Used 1997 GMC Suburban Review
Edmunds expert review
What's new for 1997
Gaze down the side of a Suburban and all you see is steel and more steel, stretching rearward. Hike yourself aboard and you can't help but feel you're in a truck, ready for the long haul--which is exactly what pleases many owners of these biggies. Compact-vehicle fans have a hard time grasping the appeal, but full-size "truck wagons" have been luring more and more upscale motorists.
GMC claims this mammoth combines the comfort of a luxury sedan with the "tenacity and utility of a packhorse." Except for the nearly-identical Chevrolet model, also named Suburban and priced just slightly lower, there was nothing else quite like it on the market, until Ford crashed the party this year with the new Expedition.
For 1997, GMC has added a passenger side airbag and a power lock switch in the cargo compartment. SLE and SLT trim now includes rear heat and air conditioning, as well as remote keyless entry. Uplevel SLT trim also includes a combination CD and cassette player stereo system. All Suburbans receive speed-sensitive power steering, and 4WD models have a tighter turning circle. Two new colors freshen the dated exterior design this year.
Inside, the modern instrument panel holds a selection of white-on-black analog gauges with zone markings and red-orange needles. Climate controls are easy to grasp and use, within easy reach of each occupant. Dual cupholders ease out of a compartment at the center of the dashboard, but are poorly located so that beverages sit in front of the air vents. Three assist handles help entry/exit. Passenger car tires make less rough-and-tumble Suburbans ride smoothly and quietly.
Despite its pickup truck heritage, the Suburban produces a stable and reasonably comfortable, if not exactly cushiony, ride--at least until you stray away from smooth pavement. We do wish the driver's seat backrest didn't feel reclined when in its most upright position. Gasoline engines tend to guzzle as expected, and if you're planning to carry heavy loads much of the time, or haul a trailer, give the big-block Vortec 7400 V8 a whirl before deciding to accept the base engine.
The Suburban is one our favorites. It's a no-holds barred, no apologies kind of truck that can carry or tow just about anything you'd want to move without professional assistance. With a strong lineup of engines and more room inside than Expedition, we'd take the Suburban so long as we could live with it occupying the driveway rather than the garage.
Edmunds expert review process
This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.
We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.