Is it just us, or is the automotive world going through a lot of change? An electric Hummer is on the way, as is a Mustang SUV. Chevrolet moved the Corvette's engine to the middle, and Ram is building a 702-hp pickup that can hit 60 mph in 3.7 seconds. But some things seem impervious to change, such as the Chevrolet Suburban.
General Motors may have redesigned all of its full-size SUVs for 2021, but the big Chevy remains the hulking utility vehicle that it's always been. It's a little larger and its ride has improved, but it's still a tough, body-on-frame truck with a standard V-8, impressive towing capacity, and enough stretch-out space for a large family and their stuff. There is change, but it's largely hidden below the rear seats. Look under the Suburban and you'll notice that the previous solid axle has been replaced by an independent rear suspension. That new setup is shared with all of GM's big utes—including the Chevy Tahoe, GMC Yukon and Yukon XL, and the Cadillac Escalade—and it's a huge benefit to rear-seat space, with the Suburban gaining an extra 4.5 inches of combined legroom in its second and third rows.
In addition to a slight increase in overall length, the lower load floor has increased the Suburban's cargo measurements. Folding the second- and third-row seats opens up 145 cubic feet of storage space, a substantial 23 more cubes than last year. Behind the third row, there's a remarkable 42 cubic feet—six more than the Suburban's closest competitor, the Ford Expedition Max.
Dressed in our test vehicle's top-level High Country trim, the Suburban's revised interior looks particularly rich, albeit not quite as finely finished as some luxury SUVs. Its 10.2-inch center touchscreen is shared with the Tahoe and Yukon and is both easy to use and responsive to inputs. Despite the updates, shoppers stepping out of last year's model and into this new truck will find it very familiar, although Chevy has killed off the previous column shifter in favor of shift buttons on the instrument panel.
The powertrains that those new shifter buttons control carry over largely unchanged. There's a standard 355-hp 5.3-liter V-8, a High Country-only 420-hp 6.2-liter V-8, and a new 277-hp 3.0-liter turbo-diesel inline-six. All of the engines hook up to GM's 10-speed automatic transmission. Equipped with the Max Trailering package and the 5.3-liter V-8, the Suburban can tow up to 8300 pounds. Our four-wheel-drive test truck with the 6.2-liter was rated to tug a bit less (7900 pounds), but it also was able to scoot to 60 in 6.1 seconds. Considering our example's 6121-pound girth, that effort is quite respectable.
Easy acceleration and responsive handling help the almost 19-foot-long Suburban feel a touch smaller on the road than it really is. Make no mistake: It's a huge vehicle, but it's one that is pleasantly easy to wield. Along with the new model's four-inch wheelbase stretch, the optional $1000 air springs on our test truck produce a more comfortable ride than ever before, while also providing the adjustability to raise the Suburban by up to two inches.
As you can imagine, fuel economy still isn't the Suburban's strength. Our example returned a mere 11 mpg in our admittedly aggressive hands. The EPA reckons you can do better—14 mpg city, 19 highway. Shoppers looking for greater fuel efficiency should consider the optional turbo-diesel six with its 460 pound-feet of torque. While EPA estimates aren't yet available for Suburbans with that engine, the diesel provides a meaningful 6-mpg bump in EPA combined fuel economy over the 6.2 V-8 in the Silverado 1500 pickup.
The Suburban's vast breadth of abilities is reflected in its price. While the base rear-wheel-drive LS model starts at $52,995, our loaded High Country came in at a heady $84,045. Suburbans have never been cheap, but no matter how you measure it, you get a lot of vehicle for the money. The latest model builds on what the Suburban has always been: big, practical, and surprisingly luxurious.
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