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Expert Reviews 1 of 2
By Jim Flammang
December 9, 2002
Posted on 12/9/02 Vehicle Overview Though its not the largest sport utility vehicle on the U.S. market, the Suburban definitely warrants a king-size designation. The sales of Chevrolets Suburban have been sizable as well, escalating from 133,123 units during 2000 to 154,782 units in 2001, as reported by Automotive News.
Chevrolet has used the Suburban name for a utility wagon ever since 1935. Last redesigned for the 2000 model year, the super-sized SUV is a close cousin to the GMC Yukon XL, which used to be called the GMC Suburban. The Suburban is available with two-wheel drive (2WD) or four-wheel drive (4WD), and it is built on the full-size Silverado pickup truck platform which is also used for the Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon SUVs. Suburbans come in half-ton (1500) and three-quarter-ton (2500) capacity ratings.
Changes to the 2003 Suburban are numerous one of which is the availability of Quadrasteer four-wheel steering. Quadrasteer is available on the 2500 series, and this technology reduces the turning diameter by 21 percent. It is the first such installation on a full-size SUV.
GMs StabiliTrak electronic stability system is available for 2003 on half-ton Suburbans equipped with the 5.3-liter V-8 engine. Adjustable pedals have a 3-inch range and come with or without a memory feature. XM Satellite Radio and a Panasonic DVD entertainment system are now available as options, and Suburbans get a new family of Radio Data System (RDS) radio choices. An enhanced driver information center has been installed, and power camper mirrors are now optional.
The popular Z71 Off-Road Package includes a firmer suspension, 17-inch tires, tubular side steps, GMs OnStar communication system, wheel flares, lower body moldings, and color-keyed mirrors, bumpers and grille. For 2003, trizone climate control is manually operated on the LS and models with the Z71 Off-Road Package, and it is electronically activated on the upscale LT trim level.
Exterior Chevrolet describes the Suburban as the right size an SUV that is able to fit inside average-size garages. The SUV is equipped with four side doors and rides a 130-inch wheelbase. The Suburban measures 219.3 inches long overall, which is 7 inches shorter than the Ford Excursion. Buyers can choose between the standard aluminum liftgate or dual swing-out cargo doors, which are offered at no additional charge.
Interior With its standard trio of three-place bench seats, the Suburban can accommodate as many as nine occupants. Optional seating arrangements include twin bucket seats for the front and middle rows. The middle and rear bench seats fold down to enhance cargo capacity. They are also removable a process made easier by built-in wheels on the rear seat.
With the middle and rear seats removed, the cargo volume expands to 131.6 cubic feet an area large enough to carry a 4-by-8-foot plywood sheet. Cargo space behind the rear seat alone totals 45.7 cubic feet.
Under the Hood Three V-8 power plants are available, and the engine choice depends on the model. The standard engine in the light-duty Suburban 1500 is a 285-horsepower, 5.3-liter V-8. A 320-hp, 6.0-liter V-8 is standard in the 2500 series, and a 340-hp, 8.1-liter V-8 is optional. All engines team with a four-speed-automatic transmission.
The Suburban comes with rear-wheel drive or 4WD. Autotrac on 4WD models engages automatically, when necessary, to maintain traction. Suburbans with the 8.1-liter V-8 engine can tow as much as 12,000 pounds. The towing capacity for the 2WD half-ton model is 8,400 pounds.
Safety Dual-stage airbags and a passenger-sensing system are new for 2003. Antilock brakes and side-impact airbags are standard.
Driving Impressions It is clear that not every SUV buyer needs the sort of passenger and cargo space for which the Suburban has been known for decades. But for those who do, it is a suitable choice. Consumers who are satisfied with the Tahoe would likely be pleased with the Suburban, which is basically more of the same.
The Suburban is unquestionably big, but once youre behind the wheel, this SUV handles with reasonable ease; it doesnt feel much like a behemoth. A trucklike drone is part of the experience, but its minor and noticeable only when accelerating. Acceleration is sufficiently swift, both from a standstill and for passing, but the automatic transmission can be a tad slow in reacting. Its steering has a rather light feel, and the Suburban stays on course neatly. Sudden moves arent a good idea, and around-town maneuverability has limitations, but otherwise, the Suburban isnt particularly difficult to drive.
The Suburbans interior space is abundant, but legroom and toe space in the second seat fall short of huge. The driver gets a commanding view of the road ahead. Visibility is good, but the split back window in Suburbans equipped with cargo doors can be a distraction.