Mountain Wheels: Why not? Grab a Chevy Suburban, while you can (review)
2017 Chevrolet Suburban 4WD ½ Ton LT
MSRP: $58,155; As tested: $66,020
Powertrain: 355-HP 5.3-liter V-8 with six-speed automatic transmission
EPA figures: 18 MPG combined (15 city/22 highway)
Let me cut to the chase this week: If you’re looking for a vehicle perfectly suited for the times, I heartily recommend a Chevy Suburban, especially with the cop-tastic, blacked-out Midnight Edition package.
I know, I know — you may have heard news in the last couple of weeks that the entire United Kingdom plans to outlaw gasoline and diesel-engined vehicles by 2040, or that Swedish automaker Volvo plans to drop its gasoline engines entirely by 2019.
Meanwhile, it was leaked last week that General Motors will probably suspend production of its Volt hybrid and a cast of other medium-sized sedans because, here in the U.S., big and gasoline-powered is selling … well, bigly. Dropping the Volt seems a particularly ill-timed decision, but … heavy metal is king in America at this point, so the car companies are making hay.
I spent some time in Europe this summer and the biggest non-public-transit vehicle I saw on the roads was a Jeep Grand Cherokee. When people asked me what folks in Colorado drive, I said, “Suburbans, or giant trucks, usually just by themselves. Or Subarus. But they really like Suburbans.” People did not quite know what to say about that.
All of this might sound like backhanded praise for the long-running king of the American SUV — they’ve been making a Suburban of some kind or another since 1935, and the new one is a pretty ominous, spiffy and generally well-rounded WMD of a car.
I did indeed enjoy rolling around in the extra-blackened ½ ton LT model — most of the chrome, minus the window trim, has been deleted (even the bowtie is black), giving it the look of some sort of Special Ops/Secret Service/ICE urban assault vehicle.
People generally slowed down well below the speed limit, and then flipped me off when they saw the California plates. As Coloradoans now do by instinct. Universally.
The strangest thing happens, however, when you get behind the wheel of a Texas-built, 224-inch-long, three-row beast with a whopping 121.7 cubic feet of cargo room (almost 40 cubic feet even with the third row seating up): You totally relax. Completely.
Despite the Silverado-derived body-on-frame layout and the gigantitude of the 20-inch wheels and huge tires (wheels blacked out, of course), it’s a curiously smooth-running machine and almost eerily quiet inside, even when bombing along in cop-for-a-day fashion.
I am sure the feds get theirs with gussied-up Corvette engines or something; your standard choice with Suburban is now a 5.3-liter V-8 with variable valve timing, direct injection and cylinder deactivation. The resulting 355 horsepower will probably serve your purposes, and got me a respectably disrespectable 19 MPG overall (GM suggests up to 22 on the highway).
Upgrade to the Premier model (which replaces the LTZ name) and you can add Cadillac-sourced magnetic ride control, for an even smoother round of high-gloss rolling on its 22s.
Grandeur means not just interior space but towing capacity, and Suburban is now rated at 8,000 pounds for the 4WD model I tested.
It’s also pretty sharp, even if it’s still the entry point to the Yukon Denali/Escalade climb to glory; the hard-edged cubic zirconia body style of those models is a little softer here, though you might have trouble finding this one in a darkened parking lot at night.
Hoist yourself aboard and the seating is indeed vast and comfortably leathery, which the Luxury Package on mine repeated in the second and third rows (second-row seats are heated, as well).
I see I may have been speaking slightly out of turn about the largesse of Suburban’s third-row legroom versus punier vehicles of all stripes. Access is certainly easy — push a button, pull a tab or hit the hand crank to flop the second-row seats out of the way — but there aren’t exactly acres of foot or leg room for those third-row folks.
Your buddy toting the SCAR-H on your drives probably should sit in the second row, now that I think about it — the preferred Secret Service configuration, as I remember from Obama-era entourages in D.C.
Style inside is understated compared to the GMC or Cadillac versions, with an abundance of plastic trim (that’s all you get for your third-row elbows) and a bit of wood-styled trim up front. A smidge of chrome-plastic surrounds and some highlight stitching round out the lite-luxe feel. Some stylish new digital graphics for the instrument display are the primary concession to modernity.
Second- and third-row seating all folds nearly flat, with carpeted backing, providing that super-ginormous cargo space, albeit at more than waist height.
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