A first-hand look at the 2021 Chevrolet Suburban
The first Chevrolet Suburban – the Carryall Suburban – entered the scene in 1934. That makes the Suburban the longest continuously used nameplate in the industry. And, without question, the first SUV!
A week with the 12th generation of Chevy’s big hauler provided a first-hand look at what has allowed the Suburban to remain viable so long.
Size, capability and longevity
This large body-on-frame vehicle can carry seven or eight people and their wares, tow 7,700 pounds and do so for decades and hundreds of thousands of kilometres.
The Suburban is based on the same platform used for GM’s full-sized Silverado and Sierra trucks. That provides the foundation for the functionality that allows it to be a workhorse as well as a passenger vehicle. The separate body on a boxed steel frame is also the reason the Suburban has proven to an exceptionally long-lived purchase.
For this latest generation, the Suburban received what might be the most significant upgrade in its history – independent rear suspension
The rudimentary solid rear axle that allows pickups to haul or handle massive loads has been replaced by an independent rear suspension. This alone has transformed the Suburban in three areas – ride/handling, passenger comfort and cargo space.
By allowing each rear wheel to operate independently, the new Suburban has a far more comfortable ride on less than perfect surfaces. It also has an alacrity in the turns unheard of in previous generations.
The elimination of the hump necessary to clear the centre differential affixed to the solid rear axles allows the floor of the vehicle to be lower. The lower floor means third row occupants can actually sit in a normal manner instead of with their knees at the same level as their armpits.
The new platform, and a 10-centimetre longer wheelbase, results in 25 centimetres more of third-row legroom and 66% more space behind the rear seat than the outgoing model. The cargo floor is not only substantially lower, it is flatter when all the seats are folded down. Chevy says the Suburban provides more cargo space than any other utility vehicle.
There are dozens of other updates and upgrades on the new Suburban, but that single change beneath the rear gets my gold award.
New turbocharged Duramax diesel is a sweetheart of an engine
The new Suburban is also once again available with a diesel engine, a new turbocharged inline six-cylinder producing 277 horsepower and more importantly 460 lb-ft of torque.
Developed specifically for truck applications, where towing is a major factor, this is a sweetheart of an engine, quiet, immensely strong and truly stingy. I managed to see mileage slip under seven litres per 100 km with little effort on flat roads. That’s about half what I’ve experienced in similar size trucks with a V8 engine. Hybrid territory in a giant 6,000-pound truck!
The 2021 Chevrolet Suburban Duramax diesel – the gift that keeps on giving
Obviously more common mileage will be in the 8-9 litres/100 km range on the open road. Anyone who drives a gas-powered truck will tell you that is exceptional.
The 2021 Suburban comes in LS, LT, Z71, RST, Premier and High Country trims. The standard engine in all but High Country models is GM’s venerable 5.3-litre V8. The High Country gets a 6.2-litre V8.
The new 3.0-litre turbo diesel is a $2,000 option in all but the High Country where it is a no-cost alternative to the gasoline engine. The diesel produces more torque than the 5.3 and matches that of the 6.2 V8.
Using a calculator and highway mileage numbers of 12.0 litres/100 km for the 5.3 and 8.9 for the diesel, it doesn’t take long to see the diesel repays that $2,000 added cost in short order.
At no extra cost in the High Country version, the savings begin immediately. The 6.2-litre V8 is rated at 12.6 litres/100 km – 44% more than the diesel! The fact Suburbans often tally hundreds of thousands of miles means the diesel is the gift that keeps on giving.
This big brute doesn’t come cheap!
The after-tax bottom line for the as-tested High Country Suburban had six figures to the left of the decimal place -$107,500.
That number included an awesome adaptive air side suspension with automatic ride height, combined with magnetic ride control. The ride matched the limousine-like demeanor of the big boat.
Luxury abounds inside as does head, leg and shoulder room. Suitably, the suspension lowers the entire vehicle for ease of entry and exit and raises as you get underway, lowers again at highway speed for better aerodynamics and can be raised even further should you venture where the all-wheel-drive system is needed. The suspension offers up to 10-cm of ride-height adjustment.
That exceptional ride quality will be appreciated on long highway hauls while the newfound alacrity will bring a smile to your face when the road develops the bends.
The way this big brute handles and responds to steering belies its size and weight.
The High Country also gets everything from perforated, heated and cooled leather seats to a lengthy list of luxury car features. As befits a vehicle designed to carry a large number of occupants, the Suburban, especially in High Country trim provides an array of entertainment choices and connectivity features from a WiFi hotspot to numerous charging ports.
The increased level of technology is enabled by an all-new digital platform with five times the processing power of the outgoing version.
Until now, the Chevrolet Suburban lacked the refinement expected at its price. For the 2021 model, Chevrolet has all but re-invented its oldest nameplate. Bigger in this case is indeed better.
FACTS & FIGURES – 2021 Chevrolet Suburban 3.0L Duramax Diesel 4WD High Country
As tested: $93,463 including freight
Premium infotainment system with connected navigation,26-cm HD colour touchscreen, Bluetooth streaming for two devices, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability, voice recognition, cloud connected personalization
Keyless start, eight-way power driver seat, four-way power passenger seat, heated and ventilated front seats, heated second row seats, power release second row bucket seats, power folding third row seat, 1.5 kw electric heater, perforated leather seat trim, integrated trailer brake controller, engine block heater, hitch guidance with hitch view, 22-in premium painted wheels, advanced trailering system, trailer side blind zone alert, heated power tilt & telescope steering wheel, 38-cm colour heads-up display, programmable power door locks, universal home remote, power windows, memory settings for two includes: driver seat, rearview mirrors, tilt/telescope steering wheel; tri-zone automatic climate control, two 120-volt outlets, rear camera mirror, rear cross traffic alert, front pedestrian braking, rear pedestrian alert, lane change alert, blind zone alert, lane keep assist and departure warning, forward collision alert
Power floor console, $400; iridescent pearl tri-coat paint, $1,195; High Country Deluxe package (adaptive cruise control, panoramic power sunroof, max trailering package, power-retractable assist steps with perimeter lighting, air ride adaptive suspension), $5,805; illuminated Chevrolet emblem, $165.
Turbocharged, 3.0 litre in-line six-cylinder diesel, 277-horsepower, 460 lb.ft. of torque. 10-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel-drive. NRCan rating (litres/100km city/highway): 11.3/12.0
Length, 5,733-mm; wheelbase, 3,406-mm; width, 2,060-mm w/o mirrors; weight, 2,768-kg
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