2008 Chevrolet Suburban 2500
2008 Chevrolet Suburban 2500 Expert Review:New Car Test Drive
New Car Test Drive
All-new, the ultimate towing SUV.
The Chevy Suburban has been thoroughly redesigned for 2007, which means it might be called 'all new,' although it seems odd to apply those words to something that's been around for 70 years. This is the 11th generation of the venerable Suburban. And despite the fact that the current times might be less friendly to the trusty old truck than before, with vehicles of its size being demonized for causing the melting of icecaps and whatnot, the Suburban is no dinosaur. It is needed. And it is loved by those who need it. It can tow heavy trailers and haul loads of people and gear, all at the same time.
The Chevrolet Suburban comes in three trim levels, with two- or four-wheel drive. It's available in light-duty 1500 or heavy-duty 2500 chassis. The latest generation of its 5.3-liter Vortec engine (downsized to 325 cubic inches from 350 in the old days) has an aluminum block and makes 310 horsepower with 355 pound-feet of torque. The optional engine is a new 6.0-liter mill, with an aluminum block and heads and variable valve timing, making 366 horsepower and 380 pound-feet.
The popular 5.3-liter (1500, 4WD) is EPA-rated at 15 City and 20 Highway miles per gallon, on regular unleaded, and it can also run on ethanol); the same truck with the 6.0-liter engine is rated at 14/18. Keep in mind that EPA ratings are usually high; you won't likely achieve those numbers.
Safety equipment on all models includes dual frontal airbags, anti-lock disc brakes with electronic proportioning, and electronic stability with anti-rollover mitigation and traction control. Full length airbag curtains are optional, but front side airbags are not available.
Another 6.0-liter engine, with an iron block, comes with the 2500 models. The 2500 also adds hydroboost to the brakes, a heavier suspension with leaf springs, and 16-inch truck tires. The 2500 4WD is rated to tow 9400 pounds, while the 1500 can tow 8000.
The styling changes to the new Suburban are subtle but significant, and handsome. The windshield is raked for better aerodynamics, and the chrome has been swept off the LS and LT. Inside, the dashboard has been lowered and instrument panel finally made tidy. The seats have been raised, giving a commanding view of the road with that lowered dashboard; with optional adjustable pedals, a driver of any size can achieve a comfortable and confident driving position.
The Suburban can seat from six to nine passengers, depending on the seats that are chosen. There are 137.4 cubic feet of storage behind the front seats, with the second row folded and third row removed. Behind the raised third row, there are still 45.8 cubic feet. This (and towing) is what the vehicle is all about: passengers and cargo. However, unlike a growing number of SUVs, the seats don't fold flat into the floor, unfortunate for outdoorsmen who view the cargo compartment as an occasional sleeping area. Setting a nine-foot fly rod in there without having to break it down is still a real luxury, however, and the back of the 'burb will accept other long items that are awkward to load into smaller rigs.
The all-new frame is stronger, stiffer and fully boxed (49 percent stiffer and 35 percent more resistant to twisting). The rigid new frame enabled the suspension to be redesigned, and a rack-and-pinion steering system is used, for the first time. The front track has been widened by three inches, and the rear by one inch. This Suburban rides and handles much sweeter than any before it: less undulation and more precision.
Considering the vehicle weighs nearly three tons (5745 pounds), the acceleration is strong, and the powerful sound of the engine under full throttle is satisfying. The four-speed automatic transmission is smooth, though most SUVs at this level now come with more flexible five-speed automatics.
The all-new 2007 Chevy Suburban comes in three models, LS, LT and LTZ, with each model available in either two- or four-wheel drive, and 1500 (half ton) or 2500 (three-quarter ton) chassis. The standard engine is GM's Vortec 5.3-liter overhead-valve V8, with Active Fuel Management (which cuts four cylinders when coasting) and flex-fuel capability (4WD only), meaning it can run on E85 ethanol. The new generation of this engine has an aluminum block and makes 310 horsepower with 355 pound-feet of torque. The optional 6.0-liter engine ($1095) is all aluminum with variable valve timing, making 366 horsepower and 380 pound-feet.
Another 6.0-liter engine, with an iron block, comes with the 2500 models. The 2500 also adds hydroboost to the brakes, a heavier suspension with leaf springs, and 16-inch truck tires.
There are three transmissions, all of them four-speed automatics, but with three levels of beefiness: Hydra-Matic RL60 for the 5.3-liter engines, RL70 for the aluminum 6.0-liter engine, and RL80 for the 6.0-liter in the 2500. They all have a Tow/Haul mode, which reduces shifting and makes the shifts quicker, so the transmission doesn't work so hard when pulling a big load. Transmission oil temperature is part of the instrumentation, along with a tire pressure monitor.
Standard equipment on the LS ($37,760) and LS 4WD ($40,560) includes cloth interior, power locks and windows, power steering and air conditioning, tinted windows behind the B pillar; roof rails (crossbars are $45 extra), folding heated mirrors, recovery hooks, a seven-wire trailer harness, 17-inch aluminum wheels, three power outlets, AM/FM/CD/MP3 sound system with eight speakers, center fold-down armrest with storage, overhead console, cruise control, 40/20/40 split front bench seat with six-way power adjustment for the driver, 60/40 second-row seat, and third row split bench seat.
The LT 2WD ($38,535) and 4WD ($41,355) come with front bucket seats and a floor console between them, rear audio controls, six-disc sound system, cargo shade, and optional 18- or 20-inch wheels.
The LTZ 2WD ($46,645) and 4WD ($49,250) come standard with leather interior, full-length airbag curtains, a 12-way power memory driver's seat, 20-inch wheels, locking rear differential, power adjustable pedals, XM Satellite Radio, and the Autoride semi-active electronic suspension, which uses body and wheel motion sensors to respond to road and driving conditions.
The Suburban 2500 comes in LS ($38,945) and LT ($39,705) versions. Four-wheel drive is available.
The Z1 Off-road Appearance Package ($1795) includes a different grille and fascia, rectangular rather than round fog lamps, body-colored wheel flares, satin chrome mirrors and door handles, tubular assist steps, 18-inch wheels with on/off road tires, off-road suspension package, exterior badging, different instrument cluster and two-tone interior trim.
Options include a navigation system ($2250), rear-seat entertainment system ($1295), power sunroof ($995), second-row bucket seats ($490), power release for those seats ($425), power liftgate ($350), rearview camera monitor ($250), park assist ($245), three-passenger third-row seat ($100), heated washer fluid system ($85 ), and 20-inch polished aluminum wheels ($1795). Other options include a locking rear differential, engine block heater, transmission oil cooler, power adjustable pedals, remote starter, and audio upgrades.
Safety equipment on all models includes dual frontal airbags, anti-lock disc brakes with electronic proportioning, and StabiliTrak, GM's electronic stability program with anti-rollover mitigation and traction control. Full length airbag curtains with rollover detection are optional, but front side airbags are not available. All Suburbans come with one year of OnStar; the OnStar operators will send help if the airbags deploy and you don't respond.
The new, 2007 Chevy Suburban has a square-jawed face that's smooth and rugged at the same time. It's a twin to the shorter Tahoe. The mesh grille is split by a gold Chevy bowtie, and the headlights are all business, nothing fancy, just good-looking function: big near-rectangles at the corners. They're halogen and do an excellent job of lighting up the road. The bumper fascia reveals a low license-plate holder sandwiched by openings for tow hooks, with small round fog lamps at the corners like single teardrops falling from the headlamp eyes. The seam between the fascia and fenders is very tight, and an indication that GM is improving its build quality.
Rake has been added to the windshield, improving the aerodynamics and looks. The hood has two long bulges at its sides, extending from almost the windshield to almost the grille; Chevy calls these twin bulges the power dome.
The rear liftgate is still vertical, and the rear window opens independently, with both the manual and power liftgate, which is aluminum, reducing the weight and thus the effort to raise and lower it. Our test model had the convenient power liftgate. Split doors are not available.
The Suburban LT looks clean and stylish from the side, without chrome trim. Too bad the thick five-spoke wheels are boring, costing the 'burb an opportunity to look real sharp. Seventeen-inchers are standard but 18-inchers are optional, as are 20-inchers that are too big for grown-ups and degrade the ride.
The Chevy Suburban can seat six to nine passengers. Our test model with the LT3 equipment group was equipped to carry seven, with a 60/40 second-row seat for three, and a two-passenger third-row seat. Many other SUVs can carry seven passengers without taking up so much space on the road, but the passengers are cramped (and these SUVs can't ever carry nine). Our second row had the fold-and-tumble system with optional power (one button on the dash, another on the C pillar to be used by the third-row passengers upon entering, or for grabbing cargo through the rear doors), a $425 option that saves a struggle. A motor drives the seatbacks down against the seats, and together they flip up against the back of the front seats.
Cargo space is plentiful, with 137.4 cubic feet of storage behind the front seats (with the second row folded and third row removed). With all the seats in place, set up for passengers, 45.8 cubic feet of cargo space is available.
The seats don't fold flat into the floor, however. This just does not seem right to us. GM says its customers don't care enough to justify the expense. We care, and would much prefer the seats fold perfectly flat; it's a feature we loved on older Suburbans. Outdoorsmen like to sleep back there, either when camping or when pulling over to nap on a long drive home after a long day in the field. Another benefit of a flat floor is when hauling dogs around. Apparently, no one in GM's focus groups fit these descriptions. We view this as a big step backward.
There's good legroom in the second row, a slight increase over pre-2007 models to 39.4 inches, nearly as much as in the front. The seatbacks recline a bit more than before. In the base LS with the front bench seat, there's a fold-down armrest with cup holders; our LT was equipped with front bucket seats and a fixed, huge console having audio controls at the back for the second-row passengers. Wireless headphones go with the optional entertainment system with a DVD screen that drops down from the headliner.
There's good head room and relatively decent leg room (34.9 inches) in the third row, and a great view through the wraparound tinted glass. The third-row passengers have their own climate control vents, as do the second-row passengers. The HVAC system has been upgraded.
Given the lift-over height at the rear bumper, it's not easy to climb up in through the back to reach things, especially since there are no grab handles; nor are there standard hooks or nets in the back. But there is a nice compartment over the left wheel well, for tools, flashlights, maps or the like.
Smart storage space abounds. The huge console has deep storage box and a tray on top. The glovebox is 25 percent larger than on pre-2007 models. There are two cup holders in a removable tray forward of the console, and one in each wide door pocket. There's a slot in the dash just left of the turn signal, perfect for coins or tickets.
The dashboard has been lowered by six inches, and the seats redesigned and raised, with a more secure seatbelt mounting on the B pillar. They are very comfortable, in leather, with firmer foam, more bolstering and less lumbar. The seats are still plenty soft, not nearly so firm as a Mercedes SUV or Range Rover. The driver sits way up high, which especially appeals to women, and the optional adjustable pedals work for either long or short legs.
Interior trim is softer and less glossy than before. The instruments and gauges are finally clean and stylish, and the switchgear is simple. The touch-screen radio/navigation system is easy to operate. We set the programs we liked, and could switch from an XM to AM to FM with one finger push.
The rearview camera and monitor that's available is an excellent one, because the focus is good and the backup lights are bright. These cameras make turning around in tight areas much easier and make parallel parking both easier and quicker. They.
The new chassis is stronger, stiffer and fully boxed; many good things flow from there. If the last Suburban you drove (or owned, or still own) felt hinged in the middle and rode hummocks like a porpoise, the new and improved 2007 will dazzle you. The ride is steady and comfortable, and the handling is tighter and more precise. We drove our Suburban hard, from New York City north on the rough I-95 to Providence, R.I., and then back down over some twisty thruways that only a sports car, coupe or sedan could love, onto the tortuous Henry Hudson Parkway and finally into the depths of the potholes of the Big Apple. The Suburban was a dream.
Until it was time to park it. Then, in the city, it was simply a matter of finding an outside lot that could take all of its 18.5 feet. You can pretty much forget about parallel parking unless you find two spaces, even with the rearview monitor and backup beeper.
The new boxed frame is 49 percent stiffer and 35 percent more resistant to twisting. The front track has been widened by three inches, and the rear by one inch. The suspension has been totally redesigned, using coil-over-shock absorbers in front and a beefed-up five-link rear suspension around a solid rear axle (better for towing) in the rear. A power rack-and-pinion steering system is used, for the first time.
The upgraded suspension and steering have moved the Suburban into new territory: quality ride and handling. This results in safety through accident avoidance. The new frame also increases structural safety, as the forward section with hydroformed rails improves crushability.
Our Suburban was not equipped with AutoRide, the optional suspension that electronically adjusts to the road, as read by sensors. It reduces body lean in corners and nose dive under hard braking. If you drive your Suburban harder than we drove ours, or if you tow a lot, AutoRide might be considered.
The new, all-aluminum 5.3-liter Vortec V8 makes 310 horsepower and 335 pound-feet of torque (the other 5.3 liter, with an iron block and aluminum heads, makes 320 hp and 340 lb-ft). Either engine can run on regular unleaded fuel or cleaner-burning E85 (85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline). Ours was four-wheel drive, EPA rated at 15 city and 20 highway miles per gallon. We averaged just over 15 miles per gallon on our lead-footed four-hour run on winding and rolling thruways.
If you need more power for towing, which is what the Suburban excels at, you can get the 2500 (three-quarter ton) chassis and/or the 6.0-liter engine, making 360 horsepower and 380 pound-feet of torque, still using regular unleaded fuel. With 4WD, it's rated to tow 9400 pounds, compared to the 1500's 8000 pounds.
We were pleased with the acceleration, especially considering the vehicle weighs nearly three tons (5745 pounds), and we were happy with the powerful sound of the engine under full throttle. This is a V8 Chevy, after all. The four-speed automatic transmission is smooth, but we wonder what would happen to the fuel mileage if there were a fifth and taller gear, like most of the competition has. Fourth gear is a fairly tall overdrive with a ratio of 0.70:1, and the final drive ratio is 3.73:1 (4.10:1 is optional, for better acceleration and towing), so a fifth gear would seem called for, although we can't say we missed it. The big torque of this engine overcomes a lot.
The 5.3-liter engine uses GM's Active Fuel Management, which shuts down four of the eight cylinders when they're not needed. But the fly in the AFM ointment is that they're needed virtually all of the time except when the throttle is totally backed off, a time when the engine isn't sucking up gas anyhow.
The new brakes with vented rotors are bigger (13 inches in front and 13.5 inches rear) and the dual piston calipers are stiffer. It's an important safety consideration, especially when towing. The brakes worked well and were easy to modulate, something lack.
The redesigned 2007 Chevy Suburban is improved in every respect. The engine is more powerful and efficient. The body is more aerodynamic and the styling sleeker. The interior is more comfortable, convenient and cleaner. The new suspension has smoothed out the old wrinkles, and the new power rack-and-pinion steering has tightened up the handling. The mix-and-match options, especially with engines and seating positions, allow the building of a custom vehicle to suit your needs. It will still tow like a locomotive and keep as many as nine passengers happy while doing so. You can take your family and friends and houseboat to the lake in one neat swoop.
Chevy Suburban LS 1500 2WD ($37,760); LS 1500 4WD (($40,560); LT 1500 2WD ($38,535); LT 1500 4WD ($41,355); LTZ 1500 2WD ($38,945); LTZ 1500 4WD ($39,705); LS 2500 2WD ($38,945): LT 2500 2WD ($39,705).
Arlington, Texas; Janesville, Wisconsin; Silao, Mexico.
Options As Tested
LT3 equipment group ($4050) including leather seats, driver and passenger 12-way power heated bucket seats, adjustable pedals, remote starter, Bose sound system with 6-disc CD changer, full length air curtains, XM satellite radio, rear parking assist, power heated folding mirrors, universal home remote, tri-zone climate control; navigation radio ($2145); rearview camera with monitor ($195); rear-seat entertainment system ($1295); power sunroof ($995); second-row power release ($425); power liftgate ($350); roofrack crossbars ($45).
Chevy Suburban LT 1500 AWD ($39,665).
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