More room, independent rear suspension, and more trim levels for 85-year-old SUV
A new Chevrolet Suburban is big. In dimension. In investment. In importance. As the sun sets on the current Suburban that came out in 2014 as a 2015 model, a new and massive three-row SUV with vast improvements takes its place, extending the life of the longest-running nameplate in automotive history at 85 years and counting.
The 2021 Chevrolet Suburban will go on sale next spring, riding on the same new architecture that underpins the Silverado 1500 and Silverado HD pickups, as well as its full-size SUV sibling, the 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe.
“It’s the biggest product program GM has ever done,” said Tim Herrick, vice president of global product programs. “It is unprecedented in size and scope, and amount of capital put on it.” He said at any one time there were 10,000 people working on the truck architecture overall. Their mission: differentiate the Chevys from their GMC counterparts, differentiate the light-duty trucks from the heavy-duty trucks and from the SUVs, and further differentiate the trim levels of each nameplate.
Like the pickups that grew in size, the Suburban also is officially massive. The 134.1-inch wheelbase is 4.1 inches longer than the outgoing model, and the overall length is up 1.3 inches to 225.7 inches.
The Suburban also gets, for the first time, a multilink independent rear suspension. Combined with the longer wheelbase, the lower cargo floor made possible with the new suspension created a packaging dream. The SUV can take three rows of passengers and offer those in the second row an extra 2.3 inches while the third row gets an additional 2.2 inches of legroom—a big difference as anyone who has taken a flight lately can attest.
Cargo room grows by 1.8 cubic feet behind that third row. Push a button to fold the second and third row seats flat (the current Suburban seats never quite got flat) and the maximum cargo room reaches 144.7 cubic feet, which is 23 more than the old model.
GM knows a good thing when it has it: It keeps Magnetic Ride Control. The damping system is standard on Premier and High Country and an option on Z71. The chassis technology to reduce bouncing, body roll, and vibrations is now paired with the new rear suspension and with Air Ride Adaptive Suspension that is an option on High Country and Z71 models. Air Ride offers load leveling at all four corners of the SUV and can adjust the vehicle height by 4.0 inches.
The 355-hp, 383-lb-ft 5.3-liter and 420-hp, 460-lb-ft 6.2-liter V-8 engines carry over, but the active fuel management system is replaced by the more efficient Dynamic Fuel Management. It is the same system that is in the light-duty pickups and is designed to keep fuel economy in check, especially since the new Suburban is bigger and heavier. In other words, don’t expect startlingly new EPA figures when they come out.
The most fuel-efficient option will be the new Duramax 3.0-liter I-6 turbodiesel that is available on all but the Z71. It generates 277 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque. It becomes a club of one: GM is alone in offering a diesel in a full-size SUV in the U.S.
All will be mated to GM’s 10-speed automatic transmission, and we applaud the death of the gearshift stalk, replaced by tasteful buttons on the dash, beside the touchscreen, leaving ample room for storage in the center console.
The design goal was to create six different expressions or personalities with the six trim levels, said Phil Zak, Chevrolet executive design director. And it was important to differentiate the Suburban from the GMC Yukon which we expect to see next year.
GM has been criticized for dull interiors. The SUVs take it up a notch from the pickups but still land below best in class. The cabin is more spacious, some of the materials are a nice upgrade, and stitching is accompanied by piping on the seats for a nice touch. The interior is brighter, with more greenhouse and a first-ever panoramic roof. Wheel sizes range from 18 to 22 inches.
A big advantage of the new architecture is the electrical bandwidth it provides to offer more safety and connectivity features. There is five times the data processing power of the outgoing model to support vehicle diagnostics and over-the-air updates.
In terms of connectivity, there is now a standard 10-inch color infotainment touchscreen; an 8.0-inch instrument cluster on top trim levels and 4.2-inch driver information center on LS, LT, RST and Z71; and a massive 15-inch head-up display that becomes a segment first.
For the back seat, there are available 12.6-inch screens on the backs of the two front seats. Passengers can share screen content or go their own way. There is a built-in Wi-Fi hotspot and easily accessible USB and power outlets, and the system is Apple CarPlay- and Android Auto-compatible.
The SUVs have 30 safety and convenience technologies including standard automatic emergency braking, and the nine different camera views make it possible to add rear pedestrian alert, forward collision alert, rear park assist and hitch guidance for trailering, automatic headlight control, and more.
The SUVs are built in Arlington, Texas, where GM has invested $1.4 billion USD since 2015 including a new paint shop, body shop, and other rip-ups to accommodate the deep changes to the vehicle.
“There are no vehicles like Tahoe and Suburban which have starred in Hollywood movies, carried military heroes and world leaders, and helped create countless family memories,” said Barry Engle, president of General Motors North America.
“We are here to win,” said Mark Reuss, president of General Motors. Suburban created the template for a family SUV in 1935 and GM is still following it. “The new versions will be just as dominant today.”