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By Jim Flammang
August 27, 2003
Vehicle Overview Its not quite the largest sport utility vehicle on the U.S. market, but the Suburban definitely warrants a king-size designation. Ford still holds the title for having the biggest SUV, with its Excursion.
The Suburban is available with two-wheel drive or four-wheel drive. It is built on the companys full-size Silverado pickup truck platform, which is also used for the Tahoe and GMC Yukon SUVs. The Suburban is offered in half-ton (1500) and three-quarter-ton (2500) capacity ratings and in LS, LT and Z71 trim levels.
Quadrasteer, a four-wheel steering system that reduces the turning diameter by 21 percent, became available in 2003 on the 2500 series. GMs StabiliTrak electronic stability system is offered on half-ton Suburbans equipped with the 5.3-liter V-8 engine.
Half-ton models gain a tire-pressure monitor and Hydroboost braking for 2004, and front passenger-seat occupants get a seat belt reminder. Traction assist is available and includes a locking rear differential. The popular Z71 Off-Road Package features a firmer suspension, 17-inch tires and tubular side steps.
Chevrolet describes the Suburban as the right size. This SUV is able to fit inside average-size garages. Equipped with four side doors, it rides a 130-inch wheelbase and measures 219.3 inches long overall. Buyers can choose between the standard aluminum liftgate and dual swing-out cargo doors. Power camper mirrors are optional.
With its standard trio of three-place bench seats, the Suburban can accommodate as many as nine people. Optional seating arrangements include twin bucket seats for the front and middle rows. The middle and rear bench seats fold down and are removable.
With the middle and rear seats removed, cargo volume expands to 134 cubic feet, which is enough to carry a 4-by-8-foot plywood sheet. Adjustable pedals come with or without a memory feature. XM Satellite Radio and a Panasonic DVD entertainment system are available. All Suburbans have trizone climate control.
Under the Hood
The sole engine in the light-duty Suburban 1500 is a 295-horsepower, 5.3-liter V-8. A 325-hp, 6.0-liter V-8 is standard in the 2500 series, and a 320-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 Autotrac four-wheel drive, which engages automatically to maintain traction. Suburbans equipped with the 8.1-liter V-8 engine can tow as much as 12,000 pounds.
Dual-stage airbags and a passenger-sensing system are installed. Antilock brakes and side-impact airbags are standard.
Obviously, not every SUV buyer needs this sort of passenger and cargo space. Consumers who are satisfied with the Tahoe would likely be pleased with a Suburban, which is basically more of the same.
Once youre behind the wheel, this SUV handles with reasonable ease and doesnt feel much like a behemoth. The trucklike drone is minor. Acceleration is sufficiently swift from a standstill and for passing, but the reaction of the automatic transmission can be a tad slow. Steering has a rather light feel, and the Suburban stays neatly on course. Sudden moves arent a good idea, and around-town maneuverability has its limitations, but otherwise, the Suburban isnt particularly difficult to drive. The split back window in Suburbans equipped with cargo doors can be a distraction.