One of the longest-running models sold in the United States, the Chevrolet Suburban debuted back in 1936. After serving faithfully for many evolutionary years as a truck primarily meant for commercial or rural use, the extra-large Suburban has increasingly become the go-to choice for families or those in need of class-leading passenger and cargo capacity, third-row seating and solid truck-based towing capability.
With stout underpinnings, strong powertrains, a comfortable ride and spacious seating for up to nine plus their cargo, the current truck is a very capable large SUV. A short list of competitive sport-utilities may offer more refinement and ultra-lux conveniences for more bucks, but the big Suburban (as well as its GMC equivalent, the Yukon XL) remains the only full-size SUV available in both light- (1500) and heavy-duty (2500) versions. It certainly comes recommended, and older models are also good choices for consumers desiring a used SUV.
Current Chevrolet Suburban
The Chevrolet Suburban full-size SUV is available in three well-equipped trim levels: LS, LT and LTZ. All are powered by V8s. Standard on the Suburban 1500 is a 5.3-liter unit making 320 horsepower and 335 pound-feet of torque. The 2500 gets a 6.0-liter V8 packing 352 horses and 382 lb-ft. Both are matched to a smooth and cooperative six-speed automatic transmission. A choice of two- or four-wheel drive is yours either way, and towing capacities can approach 10,000 pounds.
For such a big truck, the Chevrolet Suburban is relatively quick. However, the base V8 Suburban doesn't always feel so quick when carrying a full load of passengers or cargo. The suspension system is impressive, though, and provides composed handling and a smooth ride. The Suburban isn't exactly nimble around corners, but the cabin is quiet at speed and the ride is always comfortably controlled. When pointed straight down an interstate or out in the wide-open spaces, there aren't many better, more capable cruisers than the Chevrolet Suburban. Overall, it's a compelling choice for SUV shoppers with lots of people- or gear-hauling needs.
Used Chevrolet Suburban Models
The present-generation Chevrolet Suburban debuted for the 2007 model year. Compared to the previous Suburban, this version rides on an updated chassis that provides all of its prior strength along with a more comfortable ride and improved handling, performance and efficiency. These Suburbans also boast safety advancements like front seat side airbags, stability control and side curtain airbags for all three rows.
Originally, the 5.3-liter V8 was standard only on the LS and 1LT, and it produced 310 hp and 340 lb-ft of torque. The 6.2-liter V8 was standard on the 2LT and LTZ models at this time as well, but it featured a slightly lower output (366 hp, 376 lb-ft) than the 2500 version, which has remained unchanged. For 2010, the 5.3-liter became standard on every 1500 and adopted its current output. Another key difference is the standard four-speed automatic transmission on hand prior to 2008 on the 2500 and '09 for the 1500.
The previous-generation Suburban that debuted for the 2000 model year and lasted through 2006 was packaged more efficiently than before -- and although increasingly outclassed by newer competitors in its later years, its warehouse-sized interior made it an easy pick for families and home remodelers who truly needed to max out passenger and cargo space. Interior materials and fit and finish were merely adequate, however, and the exterior design was beginning to look a tad dated. Plus, it was still a brick aerodynamically.
It was slightly shorter than its predecessor, as earlier Chevrolet Suburban models shared much of their styling and powertrains with the GM full-size pickups on which they were based. Several trim levels and a couple modest V8s were available initially, but by 2001 the two "small-block" engines were up to 285 and 320 hp, and were still outpaced by an available new 8.1-liter V8 with 340 hp and 455 lb-ft of stump-pulling torque.
The Chevy Suburban inched further up the comfort scale as the years went by, but the big news for 2003 was the availability of an innovative Quadrasteer four-wheel-steering system on 3/4-ton models -- reducing the turning circle by a substantial 8 feet and also improving towing stability. The cabin was now more accommodating, too, with numerous improvements like tri-zone climate controls and available DVD entertainment, second-row captain's chairs and power-adjustable pedals. Updates including OnStar, steering-wheel audio controls and tire-pressure monitoring carried the big Chevy through 2006.
Previous to this, there was the Suburban from 1992-'99. After a long, enduring model run by the previous generation that extended from 1973-'91, the then-new '92 Chevrolet Suburban finally adopted the sleek body design and freshened interiors of its previously updated pickup truck siblings. In addition to handsome new looks, the completely redesigned next-generation Suburban boasted more glass area and a lower step-in height than its predecessor.
After a few years of detail improvements, redesigned seats and a new modular dashboard graced the Suburban's interior in 1995, and a year later daytime running lamps marked the adoption of several powerful new Vortec gasoline engines ranging up to 290 hp. For off-roaders, four-wheel-drive models substituted a modern independent front suspension and more convenient Insta-Trac electronic shift-on-the-fly transfer case. In 1998, four-wheel-drive operation was enhanced again with an optional AutoTrac automatic full-time 4WD system for set-it-and-forget-it convenience.
For more on past Chevrolet Suburban models, view our Chevrolet Suburban history page.