect in comfort or function. And unlike some other SUVs, this seat is a pain to remove (it doesn't fold into the floor like on the Ford Expedition), and the remaining mounting tabs stick up from the floor and can scratch cargo.

When facing off against the two full-size SUV imports, a properly equipped 2008 Chevrolet Suburban can tow five tons, besting the Toyota Sequoia and Nissan Armada in this important category.

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2008 Chevrolet Suburban

Styling

The 2008 Chevrolet Suburban looks big but carries its weight well—and sports two interior looks that will please a wide range of buyers.

TheCarConnection.com notes that while the 2008 Chevrolet Suburban is a sport-utility vehicle with a boxy shape, it’s handsomely proportioned and well detailed.

This year’s Suburban Chevrolet offers two models: the half-ton Suburban 1500 and three-quarter-ton Suburban 2500. According to most reviewers, other than the latter's slightly larger dimensions, it's difficult to tell them apart. The Chevy Suburban also has three trim levels, says Edmunds: "base LS, more luxurious LT and the sporty LTZ."

As Kelley Blue Book puts it, no matter what the trim, with it body-on-frame construction the 2008 Chevy Suburban is "clearly a truck -- though fancier in appearance than many cargo haulers." Another thing it clearly is: immense. The Suburban has always been large as such utility vehicles go, but this one, at 18.5 feet is a behemoth.

However, according to Car and Driver, in 2007 the Suburban "underwent a major redesign...and emerged as a more modern, refined, handsome, and user-friendly truck." Changes to the Suburban noted by Cars.com include single-frame headlamps in place of the old stacked ones, and "wraparound lower pieces with integrated fog lights [to] minimize body gaps." Kelley Blue Book also mentions "tighter body-gap tolerances" and credits those and "a more sleekly-angled windshield" for the Suburban's "improved aerodynamics...while a bulging power-dome hood adds to visceral appeal." This source also mentions the 2008 Chevrolet Suburban's "prominent fenders" and says "the lower fascia displays a skid-plate look to enhance the rugged aura."

Regarding the 2008 Chevy Suburban's interior, Car and Driver reports a "handsome design inside"; Cars.com writes that "the new look it got in GM's impressive 2007 redesign still holds up." ForbesAutos describes the two-tone interior as "nicely sculpted," and Kelley Blue Book praises this year’s Suburban: 2008’s models have "greater overall refinement--including enclosing the 'close-outs' around seat bottoms for a cleaner appearance." Chevrolet actually offers two different interiors, one more basic and one that’s very upscale, with wood grain trim and a big center console. The overall effect is quite sophisticated for a truck of its size and duty.

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8

2008 Chevrolet Suburban

Performance

The 2008 Chevrolet Suburban offers a broad range of V-8 engines with fuel-saving measures, and large, powerful versions can haul nearly 5 tons.

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."

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8

2008 Chevrolet Suburban

Comfort & Quality

The 2008 Chevrolet Suburban will get you where you need to go in comfort that approaches luxury--unless you're an adult in the back row or the middle front.

Room and comfort are not issues with the 2008 Chevrolet Suburban.

Cars.com confirms that the 2008 Chevrolet Suburban's "front passengers will enjoy comfortable, wide seats and a straightforward instrument panel" that is much easier for the driver to operate and navigate. ConsumerGuide reports "generous headroom and legroom," but cautions that the Chevrolet Suburban 2008 "bench seat's cramped center position should be reserved for emergency situations only." The second row is "spacious"; however, ConsumerGuide warns that the Chevy Suburban's third–row seating is "best left to children." Otherwise, Edmunds assures potential buyers that there is "spacious seating" for as many as nine passengers and their cargo.

In fact, what the 2008 Chevy Suburban has the most of is room; "cargo volume is where the Suburban really excels," says Cars.com, reporting a massive 45.8 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third row. That increases to a whopping 137.4 cubic feet when the third-row seats are removed. They also fold down, but ConsumerGuide warns that the "seatbacks rest well above the level of the floor, complicating loading of larger items." ConsumerGuide adds that the 2008 Chevy Suburban's "cabin storage is enhanced by large center console bin," and there are "roomy door pockets in front, but none in rear."

ForbesAutos observes a higher grade of interior materials in the Suburban; Chevrolet has built an interior "crafted from higher-quality materials than before." ConsumerGuide agrees, saying that "assembly quality ... shows strong attention to detail" and that "most interior materials feel high-grade, though soft-touch surfaces are scarce."

ConsumerGuide also reports "moderate highway-speed wind rush" aboard the 2008 Chevy Suburban, so it's not the quietest ride on the road. Kelley Blue Book notes "noticeable engine noise" under hard acceleration, but Edmunds says "the cabin is quiet at speed."

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2008 Chevrolet Suburban

Safety

The 2008 Chevrolet Suburban earns good crash-test scores, though rollover protection is midgrade.

The 2008 Chevrolet Suburban gets high marks for safety all around in reviews read by TheCarConnection.com.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives the 2008 Chevrolet Suburban five stars for front impact and side impact protection. For rollover resistance, the Suburban earns three stars. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has not yet rated this vehicle.

Cars.com reports standard stability and traction control on all 2008 Chevy Suburban sport-utes, as well as side curtain airbags. However, this source says that there are no side impact airbags, even as an option. ConsumerGuide contradicts this; according to their review, front side airbags are in fact available on the 2008 Chevy Suburban, as well as anti-lock brakes and an anti-skid system.

ForbesAutos notes the 2008 Chevrolet Suburban’s stability control system, which comes standard on the vehicle. The system not only helps the driver in maintaining control of the Suburban, Chevrolet’s "rollover mitigation technology…can deploy the vehicle's head-curtain airbags before a crash" if the sensor relays determine that a rollover is about to occur. This review also points out that some of the safety features are actually a consequence of the 2008 Chevrolet Suburban's overall design: a "wider track and a lowered center of gravity contribute to enhanced on-road stability."

Car and Driver reports that tire pressure monitoring and seatbelt pretensioners are also standard with the Suburban. Chevrolet’s available "rearview camera aids aft visibility," ConsumerGuide says, but warns that it also "distorts distances, compromising its usefulness." ForbesAutos mentions that the 2008 Chevy Suburban's "instrument panel is positioned lower for easier visibility."

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2008 Chevrolet Suburban

Features

The 2008 Chevrolet Suburban has lots of standard equipment and some luxurious, untrucklike options.

As is the case for most makes and models reviewed by TheCarConnection.com, the more you're willing to spend, the more features are available to you on the 2008 Chevrolet Suburban.

There are five 2008 Chevrolet Suburban trims from which to choose, reports Kelly Blue Book: the standard 1500 model comes in LS, LT, and LTZ, while the heavy-duty 2500 offers LS and LT only.

Car and Driver reports the following standard features for the 2008 Chevy Suburban base LS model: a luggage rack; power locks, windows, and mirrors; genuine wood-grain-trimmed interior; eight-speaker AM/FM/satellite radio stereo system with CD player auxiliary input and MP3 capability; and trailer-towing preparation and OnStar emergency services. The 4WD version adds recovery hooks up front.

According to ConsumerGuide, a "carefully optioned LT is the best choice" among the various 2008 Chevy Suburban models. This isn't a bad buy; whereas the base model has a sticker price of $38,985, a fully loaded rear-wheel-drive 3LT trim is not quite $5,000 more (about $7,500 more for the 4WD version). For this, one gets features such as rear-seat audio controls with headphone jacks, a floor console, turn-by-turn navigation services from OnStar, fog lights, and a nine-speaker Bose stereo system, among other extras.

By the time one gets to the "top-of-the-line LTZ trim level" of the 2008 Chevy Suburban, a buyer can enjoy such extras as "a nav system, rear-seat DVD player, rear-view camera, and a power sunroof," as well as "a more aggressive 4.10 rear axle ratio" and a block heater, reports Car and Driver. Optional equipment is similar for the 2008 Chevrolet Suburban 1500 and 2500; one notable exception pointed out by Car and Driver is a "snow-plow prep package for 4WD 2500 models."

An interesting feature offered on the Chevy Suburban is a small roof spoiler. A more useful feature is the power-extending running boards as reported by Kelley Blue Book for those who might otherwise have "trouble climbing aboard."

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June 25, 2015
2008 Chevrolet Suburban 4WD 4-Door 1500 LS

We still enjoy this vehicle after 7 years and 125,000 miles.

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Our Suburban has traveled the country pulling a either a 29' trailer. Without the trailer it performs well. With the trailer its performance is not as good. Gas milage is really bad and it struggles through... + More »
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