Last year, as gas topped $3 a gallon and more people expressed more concern over global climate change, Chevy introduced a thoroughly redesigned but unrepentantly monster-sized 2007 Suburban. The Suburban was demonized by SUV haters. The result: In the first quarter of 2007, Suburban sales surged 10 percent over the same period in 2006. Suburban sales may decline as it becomes a costly alternative to a car, but what was once true, remains true:
The Chevy Suburban excels at towing heavy trailers, hauling loads of people and gear, and enduring hard use and rugged terrain. Observers who judge them negatively don't always understand the abuse these vehicles are called upon to withstand. A lightweight, fuel-efficient car designed to look like an SUV simply won't cut it when it's time to tow a heavy trailer or bounce over boulders along a river bank on a regular basis.
For an icon approaching its 75th birthday, the Suburban has never looked better.
The Suburban was completely redesigned for 2007, and there are no significant changes for 2008. This latest-generation Suburban represents a major improvement over pre-2007 models. The windshield of this latest generation is raked for better aerodynamics, and the chrome has been swept off the side. Inside, the dashboard has been lowered and instrument panel finally made tidy. The seats have been raised, giving a commanding view of the road with that lowered dashboard. With optional adjustable pedals, a driver of any size can achieve a comfortable and confident driving position. The frame is strong, stiff and fully boxed, the suspension is thoroughly modern, and steering is via rack-and-pinion. The front track was widened by three inches, and the rear by one inch. This Suburban rides and handles much sweeter than any before it, with less undulation and more precision.
The Suburban can seat from six to nine passengers, depending on the seating configuration ordered. There is 137.4 cubic feet of storage space behind the front seats, with the second row folded and third row removed. Behind the raised third row there are still 45.8 cubic feet. The seats don't fold flat into the floor, but the Suburban will accept a lot of cargo including very long items.
Suburban comes in three trim levels, with two- or four-wheel drive. It's available with a light-duty 1500 or heavy-duty 2500 chassis. The latest generation of its 5.3-liter Vortec engine makes 320 horsepower and 340 pound-feet of torque in 2WD models, and 310 horsepower and 335 pound-feet with 4WD. A new 6.0-liter V8 is optional, with an aluminum block and heads and variable valve timing, making 366 horsepower and 380 pound-feet.
The 2500 models come with a different 6.0-liter engine, with an iron block. The 2500 uses Hydroboost brakes, a stiffer suspension with leaf springs in the rear, and 16-inch truck tires. It is a serious tow vehicle with an enclosed passenger/cargo compartment.
The base-level 5.3-liter (1500 2WD) is EPA-rated at 14 City and 20 Highway miles per gallon on regular unleaded. The same truck with the optional 6.0-liter engine is rated at 12/17 mpg. Both engines feature what GM calls Active Fuel Management, meaning they can shut down up to four cylinders to save gas. But your actual mileage will vary, and will probably be less.
Acceleration is strong, considering the Suburban weighs three tons (5,613-6,328 pounds). And the powerful sound of the engine under full throttle is satisfying, if expensive. The 1500 comes with a smooth four-speed automatic transmission.
For 2008, the 2500 has a six-speed automatic for better performance and efficiency.
The 2500 2WD is rated to tow 9700 pounds, while the 1500 can tow 8100.
The 2008 Chevy Suburban comes in three models: LS, LT and LTZ. Each is available with either 2WD or 4WD; and with either the 1500 (half ton) or 2500 (three-quarter ton) chassis. The standard engine is GM's Vortec 5.3-liter overhead-valve V8, with Active Fuel Management (which cuts out four cylinders when coasting). An iron-block version is tuned to 320 horsepower and 340 pound-feet of torque for 2WD duty; an all-aluminum version, rated 310 horsepower and 335 pound-feet, is standard with 4WD.
The 6.0-liter engine ($1,095) is all-aluminum and features variable valve timing, making 366 horsepower and 380 pound-feet. Another 6.0-liter engine, this one with an iron block, comes with the 2500 models. The 2500 also has Hydroboost brakes, a heavier suspension with leaf springs, and 16-inch truck tires on eight-lug aluminum wheels. Newly available for the 2500 in 2008 are 17-inch aluminum wheels.
There are three transmissions, all of them automatics, but with two different numbers of gears and three levels of beefiness. The 5.3-liter and aluminum 6.0-liter engines come with four-speeds: the 4L60 and 4L70, respectively. The iron-block 6.0-liter in the 2500 is now matched with the new 6L90 six-speed automatic. They all have a Tow/Haul mode, which reduces shifting and makes the shifts quicker, so the transmission doesn't work so hard when pulling a big load. Transmission oil temperature is part of the instrumentation, along with a tire pressure monitor.
Standard equipment on the 1500 LS 2WD ($38,085) and 1500 LS 4WD ($40,930) includes cloth interior, power locks and windows, power steering, air conditioning, tinted windows behind the B pillar; roof rails (crossbars are $90 extra), folding heated mirrors, recovery hooks, a seven-wire trailer harness, 17-inch aluminum wheels, three power outlets, AM/FM/CD/MP3 sound system with eight speakers, XM Satellite Radio, center fold-down armrest with storage, overhead console, cruise control, 40/20/40 split front bench seat with six-way power adjustment for the driver, 60/40 second-row seat, and third row split bench seat. Also standard is basic OnStar with one-year Safe & Sound service plan.
The LT 2WD ($39,025) and 4WD ($41,870) come with front bucket seats and a floor console between them, rear audio controls, six-disc CD changer, and a cargo shade. OnStar is upgraded with Directions & Connections service, which includes Turn-by-Turn Navigation. Additionally, the already-long list of options available on the LS expands at the LT level to include the 6.0-liter engine; 20-inch wheels; and leather interior, this last as part of the comprehensive LT2 and LT3 equipment packages.
The LTZ 2WD ($47,560) and 4WD ($50,405) come standard with leather interior, a 10-way power memory driver's seat, 20-inch wheels, locking rear differential, power adjustable pedals, power liftgate, and the Autoride semi-active electronic suspension, which uses body and wheel motion sensors to adjust damping rates to road and driving conditions.
The heavy-duty Suburban 2500 comes in LS 2WD ($39,495) and 4WD ($42,335), and LT 2WD ($40,415) and 4WD ($43,260) trim only; there is no LTZ version.
The Z71 Off-road Appearance Package ($1830) is offered with 2WD or 4WD, but only on 1500's with LT trim. It includes a different grille and fascia, rectangular rather than round fog lamps, body-colored wheel flares, satin chrome mirrors and door handles, tubular assist steps, 18-inch wheels with on/off road tires, off-road suspension package, automatic locking differential, skid plate, higher-capacity air cleaner. and unique exterior badging. Inside are leather bucket seats in Ebony or a choice of two-tones, while brushed-metal-look trim replaces woodgrain
Options include a navigation system ($2250), rear-seat entertainment system ($1295), power retractable running boards ($1095), power sunroof ($995), second-row bucket seats ($590), heated second-row seats ($200), power release for those seats ($