2013 Chervolet SuburbanPosted on August 21st, 2013
The family wagon evolved
By Nina Russin
People seem to have a love/hate relationship with the Chevrolet Suburban, which doesn’t make a lot of sense. Because of its size and corresponding fuel economy, the Suburban is not a car for everyone, nor was it every meant to be. For the right buyer, however, it’s an excellent choice due to the spacious passenger cabin, towing capability and surprisingly good handling.
Buyers can choose between two and four-wheel drive versions in three trim levels. For those needing more than the half-ton Suburban’s 8100-pound towing capacity, a three-quarter ton version tows up to 9600 pounds. The half-ton model comes with a 5.3-liter V-8 engine rated at 320 horsepower, and longitudinally mounted six-speed automatic transmission.
New for 2013, powertrain grade braking functions when the transmission is in regular mode, as opposed to tow/haul mode only. The feature uses engine torque to slow the Suburban down on steep descents, saving the brakes.
Three rows of seating are standard for all models. Buyers can choose between captain’s chairs or a bench seat in the second row. Depending on the configuration, the suburban seats 7-8 passengers. Rear seats fold down in a 50/50 pattern and are removable.
The test car is the upscale half-ton LTZ priced from $56,190, excluding the $995 destination charge. Options include a rear seat DVD entertainment system, power sunroof, trailering package that adds engine oil and transmission coolers, special exterior paint and a trailer brake controller, bringing the final MSRP to $60,195.
Test drive in Phoenix
This past week I had the opportunity to test-drive the Suburban around the Phoenix and Scottsdale metropolitan areas. Once I got used to the car’s 130-inch wheelbase, I was very impressed by how well the vehicle handles.
One of the biggest problems with a large, high profile vehicle is peripheral visibility. Engineers addressed the issue by making a rearview camera and blind spot monitoring standard equipment. I had no more problems weaving through dense freeway traffic than I would have in a smaller car.
The engine and transmission are well matched to the vehicle. The 5.3-liter block has ample power off the line and in the critical 20-to-50 mile-per-hour range drivers use on highway ramps. The transmission progresses smoothly through the gears with no perceptible shift shock under normal driving conditions.
Although the Suburban’s 17 mile-per-gallon average fuel economy might not seem particularly good, it’s considerably better than in former years, thanks to cylinder deactivation technology that automatically cuts out engine cylinders when the car is cruising at a steady speed or decelerating. A high-profile vehicle weighing 5700 pounds isn’t going to average 30 miles-per-gallon unless the engine is diesel, and even then it’s an iffy proposition.
The suspension was one of the biggest differences I noticed between the new Suburban and earlier models. The half-ton truck features a four-wheel independent setup (the three-quarter ton has a solid rear axle), with a coil-over-shock setup in front and five-link design in the back. Going through a decreasing radius turn on a cloverleaf freeway ramp, I was delighted to see the vehicle hunker down and glide. There was no detectable roll.
Automatic ride leveling and sway control help the driver to maintain directional control when towing a large trailer.
The other huge improvement is in braking. For years, GM trucks suffered from mushy feeling brakes. No more: massive discs on all four-wheels stop the Suburban in firm, linear fashion.
Steering consists of a power-assisted rack-and-pinion setup that provides plenty of assist for low-speed maneuverability with good on-center response on the highway. The turning circle is huge: 43 feet. It’s a factor of the Suburban’s long wheelbase.
Engineers did a good job of minimizing road, engine and wind noise into the interior, which is especially important in an eight-passenger car.
Living room on wheels
Inside, the Suburban has all the comforts of home, including plush leather seats with seat heaters in the first and second rows, a Bose surround sound audio system, navigation, satellite radio, automatic climate control and Bluetooth hands-free interface.
Two-position memory makes it easier for multiple drivers to share the car. Adjustable pedals enable smaller drivers to adjust the seat upwards high enough to maintain good forward visibility.
Remote vehicle start allows the driver to pre-heat or cool the vehicle: something that came in handy at the height of the Phoenix summer heat. One thing that always impresses me about GM cars is the air conditioners. They blow ice cubes, quickly cooling down a 140-degree interior to something quite comfortable.
It goes without saying that the Suburban can easily hold a bicycle: several with the rear seats removed. Standard roof rails and cross bars on the test car let families to add a roof rack for additional storage when all eight seating positions are occupied.
The Chevrolet Suburban comes with front, side and side curtain airbags, traction control, stability control, tire pressure monitoring, hill start assist, trailer sway control, blind spot monitoring, and a rearview camera. Standard OnStar automatically notifies police and emergency medical personnel if the vehicle is involved in a serious collision.
Chevrolet builds the Suburban at its Arlington, Texas assembly plant.
Like: A spacious, versatile sport-utility vehicle that carries up to eight passengers, can tow a large trailer and has a remarkably car-like ride.
Dislike: Its high MSRP excludes some members of the target market.
Model: Suburban 2WD ´ Ton LTZ
Base price: $56,190
As tested: $60,195
Horsepower: 320 Hp @ 5200 rpm
Torque: 335 lbs.-ft. @ 4400 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Off-road: Yes (4WD version only)
Fuel economy: 15/21 mpg city/highway.2013, Luxury 2013, Active Lifestyle Vehicles, auto review, Chevrolet, performance, pricing, standard safety
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