What's New for 2009
Numerous equipment changes make their way onto the 2009 Chevrolet Suburban. Mechanically, there's a new, more efficient six-speed automatic transmission, which comes standard on all 1500 models. Inside, all trim levels now get the 50/50-split third-row bench and Bluetooth phone connectivity. The navigation system now comes with real-time traffic capability, and the nav system is now optional on the midlevel 1LT trim. All trim levels get a choice of two optional rearview cameras. A third-row DVD screen is now an available add-on for the rear entertainment system. Meanwhile, the top-of-the-line LTZ trim level gets standard heated and cooled leather seats and an upgraded audio system, as well as an optional blind spot warning system. Finally, models with the heavy-duty tow package have a new integrated trailer brake controller.
More than seven decades after its introduction, the Chevrolet Suburban is still virtually unmatched when it comes to space and utility. As always, this behemoth people carrier uses a traditional body-on-frame truck chassis with a solid rear axle. But despite its size, the Suburban boasts decent road manners, helped in part by a smooth V8 engine.
This year, all 1500 models get a new six-speed automatic transmission, which cruises at lower revs -- the result of which, Chevy claims, is increased fuel economy. The top-of-the-line LTZ, which previously was more of an equipment group, becomes its own trim level this year, and is stocked with plenty of features. Other notable additions include an optional third-row DVD screen and two rearview camera options -- one in the rearview mirror and the other integrated into the optional navigation system.
We'll forgo any discussion of the Suburban's gas mileage -- it's bad, you know it. But, for those who truly need nine-passenger seating capacity and a whole load of cargo space, the Suburban is really only matched by its GMC Yukon XL clone and a few full-size vans. The Ford Expedition boasts similar dimensions to the Suburban, but while the Ford offers slightly more torque, it only seats eight and is shy on horsepower in comparison to its competitor. There's also the Toyota Sequoia, which has plenty of brawn but not as much room as the Suburban. Overall, those needing tons of interior space as well as enough oomph to tow heavy loads will find a lot to like about the 2009 Chevrolet Suburban.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 Chevrolet Suburban full-size SUV is available in 1500 and heavy-duty 2500 models, each available in either two-wheel drive or four-wheel drive. All are available in the base LS and the midlevel LT (with two equipment subcategories, 1LT and 2LT). The top-shelf LTZ model is available as a 1500 only.
The LS comes standard with 17-inch wheels, side assist steps, a 40/20/40-split front bench seat, full power accessories, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, dual-zone climate control, rear seat air-conditioning, Bluetooth phone connectivity and an eight-speaker audio system with CD player, auxiliary audio jack and satellite radio. The 1LT trim level replaces the front split bench with front bucket seats and adds foglamps, luggage rack rails, rear audio system controls with two headphone jacks and additional power outlets (for a total of five). The 2LT package adds tri-zone automatic climate control, an upgraded audio system with six-CD changer, power-adjustable pedals, remote vehicle starting, a universal home remote and rear parking assist.
The Suburban LTZ gets 20-inch wheels, a power liftgate, a heated windshield washer fluid system, rain-sensing wipers, the Autoride rear air suspension, a locking rear differential, leather upholstery, upgraded heated and cooled front seats, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, power-folding second-row seats with heat, and an upgraded 10-speaker Bose surround sound system. Many of the features that are standard on upper trim levels are available on the lower levels as options. Other major options for the Suburban include 22-inch wheels, a heavy-duty tow package (now with an integrated trailer brake controller), a navigation system, power-retracting running boards and a rear-seat DVD entertainment system.
Powertrains and Performance
Chevrolet offers three engine choices on the 2009 Suburban 1500. Most versions come standard with a 5.3-liter V8 that makes 310 horsepower and 335 pound-feet of torque. On the 2LT and LTZ trim levels, a 6.0-liter V8 that pumps out 366 hp and 376 lb-ft of torque is optional. All 1500 engines are paired with a new six-speed automatic transmission.
Suburban 2500 models also come standard with a 6.0-liter V8, but it's a slightly different variant; it's rated at 352 hp and 382 lb-ft of torque. It's matched to a six-speed automatic as well, though it's geared for enhanced towing capability. 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 9,600 pounds.
Combined fuel economy for the 2009 Chevrolet Suburban ranges from about 14 mpg combined to 16 mpg combined, depending on the model and the engine. Obviously, towing and driving with a heavy load can drop these numbers significantly.
Four-wheel antilock disc brakes are standard on all Suburbans, as are stability control and GM's OnStar emergency communications system. A three-row side curtain airbag system with a rollover sensor is standard on all Suburbans. A new blind-spot warning system is also available on the LTZ trim. In government crash tests, the Chevy Suburban was awarded a top five-star rating for its protection of occupants in both frontal and side-impact collisions.
Interior Design and Special Features
Like other cars in GM's portfolio, the Suburban's interior has greatly improved over the years. Materials quality is good and controls are logically laid out. With its standard third row, the 2009 Suburban can seat up to nine people -- a total surpassed only by full-size vans. Although the Suburban's second row is available with a power-folding feature, the 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. Cargo capacity is immense, however, with a maximum of 137.4 cubic feet -- 17 cubes bigger than a Toyota Sequoia and a full 40 cubes larger than a Nissan Armada.
The 2009 Chevrolet Suburban is fairly quick for its size 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. And with a hefty curb weight of anywhere from 5,600 to 6,300 pounds, the Suburban, not surprisingly, doesn't feel nimble around city street corners. But the cabin is quiet at speed, and the ride is comfortably controlled over bumps. When superior passenger and cargo space is needed, there aren't many better SUVs than the 2009 Suburban.