One check of the 2021 Chevrolet Suburban’s vital statistics is clear evidence of its mission as one of the largest and most capable haulers available. General Motors’ would say that has been the case since the first Suburban rolled off the assembly line for the 1935 model year.
The latest generation, which was introduced for 2021, performs its tasks while appearing more fetching. It joins the similar GMC Yukon XL and Cadillac ESV in GM’s arsenal of plus-sized utility vehicles.
Compared with the previous model, the Suburban is about 3.5 centimetres longer and there’s more than 10 extra centimetres of distance between the front and rear wheels. The result is added passenger room across three rows of seats (the second-row bench now slides fore and aft over a 14-centimetre range).
The Suburban is also considerably larger and more spacious than its closest non-GM rival, the Ford Expedition Max. However the 4,090-kilogram maximum towing capacity out-pulls the Suburban by 320kg.
Chevrolet has cooked up a sharp-looking body that belies its increased dimensions. The curved front end and grille are neatly rendered, and the creases extending along the doors, quarter panels and around the fender openings effectively break up what would otherwise have been acres of shapeless sheetmetal.
Uniquely designed LED taillights in translucent cases add to the Suburban’s modern look.
Front-seat passengers face a no-nonsense dashboard and controls with a blend of knobs and switches that complement the upright touch-screen. The Suburban now comes with dash-mounted transmission switches that replace the old-school column shifter.
The driver and up to seven additional folks should enjoy added ride comfort now that the Suburban comes with an independent rear suspension (IRS) that replaces the solid rear axle. This allows for a lower load floor behind the third-row seat and has also allowed Chevrolet to provide an air-suspension option. This helps keep the Suburban on a level footing when loaded with cargo and/or when pulling a trailer.
The three engine choices begin with a 5.3-litre V-8 with 355 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque. Optional is a 6.2-litre V-8 that puts out 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet.
A first for the Suburban is the option of a 3.0-litre inline six-cylinder turbo-diesel with 277 horsepower and 460 pound-feet. Aside from its stout pulling power (the torque peak is much lower than the 6.2 V-8’s), it’s rated at 11.3 l/100 km in the city, 8.6 on the highway and 10.1 combined. The 5.3 V-8 is rated at 14.3/11.8/13.2. For the diesel, lower consumption on the order of 23 per cent in combined city/highway driving is nothing to sneeze at. Adding all-wheel-drive has only a slight impact on these numbers.
On a 250-kilometre highway trip through winding, hilly countryside at speeds between 80 and 110 km/h, a fully loaded High Country model equipped with the turbo-diesel pulled down 8.4 l/100 km.
A 10-speed automatic transmission is standard across the line.
The base LS starts at $62,000, including destination fees. AWD adds $3,300. Opting for the turbo-diesel, which is also available for the LT, RST, Premier and High Country trim levels, increases prices by about $2,000, which would be offset over time through reduced fuel consumption.
The 6.2-litre V-8 is a bit thirstier than the 5.3 and is offered only in the High Country. That model will set you back $87,500. It comes with all-wheel-drive, constantly adjusting magnetic ride control, a head-up display that projects key driver info onto the windshield, and a rear-camera mirror that’s ideal for times when a full load renders a regular rearview mirror inadequate.
Obviously the Suburban will appeal to a narrow swath of buyers, but for those in need of big space, it’s the one vehicle that for one reason or another is impossible to ignore.
What you should know: 2021 Chevrolet Suburban
Type: Rear/ all-wheel-drive full-size utility vehicle
Engines (h.p.): 5.3-litre OHV V-8, (355); 6.2-litre OHV V-8 (420); 3.0-litre DOHC I-6 turbo-diesel (277)
Transmission: 10-speed automatic
Market position: There are few vehicles that can match the Chevrolet Suburban for passenger room, cargo space and towing capability, other than perhaps General Motors’ similar offerings from Cadillac and GMC.
Points: Massive yet elegant and a luxurious interior. • All three engine choices are more than up to the task, but the turbo-diesel excels in torque and fuel economy. • With the equally new Chevrolet Tahoe closing the size gap, buyers might find it more than adequate and less expensive. • Relatively affordable, if you can stick to more basic trim levels.
Active safety: Blind-spot warning with cross-traffic backup alert (opt.); adaptive cruise control (std.); front emergency braking (std.); inattentive-driver alert (n.a.); lane-departure warning (opt.); pedestrian detection (std.)
L/100 km (city/hwy): 14.3/11.8 (5.3 V-8, RWD)
Base price (incl. destination): $62,000
- Base price: $$65,100
- Comes close to equaling the Chevy for cabin space. Opt. V-6 makes 400 h.p.
- Base price: $74,800
- Relatively roomy model has room for seven people. A 381-h.p. V-8 is standard.
- Base price: $42,650
- Smaller, more affordable alternative offers three rows of seats. Opt. 276 h.p. V-6.
– written by Malcom Gunn, Managing Partner at Wheelbase Media