Starting right up front, the gold Chevy bowtie emblem is prominently displayed in the center of the grille. It's called "global branding," get used to it. You're going to recognize the new Suburban -- it looks a lot like the old Suburban, only better and more sophisticated. It's amazing what a little sprucing up will do. By stripping away the excess, cleaning up the details and bringing the level of fit and finish up a notch, Chevy has really elevated the Suburban. Beefing up and simplifying the plastic parts -- the bumper covers and the body side trim -- really gives Suburban a muscular look, and squaring off the fender wells and body panels adds a chiseled sophistication. It's a great looking SUV, a good choice if the Escalade and Yukon are too flashy for your taste. Government operatives take notice -- Suburban is the SUV for you.
In the Driver's Seat
Instrumentation is just how it should be, analog rotary gauges clustered above the steering wheel. Redundant audio and cruise controls are housed on the steering wheel, which is tilt-adjustable but not telescoping. Power adjustable pedals are an optional feature, which you should consider if you share your Suburban with other family members of different dimensions. Seating is a little overstuffed for my taste, which I find less comfortable on a long haul than a firm, supportive seat.
Suburban's second row has plenty of legroom for adults, as well as adequate hip space for three. It's not roughing it back there, either -- there are cup holders, arm rests and storage pockets galore. The second row easily folds and tumbles forward to grant easy access to the third row. At 6'2", I was able to climb back into the third row unassisted, sit comfortably, and exit without permanent physical deformity. Suburban would excel at carpool duty.
Removing Suburban's third row of seats is still a pain. They don't fold in to the floor like many competitor's seats, they still lift out and leave an exposed seat track in the cargo floor. Keep working, GM -- I don't have space in my garage for my third row.
On the Road
Safety has also been improved in the Suburban, with a new stiffer frame, standard Stabilitrak vehicle dynamic control, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS standard, and available roof-mounted head curtain side airbags for all three rows of seats. A big worry in an accident with an SUV this big is vehicle compatibility -- what will your SUV do to a car in a head-on collision? GM is taking steps to address this issue, and has engineered the new platform to be much safer for other vehicles and pedestrians. That's a very good thing.
If you're considering a full-size SUV, you should drive the Cadillac Escalade and GMC Yukon as well. Though the differences between the models are largely cosmetic, there is a difference in character and attitude as well, and one of the more upscale models may appeal to you more. You should also check out the Ford Expedition, Lincoln Navigator, Chrysler Aspen and Dodge Durango, all worth considering. The Japanese manufacturers haven't ceded the full-size SUV market, either -- check out the Toyota Sequoia, Nissan Armada and their upscale cousins, the Lexus LX 470 and Infiniti QX56.
For heritage that goes all the way back to 1935, there's only one buffet wagon that will get you to the sneeze guard and back -- the 2007 Chevrolet Suburban. If you're going with my family, the half-ton will get you there, but you may need the three-quarter-ton to get you back.