Used 1998 Chevrolet Suburban
Edmunds' Expert Review
In some sections of the country, wise middle-class folks have been tooling around for several years in mile-long Suburbans, whether or not they have great need for all that expanse behind the driver's seat. These days, throughout the suburban reaches of Houston and Dallas, among other spots, the Chevrolet and GMC Suburban have become de facto status-flaunting vehicles, pushing prices beyond the reach of the common man.
Yes, those who formerly wheeled about town in a Cadillac or Lincoln or Mercedes, and wouldn't feel quite right in a pickup truck, appear to have twirled their affections toward the biggest passenger vehicles in the General Motors repertoire. Chevrolet, in fact, considers the Suburban "as suited to the country club as to a roughneck oil field."
Mechanically, you get the same layout in the smaller Chevrolet Tahoe, but that vehicle is only available with Chevy's Vortec 5700 V8 engine. Select a Suburban and you can accept that motor, with 255 horsepower. Or, with the 3/4-ton C/K 2500 series you can go all the way, opting for the mammoth Vortec 7400 V8, whipping out 290 strutting horses and a mean 410 pound-feet of ground-tromping torque. Oh, there's also an optional turbo-diesel. Both the half- and 3/4-ton versions come with either two- or four-wheel drive, and all have four-wheel antilock braking.
This season brings a new optional four-wheel drive system. Called Autotrac, it automatically shifts from 2WD to 4WD when wheel slippage is detected, just like Ford's Control-Trac system in the similarly gargantuan Expedition. Also new is an Enhancement Package, which adds heated front seats, heated exterior mirrors, carpeted floor mats, a reversible rear cargo mat, an electrochromic rearview mirror with integrated compass and exterior temperature readout, a Homelink programmable three-channel transmitter, and 46mm Bilstein shocks. New colors are available for 1998, and a theft deterrent system is standard this year.
Suburbans can seat up to nine occupants and tow as much as five tons, when properly equipped. For families that need plenty of room for youngsters, or for retirees who need loads of power to haul a travel trailer, a Suburban can make good sense. Chevrolet is combating competition from Ford's new Expedition, but for heavy-duty use and maximum space, Chevrolet and GMC are still the only serious games in town for a mammoth "truck wagon."
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Over the last two years I've driven more of GM's full-size sport-utility vehicles than I can shake a stick at. I've driven Suburban, Tahoe and Yukon two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive models; some decked out in full LT or SLT regalia, others with minimal options. No matter what the configuration, the trucks have always been a hit with Edmund's staff members and their families. Their spacious interiors, powerful engines, stupefying cargo hauling and towing capabilities and strong good looks are just some of the attributes that Edmund's staffers have raved about when evaluating these trucks. Nevertheless, I wasn't thrilled to be taking delivery of another Suburban when it was dropped off late this spring. I mean, really, there's just so much praise you can pile on one truck!
I'm always surprised when a Suburban is delivered. Their sheer size and towering height seems to dwarf everything else in a parking lot. What surprised me about this model is that, even when parked next to another Suburban, it still looked huge. That's because this was not a regular Suburban, it was, in fact, a K2500, which is the Mac Daddy of the entire General Motors lineup.
The "K" in its name, along with all other GM full-size trucks, denotes that the model we tested was a four-wheel drive vehicle. (The "C" designation indicates a two-wheel drive product.) The "2500" indicated that our tester was the most heavy-duty version of the Suburban available.
What makes the K2500 so special? Well, there is the available Vortec 7400 V8 engine that makes 290 horsepower @ 4000 rpm and 410 foot-pounds of torque @ 3200 rpm. That's 30 more horsepower and 80 more foot-pounds of torque than a K1500 equipped with the Vortec 5700 is capable of making. This powerhouse enables the K2500 to tow 10,000 pounds, a full ton more than the vaunted Ford Expedition. There is also the size. The K2500 stands more than 1.5-inches taller than the K1500 and it weighs a healthy 400 pounds more.
Like GM's other full-size sport-utes, the K2500 is a pleasure to drive. Its towering height gives a commanding view of the road, and its big engines makes overtaking slower traffic on steep inclines a breeze. As we've noted before, the brake pedal feels mushy and the steering is a bit numb, but we think that this could be because GM engineers don't want a truck this size to handle too responsively. The big transmission in this truck shifts surprisingly smoothly under regular acceleration. I did, however, notice that the transmission shifts into reverse accompanied by an abrupt bump and shudder.
Despite its size, the interior of the big 'Burban is not as comfortable as it could be. The front seats are flat and mushy, secondary controls are a long stretch for the driver and the front seat cupholders are not placed strategically (The cupholders for the front seat passengers block the center air vents in the dash panel when in use). Thankfully, clambering aboard the K2500 is not as difficult as it appears. Despite it's impressive ground clearance, the K2500 was easier to enter than the last Ford Expedition that we tested, thanks to a lower step-in height. Second row passengers should be comfortable because of the huge amount of legroom and seats that seem to offer more support than the front chairs. Third row passengers, well, they may just have to lump it. Climbing into the third row seat of a Suburban, or any SUV, is a feat best left to gymnasts, contortionists or children with soft bones.
The K2500 Suburban is bigger and heavier than the K1500, and it can tow a little more. Nevertheless, I have to ask, "Who needs this thing?" It doesn't offer any more cargo area, comes with the same types of optional equipment, doesn't carry any more people, yet has a base cost of $1,584 more than the lesser model. Is $1,584 worth more horsepower, torque and a higher towing capacity? Not unless you're planning on dragging Rhode Island to the West Coast. The K1500 Suburban is more than up to the tasks that any normal family could throw at it.
Maybe that's the key, maybe the K2500 Suburban isn't for normal families. Maybe it is built for a race of giants who carry huge loads and tow entire mountains across the countryside. That must be it, because I can't think of another useful application for such a serious piece of machinery.
Chevrolet's Silverado pickup truck, the basis for the Suburban, has just been redesigned for 1999, and that means that the current Suburban day's are numbered. Furthermore, Ford is introducing an SUV based on their new Super Duty line of trucks that will be even bigger, God forbid, than the already huge K2500. So, if you are one of those mountain-hauling giants, you may want to wait awhile and see what your options are. You know, so the giants down the street don't show you up in a year.
Used 1998 Chevrolet Suburban Overview
The Used 1998 Chevrolet Suburban is offered in the following submodels: Suburban SUV. Available styles include K2500 4dr SUV 4WD, C2500 4dr SUV, K1500 4dr SUV 4WD, and C1500 4dr SUV.
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Should I lease or buy a 1998 Chevrolet Suburban?
Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.