Overview sourced from AutoBlog:
The Chevrolet Suburban can tow a sizable trailer. It can safely transport up to nine passengers. And, equipped with genuine four-wheel drive, it can haul a load of cargo over primitive roads. It’s an adept workhorse and arguably the best SUV you can get for towing trailers.
For 2011, Suburban is available with a new towing package that includes an integrated brake controller. 2011 Chevrolet Suburban models come with more standard equipment than last year’s models, including Bluetooth and upgraded trim. The 2011 Suburban LTZ 4WD comes standard with a two-speed transfer case, allowing low-range operation, and chrome recovery hooks. Launched during the Great Depression in 1936, the Suburban was completely redesigned for the 2007 model year.
The Suburban can hold 137 cubic feet of cargo, or up to nine passengers and 45 cubic feet of cargo, or myriad combinations in between. Two weight classes are offered, the normal 1500 and the heavy-duty 2500. The 2500 is a good choice for towing trailers.
The Suburban is available with two-wheel drive or four-wheel drive. The 1500 and 2500 are available in LS and LT trim levels, and the 1500 is also available in a more luxury-oriented LTZ trim level.
Suburban 1500 models come with a 5.3-liter V8 engine of 320 horsepower, 335 pound-feet of torque and a 6-speed automatic transmission. The engines in 1500 models with two-wheel drive have an iron block, while models with four-wheel drive have an aluminum block; both versions have aluminum heads. Fuel economy for a Suburban 1500 is an EPA-estimated 15/21 mpg City/Highway.
The Chevy Suburban can seat six to nine passengers, and even with all seats filled still has more than 40 cubic feet of cargo area.
Cargo space is plentiful, with 137.4 cubic feet of storage behind the front seats (second row folded, third row removed); if you aren’t interested in cargo space you don’t need a Suburban. With all the seats in place and set for passengers, 45.8 cubic feet of cargo space is available, with 90 behind the second row with the third row removed. You’ll need to lift stuff about two-and-a-half feet off the ground to load the cargo area, and rear side doors without wheel cutouts make entry and loading much easier.
Given the lift-over height at the rear bumper, it’s not easy to climb up in through the back to reach things, especially since there are no grab handles; nor are there standard hooks or nets in the back. But there is a nice compartment over the left wheel well, for tools, flashlights, snow chains or the like.
Smart storage space abounds. The huge console has deep storage and a tray on top. There are two cup holders in a removable tray forward of the console, and one in each wide door pocket. There’s a slot in the dash just to the left of the turn signal, perfect for coins or tickets.
The driver’s seat offers a good view over the low dash, perhaps the best visibility in truck-dom. The seats are designed for American comfort rather than European firmness, and can be ordered with heat and cooling. The front seats are bucket seats on most models, but a bench seat can be specified to allow three passengers in the front.
The second row can be outfitted with a bench seat or a pair of buckets. The bench seat is split, so the right third of the seat folds independently of the left to allow curb-side entry to the third row; it also allows skis or boards on the right with two passengers on the left. With bucket seats in the second row, you can climb into the third row from either side; the second-row buckets can be released at the touch of a button, and are heated if you option right. Only full-size utilities and crossovers, minivans, and Ford’s Flex offer the kind of room you find in the first two rows of the Suburban.
The third row seat has three belts but just two headrests, and it splits 50/50 right down the middle where a center passenger would go. It’s really only good for two people. The third-row seats do not fold flat with the floor, so if you want a long flat load deck to camp, carry building materials or dog boxes, you have to unbolt the third-row seats and leave them at home (our recommendation if you don’t need them).
Third-seat room is good compared to most three-row SUV and crossover vehicles which aren’t as long, as wide or both.
Cabin materials and style show a pleasant feel and appearance more car-like than utility appliance; with woodgrain trim, and leather in the upper models, the only reason to upgrade to an Escalade ESV would be more power, but you’d lose 4WD trail ability in the process.
Analog instruments are more responsive than in any other (non-GM) big SUV, clearly labeled and nicely lit, as easily read at night as in daylight; gauges include a voltmeter, oil pressure and transmission fluid temperature. Steering wheel buttons handle audio and cruise chores, plus the message display panel on most models and the interface is fairly intuitive. Upper trims have adjustable pedals and the steering wheel tilts but it is offset and angled slightly to the right of the driver seat centerline.
The navigation and audio system is easy to operate. It includes a touch-screen monitor. We set the programs we liked, and could switch from an XM to AM to FM to digital file with one finger push. OnStar has been further refined, XM real-time traffic data is available.
With the navigation system, the rearview camera displays a large image of what’s behind you onto the display screen whenever you shift into reverse. It can help you spot a child or shopper when backing up. It also makes parallel parking quicker and easier, and it makes hooking up a trailer much easier. Without navigation, the image is displayed one the rearview mirror, which is small and hard to see.
The Suburban 1500 engines are rated at 320 horsepower at 5200 rpm and 335 pound-feet of torque at 4000 rpm. All Suburban engines have a fuel shut-off feature, called Active Fuel Management, that cuts fuel to half the cylinders when full power is not needed. This will be most noticed on level ground at moderate, steady speeds. You won’t notice when it changes back and forth, because it’s very smooth. And it delivers big benefits in fuel economy.
All Suburbans have four-wheel antilock disc brakes and StabiliTrak electronic stability control. Like any vehicle with ABS, press the brake pedal as hard as you can and steer and disregard any buzzing noises or vibration; that means it’s working and is your best way to avoid an obstacle or accident.
Guiding a Suburban is effortless, the steering nicely weighted and direct by truck standards. At 18.5 feet long and 6.6 wide the Suburban isn’t ideal for congested areas but it’s quite maneuverable for its size; it needs 43 feet of road to make a U-turn (45.3 for the 2500), but that’s just a yard more than some two-seaters and small sedans. So, it’s pretty good, in other words. And because of its boxy shape the corners are reasonably well defined; available rearview cameras and park sensors make it easier to parallel park but it won’t drop right in. An available blind spot alert system adds a warning if you didn’t see the vehicle next to you; like all such systems it focuses on your car and not what might be next to any trailer you’re towing.
The Suburban’s 130-inch wheelbase and nearly three-ton weight contribute to a good ride quality, one of the best for any vehicle with a solid rear axle. Some competitors have independent rear suspensions that enjoy an advantage on rough roads and for spirited driving. Some people believe you must have a solid rear axle for towing and they are a bit easier to maintain, but extreme-duty vehicles like the Humvee and Mercedes Unimog successfully used independent rear suspensions. In any case, the Suburban has the traditional setup for towing.
Autoride suspension is standard on LTZ. It monitors the road surface and driver inputs and adjusts damping as needed, optimizing the blend of ride comfort and handling grip, and also limits body roll in heavy cornering. The self-leveling rear suspension aspect of Autoride might help while towing but it is no substitute for a proper weight-distributing hitch.
By default all Suburbans are set up for towing, but for larger loads, such as anything more than a twin-axle bass boat trailer, consider opting for the trailer towing package (more engine oil and transmission fluid cooling), larger outside mirrors, and the integrated trailer brake controller. (Note that the controller may not work with electro-hydraulic trailer brakes as on some higher-end RVs; so consult your dealer.) A Suburban with this tow package is a fine tow vehicle, indeed. We’ve done major cross country tows over frozen highways and the Suburban performs admirably in this type of duty.
The Chevrolet Suburban has always been a very capable sport utility vehicle and big on practicality for month-long excursions or weekend wipeouts. It is big, powerful, smooth, and, with the 6-speed automatic, decent on fuel consumption. Suburbans are designed with towing in mind and offer room to bring the big family and all the things that go with them.
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