I live with a Chevrolet Suburban. It’s our third one, a 2007 four-wheel-drive, half-ton LT model bought at the end of 2007, the day before deer-hunting season opened. As in, just in time! We need a Suburban because we hunt, we have four dogs we like to haul across the country, and we also travel with so many belongings, it looks like we’re relocating. If we had children, they’d have to follow us in another Suburban.
There’s a lot to love about Suburbans, which have been in continuous production for seventy-seven years — longer than any nameplate in the automotive kingdom. Let my husband count the ways: All three of ours have been virtually bulletproof, with this one only needing U-joints at 80,000 miles. Which is also how long its Bridgestone Dueler A/T tires lasted before we replaced them with Continental CrossContact LX20s. There is room for everything, including a TruckVault shotgun safe, four heavy metal dog crates, and the aforementioned ton o’ stuff. It is, he says, “a great all-around vehicle.” Let me add, “for all-around sporty people who are really big and strong like he is.”
Loving a Suburban has nothing to do with ergonomics, or fuel economy, or hot looks. It has none of that. Well, it does have ergonomics and fuel economy: bad ergonomics and crappy fuel economy. Although once we put on the Continental tires, fuel economy jumped from the onboard computer’s 15-mpg average to an observed 18 mpg on our last interstate trek. Also, changing from all-terrain to regular road tires improved the ride and quelled the road noise. We’ll see about longevity. Seriously. My husband fully expects to keep this Suburban forever. I think not.
I caught up on cool sport-ute features at the Detroit auto show and have compiled a laundry list of important stuff I suddenly need. Most of those features involve ergonomics and convenience, and it wouldn’t be wrong to say that they were designed to appeal to women. Listen, Chevy, take my advice and you could totally rule the market for vehicles for the delicate flowers who need lots of cargo space without risking a hernia from lifting things up and into the back; who hate getting mud on their pant legs from tall, wide sills; who are tired of broken fingernails from wrestling with impossible back seats and heavy tailgates. Oh, and all the short guys who are sick of leaping up into the air to wrangle that monster truck-sized tailgate closed will thank you, too. Improve the lives of women, and you’ve done a service to all of mankind.
My first discovery is that today’s 2012 Chevy Suburban LT is already halfway there, with heated front seats, leather, and assist steps as standard equipment. It has the same 5.3-liter V-8, but instead of our lame four-speed automatic transmission that hunts when the cruise control is on, then slams down a gear on inclines and almost redlines while it’s helping deliver crap fuel economy, there’s now a modern six-speed. The 2012 Suburban’s options list also includes power-folding seats and a power-operated liftgate. OK. But Chevy needs to add a feature that’s on GM’s newer SUVs (like the Equinox) and on the new Ford Escape — an adjustment that lets you set maximum tailgate lift height. It’s great for shorties, oldsters, and low garage ceilings.
I want the 2012 Honda CR-V’s standard, manual pull handles that instantly transform the second-row seats into a flat load floor with an easy pull. Not an option; standard. The Escape has a similar function, with a push button that flops the back-seat headrests down. I want the Escape’s capless fuel filler, the hidden floor compartment for stowing things like your iPad or your GPS out of sight while you run errands, and the coolest feature of all — hands-free tailgate opening. With passive entry, you can open the locked tailgate when your arms are full of groceries by aiming a swift kick under the bumper. Clean and neat.
And why should my next Suburban look like a box? Look at the Mazda crossover lineup, especially the new CX-5: that’s what I’m talking about. A little zoom with my utility.
So, why don’t I just buy a Mazda or that new Ford Escape? Four dogs in kennels, a gun safe, and the detritus of a lifetime aren’t going anywhere soon. That is, unless I have a Suburban in my driveway.
While you’re at it, Chevy, stuff a diesel engine in my next Suburban, why don’t you? You know you want to.