Even though it's not the largest sport utility vehicle on the U.S. market, the Suburban definitely warrants a king-size designation.
Available with two- or four-wheel drive, Suburbans are built on the company's full-size Silverado pickup truck platform, which is also used for the Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon SUVs. The Suburban is offered in half-ton (1500) and three-quarter-ton (2500) capacity ratings.
For 2005, the popular Z71 Off-Road Package is offered on two-wheel-drive half-ton models and on trucks equipped with four-wheel drive. The package features a firmer suspension, 17-inch tires and tubular side steps.
Chevrolet promises higher gas mileage for 2005 Suburbans, and a touchscreen navigation radio is available. General Motors' OnStar communication system, when installed, gains upgraded hands-free capability. A tire-pressure monitor that tells specifically which tire is low is now available for Suburban 2500 models.
Quadrasteer four-wheel steering reduces the turning diameter by 20 percent; this feature is available on the 2500, but this is the last year GM will offer the option on any vehicle. GM's StabiliTrak electronic stability system is offered on half-ton Suburbans equipped with the 5.3-liter V-8.
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. A rear liftgate with flip-up glass is now standard on all models, and side-sill assist steps are redesigned for 2005. 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 131.6 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.
Under the Hood
The sole engine in the light-duty Suburban 1500 is a 295-horsepower, 5.3-liter V-8. A 335-hp, 6.0-liter V-8 is standard in the 2500, and a 320-hp, 8.1-liter V-8 that produces 440 pounds-feet of torque 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. Suburban 2500 models with two-wheel drive can tow as much as 12,000 pounds.
Antilock brakes are standard, and front-seat side-impact airbags are available.
Obviously, not every SUV buyer needs this sort of passenger and cargo space. Despite its size, this SUV handles with reasonable ease and doesn't 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 aren't a good idea, and around-town maneuverability has its limitations.