Full 2008 Chevrolet Suburban Review
What's New for 2008
Side curtain airbags are now standard on all models. The 3/4-ton Suburban 2500 now comes with a six-speed automatic transmission and stability control. OnStar's turn-by-turn navigation is now standard on LT and LTZ trim levels.
The first Chevrolet Suburban was introduced during Franklin Roosevelt's first administration. Nineteen presidential terms and 71 years later, the Suburban is still truckin', providing big families with the type of space and utility that today's growing onslaught of crossover SUVs just can't match.
Dramatically redesigned and improved last year, the 2008 Chevrolet Suburban continues to impress with its handsome and well-built interior, smooth V8 engines and improved road manners. As always, the big Chevy sports a traditional body-on-frame truck chassis with a solid rear axle, but body stiffness was increased last year and a coil spring front suspension was added to create a better ride. A new rack-and-pinion steering system improves handling, while more powerful brakes do a better job of halting the hefty SUV.
Few vehicles can seat eight people, let alone nine, and for those who truly need this type of seating capacity, the Suburban is really only matched by its GMC Yukon XL clone and a handful of full-size vans. Furthermore, its cavernous cargo hold and mighty towing ability are hard to beat. Competitors like the Ford Expedition EL and Nissan Armada offer advantages such as a fold-flat third-row seat, but overall we think the 2008 Chevrolet Suburban is an excellent choice among jumbo SUVs.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2008 Chevrolet Suburban full-size SUV is available in half-ton 1500 and 3/4-ton 2500 models. Both are available in two main trim levels -- base LS and luxurious LT -- and with a variety of packages. Most folks should be happy with the well-stocked LS, which counts a 40/20/40-front split bench seat, side assist steps, full power accessories (including six-way driver seat), dual-zone climate control, rear seat air-conditioning, a CD/MP3 player and a trip computer as standard features.
The LT comes standard with steering-wheel-mounted and rear seat audio controls, front bucket seats with a center console, foglamps and color-keyed exterior trim. Three major equipment groups are available on the Suburban LT: LT2, LT3 and LTZ. The LT2 package adds leather seating, an in-dash six-CD changer, power-adjustable pedals, remote vehicle starting and rear parking assist. Move up to the LT3 and these features are added: heated front seats (with 12-way driver adjustment) and a Bose audio system with satellite radio. The Convenience Package 2 adds heated washer fluid, rain-sensing front wipers and a power liftgate to the LT3.
Setting the Suburban LTZ apart are 20-inch alloy wheels, a locking rear differential, a power liftgate, rain-sensing wipers, power-folding second-row seats with heat, the Autoride rear air suspension and a third-row seat. Many of the features that are standard on upper trim/package levels, specifically the third-row seat, are available on the lower levels as options. Other major options for the Suburban include a navigation system, a rearview camera, power-retracting running boards and a rear-seat DVD entertainment system.
Powertrains and Performance
Chevrolet offers two V8s for the 2008 Suburban. Standard on the Suburban 1500 (half-ton) is a 5.3-liter V8 with 320 horsepower and 340 pound-feet of torque. Equipped with GM's cylinder deactivation technology, this V8 promises better than normal fuel efficiency to the tune of 14 city and 19 highway for 2008. A 6.0-liter V8 that pumps out 366 hp and 380 lb-ft of torque is optional on LT3 and LTZ trims. Both 1500 V8 engines come with a four-speed automatic. A 6.0-liter V8 matched to a six-speed automatic that packs 352 hp and 383 lb-ft of torque comes on the Suburban 2500 (3/4-ton). With either the 1500 or 2500 model, buyers have a choice of either rear- or four-wheel drive. An automatic locking rear differential is optional on all trims except the LTZ, on which it's standard. Properly equipped, the Suburban 2500 can tow up to 9,700 pounds.
Four-wheel antilock disc brakes are standard on all Suburbans, as are stability control and GM's OnStar emergency communications system. Turn-by-turn navigation has been added to OnStar on LT and LTZ models. A three-row side curtain airbag system with a rollover sensor is standard on all Suburbans. In government crash tests, the 2008 Chevy Suburban was awarded a top five-star rating for protecting the driver and passenger in a frontal collision.
Interior Design and Special Features
Like the rest of GM's full-size SUVs and trucks, the Suburban's interior is a marked improvement over past iterations. Materials quality is good, fit and finish is spot on and controls are logically laid out. Depending on how you equip the Suburban, it can seat six to nine people -- a total surpassed only by full-size vans. Cargo capacity is also immense, with a maximum of 137.4 cubic feet -- a full 40 cubes larger than a Nissan Armada and a few more than the Ford Expedition EL. Although the Suburban's second row is available with a power-folding feature, the optional third-row seats must be removed manually to optimize cargo space. Based on our experience, those dense seats feel like they're constructed of depleted uranium and removing them requires not only a strong back but the ability to wrestle them out from deep inside the interior.
For such a big truck, the 2008 Chevrolet Suburban is fairly quick and can get to 60 mph in less than 9 seconds. However, the 5.3-liter V8 Suburban doesn't feel nearly so quick when carrying a load of passengers. Plus, dipping into the power will quickly pull mileage down to the low teens. There are only so many ways to trick physics: Depending on the model, a Suburban can weigh anywhere from 5,600 to 6,300 pounds. A new suspension with coil-over shocks up front and a five-link setup out back along with rack-and-pinion steering make for more composed handling and a smoother ride than before. But with its hefty curb weight, the Suburban doesn't feel nimble around corners -- not that that should come as a surprise. Aimed for the horizon on an interstate, there aren't many better cruisers than the 2008 Suburban. The cabin is quiet at speed, and the ride is comfortably controlled over bumps.