The 2017 Chevrolet Suburban is the archetype for all traditional truck-based, sport-utility vehicles. It's enormous, with a massive steel ladder frame under it for maximum strength, and every version comes powered by GM's legendary small-block V8 engine. Not that at 5.3 liters the small-block is actually small in displacement or, at 355 horsepower, power production.
Except for an interruption during World War II, Chevrolet has kept the Suburban in constant production since 1935. And for most of its history, the Suburban has been the sort of vehicle that transported railroad crews to far-off worksites or taken students in university geology departments out looking for abnormal sedimentary rock formations in the desert. It is in fact the oldest model name in automotive history.
For 2017 the Suburban line has a few updates. First, the top-of-the-line model is now called the "Premier." Second, there's now an automatic low-speed emergency braking system integrated into the available forward collision warning system. For paranoid parents, Chevy now offers a standard teen-driver location management system to supplement the traditional threats to dock allowances, ground them for a month or make them walk the dogs. And finally there's a reminder now to check the backseats for any stray kids left back there before they grow into teenagers who will need location management and threatening.
Keep in mind that the Suburban is 203.9 inches long overall. That's one-tenth of an inch short of 17 feet and weighs in at a linebacker more than 5,000 pounds. But all that vastness is used to accommodate up to nine passengers in three rows of seats. Then there's still some room for their toys and luggage, too. And if that's not enough, well, it can also tow up to 8,300 pounds.
Behind that 355-hp small-block V8 all Suburbans use a six-speed automatic transmission. When fitted with standard rear-wheel drive the EPA rates the Suburban at a commendable (for its size) 19 mpg combined (16 city/23 highway). When equipped with four-wheel drive, those numbers drop to 18 mpg combined (15 city/22 highway).
When it comes to competition, there's the GMC Yukon XL, the luxury liner Cadillac Escalade EXT and the long-wheelbase Ford Expedition EL. The Cadillac and the Denali version of the Yukon XL are available with a 420-hp, 6.2-liter version of the small-block V8 that may be attractive to some buyers willing to pay the freight for it. And the Expedition EL has a 365-hp turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 under its hood.
If you need maximum passenger, cargo and towing potential in an SUV, you can't go wrong with the Chevrolet Suburban. But it always pays to know exactly what you want before it becomes exactly what you're buying. So use the tools here on Edmunds to do your research and get a great deal from a great dealer.