2012 Chevrolet Suburban

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$42,220

starting MSRP

2012 Chevrolet Suburban
2012 Chevrolet Suburban

Key specs

Base trim shown

Overview

The good:

  • Relative gas mileage
  • Seating capacity
  • Cargo room
  • Ride quality with adaptive suspension (1500 LTZ)
  • Roomy second row

The bad:

  • Third row doesn't fold flat
  • Ungainly dimensions
  • Modest acceleration (Suburban 1500)
  • Steering and handling
  • Available front middle seat lacks three-point seat belt

5 trims

Starting msrp listed lowest to highest price

Wondering which trim is right for you?

Our 2012 Chevrolet Suburban trim comparison will help you decide.

Notable features

  • Longer version of Chevrolet Tahoe
  • New trailer-swap control
  • Available 4WD
  • Seats up to nine
  • Tows up to 9,600 pounds (2500 version)

2012 Chevrolet Suburban review: Our expert's take

By Kelsey Mays

The verdict:

Versus the competiton:

Should SUVs such as the Chevrolet Suburban, a longer version of the Tahoe, be extinct? Faced with gas mileage in the teens, dimensions that hug both lines of a parking space and an outmatched V-8 that huffs more than it hauls, most shoppers will laugh their way to anything else. But for the few who need its capabilities, the Suburban has few peers.

For many, the 2012 Chevrolet Suburban is yesterday’s dinosaur, but if you need an SUV of its ilk, it’s actually the efficient choice.

The Suburban comes in regular-duty 1500 and heavy-duty 2500 trim levels, though the 2500 is hard to find. Both versions have LS and upscale LT trims; the 1500 gets a top-of-the-line LTZ trim, too. Click here to compare them.

For 2012, the Suburban adds trailer-sway control, but little else has changed. Stack up the 2012 and 2011 Suburban here. Beyond the Tahoe relation, the Suburban 1500 has upscale siblings in the GMC Yukon XL and Cadillac Escalade ESV. We tested Chevrolet’s four-wheel-drive Suburban 1500 LTZ.

Efficient, for a Barge
The Suburban 1500 packs a curb weight of nearly 3 tons, for which GM’s familiar 5.3-liter V-8 is no match. The SUV picks up speed at a leisurely pace, needing a good prod on the gas for enough passing oomph. In city driving, pronounced accelerator lag plays into the torpor: Things start off gradually, and any call for immediate power is met with initial hesitation. It’s curious because our last Tahoe, by contrast, had no such accelerator issues.

The Chevrolet Suburban’s standard six-speed automatic finds the right gear more often than not, but even as the V-8 roars to its highest revs, the acceleration is modest. At least it’s a consistent sensation, regardless of load: Five adults and a few weekend bags invoked similar performance. So would, I suspect, ditching four-wheel drive, which saves 152 pounds — a sliver of the SUV’s tonnage. Either way, GM needs to mix a stronger drink next time around. This ‘burban is weak.

Of course, the Chevrolet Suburban’s only direct competitor — the extended-length Ford Expedition, called the Expedition EL — is pretty weak, too. Lead-footed haulers should look to the 5.7-liter Toyota Sequoia, which is a closer competitor to the Tahoe but far swifter in the passing lane. The Suburban’s passing torpor is forgivable, given the drivetrain’s best-in-class EPA rating of 15/21 mpg city/highway with rear- or four-wheel drive. That beats the others by 1 to 3 mpg, which is nothing to sneeze at when mileage is in the teens. Still, make sure you need the truck-based Chevy’s towing capacity. If not, car-based crossover SUVs and minivans are rated 2 to 6 mpg better in combined driving, with lower starting prices to boot.

Towing capability comes out to 8,100 pounds in the Chevrolet Suburban LTZ, which beats the Sequoia but loses to the Expedition EL by 1,100 pounds. The Chevrolet Suburban 2500, meanwhile, beats the group with 9,600 pounds of capacity. It has a 6.0-liter V-8, which cranks out 352 horsepower and 382 pounds-feet of torque — 32 more hp and 47 more pounds-feet than the 1500’s V-8 — and returns 12 mpg in combined city/highway ratings.

Less forgivable is the Suburban’s tentative composure. Boatlike handling comes with the territory, and the SUV corners like its nautical full-size SUV peers. But in other situations, the steering still disappoints. At low speeds, the power assist finds pockets of sudden stiffness; on the highway, it feels over-assisted and jittery. Ride comfort — a longtime strength in GM’s trucks — is excellent in the 1500 LTZ, which gets an optional adaptive suspension, but the need for constant, fidgety corrections brings its own brand of road-trip fatigue.

Utility
See our Tahoe review for major impressions of the interior. The 
Chevrolet Suburban gets an extra 14 inches of wheelbase and nearly 2 feet of length, which goes toward the third row and cargo area. Third-row legroom increases a huge 9.3 inches, making it habitable for adults, if not as generous as the Expedition EL’s legroom. Cargo room behind all the seats, meanwhile, totals 45.8 cubic feet. That’s comparable to the EL’s, and nearly three times what the Tahoe has. Remove the 50/50-split third-row seats — a hefty 50 pounds for each section — and fold down the second row, and maximum cargo volume is a crossover-beating 137.4 cubic feet. Most minivans have upward of 140 cubic feet, but achieving that often requires removing second-row seats, which is an equally onerous task: The captain’s chairs in a Honda Odyssey weigh 55 pounds apiece.

The Chevrolet Suburban seats seven to nine, depending on the layout. The first and second rows come as bucket seats or a three-position bench, while the third row has the bench only. We recommend against the front bench, however, as the center position lacks frontal airbag coverage and gets only a lap seat belt. It’s odd because the second- and third-row center seats have three-point belts.

Safety, Features & Pricing
The Suburban hasn’t been crash-tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration rates the 1500 four out of five stars overall. The SUV earned top ratings in frontal and side impacts but just a three-star rollover rating. (Three stars is the norm for truck-based SUV rollover resistance, but the Expedition and Sequoia buck the trend with four-star ratings.) The Suburban 2500 hasn’t been crash-tested.

Standard features include head-protecting side airbags for all three rows, plus the required antilock brakes and electronic stability system. Click here for a full list or here to see our evaluation of child-seat provisions in the Tahoe.

The Chevrolet Suburban 1500 starts just over $43,000 (including a destination charge of $995), with the 2500 running another $1,610. Standard features include tri-zone manual climate control, partial power front seats, a USB/iPod-friendly stereo and Bluetooth cellphone connectivity but not audio streaming. Heated and cooled leather seats, fully powered seat adjustments, a heated steering wheel, rear DVD entertainment and a navigation system are optional. A factory-loaded 2500 LT tops out near $60,000, and the 1500 LTZ can reach around $65,000.

Suburban in the Market
The justification behind full-size SUVs has worn thin over the years as buyers have switched to more-efficient crossovers: In the early 2000s, GM was pushing more than 115,000 Suburbans a year. Last year, the automaker sold 49,427. Still, the Suburban is the best-selling full-size SUV, with sales in the first five months of this year up 18 percent, outpacing the market’s gains. In fact, if you were to combine the Suburban with its Tahoe sibling — as Ford does for the Expedition and Expedition EL — they would be 45th best-selling vehicle in America through May.

No doubt some full-size SUV shoppers are buying more car than they need, but the sales tell an undeniable truth: A certain chunk of drivers still need V-8 towing capacity with a minivan’s appetite for people and cargo, and enough of them exist for the segment to stick around.

So the Chevrolet Suburban will continue, as it should.

Send Kelsey an email  

 

Consumer reviews

Rating breakdown (out of 5):
  • Comfort 4.8
  • Interior design 4.4
  • Performance 4.6
  • Value for the money 4.3
  • Exterior styling 4.6
  • Reliability 4.4

Most recent consumer reviews

4.4

Has been a joy to drive for 9 years.

We bought this truck in 2012 when our four kids were 13, 11, 8, and 6. At the time I had been driving a Grand Caravan for nine years and we just needed more space. I have thoroughly enjoyed driving our Suburban LT. The seats are very comfortable and it was very easy to drive. The only problems we have had are with the transmission (had to replace after 5 yrs) and the front door pulls (plastic broke within a few years). I'm now looking to downsize as we only have two kids left at home, and I will miss this vehicle.

5.0

Must luxurious SUV I’ve ever owned!

Excellent full size SUV with all the fun bells & whistles! This is the best family vehicle and tows great too! I’m amazed at how many features this has!

5.0

Reliable and Comfortable SUV

Our suburban provides room for our family of six with plenty of storage behind the third row seating. We love the heated leather seats in the front and middle rows, the power lift gate, and the power folding middle seats. It's off-road capabilities suit our desires for driving on the beach and going on mountain roads. We especially enjoy the DVD entertainment system with third-row screen and the built in hard drive for storing music.

See all 22 consumer reviews

Warranty

New car and Certified Pre-Owned programs by Chevrolet
Certified Pre-Owned program benefits
Maximum age/mileage
5 model years or newer/up to 75,000 miles
Basic warranty terms
12 months/12,000 miles bumper-to-bumper original warranty, then may continue to 6 years/100,000 miles limited (depending on variables)
Powertrain
6 years/100,000 miles
Dealer certification required
172-point inspection
Roadside assistance
Yes
View all cpo program details

Have questions about warranties or CPO programs?

Compare the competitors

2008

GMC Yukon XL

$38,915

starting MSRP

2010

Chevrolet Tahoe

$37,280

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2011

Chevrolet Suburban

$41,335

starting MSRP