The big GMC Suburban just may be the most efficient method of moving people and cargo short of a Greyhound bus or a tractor-trailer rig. At more than 18 feet in length, the four-door Suburban is one of the biggest and heaviest family vehicles you
can buy. For such a large vehicle, it's also extremely comfortable and very easy to drive. For now, General Motors, which markets the Suburban under the GMC and Chevrolet nameplates, has no competition, but Ford and Dodge are busy designing their
own Suburban-like vehicles. PERFORMANCE Two- or four-wheel drive, gas or diesel you can order the Suburban just about any way you want it. The base engine is a 210-horsepower 5.7-liter (350 cubic inch) V-8. On heavy-duty models, a special,
lower-compression version of the 5.7-liter engine is standard. You also can buy the Suburban with a massive 7.4-liter (454 cubic inch) gasoline V-8 that provides enough power to tow 10,000 pounds. Or, if you would use the Suburban on long highway
trips, then the more fuel efficient 6.5-liter turbocharged diesel V-8 engine might make the better choice. Our test vehicle, an SLE model, came with the standard 5.7-liter engine, a power plant that provided excellent performance and decent fuel
economy. The Suburban has a curb weight of better than 5,500 pounds. That means its cast iron V-8 engine has a lot of weight to pull, yet it does so smoothly and without hesitation. Acceleration is moderately brisk, shifts are crisp and well-timed,
and there's plenty of power for passing slower traffic on the highway. All Suburbans are built with a computer-controlled four-speed automatic transmission. On an extended highway trip, the Suburban got 16 miles per gallon with the air conditioner
running. Our red and gray Suburban test vehicle traveled just over 400 miles in combined city-highway driving before emptying its 42-gallon gas tank. HANDLING The Suburban maybe a large and heavy vehicle, but it is fairly agile, and it's
surprisingly easy to maneuver. For instance, driving in and out of tight places such as parking lots presents no problem because GMC engineers made the steering system light, so the wheel is easy to turn. Sometimes though, the vehicle's size can
cause a problem. It's so big, you really have to watch when you back up. The ride is another surprise. The Suburban is exceptionally smooth and very quiet at highway speeds. Perhaps all that weight just flattens out the bumps. In any case, very little
energy generated by bumps and road imperfections finds its way through the Suburban's frame and chassis to the interior. Only on very rough terrain will you notice that the body undulates slightly. The suspension system - coil springs and shocks up
front and a leaf spring axle in the rear - offers nothing very high tech. Yet it works extremely well. Brakes are another area where GMC engineers have done a good
job. The anti-lock disc/drum set up in our test vehicle offered strong, fade-free stops. However, the anti-lock system seemed to make a lot of noise, but it worked well and allowed the Suburban to remain easy to steer in an emergency stop. FIT AND
FINISH SLE stands for Sport Luxury Edition. Our test vehicle was indeed sporty and luxurious. It should be, what with $9,232 worth of options. The optional ($1,380) gray leather seats gave the test vehicle's interior a classy and rich ambiance.
The leather was soft and luxurious. The electrically adjustable front bucket seats can hold a body comfortably for hour after hour of driving. I took a seven-hour stop-and-go trip antique hunting up the east coast of Florida and felt fine after 250 miles.
Our test vehicle was outfitted with two rear bench seats, which gave the Suburban the ability to hold up to eight people. It also had a rear air-conditioning system and literally every user-friendly creature comfo
t item that you expect to find in a luxury car. For instance, our test vehicle came with a full gauge package, rear window defroster and rear wiper, cruise control, AM/FM stereo cassette with built-in equalizer, aluminum wheels, scads of power
equipment (mirrors, windows, locks, seats) and a large center console. I didn't really care for the two-tone paint scheme, gray over red. I think the Suburban would look much better all one color, such as dark metallic green. The only gripe I have
involves the fuel gauge. When the tank is about half empty, the fuel gauge fluctuates wildly when you go around corners. Other than that, I found the switches and controls easy to use and, in most instances, placed within quick reach. Door window
switches are lighted for nighttime driving. The big center console can hold large items, and it contains a cup holder. Visibility is generally good, though sometimes there is a rather large blind spot on either side but probably no worse a blind
spot than on any other large vehicle. All in all, the Suburban is a civilized workhorse. Specifications: Base price: $20,476 EPA rating: 13 mpg city/17 highway Price as tested: $30,348 Incentives: None Truett's
tip: The GMC Suburban is the ultimate family utility vehicle. It's versatile, well-built and strong, and the buyer can outfit it to suit nearly any purpose, from towing heavy loads to hauling people.