A hot automotive trend for 2016 is the subcompact crossover SUV. These pint-size vehicles are easy to drive, and Chevrolet’s got one in the form of the Trax. But Chevy also knows its traditional American customers quite well, and there’s still a need for a full-size SUV that can take a big family out to the lake with a decent-size boat in tow. To that end, there’s the king-size 2016 Chevrolet Suburban.
SUVs don’t get much bigger than the 2016 Chevrolet Suburban.
The Suburban has room to spare for front- and second-row passengers, and more third-row space than its short-wheelbase sister, the Tahoe. It also provides much more luggage space behind the third-row seat, and you can expand that space by simply folding the seat down (a big improvement over the clumsy removable seats of pre-2015 Suburbans). Of course, a big SUV also needs a big engine, and Chevrolet has fitted a 5.3-liter V8 good for 355 horsepower. The Suburban is surprisingly fleet of foot, and yet its fuel economy figures are quite respectable considering its massive size. Properly equipped, the Suburban can haul up to 8,300 pounds, and its long wheelbase provides the stability to haul longer trailers.
There are some competitor SUVs you should check out, however. The Ford Expedition (and the more luxurious 2016 Lincoln Navigator), which comes in an extended-length (EL) version, is quicker, better riding and roomier, while the Toyota Sequoia, though getting on in years, is still a viable choice thanks to its capable performance. If you need a lot of passenger space but can do without the extreme towing and cargo capacity, consider a large crossover like the Chevrolet Traverse, Ford Explorer or Honda Pilot, as they offer reasonably cozy seating for eight, are easier to park and maneuver, and get better fuel economy. But if you need one mondo-size SUV that can do it all, the 2016 Chevrolet Suburban will certainly satisfy.
One major benefit of choosing Chevy’s traditional full-size SUV is standard V8 power, and the 2016 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.
The 2016 Suburban’s curvaceous, carlike dashboard hints at extra refinement, and indeed, this massive SUV is surprisingly pleasant to drive.
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.
The Suburban feels relatively secure when going through turns, and it soaks up bumps with ease — all the more so if you opt for the LTZ model, which gets an adaptive suspension with magnetic-fluid shocks that automatically reacts to driver input and road conditions. 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; crossover SUVs, which generally use a car-based architecture, are easier to maneuver and park, as well as being more composed on rough pavement.
The 2016 Chevrolet Suburban is a full-size SUV 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 engine starting, rear parking sensors, heated power-adjustable manual-folding mirrors, automatic wipers, a rearview camera, 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, a 110-volt power outlet, OnStar emergency communications, Bluetooth phone and sound connectivity and a six-speaker Apple CarPlay-compatible sound system with the 8-inch Chevrolet MyLink touchscreen interface, HD and satellite radio, a CD player, an auxiliary sound jack and five USB ports.
Every 2016 Suburban comes equipped with a nicely rendered MyLink touchscreen that provides extensive high-tech functionality.
Options for the LS include a Driver Alert package with power-adjustable pedals, forward collision alert, lane-departure warning and prevention, automatic high beams and a vibrating safety alert seat. The optional Max Trailering package includes a trailer brake controller, lower rear-axle gearing and a heavy-duty air-leveling suspension.
The Suburban LT builds on the LS’s equipment list with the content of the Driver Alert package as well as a power liftgate, automatic headlights, leather upholstery, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, heated front seats with memory settings for the driver, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, additional 12-volt interior power outlets and a nine-speaker Bose sound system.
The LT offers several option packages. The Luxury package bundles foglights, front and rear parking sensors, keyless entry and ignition, hands-free opening for the power liftgate, power-folding mirrors, heated second-row seats, a heated steering wheel, power-folding second- and third-row seats, a wireless cell phone charger and blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert. A Texas Edition package (offered in all 50 states) consists of the Luxury package but with Texas Edition branding. The Sun, Entertainment and Destinations package includes a navigation system, a sunroof and a rear-seat entertainment system with a Blu-Ray player. The Z71 Off-Road package adds 18-inch wheels with off-road tires, a specially tuned suspension, underbody skid plates, foglights, running boards, front and rear parking sensors, haul hooks, hill descent control and special badging.
Notable stand-alone options for the LT include a sunroof, DVD and Blu-Ray entertainment systems, bucket seats for the second row, 20- and 22-inch wheels, roof rack cross rails and haul hooks (black or chrome).
The top-of-the-line LTZ includes everything found on the LT model with the Luxury package plus 20-inch wheels, xenon headlights, unique exterior trim, an adaptive magnetic suspension, leather upholstery, second-row bucket seats (a three-place bench is a no-cost option), heated and ventilated front seats with additional lumbar adjustment, and a premium 10-speaker Bose surround-sound sound system.
The LTZ’s options list includes the Sun, Entertainment and Destinations package from the LT, along with the Max Trailering package (without the air-leveling rear suspension), 22-inch wheels, power-retractable running boards, adaptive cruise control and a head up display with a configurable digital gauge cluster.
Last year’s redesign gave the Suburban an interior that was a significant improvement over the previous-generation model, and one year on we continue to be impressed by the Suburban’s cabin. Materials are of high quality, and the gauge cluster’s crisp white-on-black graphics are easy to read day or night. The central information display is intuitive to navigate and its graphics are simple and easily interpreted. The standard 8-inch central color infotainment displays feature sophisticated (and in some cases reconfigurable) graphics options. Unfortunately, the Chevrolet MyLink interface can sometimes be slow to respond to your touch inputs.
Most shoppers will find the front seats cozy and reasonably supportive, but the lack of a telescoping steering wheel in the LS model will make it harder for some people to find an ideal driving position. Second row space is excellent, while the third row offers 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 pre-2015 Suburban’s third-row seat removal procedure (not to mention the seat’s vulnerability to smash-and-grab thieves), we’re happy to see Chevy has integrated the third row firmly into the truck’s floor. The fact that both the rear rows can be 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.
The 2016 Chevrolet Suburban is one of the most capacious vehicles you can buy outside of a van or minivan.
Though cargo space is reduced somewhat compared to previous-generation Suburbans, the amount of room on offer 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 the Toyota Sequoia. The Ford Expedition EL offers more.
Standard safety equipment on the 2016 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) offers additional protection in side-impact crashes. Also standard are rear parking sensors, a rearview camera and the subscription-based OnStar system, 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 and intervention, a safety-alert driver seat (which vibrates on either the right, left or both sides to warn drivers of danger), rear cross-traffic alert and blind-spot monitoring.
In government crash tests, the 2016 Chevrolet Suburban received four out of five possible stars for overall crash protection, with four stars for front impact protection and five stars for 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, a rather long distance even for a full-size SUV. A 4WD Suburban with the Z71 package improved slightly to 131 feet.
All 2016 Chevy Suburbans are powered by a 5.3-liter V8 engine that makes 355 hp and 383 pound-feet of torque. A 6-speed automatic transmission powers the rear wheels on 2WD models or all four wheels on 4WD models.
Four-wheel-drive Suburbans come with a single-speed 4WD system designed to provide extra traction on slick winter roads. For off-roading capability, a more traditional 4WD system with a two-speed transfer case is available; it comes with both the Z71 Off-Road package (available only on Suburban LT) or as part of the Max Trailering package. A locking rear differential is standard on all Suburbans.
All Suburbans come with a trailer hitch receiving jack and a trailer wiring harness. The haul rating is 6,300 pounds for two-wheel-drive Suburbans and 6,000 pounds with four-wheel drive. Opting for the Max Trailering package ups the capacity by 2,000 pounds, and provides a built-in trailer brake controller and (on LS and LT models) a heavy-duty air-leveling suspension.
During SUVS performance testing, a Suburban with rear-wheel drive went from zero to 60 miles per hour in 7.2 seconds, and a 4WD model with the Z71 package matched it. That’s one of the faster times in the segment, and it’s especially extraordinary when you consider the Suburban’s sheer size and weight. EPA fuel economy estimates for the 2016 Chevrolet Suburban are 18 miles per gallon combined regardless of driveline (16 city/23 highway for 2WD models and 15/22 for 4WD).
Seats up to nine people; big cargo capacity; quiet highway ride; strong V8 power; high-quality interior.
The 2016 Chevrolet Suburban combines massive passenger, cargo and towing capabilities in a way that few other vehicles can. But depending on your priorities, some competitor SUVs or crossovers might work out better overall.