We tested the full-size sport-utility that's undergone a total remake--inside and out, front to rear--for 2007.
To appreciate why General Motors redid Suburban with gas prices sky high, you have to understand that the remake was approved years ago when the notion of $3 a gallon gas seemed absurd.
More important, GM makes a lot more money off one Suburban than a couple dozen 30-m.p.g. Chevy Aveo sedans. And when last we looked, GM needs to make a lot more money.
Suburban profits provide the dough to fund other ventures to get folks in showrooms, such as turning the Camaro sport coupe from concept to reality.
Each time a Suburban rolls off the assembly line, GM adds an estimated $10,000 to $15,000 to its coffers. Profits, you see, accrue when vehicles are shipped to the dealer, not when sold to the customer.
As with the redesigned, 20-inch shorter Chevy Tahoe SUV for 2007, Suburban now sports rounded body lines, bulging bumpers and a massive front end that's going to gather bug splatter by the pound. A bucket and sponge should be standard.
If you have a large family, haul lots of things and/or tow, Suburban is the vehicle of choice for its three rows of seats, spacious cargo hold and sufficiently muscular V-8.
Suburban, which shares platforms with the redesigned Chevy Silverado pickup that comes out this fall, is new inside and out. Its has grown about 3 inches, thanks to the bulgy bumpers.
Cargo space as well as cabin wiggle room increases a little, thanks to slimmer seats. A nice touch is that there's no exposed metal hardware or fasteners--even under the seats.
The length means you first pause to analyze how easy it will be to exit when pulling into a parking space.
And it's probably a good idea not to park next to a hybrid. Never know when a tree hugger will go ballistic.
Standard running boards allow you to step, rather than leap, into the cabin. Power retractable running boards that glide out when the door is open and glide out of sight when closed will be a $1,095 option, when they're available in October. A lot of dough, but retractables eliminate snow and ice buildup on the steps when parked outside.
The cabin features three rows of seats still generously sized and well cushioned though slimmed down. The third row is a little less generous in size and padding. Ample head, shoulder and hip room for a couple of adults in the third row--if they have short legs.
To get to the third row, you pull the levers and the seat back folds flat and flips forward to expose an aisle. For $425 you can push a button in the overhead console or along the wall, and the seat folds and flips on its own. However, the seat has to be brought back to its upright position manually.
Suburban is offered in LS, LT and LTZ versions. We tested the LT with four-wheel-drive and 5.3-liter, 310-horsepower V-8 that uses regular unleaded or E85, the ethanol/gasoline blend. It has active fuel management to shut down 4-cylinders to conserve fuel. The driver information center lets you know when in 4- or 8-cylinder mode.
The mileage rating is a paltry 15 m.p.g. city/20 m.p.g. highway, though that's still better than the 14/18 before the remake.
"It's not a 30-m.p.g. vehicle but we made a gain in fuel economy for those who require a vehicle this size," said Carl Hillenbrand, Tahoe/Suburban product manager.
Gas/electric power offers better mileage. Tahoe gets it in November next year, Silverado after that, but there are no plans for a hybrid Suburban.
Tahoe, by the way, gets a two-mode system that allows it to start and run in battery mode in low-speed city driving, the reason Chevy expects 25 percent better mileage than the 16/22 in two-wheel-drive and 16/21 in four-wheel-drive today with the 5.3 V-8.
A 6-liter, 366-h.p. V-8 with active fuel management as well as variable valve timing will be added to Suburban in October to boost towing capacity to 8,200 pounds with 2WD from 8,100 pounds with the 5.3-liter. The 6-liter will be rated at 14/19 with 2WD, 14/18 with 4WD.
Though big and heavy, ride is very smooth thanks to the standard premium ride suspension that cushions road harshness before it gets into the cabin.
The top-of-the-line LTZ comes with Autoride suspension and body and wheel sensors that automatically adjust damping to reduce motion over bumpy pavement.
Handling is decent though no vehicle 222.4 inches long, almost 80 inches wide and almost 5,800 pounds is going to turn with the grace of a ballerina.
Body lean is pronounced, especially at speed, and backing off the gas when the pavement veers sharply either way is as wise as stepping on the pedal when approaching a steep incline.
The tester came with 4WD. Just twist the dial for 4WD high, low or automatic, which engages all the wheels on its own when slippage is detected.
Base price is $39,665 and includes four-wheel anti-lock brakes; Stabilitrak stability control, a wise addition to a vehicle so big; power locks and windows; air conditioning; 17-inch all-season radials; AM/FM with single disc CD player; rear window washer and wiper plus defogger; and power heated outside mirrors.
Lots of nice features, but most are listed on the option side of the window sticker, including remote start, power adjustable pedals and side-curtain air bags with rollover sensors that are part of a $4,050 package.
A rear-seat DVD entertainment system runs $1,295, and power sunroof is $995. A rear-view camera ($195) uses the navigation ($2,145) screen to show kids or objects behind when backing up or how close you've gotten to the trailer when preparing to hitch up.
Dealers report Suburbans with the navi and camera are first out the door.
"It's become a very popular option. It had only about a 6 percent take rate for the '06 but with the '07s it has a 20 percent take rate and growing," said Hillenbrand. "Demand is stronger than our capacity to supply it, and we're only able to build one of every four Suburbans with it. We will add more capacity in October."
A most handy feature is the power remote liftgate at $350, especially when the arms are loaded with packages. Press the key fob, and the liftgate opens and closes. Or you can open just the window to load cargo, but the latch that holds the glass to the liftgate is so wide and high, it makes slipping items in or out a chore.
You can lower third row seat backs or remove the seats, but it's a stretch to reach the release levers and the pull-out privacy shade is an obstacle. So your clean clothes will come in contact with the nearly always dirty bumper rub strip.
Keep the bucket and sponge handy.
2007 Chevrolet Suburban AWD LT
Price as tested: $49,120*
Wheelbase: 130 inches
Length: 222.4 inches
Engine: 5.3-liter, 310-h.p. V-8 with cylinder deactivation
Transmission: 4-speed automatic
CITY 15 m.p.g.
HWY 20 m.p.g.
$4,050 LT3 equipment with leather seats, 12-way power driver/passenger heated seats (driver side memory), power adjustable pedals, remote vehicle starter, AM/FM stereo with MP3 capatible six-disc CD changer, side-curtain air bags, XM satellite radio, rear park assist, power folding outside mirrors with redundant turn signals, universal home remote and tri-zone automatic air conditioning
$2,145 Navigation system
$1,295 Rear seat DVD entertainment system
$995 Power sunroof
$425 Power second-row seat release
$350 Power rear liftgate
$195 Rearview camera
*Add $875 for freight.
- If you need the space and towing power, this vehicle delivers.
- Active fuel management cuts off 4 cylinders when not needed.
- Option list longer than standard feature list.
- Carrying a Franklin to the gas station, but leaving without him.