Review: 2006 Chevrolet Suburban

Half-ton versions of the Suburban powered by the 5.3-liter V-8 are equipped with StabiliTrak electronic stability control. And two-wheel-drive versions of the Suburban with a locking rear differential can be equipped with electronic traction assist. Front-row, dual-stage airbags deploy according to the severity of impact, and GM's Passenger Sensing System won't trigger the front passenger airbag at all if a child is belted into the seat or if the seat is unoccupied. Side airbags are available for front-row passengers. Child-safety-seat attachments are included in the rear seats. Four-wheel disc brakes with ABS and brake assist are standard. All Suburbans are now fitted with a tire-pressure monitoring system that alerts the driver through the electronic information screen if air is low at any corner.

The Suburban offers a choice of three engines, each with two- or four-wheel drive. The 5.3-liter/295-horse V-8 standard on all half-ton models can run on regular unleaded gasoline or a gasoline/ethanol blend of up to 85 percent ethanol. With a larger cylinder bore, the 6.0-liter/325-horse V-8 is standard on three-quarter-ton models. Both of these engines have cast-iron blocks and cast-aluminum heads. The 8.1-liter/320-horse V-8 available on three-quarter-ton versions of the 2500 series is a lower-revving unit that produces 440 lb-ft of torque at just 3,200 rpm, compared with the smaller engines' respective outputs of 330 lb-ft and 365 lb-ft. This all-cast-iron brute isn't terribly sophisticated or advanced; it's just huge at 496 cubic inches. A diesel is glaringly absent from the lineup, a shame for those who use the Suburban to cover a lot of miles or pull mammoth trailers.

Each of the available engines is matched with its own size-appropriate, electronically controlled, four-speed automatic transmission. (One of the Ford Excursion models offers a five-speed automatic). Each transmission has a special mode for hauling and towing. While lacking the adaptive logic found in competitors' transmissions, these Hydra-Matic units are as durable as if the Founding Fathers had designed them. Furthermore, smooth shifts are another trademark characteristic. Two- or four-wheel drive may be specified. A new, all-electric cooling system with a pair of electric fans and greater heat dissipation from the radiator results in quieter operation, less parasitic loss than the former system, and improved air-conditioner performance while the engine is idling.

Power-adjustable pedals, standard on the LT, LTZ, and Z71 and optional on the LS, help almost any driver find a comfortable seating position. Like its smaller relative, the Chevrolet Tahoe, this massive, truck-based SUV (as heavy as 5,796 pounds) operates with a light touch and, in true "land-yacht" fashion, isolates the driver and passengers from most everything related to the road and its condition. With strong V-8 engines, the Suburban moves along with verve despite its mass. The Suburban's size does become an issue when parking, however, whether in a crowded lot or in the driveway. A manually controlled, tri-zone climate system with rear air-conditioning is standard. Automation of this system is an option. Diversion for passengers comes by way of many available electronic goodies including XM satellite radio; a custom Bose audio system with eight speakers and a sub-woofer; rear-seat controls that channel a second audio source; and rear DVD entertainment. The vehicle's scale enables a large family to travel in spacious comfort, with well-padded seats and abundant storage nooks.

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