In the age of crossovers with three rows of seating, you might think the end times are near for traditional full-size SUVs like the 2015 Chevrolet Suburban. But for auto shoppers who need room for big families and the ability to haul big toys, the Suburban is still the premier alpha SUV. Thanks to a full redesign for 2015, Chevy’s largest SUV is now better equipped to compete in the modern era, as it picks up a more fuel-efficient V8 engine, a fold-flat third-row seat and an array of new safety and technology features.
As a part of its redesign, the Suburban receives a new 5.3-liter V8 featuring direct injection and cylinder deactivation for better power and efficiency. The new V8 produces 355 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque, which should be more than enough for most hauling and towing tasks. Another upgrade is a fully modern interior that’s comfortable, stocked with the latest technology and, at the higher trim levels, quite luxurious. Notable upgrades include a new touchscreen interface with added smartphone integration and the latest electronic safety features (which remain vigilant even if the driver is not). Among them are a lane departure warning system, blind-spot monitoring and a frontal collision warning and mitigation system.
The 2015 Suburban also has a redesigned third-row seat. Whereas the bulky and heavy third-row seats had to be physically removed from past Suburbans to achieve maximum cargo space, the new Suburban gets third-row seats that fold into the floor. This convenience comes at a cost — the load height has risen and 16 cubic feet of cargo capacity have been lost — but such added versatility is nevertheless a welcome improvement. Plus, the Suburban continues to possess a distinct advantage over its little brother, the Chevy Tahoe: Its third-row seat is more adult-friendly and its cargo area is substantially larger.
Based on its size and capacity, the Suburban is one of the most capable vehicles on sale today, with just a few direct competitors. Options in the full-size traditional SUV realm include the Toyota Sequoia, which offers a very similar blend of functionality, performance and refinement, and the 2015 Ford Expedition, which receives a mild makeover this year. As always, the Suburban’s fraternal twin, the 2015 GMC Yukon XL has a few more upscale features and an optional larger V8 engine. Smaller, more space-efficient crossover SUVs like the Chevrolet Traverse and Toyota Highlander can’t haul as much and limit passenger seating to eight, but they have better on-road manners. If you need a large, traditional SUV, though, the all-new Chevy Suburban is a great do-anything utility car that won’t sell you short on everyday comfort.
As always, one major benefit of choosing Chevy’s traditional full-size SUV is standard V8 power. And the 2015 Chevrolet Suburban’s 5.3-liter V8 engine is certainly beefy enough to pull around a full complement of passengers and gear. It’s also plenty smooth and refined. On the whole, the cabin is as hushed as a luxury car’s, especially on the highway.
We’re less fond of the drivetrain’s lazy responses to gas pedal inputs, a result of GM’s efforts to calibrate it for maximum fuel economy. There’s a noticeable delay when pressing on the gas pedal, whether you’re trying to execute a pass at highway speeds or accelerate from a stop.
Especially with the LTZ trim’s adaptive suspension, the Suburban feels relatively secure when going through turns and it soaks up bumps with ease. We cannot recommend any of the fashionable 22-inch wheels, however, as their mass combined with their tires’ lack of cushioning sidewalls adversely affects drive comfort. Also keep in mind that this is still a large and heavy truck-based vehicle, and large crossover SUVs will generally be easier to maneuver and park as well as being more composed on rough pavement.
The 2015 Chevrolet Suburban is a full-size SUV that’s offered in three trim levels; base LS, midlevel LT and luxury LTZ. Seating for eight is standard, but there are two optional seating arrangements. Second-row captain’s chairs drop the count to seven, and an available 40/20/40 front bench seat (LS only) increases it to nine.
The LS comes standard with 18-inch alloy wheels, rear privacy glass, roof rails, remote ignition, rear parking sensors, a rearview camera, heated power-adjustable manual-folding mirrors, automatic wipers, tri-zone automatic climate control, cruise control, power front seats (eight-way driver with power lumbar, four-way passenger), a leather-wrapped tilt-only steering wheel, OnStar emergency communications, Bluetooth phone connectivity and a six-speaker sound system with HD and satellite radio, a CD player, an auxiliary sound jack, two USB ports and an SD card slot. The optional Driver Alert package includes power-adjustable pedals, forward collision alert, lane-departure warning and a vibrating safety alert seat.
The Suburban LT adds the content of the Driver Alert package as well as a power liftgate, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, driver memory settings, an eight-way power passenger seat with power lumbar, heated front seats, leather upholstery, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, additional interior power outlets and a nine-speaker Bose sound system with three additional USB ports and the 8-inch Chevrolet MyLink touchscreen interface (which includes voice control, smartphone app integration, text-to-voice capability for MAP-enabled smartphones and Siri Eyes Free capability for newer iPhones).
Second-row captain’s chairs (power- or manual-release) are optional for the LT. The Luxury package gets you foglights, front parking sensors, power-folding and driver-side auto-dimming mirrors, keyless ignition and entry, a power tilt-and-telescoping heated steering wheel, heated and power-folding second-row captain’s chairs (which drop seating capacity to seven), power-folding third-row seats and a blind-spot monitoring system with rear cross-traffic alerts.
The top-of-the-line LTZ gets the Luxury package equipment plus 20-inch alloy wheels, an adaptive magnetic suspension, xenon headlights, heated and ventilated front seats with additional lumbar adjustment, and a premium 10-speaker Bose surround-sound sound system.
The Sun, Entertainment & Destinations package is available for the LT and the LTZ and adds a sunroof, a navigation system and a rear-seat entertainment system with a Blu-Ray player. Also optional on the LT and LTZ is a Theft-Deterrent package that includes car motion sensors, glass break sensors and a self-powered horn for the alarm.
All Suburbans are pre-wired for towing and feature a 2-inch receiver, but a Max Trailering package is available across all trim levels and includes specific gearing and a trailer-brake controller. On the LS and LT, the Max Trailering package adds air suspension with increased load capacity and leveling. Other notable options include 22-inch wheels, roof rack crossbars and power-extending running boards.
The overall quality and design of the 2015 Chevrolet Suburban’s interior is noticeably improved compared to the previous-generation SUV. Materials are of high quality, and the gauge cluster’s crisp white-on-black graphics are a snap to read day or night. The central information display is intuitive to navigate and its graphics are simple and easily interpreted. Both the standard 4.2- and optional 8.0-inch central color infotainment displays feature sophisticated (and in some cases reconfigurable) graphics options. Unfortunately, MyLink can sometimes be slow to respond to your touch inputs.
Most shoppers will find the front seats cozy and reasonably supportive. The lack of a telescoping steering wheel in the LS model will make it harder for some people to get an ideal driving position, however. Second row space is excellent, while the third row offers much better legroom than Chevy’s smaller Tahoe. Keep in mind, though, that if you’re looking to the Suburban for its nine-passenger capacity, remember that it’s only available on the base trim level.
Given the very cumbersome nature of the previous-generation Suburban’s third-row seat removal procedure (not to mention their vulnerability to smash-and-grab thieves), we’re happy to see Chevy has finally integrated the third row firmly into the truck’s floor. The fact that both the rear rows are power operated is an added benefit. The downside to these stow-away seats is a higher cargo floor loading height, which makes it more difficult for shorter owners to load strollers or bigger shopping hauls.
Even with the reduction in maximum cargo space for 2015, the amount of room in the back of a Suburban remains truly impressive. With all seats occupied, you’ll have 38.9 cubic feet for luggage, which is substantial for any three-row vehicle. Fold the third-row seats down and there are 76.7 cubic feet; fold both rear rows and it increases to 121.1 cubes. These figures are several cubic feet more than Chevy’s Traverse crossover and on par with big SUVs like the Toyota Sequoia. The Ford Expedition EL offers more.
Standard safety equipment on the 2015 Chevy Suburban includes antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control (with trailer sway control), front-seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. An airbag located between the front bucket seats (when so equipped) is standard and aids in side-impact crashes. Also standard are rear parking sensors, a rearview camera, and OnStar, which includes automatic crash notification, on-demand roadside assistance, remote door unlocking, stolen car assistance and turn-by-turn navigation.
Optional safety equipment includes front parking sensors, forward collision alert, lane-departure warning, a vibrating safety-alert seat, rear cross-traffic alert and blind-spot monitoring.
In government crash tests, the 2015 Chevrolet Suburban received four out of five possible stars for overall crash protection, with four stars for total frontal impact protection and five stars for total side-impact protection.
In an SUVS performance test, a rear-wheel-drive Suburban came to a stop from 60 miles per hour in 134 feet, which is a long distance even for a full-size SUV.
All 2015 Chevy Suburbans are powered by a 5.3-liter V8 engine that makes 355 hp and 383 lb-ft of torque. A 6-speed automatic transmission transmits power through the rear wheels on 2WD models or all four wheels on 4WD models.
Four-wheel-drive Chevrolet Suburbans come standard with a simple, single-speed 4WD system that will likely serve you just fine on slick winter roads. If you need more capability, a more traditional 4WD system with a two-speed transfer case and low-range gearing is available via the Max Trailering package. A locking rear differential is standard on all Suburbans.
Properly equipped, the maximum haul rating for the 2WD Suburban is 8,300 pounds, and 8,000 pounds for the 4WD models. The EPA estimates fuel economy at 18 miles per gallon combined regardless of driveline (16 city/23 highway for 2WD models and 16/22 for 4WD).
During SUVS performance testing, a 2015 Suburban with rear-wheel drive went from zero to 60 miles per hour in 7.2 seconds. That’s one of the quickest times in the segment, and it’s especially extraordinary when you consider the Suburban’s sheer size and weight.
Seats up to nine people; big cargo capacity; quiet highway ride; strong V8 power; high-quality interior.
Traditional full-size SUVs are not without a few compromises, but for those who genuinely need their massive passenger, cargo and towing capacities, the revamped 2015 Chevrolet Suburban is a strong candidate.