2018 Chevrolet Suburban

By February 12, 2018

The Chevy Suburban can tow a heavy trailer, transport large numbers of people, haul a mountain of cargo, or stand up to rugged terrain.

If you’re transporting passengers on paved roads and aren’t towing trailers, a crossover SUV or minivan is a more efficient choice. Crossovers are lighter and get better fuel economy, but they don’t offer the Suburban’s capabilities.

Built on a truck chassis, with its body attached to a separate frame, and riding on a truck suspension, the Suburban can withstand repeated travel over rugged terrain and rough roads and it can haul large or heavy cargoes.

Suburban offers fuel economy that nearly matches that of the Chevy Tahoe, and the Suburban’s added length improves stability while towing and increases cargo capacity and passenger roominess.

Rally Sport Truck, or RST, is a new appearance package for 2018 with black trim and 22-inch alloy wheels available for LT and Premier models. The 2018 Suburban otherwise carries over unchanged.

With a nameplate dating to 1935, the Chevrolet Suburban began its 11th generation as a 2015 model with fresh styling and a refined cabin.

Its direct-injected 5.3-liter V8 EcoTec3 with aluminum block and heads was all new for 2015. It makes 355 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque. 2018 Suburbans come with a smooth six-speed automatic, but that may soon be updated with a transmission with more gears, to increase fuel mileage.

The Chevrolet Suburban’s only rival is the all-new Ford Expedition EL, a smooth, refined vehicle with a turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 that makes 365 horsepower, 420 pound-feet of torque, for a 9200-pound towing capacity. Brisk acceleration performance enables it to merge smoothly into fast traffic.

The Suburban is rated to tow up to 8300 pounds with rear-wheel drive. Larger engines and 2500-series versions are not available. If you want that, check out a Silverado 2500 Crew Cab.

Handling is impressive for a nearly three-ton vehicle, that is 224 inches long on 103-inch wheelbase. And the ride is smooth if firm, which contributes a lot to family happiness. So does the quiet cabin.

The Suburban gets an EPA-rated 15 City, 23 Highway miles per gallon with rear-wheel drive, a bit less with four-wheel drive.

Model Lineup

The Suburban comes in LS ($50,150), LT ($55,280) and Premier ($64,380) models, all with 5.3-liter V8 engine, rear-wheel drive, six-speed automatic transmission, and fold-flat second- and third-row seats. All-wheel drive is more ($3000).

Suburban LS comes with cloth upholstery, front bucket seats with 10-way power-adjustable driver and two-way passenger seats, tri-zone climate controls, AM/FM/CD audio, satellite radio, remote vehicle starting, rear view camera, rear park assist, manually adjustable second- and third-row seats. A front bench seat is available for three-passenger front seating.

Suburban LT upgrades with leather trim for first- and second-row seats, heated power front seats with memory feature, Bose premium audio, MyLink infotainment system, power liftgate with programmable height, lane departure warning, forward collision alert.

Suburban Premier adds heated and cooled front seats, fog lamps, HID headlamps, LED daytime running lamps, heated power side mirrors, power tilt/telescope steering column with memory, heated leather steering wheel, keyless entry, pushbutton start, power folding second- and third-row seatbacks, power adjustable pedals, 110-volt power outlet, 20-inch aluminum alloy wheels, blind spot warning, lane change assist, rear cross traffic alert.

Options include navigation, power-folding second- and third-row seats, power liftgate, cargo management system, Blu-Ray DVD entertainment system, and as many as six USB ports and six power outlets.

Safety features on all models include a safety alert seat that vibrates if the system determines the driver is at risk of colliding with another vehicle. A rear vision camera comes standard that shows the area immediately behind the vehicle on the audio screen, very helpful for hooking up a trailer. All Suburbans come standard with seven air bags, anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control, trailer sway control, traction control. Bucket-seat models include a front center air bag that deploys from the inboard side of the driver’s seat and inflates between driver and front passenger for added protection in a side-impact crash. Also available: side blind-zone alert, lane-change alert, rear cross-traffic alert, forward-collision alert, lane-departure warning, adaptive cruise control, crash-imminent braking.

Exterior

The Chevy Suburban is unmistakable, a big two-box SUV, the traditional ‘Burb. Yet the angular aesthetics are aerodynamic. And there is some distinction, in a character line that runs the length of the body just below the greenhouse.

It looks better on its optional huge wheels, 20- and 22-inchers, than the standard ones, which are 18 inches. It’s all about proportion. The 18-inch wheels with taller sidewalls on the tires should offer a softer, quieter ride, however.

Interior

The upscale cabin of the Suburban is beautifully quiet. You can only hear the engine when you floor it, and then it’s a pleasant baritone that sounds almost distant.

The curved console counterpoints the angular exterior, but it doesn’t feel like a contrast because it’s so removed (as in distant) from the outside. The Yukon offers a nice head-up display that’s not available for the Suburban.

It’s hard to find fault with the standard cloth upholstery. Leather is available, but it’s not as rich as the that in the GMC Yukon Denali. GMC goes deeper into luxury with the Denali.

Seating is flexible, with an optional front bench seat making it a nine-passenger, or optional captain’s chairs in the second row, making it seven. The standard second row and third row fold flat manually, and with power optionally. Despite all that length, 224 inches, adult legroom for the third row is still limited. Choosing the seating configuration is one of the most important considerations when choosing a Suburban. Keep in mind that captain’s chairs with a center console breaks up cargo space when the seats are folded down.

Throughout the cabin there’s useful space for small things, a bunch of cupholders, and a center console that can hold a tablet or notebook computer.

Driving Impressions

Chevrolet chassis engineers did a great job on the suspension tuning; handling is impressively quick for a three-ton bus.

For the 2015 redesign, they worked on increasing roll stiffness, so the Suburban leans less in corners. A vehicle this shape wants to lean, as mass will always have its say in the dynamic equation, but engineers found the right spring rates and antiroll bar thickness to limit body roll (lean) and enable rapid transitions. It helps that the weight distribution is close to 50/50.

The electric assist power rack and pinion steering is numb and relatively slow at 3.4 turns lock to lock. But even so, the Suburban is agile by big SUV standards, which gives the driver a better chance of staying out of trouble.

The ride is on the firm side, with spring rates needed to handle big loads, but they still keep away all but the sharpest bumps.

Braking is another strong suit. The brake pedal feel is firm, it’s easy to modulate pedal pressure, and the Suburban stops straight and true. We can’t testify to fade resistance, other than to say we failed to provoke any fade with a few hard stops. That might be different towing a load, but that’s what trailer brakes are for.

Final Word

Smooth, exceptionally quiet, comfortable, capable, and powerful, the latest Suburban remains the big cahuna of family haulers. It makes the most sense as a tow vehicle. As a truck, it will stand up better to rough use than will a crossover SUV.

Sam Moses contributed to this report.