How Well Does It Family?
My daily family vehicle is a 2012 Honda Odyssey minivan. The Suburban and Odyssey share a few specs — both have three rows of seats and nearly 40 cubic feet of cargo room behind their third rows — but that’s where the similarities end.
To test the Suburban’s family-hauling chops, my clan of five took it on a weekend trip from suburban Chicago to southern Wisconsin. We didn’t put the Suburban’s trailering abilities to the test (when properly equipped, it can tow around 8,000 pounds with the 6.2-liter V-8), but it had no trouble swallowing luggage and child-safety seats.
That said, driving a Suburban reminds you how space-efficient a minivan really is. The Suburban is nearly 2 feet longer than our Odyssey, but in terms of passenger comfort, it doesn’t have any appreciable advantages. However, if you need to carry a lot of stuff and people at the same time, the Suburban has the edge; you can pack more luggage into its long cargo area than you can into a minivan’s tall cargo space. The Suburban’s higher ride height and truck-based platform contribute to a cargo floor that’s considerably higher than a minivan’s, but it’s not dissimilar to other truck-based SUVs.
The Suburban’s second row is spacious and comfortable, with room for taller adults to stretch out. In models with second-row bucket seats, there’s a wide walk-through to the third row. The third row’s seat cushions are a little hard, but adults have acceptable space. The Expedition’s spacious third row is still one of our favorites, but its advantages are less pronounced when compared with a Suburban as opposed to a Tahoe. The Suburban’s second-row bucket seats are fixed, so you can’t slide them forward to share some of the second row’s impressive legroom with third-row passengers.
One of the most desirable SUV attributes — a commanding driving position — is fully realized in the Suburban. Once you’ve climbed into the driver’s seat, your view out the windshield is mostly unobstructed, with a line of sight above not just other cars, but other SUVs. You see things sooner than you otherwise would, but almost anyone behind you won’t be so lucky.
On the highway, the Suburban’s appeal as a road-trip companion is clear: It’s easy to hold conversations in the quiet cabin, and the long, 130-inch wheelbase gives the SUV a stable, settled feel. It’s the kind of low-stress driving experience you want for a long trip.
Same Old Shortcomings
Despite significantly improved performance thanks to the optional 6.2-liter V-8 and 10-speed automatic, familiar GM full-size SUV shortcomings — like a lack of steering feedback and numb, isolating brake-pedal feel — are still present in the 2019 Suburban.
Premier trims get GM’s Magnetic Ride Control adaptive suspension, and when the 6.2-liter V-8 is optioned, the suspension is tuned for even greater body control, Chevrolet says.
I’ve long thought Magnetic Ride Control sacrificed too much ride comfort, and that’s the case here, too: While the suspension effectively keeps body motions in check when cornering and limits up-and-down bobbing, the firm tuning means you feel every little bump and crack in the road. Whether it’s due more to the shock tuning or the low-profile tires on 22-inch alloy wheels that come with the RST Edition option, the unforgiving ride quality disappoints.
Value in Its Class
The Suburban and its full-size SUV competitors might come from mainstream brands, but with starting prices approaching or higher than $50,000, they’re priced more like luxury vehicles — and that’s not even considering the whopping price tag of our test model.
Whether the Suburban is worth that much probably depends on what you want in an SUV. If a cavernous interior, towing capability and towering views are must-haves, then the Suburban delivers. Now Chevrolet just needs to make the hot-rod 6.2-liter V-8 available on less expensive trims.
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