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Not only is the Chevrolet Suburban the most pure niche vehicle in the sport utility/van/minivan spectrum, you might say it's the only one of its kind. (Please note that the GMC Suburban is the same vehicle marketed under a different name.) While essentially a people carrier, the Suburban has body-on-frame construction and other pickup characteristics that help distinguish it from the popular minivans or big traditional vans. Sure, this vehicle is meant to haul people and cargo, but it's also meant to pull with pep - boats, trailers campers, snowmobiles, trail bikes and just about anything else you can imagine.
Our Chevy Suburban K2500 (the K denotes 4WD; the 2500 means it's a 3/4-ton vehicle) had a base price of $22,417. We added the Silverado trim level and options including front/ rear air conditioning, tinted glass, power assists and more, and the price zoomed to $32,507. That's substantial. But keep in mind that completely equipped versions of the smaller Jeep Grand Cherokee and the Ford Explorer go for about 30 000. Then consider that the Suburban is an eight- or nine-passenger, off-road vehicle with serious towing potential, and the price doesn't seem so far out of line.
When driving the Suburban, we were in awe of this big vehicle with its long stature and wow turning diameter of 46.4 feet. On a wide street, we couldn't make an uninterrupted U-turn without driving over the curb.
Our vehicle had the standard tried-and-true 5.7-liter, 190-hp V8 engine. With the Chevy Suburban, there are two other power options: the 7.4-liter, 230-hp V8 or the 6.5-liter, 190-hp V8 turbo diesel. If you're looking for maxxed-out torque and pulling power, the 7.4-liter V8 puts out a mountain-moving 385 pound-feet of torque at 1,700 rpm.
The standard 190-hp V8 was fine for most of our applications, but it did seem to run out of steam at just above minimum freeway cruising speeds. If you're going to do a lot of driving with substantial loads, we recommend one of the optional engines.
The power steering performed well and provided good feedback, handling the turning requirements of this moose with ease. We gave our Suburban's standard anti-lock brakes high marks for their smooth, sure stopping ability.
As we would expect from a long vehicle-219.5 inches on a 131.5inch wheelbase-the ride was smooth and stable. An effective conventional suspension of front independent torsion bars and rear multi-leaf springs and shock absorbers was tuned for a great combination of performance and load-carrying capability.
The standard transmission on the Chevy Suburban is a four-speed automatic with overdrive and electronic shifting. It was a heavy-duty unit to handle the 4WD aspects, and we found it to be flawless.
If our needs required a people carrier with genuine towing capability, we would definitely consider the Chevy Suburban. After all, it's about the only vehicle in the field that qualifies, which helps account for why it's been around so long.
We liked the big V8 because of its power and 7,000-pound towing capability. We also like the security and flexibility of the 4WD. To appreciate the combination, imagine trying to pull a heavy boat on a trailer from the water and up a steep, slippery ramp. It's no chore for the faint-hearted.
Sure, for this kind of power you're going to sacrifice some fuel efficiency, but the Suburban's 42-gallon fuel tank should ease any anxiety. Besides, if mileage is a big concern, you could always forgo some power and opt for the turbo diesel.
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