2015 Chevrolet Suburban

March 24, 2014
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2015 Chevrolet Suburban

Pop quiz: What’s the oldest vehicle nameplate in America? If you know that distinction belongs to the Chevrolet Suburban, which has been in continual production since 1935, award yourself a cookie. (From your own cupboard. We’re eating ours.) And as you read this, the 2015 Chevrolet Suburban—the 12th generation—is arriving in dealerships.

Unsurprisingly given its longevity, the Suburban has a loyal base of owners who value large carrying capacity, serious—8000-plus pound—towing capability, and the butch appeal of a truck-based mechanical layout. So there are no major upheavals with the new model, even though the last new Suburban was introduced back in 2005. Instead, the focus of the 2015 model was to perform its traditional tasks with more style, greater comfort, and better efficiency.

Charting the Changes

The ’Burban is still basically a big box, but the 2015 is more chiseled and interesting to look at. There’s a strong character line running down the body side just below the beltline, a slightly higher hood, and a flatter and more raked windshield. New headlamps employ projector beams, and LED illumination provides signature lighting at both ends. Overall, the new model is about two inches longer, two inches lower, and about an inch wider than its predecessor.

To order your new 2015 Chevrolet Suburban rival with a brand new 5.3L V8 FFV 6-speed Automatic for only US$18,000.

2015 Chevrolet Suburban

Inside, the previous model’s flat, clifflike dashboard has been replaced by a far more sculpted design, with an eight-inch LCD touch screen mounted much higher in the dash for easier viewing. The infotainment controls are clearly grouped below the screen, with the HVAC controls below that. When you order the navigation system, you get greater functionality with more extensive voice activation. We found it to work well during the press introduction.

Much richer materials are used inside, including soft plastic, and there are yards of French stitching in the upper trim levels. There’s plenty of storage, including two mid-level bins in the front doors and a truly cavernous central bin below the armrest that has lips for hanging file folders. The glove box is surprisingly small, however, so we hope you have small hands.

2015 Chevrolet Suburban dash

You can now get a power-tilting-and-telescoping steering wheel in addition to the familiar power-adjustable pedals, so there’s no excuse for not finding a good driving position. Front head- and legroom are increased by meaningful amounts, along with fractional increases in the second- and third-row seating space. More important, the second- and third-row seats now fold to produce a flat—although slightly rising—surface. On the upper trim levels, the third-row seat folds and unfolds with a switch just inside the luggage compartment; the second row flips down and then forward via the press of a button—although you must manually unfold those seats.

The downside of this arrangement is a six-inch-thick shelf added to the cargo floor, raising the lift-over height and reducing the cargo capacity. With everything folded, cargo volume drops from 137 cubic feet in the old Suburban—with the third row completely removed—to 121. Behind the third row, the volume is now 39 cubic feet, down from about 46 before.

Going Around the (Small) Block

As in the smaller 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe, the Suburban is propelled bythe latest gen-five small-block V-8, here displacing 5.3 liters. With direct fuel injection, this engine gets a higher compression ratio, boosting power and torque by more than 10 percent, to 355 horsepower and 383 lb-ft. At the same time, EPA city and highway mpg each rise by 1 and 2 mpg to 16 and 23 on rear-drive models; the four-wheel-drive version sees a 1-mpg increase on the highway to 22.

On the chassis side, the Suburban gets upgraded body mounts, aluminum front control arms, and more precise location of the rear axle and wheels, which are available in 18-, 20-, and 22-inch diameters. Newly spec’d tires have improved grip to reduce stopping distance and aid cornering while retaining all-season capability. Electric power steering is now standard because it reduces fuel consumption by about 0.5 mpg. Top-of-the-line models get magnetorheological magnetic ride control shocks to reduce the compromises between ride and handling.

A Tame Beast

Behind the wheel, you immediately appreciate the additional power. In the cut and thrust of urban traffic, the greater muscle and quicker reactions of the recalibrated six-speed automatic transmission make the big machine feel far more responsive than before, like an offensive lineman who’s gone to a pre-NFL combine training academy.

2015 Chevrolet Suburban

The electric power steering provides reduced steering effort in parking lots and surprisingly good on-center highway feel, as well as nice effort buildup on winding roads. A redesigned braking system provides solid, confident pedal feel while remaining easy to modulate.

At higher speeds, the interior noise level is impressively hushed, thanks to improved door sealing and laminated front side glass, making the Suburban a great highway cruiser. On back roads, the Suburban never lets you forget you’re piloting a big machine, but it is impressively stable and well controlled. Even when you’re rushing it along, there’s little roll, and it has good body control. (As if you’ll apex your Suburban. But we had to find out.)

The downside is a firm ride that doesn’t do much to disguise bumps and can toss your head around on uneven pavement. Those who live in rough-road regions would do well to take a test drive before buying and perhaps shy away from the larger-diameter wheels that come with shorter-sidewall tires.

2015 Chevrolet Suburban interior

New features such as the four-inch LCD in the instrument cluster bring the Suburban fully up to date, as do options such as adaptive cruise control, available proximity entry and start, rear cross-traffic alert, a heated steering wheel, two types of video players for the passengers, and onboard 4G connectivity.

Pricing is up from roughly $1000 to $5000, depending on trim level, but that includes additional standard equipment. Add $3000 to any base price for all-wheel drive. But many Suburbans are bought heavily loaded and cost more than $60,000 already, so this doesn’t represent a large out-the-door increase. For customers who have always liked big vehicles, need big capabilities, and prefer an SUV as their family hauler rather than a minivan, a 2015 Chevrolet Suburban is somewhere with your name on it.

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