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This is the best vehicle to buy for anyone who needs to haul six or more people and cargo at the same time. You just can't beat the Chevrolet Suburban for its cavernous interior, strong torque for towing, off-road capability, and stable, comfortable ride for long-distance travel. Six or more people can travel in comfort, even in the third-row seat. And there's still room for stuff in back. Fold the seats down and this thing will move a mountain of cargo. It's a great companion for long trips, even when towing a hefty trailer.
The least-expensive base model is gone, but the Chevrolet Suburban continues to provide excellent value in a jumbo package. The Suburban was totally redesigned and re-engineered for 2000 and arrived with more powerful engines, a more rigid frame, re-engineered suspension that provided excellent handling, improved brakes and an upgraded interior.
The vehicle was vastly improved, and the improvements continued last year with even more horsepower for the 2500 model's standard 6.0-liter V8 engine and with a new 8.1-liter V8 available. Now, for 2002, the Vortec 5300 V8 can run on regular or ethanol-content fuel, electronic climate control is available if you order your Suburban with a sunroof, there's a new and special color scheme and the LS trim level gets more standard equipment.
In two-wheel drive, the LS starts at $35,443 and the LT at $38,209. In four-wheel drive, the prices are $37,056 and $39,906 respectively.
New standard equipment on the LS includes heated outside mirrors, with a self-dimming mirror on the driver's side, six-way power front seats, side-step assist steps, a rear window defogger, fog lights and a HomeLink Universal transmitter.
Available on 2002 models is a special Redfire Metallic exterior color with body-colored components, including the front bumper, bodyside moldings and wheel flares.
On LT models, electronic climate controls are available with a sunroof.
Ride quality in the Suburban 1500 is smooth, greatly improved over the previous-generation Suburban. The optional Premium Ride suspension features a hydraulically controlled rear self-leveling system to keep the Suburban at normal ride height even when carrying heavy loads. This system offered a good ride quality on the Suburban I drove.
The more sophisticated optional Autoride suspension system uses computer-controlled shock damping for improved ride quality over uneven pavement. Whether towing a horse trailer or picking up a soccer team, Autoride continually adjusts the suspension for optimum ride and handling. This technology also helps reduce dive on braking (so that the nose of the vehicle doesn't dip down unduly), and body roll (or lean) during cornering. Most people find the 1500 models meet their needs.
Chevrolet Suburban offers excellent handling for a big, heavy truck; and the steering provides better feel than previously. Driving quickly over wet pavement on mountain roads, we never lost traction. We drove into wet turns as quickly as we'd ever want to go in a Suburban and never lost grip. We were impressed. The frame is completely re-engineered. The entire front part of the frame is hydro-formed from one piece of metal and is far more rigid than a bunch of pieces welded together.
The 2500 models, often referred to as the 3/4-ton versions, are only needed for those who tow heavy trailers. Rated to tow up to 10,500 pounds, they effectively match the towing capacity of the Ford Excursion. Suburban 2500 will ride a bit harsher because its rear suspension uses leaf springs instead of the coil-springs used on the 1500. But the 2500 rides surprisingly well, given its load range, a big improvement over the previous-generation 2500 models and smoother than the big Ford Excursion.
Until 2000, Suburbans came with mushy brakes. You had to tromp on them to get the thing to stop. GM redesigned the brake system to address this. The pedal now works smoothly and progressively, which makes is easier to stop without drama. A Dynamic Rear Proportioning system modulates the pressure applied to the rear brakes for more effective braking. Brake pads and rotors are 40 percent larger and use twin-piston calipers. This new four-wheel-disc brake system reduces 60-mph stopping distances by 20 feet, according to Chevrolet, and the pads are expected to last 40 percent longer.
Cost is the main consideration on whether to get four-wheel drive. Those in the Sunbelt may not see justification for it. But even if you aren't an off-road driver, four-wheel drive can keep you going through snow, or on sandy, unpaved roads, or help pull a boat up a slippery boat ramp. If you don't get a 4WD model, consider the optional traction-assist system for the 2WD models.
Four-wheel-drive models offer several modes of travel and shifting among them is as easy as changing stations on the radio. Press 2WD Hi, then, as conditions grow worse, press the 4WD Hi and 4WD Lo buttons to operate the system like a traditional part-time four-wheel-drive. If conditions are fluctuating, hit the Auto 4WD button and the Autotrac all-wheel-drive system automatically transfers power from a slipping wheel to the wheels with the best traction; no input is needed from the driver.
The 2500's 6.0-liter V8 has aluminum heads and last year got a revised camshaft that helps it produce a nice, round 300 horsepower. We haven't tried the new 8.1-liter V8, but responsiveness from either the 5.3 or 6.0 is excellent.
Suburban's automatic transmission comes with a tow/haul mode. Pressing a switch on the end of the column shifter changes the shift points of the transmission. The tow/haul mode improves performance while towing and lessens wear on the transmission. Even when not towing, it works well when driving through mountainous terrain.
We love the 'burb. It's a great vehicle for moving cargo, towing trailers, or hauling people. Get sleepy on a long trip and you can simply pull over and stretch out in back.
While Ford's giant Excursion has taken the Suburban's long-held position as the largest sport-utility vehicle, it doesn't match the smooth ride and all-around utility of the 'burb. Excursion is not a good choice if you're just moving people around. Suburban's greater maneuverability makes it a much more sensible choice for that role.