Today's Suburban isn't quite as old as the nameplate itself, which celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2010, but it is showing its age. General Motors launched the GMT900 range of trucks almost seven years ago, and thanks to a number of factors -- including a frosty full-size truck market and that bankruptcy you might have heard about– the typical mid-cycle update granted to its predecessors never happened. Save for some minor tweaks, including the addition of a USB audio input within the cellar-like center console and an electronic trailer brake controller placed just left of the steering column, what you see is essentially GM's state of the art circa 2006. Which is to say it was ho-hum then, and is completely outdated now. The Suburban's cabin -- even in fully-loaded LTZ guise -- looks old and schmaltzy, and lacks the fit and finish that you'd expect from a truck pushing $60k.
Despite this, the Suburban drives rather nicely. The Autoride suspension -- standard on LTZ models -- improves ride quality, while the 5.3-liter V-8 has ample power to hurry all 5800 pounds of mass down the road. Steering is predictably slow but assist is decently weighted, and brake pedal feel is excellent -- the spongy pedal in full-size GM trucks appears to be a thing of the past. Driving the Suburban around town isn't as cumbersome as its weight and footprint might suggest, although its incredible 222-inch length makes threading through parking lots and ATM lanes a little tricky.
It's also easy to forget just how much space there is inside. I did until I opened the rear hatch to fold the third row seat backs up, and found I had to actually crawl into the cavernous cargo hold just to reach the seatback releases. GM says there's 45.8 cubic feet of space behind the third row and 137.4 with the second-row down, which is virtually unrivaled by anything this side of a intermodal shipping container.
Evan McCausland, Associate Web Editor
For a brief period in the late '90s and early 2000s, the Suburban was actually a hit in the suburbs. If you had a large family (that is, more than two kids) and a big enough driveway, the Suburban or something similarly gigantic (Ford Expedition or, gulp, Excursion) made lots of sense. Driving around town, it's not hard to see why. Natural steering, firm brakes, and that burbly V-8 almost mask the enormousness. The big Chevy isn't quite as easy to drive as a Honda Accord, but it's shockingly close. The interior does look a bit dated, but it's extremely comfortable and user-friendly; indeed, one of the benefits of its age is that it hasn't entirely succumbed to the buttons-are-bad movement.
Alas, like Charlie Gordon in "Flowers for Algernon," the Suburban has receded to what it once was. Most suburbanites realized they don't need to tow 8000 pounds and carry seven passengers. They now favor large, unibody crossovers that drive a bit better and achieve slightly less bad fuel economy. That means the Suburban is now what it originally was -- a really good niche vehicle for those that need it.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
I often forget just how gargantuan the Suburban is until I attempt to reverse or open up the hatch. However, it's then that I remind myself that legions of five-foot-two suburban women handily wielded these behemoths around without a single bumper scuff. As both Evan and David detailed, the Suburban is extremely easy to drive, but I also realized that the big Chevy is also pretty easy to parallel park. Yes, I just stated that the 222.4-inch-long Chevrolet Suburban is easy to parallel park. The seating position is a nice, high perch surrounded by expansive glass area that grants great visibility in all directions. The Suburban's squared-off design means it's easy to tell where the ends of the vehicle are. The crisp backup camera is, as on any car, a boon to squeezing those last few inches into a spot.
Donny Nordlicht, Associate Web Editor