Mountain Wheels: Supersized Chevy Suburban can add outrageous supercharged power
Members of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Press group got a sneak preview of this week’s Denver Auto Show, running through Sunday evening at the Colorado Convention Center — with a whole lot of metal on hand for shoppers and auto enthusiasts.
We’re looking forward to more time this spring and summer with a range of new models, including the much-discussed Jeep Gladiator mid-size pickup, an updated and futuristic looking Mazda3 hatchback and the new Plus version of the all-electric Nissan Leaf — itself a pretty solid contender with 214 horsepower and an enhanced 62-kwh battery that allows up to 226 miles of range between charges.
And we also got a chance to see both the new Chevy Blazer SUV, a very modern rendition of a familiar name in the off-roading family, plus the gargantuan 2020 Chevy Silverado HD, available with a 6.6-liter Duramax turbo-diesel engine putting out 910 lb.-ft. of torque (a figure only slightly edged out by the equally over-achieving Ram 3500, whose 6.7-liter Cummins diesel now produces an unbelievable 1,000 lb.-ft. of torque).
Speaking of truly out-of-control, four-digit automotive capability, I have to jump directly to the most ridiculous iteration available of this week’s featured machine, a 2019 Chevy Suburban I got to drive earlier this winter.
Suburban is certainly no slouch in the power department, whether equipped with the standard 5.3-liter Ecotec3 V-8 or the optional 6.2-liter V-8 I had in my Premier edition tester — part of a package of upgrades that pushed its $68,300 base price to $81,770, but gives the truck 420 horsepower and a sophisticated 10-speed automatic transmission.
I have always suspected you could get a little bit more power out of that platform, and buyers can now take part in the automotive arms race seen in the muscle car world by equipping their stock Suburban or Tahoe with either 810- or 1,000-horsepower high-output supercharged upgrades.
Specialty Vehicle Engineering works with Chevy dealers to provide a certified (and perhaps certifiably insane) rebuild of the 2019 Suburban or Tahoe. The company, not surprisingly, recommends a heavy-duty transmission upgrade if you’re subbing in their 810-horsepower, 6.8-liter engine for the standard 5.3-liter and its six-speed transmission — though it’s still conceivably winter-ready as it’s compatible with a four-wheel-drive donor vehicle.
Or, go for the gusto and get the 1,000-horsepower 6.8-liter V-8 — 875 lb.-ft. of torque, battle-hardened features and that bomb-proof transmission added as a standard feature, though you can only get it in a two-wheel-drive build. Upgraded exhaust is standard, suspension lowering is optional and oversized front brake upgrades are very much a necessity.
Will it go like hell? Oh yes. Is it expensive? Absolutely — just under $45,000 on top of the initial vehicle purchase price for the 810-horsepower build, and almost $67,000 extra for the 1,000-horsepower machine, though you can do this with the genuine approval of your Chevrolet dealer.
We could also go down the rabbit hole and talk about aftermarket ballistics upgrades to make your Suburban literally bulletproof, but let’s get back to the factory machine.
My black-on-black Premier was absolutely built for primo livery or Uber service, but would also make a pretty impressive personal vehicle, with blacked-out badgework, smoked brakelamps, darkened window trim, roof rails, door handles and mirrors — even a darkened grille.
About the only remaining chrome at all was around the bowtie emblem up front, the double-decker LED headlamp boxes or the fantastically audacious black-painted, chrome-edged 22-inch wheels. Red performance brakes were also added for giddy appeal, and happily not tasked with reining in 580 additional horsepower.
Inside, Suburban is showing a little age, especially compared to the recent upgrades to the Silverado family, but it’s been marginally gussied up and also got some incredibly heavy-duty front and rear floormats to handle winter gunk.
Sadly, the old-style switchgear, the faux wood trim and that slightly claustrophobic transmission hump — all bathed in the brownness of a cocoa interior — don’t quite live up to the intense flash of the exterior, but buyers still seem to dig that.
The rear also seems oddly austere compared to many imports of equivalent pricing, though my optioned-out model did add dual overhead DVD screens and seat heat in the second row, but your third-row passengers get a single 12-volt outlet for their amenities.
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