2019 Chevrolet Suburban

By December 18, 2018

For the seemingly simple duties of hauling people and their possessions in comfort, with plenty of room to spare, few vehicles are as capable as the 2019 Chevrolet Suburban. Still traditional in design and body-on-frame construction, and powered by a potent V-8, the Suburban conveys a surprisingly high-end feel for an SUV beneath the Chevrolet banner.

Suburban history dates all the way back to 1935; the full-size SUV was last redesigned as a 2015 model.

For the 2019 model year, the sporty RST Appearance Package introduced for 2018 earns a performance boost, provided by a 6.2-liter V-8. Billed as the RST Performance Package, the bigger-engine option is similar to the one offered for the Suburban’s shorter-wheelbase Tahoe sibling. A Magnetic Ride Control suspension is included, along with a 10-speed automatic transmission.

A Premier Plus Special Edition Package also is new, with the same engine and a sizable helping of luxury features.

Trim levels continue as before: base LS, LT, and top-end Premier. Suburbans can seat as many as nine occupants.

Chevrolet’s 5.3-liter V-8 develops 355 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque, mating with a column-shifted 6-speed automatic transmission. The available 6.2-liter V-8 cranks out 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet, driving a 10-speed automatic. Rear-drive is standard, but four-wheel drive is offered for each trim level.

For a truck-based SUV, the Suburban contains, or can be equipped with, an ample amount of safety technology. Seven airbags and a rearview camera are standard. An Enhanced Driver Alert package adds low-speed automatic emergency braking, active lane control, and automatic high-beam headlights. Standard on LT and Premium models, it’s optional for LS trim. Premier is the only version available with adaptive cruise control.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has never crash-tested the current Suburban. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the 2018 model a five-star side-impact score, but only four-star ratings overall and for frontal impact. Rollover prevention (a calculated figure, not derived from testing) rated only three stars, due to the Suburban’s high center of gravity.

If the massive Suburban, measuring 220 inches, is excessive in size, the smaller Tahoe sits on the same platform and looks similar. GMC offers the Yukon XL, which is a close copy of Chevrolet’s Suburban. Also related is Cadillac’s posh Escalade ESV.

Model Lineup

Prices do not include $1,295 destination charge.

LS ($50,600 with rear-drive, $53,600 with four-wheel drive) comes with the 5.3-liter V-8, nine-passenger seating, cloth seat upholstery, power front seats, 8.0-inch touchscreen,  tri-zone automatic climate control, rearview camera, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality.

LT ($55,600 with rear-drive, $58,600 with four-wheel drive) adds leather-appointed seat upholstery (heated up front), Bose 9-speaker audio, and a power liftgate. Safety technology that’s optional for LS is standard on LT, including low-speed automatic braking, lane-keep assist, and forward-collision warnings.

Premier ($65,300 with rear-drive, $68,300 with four-wheel drive) adds Magnetic Ride Control, heated and cooled front seats, blind-spot monitors, 10-speaker Bose audio, hands-free liftgate, and keyless start. Safety features include blind-spot monitors.

A Suburban may be fitted with the Z71 package, featuring all-terrain tires and off-road-inspired appearance.

Exterior Features

Massive on the outside, Chevrolet’s Suburban immodestly advertises its clean-cut styling. Though still crisply handsome, the boxy, inevitably truck-like Suburban body is due for a serious update or redesign.

Suburbans haven’t always been known for visual flair, but the current version stands out more than its predecessors. Up front, a heavily-chromed grille sits between oddly-shaped headlights, helping to created more curb appeal than some practical-minded SUVs.

Interior Features

Indisputably huge inside, the car-like cabin is surprisingly luxurious for a truck-based vehicle with a mainstream badge. The comfortably appealing cabin helps conceal the Suburban’s substantial size.

On the symmetrical dashboard, controls sit neatly below an 8.0-inch touchscreen. Cloth upholstery and a three-position front bench seat are standard in LS trim, for nine-passenger capacity. A center rider on that bench might complain about leg space, but other occupants should be able to stretch their legs.

Most Suburbans have front bucket seats separate by a wide console, with heated and cooled leather seats an option. Second-row seating may be a three-place bench or twin captain’s chairs. Soft-touch surfaces with stitching grace the cabin.

Reaching the third row isn’t too difficult. Both rows of rear seats fold flat, expanding cargo volume to 121.7 cubic feet. With second-row seats upright, cargo space dips to 77 cubic feet. With all seatbacks up, space behind the third row approaches 40 cubic feet. Although the cargo floor is flat and wide, it’s somewhat high, making loading more challenging than it should be.

Driving Impressions

Nothing about the Suburban suggests sportiness or agile moves, but the truck-like ride is smooth and composed.

Steering is somewhat soft, partially masking the Suburban’s heft, though control is direct. On curvy roads and off the pavement, the mammoth Suburban struggles to match the nimbleness of some competitors that employ independent suspensions.

Despite weights that approach 6,000 pounds, performance from the burly, potent 5.3-liter V-8 is a strong point. GM’s mighty, 420-horsepower, 6.2-liter V-8, included in the RST Performance Package and Premier Plus Special Edition group, injects additional muscle. A 10-speed automatic helps extract as much strength as possible from the biggest V-8.

Opting for the RST package brings 22-inch wheels and a magnetic suspension, similar to that on the GMC Yukon Denali and Cadillac Escalade.

With four-wheel drive, a Suburban is rated to tow as much as 8,200 pounds. An exceptionally long wheelbase and overall heft places limits on Suburban maneuverability off-road, especially when the trails narrow. The Z71 package adds some beefier components and appropriate tires.

Thanks to the ability to run on half its engine cylinders the Suburban isn’t quite as thirsty as its dimensions suggest. Rear-wheel-drive models are EPA-rated at 15/22 mpg City/Highway, or 18 mpg Combined. Four-wheel drive drops those figures to 14/21/16 mpg. E85 ethanol-enhanced fuel drops the estimate to 11/16/12 mpg with four-wheel drive.

The optional 6.2-liter V-8, helped by its 10-speed automatic transmission, is EPA-rated at 14/23 mpg City/Highway, or 17 mpg Combined, with rear-drive. Four-wheel drive manages only 14/20/16 mpg.

Final Word

Simply huge, both inside and out, the truck-based Suburban with its big, old-school V-8 is a costly acquisition for families, but it’s a first-rate highway cruiser. No crossover comes close to matching its nine-passenger space and towing prowess. Amply equipped in each trim level, it can be augmented by a selection of luxury-level options. Fully loaded, a Suburban can top $80,000, which approaches Cadillac Escalade territory.

Driving impressions by The Car Connection. James M. Flammang contributed to this report.