2015 Chevrolet Suburban in review

Rap Sheet:

Model: 2015 Chevrolet Silverado LT
Drivetrain: 5.3L EcoTec3 V8 engine with 355 hp @ 5,600rpm and 383 ft-lb torque @ 4,100 rpm.
Price as Tested: $67,370 ($57,450 LS base price)
Infotainment: Chevy MyLink with 8″ LCD touch screen, bluetooth, reverse camera, 12 USB chargers.
Comfort: Heated, 8-way power leather driver and passenger seats.  Leather second and third row bench seats.

Overview

There’s something wonderfully boss about driving around in a vehicle which spans two postal/zip codes.  When I first saw this Suburban, I couldn’t help but smile.  Something this large tickled my truck fancy fiercely.  I’ve never really considered one of these SUVs.  Even as a self proclaimed truck lover, I preferred a pickup bed to these long, boxy passenger vehicles.  Following last year’s redesign of their truck line, GM launched new designs for their full sized SUV lineups for the 2015 model year.  Along side its smaller sibling, the Chevy Yukon, GM also gave facelifts to GMC and Cadillac versions of the same platforms.  Chevy’s 2015 Suburban also receives the mechanical upgrades the Silverado got last year, focusing on their new and improved 5.3L V8 EcoTec3 engine.  I’ve long maintained the 5.3 is the best V8 GM has on offer, and that fact remains true even in this application.  My Suburban was silky smooth, both accelerating and cruising.  While it felt like the truck needed lots of gas pedal to move, in reality it was already moving much faster.  It required constant speedometer monitoring.  Chevy has also ported the same MyLink system from the Silverado.  I loved this in the Sierra I drove and still do.  At just over $60,000 and no navigation included, it felt a bit lacking.

This new Suburban looks pretty stylish, for a box.

This new Suburban looks pretty stylish, for a box.

Much of the interior has been lifted right from the Silverado, from the dash backwards.  Noticeably lacking was any form of key fob or push button start.  Considering how widespread and convenient this technology has become, it feels very out of place using a key to start the truck.  Many of their competitors have moved to push button starts now yet GM seems to stubbornly rely on an older tech.  Despite this, the key shares a ring with a rather large and unwieldy fob.  Still a bit confused by that.  Key fobs aside, the Suburban is a very tech packed truck.  Driver information LCDs provide great trip, vehicle and mileage information at a glance while the center 8″ MyLink screen is intuitive and simple to use.  Phone pairing is fast and painless.  There are more USB ports in this truck than passenger seat belts.  Given that this truck is based on a full length pickup frame, one thing you’re never lacking for is space.  The interior is spacious from any vantage point.  There is lots of room for family equipment like strollers along side luggage in the rear trunk space.  Legroom is ample for passengers in the front and second rows, acceptable in the third.  Certainly longer hauls may start to get uncomfortable, but more than adequate for short haul trips.

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Performance/Mileage

In 2014, GM announced a complete redesign of their three main truck engines.  Each makes full use of three different kind of fuel saving technologies like direct injection or active fuel management.  In theory, this should translate into more efficient engines that burn less gas.  Naturally Chevy rates the Suburban worse than it does the Silverado, simply by nature of weight, but still suggests you can achieve 15.4L/100km (18 MPG) city and 10.8L/100km (26 MPG) highway, or 13.3L/100km (21 MPG) combined.  The good news is our test numbers align fairly closely to these suggested numbers.  While the Suburban is definitely a huge pig on gas through the city, it becomes surprisingly efficient at highway speeds.  I averaged about 13.5L/100km (20MPG) for the test, but actually posted a best average of 10.4L/100km (28 MPG) over a 100km stretch of highway.  At several points the info center registered driving between 7 and 9 L/100km on fairly flat highway.  By switching to a V4 during periods of low load, the Suburban is able to turn a traditionally thirsty vehicle into something of a gas sipper.  What’s more, again because of its weight, I found the Suburban didn’t need to jump out of V4 fuel savings as often on the highway as the Silverado did.  The 5.3L engine proved powerful enough in V4 to keep momentum up even over mild rolling hills.  All told, considering how much sheet steel you’re hauling around, the Suburban is not bad on fuel.  If you’re driving long distances you can expect over 1000km to a tank.  That is a 117L (27.7 gallon) tank, however.

Chevy’s 5.3L V8 engine has sufficient power and torque to get a big vehicle around comfortably.  Never did the engine feel at a loss for power or overworked.  In contrast to its pickup cousin, the Suburban was far more refined in ride.  The engine noise was never more than a distant rumble, even under hard acceleration.  First impressions while driving around the city was how much it felt like I had to urge the Suburban on to accelerate.  A quick glance to the speedometer showed, however, that this was not the case.  While the truck feels like it’s moving slow and accelerating sluggishly, it’s actually picking up speed quite quickly.  Going slower speeds in the Suburban feel very slow, while driver at higher speeds only feels comfortable; in a strait line.  Making turns at any speed higher than a school zone can be a bit hairy.  While Chevy has done their best to stiffen ride and build confidence, they can’t prevent the reality of physics and all that steel.  There is quite a bit of roll in turns, in some cases it causes some confidence loss in the truck’s handling.  Gentle turns and slopes on freeways, however, are muted quite nicely by the Suburban’s suspension.  As with most trucks I’ve driven, this Suburban makes long highway road trips extremely comfortable.

Comfort/Ride

Let's call this a mobile man cave.

Let’s call this a mobile man cave.

As alluded to previously, Chevy has done a lot of things right with the ride on the Suburban.  Its natural weight actually takes some of the stiffness out of the suspension an unladen truck usually has.  Its size naturally gives you as much visibility as it does blind spots while driving.  Thankfully, GM now includes as standard a small suite of driver safety aids which came in handy in a vehicle of this size.  Lane departure warnings help give you an idea of where the vehicle is wandering or positioned, providing a gentle nudge via vibration on the side of the seat you’ve wandered.  It did get annoying on narrower roadways where you frequently violated the built in threshold for the warning, eventually prompting me to shut it off.  Unlike the collision aversion system, you can’t modify the threshold at which the lane departure is triggered.  Road noise is present, but quieted, as is engine noise during acceleration.  In fact the Suburban completely lacks the throaty roar of a V8 truck lovers have grown accustomed to, both from the engine bay or from exhaust.  It’s a level of refinement that comes as a surprise at this trim level.

Seats in the LT trim come standard with leather all around.  Leather quality was nice, better than some, but not as plush as is found in other vehicles north of the $60k mark.  Noted as lacking was ventilation or cooling in the seats, a $2500 option on the LT, something I felt should have been standard at this price point.  Seats are heated, and 8 way power meant both driver and passengers could get into a comfortable seating position with relative ease.  Driver seat has 2 memory settings, very handy in a multiple driver situation.  Initially I found the driver and second row seats very comfortable.  There was no soreness typically associated with long trip fatigue.  However, after some time I experienced an uncomfortable pressure from the stitched seam in the driver seat.  This would soften with age or wear, but initially this seam was quite rigid and made for some awkward leg positioning to avoid it.  In the rear, seating was nearly as comfortable as the front in the second row.  There is plenty of leg room and comfortable leather seating.  Further back, a third row rises from the floor.  While small, there is still some space for legs behind the second row.  Access is by flipping a single switch on either side of the second row, which splits 60/40.  There is enough space for an adult to clamber through and get seated in the third row.  Watch your toes, however, as the second row comes slamming back down awfully close to them.  Despite their size, however, there is still some comfort in the third row; more so than most of the competitors.

Practicality

There’s no getting around how big this truck is.  Pickup trucks this length are large enough, but adding the seats and sheet metal to form the rear of the Suburban.  Size is both this truck’s strength and weakness.  There is plenty of room for whatever the 8 passengers inside may be bringing with them behind the third row.  It can also tow 8,300lbs when equipped with the tow package.  But navigating small roads and parking lots can be a challenge for those accustomed to trucks, downright intimidating for those who aren’t.  Backup cameras and driver aids certainly do assist with getting into tricky spaces.  It was difficult to get past the real-world implications of owning and driving a vehicle like the Suburban.  While there is certainly a lot of utilitarian capability here, they are muted because they may not fit into an average lifestyle.  Its space is fantastic for families; maneuvering kids seats into place was the easiest it’s been in a while.  However, those who  need this kind of space are likely to be driving minivans; vehicles which are far more parking lot and fuel consumption friendly.  There’s also less space in the rear for dumping things than you would get in the open bed of a pickup.  And, while they are protected from the elements, you’re height limited by the enclosed rear of the Suburban.  Heavy truck users may be less inclined to toss equipment as carelessly as they would a pickup.

Car seats were a breeze.

Car seats were a breeze.

Worth noting is the inclusion of GM’s latest collision stop technology.  I’ve never really seen this in action until driving this test.  During some traffic issues, thanks PanAm games, on a back highway, a suddenly stopped car triggered the full collision warning system and startled me enough to elicit a response.  With a vibrating seat warning and red flashing HUD light, this system made it clear something bad was coming.  In real life driving this system works.  It even gave enough warning for this beast of a vehicle to stop with plenty of space.

Entertainment/Infotainment

You may recall from my earlier review of the 2014 GMC Sierra how impressed I was with the infotainment system in the vehicle.  This 2015 Suburban features the same Chevy branded system, it didn’t take me long to remember why I enjoyed it so much.  Fast and simple, there was little issues using both touch and voice features.  Notably lacking, however, was any kind of navigation.  Despite the high end trim feel of this truck, the option wasn’t ticked.  Considering front to back leather, heated seats and the like, it would seem like this would have been standard on this package as well.  That said, it did make use of OnStar navigation which works well in a pinch.  It’s not a free service, however, and you’ll be paying service charges once your free period is up.  Another one of the big features that Chevy is touting these days is their WiFi.  It’s a great piece of technology, works fast and is a real neat party trick when you have an SUV full of people.  I’m a bit concerned with the potential hidden costs people may not take into account when using this, and things like roaming are still undefined, particularly considering how tempting it is to watch TV or movies when driving.  You could burn through the small data cap in no time.  Bose speakers filled the cabin with excellent sound.  From a technology perspective, the 2015 Suburban uses the best GM currently has on offer, and it shows.

Conclusion

Chevrolet has put a good package together with their redesigned 2015 Suburban.  Much of the strong points from their half ton pickup line have made their way into this truck.  While sometimes large and cumbersome, I did enjoy the driving dynamics.  Highway and city driving were comfortable.  Chevy’s forward thinking gives driver and passengers alike access to great technology, executed well.  While not a vehicle I would buy myself, it’s definitely proven the new 2015 Suburban is more than just good looks.

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