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. Suburbans come in half-ton (1500) and three-quarter-ton (2500) capacity ratings.
An LTZ model with a 6.0-liter V-8, all-wheel drive, a Z55 suspension and 20-inch wheels joins the 2006 Suburban lineup. Essentially an offshoot of the LT trim level, the LTZ features a revised chrome-bar grille, monochromatic bumpers, chrome assist steps and leather seating surfaces.
Additionally, a tire-pressure-monitoring system is now standard on all Suburbans, and catalytic converters on 1500 models have been relocated.
Quadrasteer four-wheel steering is no longer available on 2006 models. General Motors' 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," claiming it can 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 were redesigned for 2005. A larger power camper mirror is available on 2500 models.
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. Space behind the third row totals 45.7 cubic feet. Power-adjustable pedals are standard in LT and LTZ models. XM Satellite Radio and a backseat 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; this flexible-fuel engine can run on up to 85 percent ethanol. A 335-hp, 6.0-liter V-8 is standard in the 2500 and new LTZ, and a 325-hp, 8.1-liter V-8 that produces 447 pounds-feet of torque is optional. All engines team with a four-speed-automatic transmission.
Suburbans can have 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 side-impact airbags for front occupants 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.