We Americans generally like big things. Not just “XXL” big but Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam, Empire State Building, Deep-in-the-heart-of Texas, where’s my 10 gallon hat big. The problem with this, at least when it comes to cars, is that big seems to have fallen out of vogue in the last couple of decades. In today’s automotive world it’s all about small, compact, neat, tidy. We have vehicles such the Prius, the Fit, Civic, Fiesta and (gag) the Smart car.
It wasn’t all that long ago that driving something big was the norm. Big Cadillac’s, and Lincoln Towne Cars, Buick Electras and Chevy Caprices floated over the American highways only two decades ago. Sadly though, thanks in large part to high gas prices, not many big cars are prowling the American roads these days. The Cadillacs of today are condensed versions of what they once were; the Towne Car is no more, replaced by a smaller version that uses only odd combinations of letters and numbers instead of an actual name. The Electra is nothing more than a ghost and what passes for a Caprice these days could easily fit in the backseat of a Caprice from the 1970’s.
That’s not to say that all this downsizing is a bad thing. Still the sad fact is the automotive graveyards are littered with relics of vehicles that once took up an entire lane; like dinosaur bones in a museum, we can only gaze upon what once was.
There is one exception however.
While other behemoth vehicles have gone extinct, there was one that survived. In fact not only has it survived, it has been present for near time immortal, at least when it comes to automobiles. The Chevrolet Suburban has been around since 1935, the longest surviving automotive nameplate in production in the world. Through a World War, Elvis, Hippies and Steve Jobs, many things have come and gone. Throughout all of that however Chevy has sold Suburbans and Americans have driven them. While other once big, proud, vehicles remain as mere shadows of their former selves, the Suburban is still big, still takes up an entire lane and is still very relevant.
When we were offered a week with the 2015 Suburban recently, quite honestly we didn’t know what to expect. Oh sure, we knew they were still around, but until you actually see one in person, you don’t realize how massive they really are.
For 2015 Chevrolet gave the Suburban a makeover making it the 12th generation. It’s a much needed redesign that seems to give what once seemed like nothing more than a big box on wheels more character. And in keeping with the “big” moniker, the 2015 model is two inches longer and an inch wider than its former self.
The redesign didn’t stop on the outside. The interior lines now flow better giving more style. The 8-inch touchscreen control center has been mounted higher and within easier reach of the driver. The instruments got an upgrade as well. The gauges and touchscreen are reminiscent of its Cadillac SRX cousin, which in our opinion is one of the best vehicles on the road today. The new interior design has more ergonomic touches and seems more refined.
The second and third row seats fold flat creating a near auditorium amount of cargo space. There is now almost two inches more legroom for the second row passenger, which also allows for easier entry and exits. You can also get up to six USB ports and six power outlets including a 110-volt three-prong outlet. Then there is an available rear seat entertainment system with duel screens and a Blu-Ray/DVD player.
Chevy offers the Suburban in three trim levels. There’s the base LS, midlevel LT and luxury LTZ. Seating for eight is standard, however there are two optional seating arrangements, one that drops the count to seven the other that brings it up to nine.
The base LS is loaded. It comes with 18-inch alloy wheels, rear privacy glass, roof rails, remote ignition, rear parking sensors, and a rearview camera. There are also, automatic wipers, tri-zone automatic climate control, cruise control, power front seats, a leather-wrapped tilt-only steering wheel, OnStar, Bluetooth phone connectivity and a six-speaker sound system with HD and satellite radio, a CD player, an auxiliary audio jack, two USB ports and an SD card slot.
There is also the optional Driver Alert package includes power-adjustable pedals, forward collision alert, lane-departure warning and a vibrating safety alert seat.
The LT adds the Driver Alert package along with a power liftgate, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, driver memory settings, an eight-way power passenger seat with power lumbar, heated front seats, leather upholstery, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, additional interior power outlets and a nine-speaker Bose sound system with three additional USB ports and the 8-inch Chevrolet MyLink touchscreen interface. Second-row captain's chairs (power- or manual-release) are optional for the LT. Add the Luxury package and you get foglights, front parking sensors, power-folding and driver-side auto-dimming mirrors, keyless ignition and entry. In addition there is a power tilt-and-telescoping heated steering wheel, heated and power-folding second-row captain's chairs (dropping the seating capacity to seven), power-folding third-row seats and a blind-spot monitoring system with rear cross-traffic alerts.
We had the LTZ as out test model. This top of the line Suburban gets the Luxury package equipment plus 20-inch alloy wheels, adaptive magnetic suspension, xenon headlights, heated and ventilated front seats with additional lumbar adjustment, and a premium 10-speaker Bose surround-sound audio system.
We also had the Sun, Entertainment & Destinations package, an option available for the LT and the LTZ. This adds a sunroof, a navigation system and a rear-seat entertainment system with a Blu-Ray player. Also optional on the LT and LTZ is a Theft-Deterrent package that includes vehicle motion sensors, glass break sensors and a self-powered horn for the alarm.
Power comes from a 5.3 liter V-8 rated at 355 horsepower and 383 ft-lbs of torque. That power is delivered to the road through a Hydra-Matic 6L80 six-speed automatic transmission, featuring TapShift control, Tow/Haul mode and Auto Grade Braking.
While the fuel mileage may not be very impressive, an EPA rated 15 city, 22 highway and 18 combined, for a vehicle this size it’s actually not that bad. And what makes that better is when you actually get the Suburban on the road. While it’s no speed demon, the power is more than adequate for everyday use. On the road, the ride is very smooth and the exterior noise is nearly nonexistent.
We really enjoyed our time with the Suburban. Maybe it’s our longing for the past when big cars ruled the road, or maybe it’s the fact that no matter what has happened in the automotive world, Chevy always has, and if the 2015 model is any indication always will, make a big SUV that people love to own. We give it a big thumbs up, pun intended.
Yes, the Suburban is big, really big. And that’s a really good thing. There are still those who want, need, a big vehicle and the Suburban delivers. We may never see hordes of big vehicles floating across the highways of America again, but it’s good to know that they still exist. The Suburban has been around almost since the dawn of automotive time, and there’s no reason it won’t be around for many more years to come.
The 2015 Chevrolet Suburban
MSRP (as tested (4wd ½ ton LTZ)): $71,385
Engine: 5.3 L V8 horsepower 355 hp @ 5600 rpm torque 383 ft-lbs. @ 4100 rpm
Fuel Mileage (EPA Estimates): 15 city, 22 highway, 18 combined
Fuel Mileage (As tested): 24 in mixed conditions
Width 6 ft. 8.5 in. (80.5 in.)
Height 6 ft. 2.4 in. (74.4 in.)
Length 18 ft. 8 in. (224 in.)
Ground clearance 0 ft. 7.9 in. (7.9 in.)
Wheel base 10 ft. 10 in. (130 in.)
Front head room 42.8 in.
Front hip room 60.8 in.
Front leg room 45.3 in.
Front shoulder room 64.8 in.
Rear hip room 60.3 in.
Rear head room 39.1 in.
Rear leg room 39.7 in.
Rear shoulder room 65.1 in.
maximum towing capacity 8300 lbs.
maximum payload 1796 lbs.
Gross weight 7300 lbs.
Curb weight 5546 lbs.
Cargo capacity, all seats in place 38.9 cu.ft.
Maximum cargo capacity 121.1 cu.ft
3-year/36,000-mile Bumper-to-Bumper Warranty
5-year/100,000 mile powertrain includes 24-hour roadside assistance
2-year/24.000 miles scheduled maintenance