If you have a big toy or vacation trailer to haul, few vehicles can do it while holding as many people and their junk once the sidewalk ends like the Chevrolet Suburban. But that’s been its raison d’être since its inception in 1935, which predates the first Jeep by five years. It’s even received its own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Available in ascending LS, LT, RST, Z71, Premier and High Country trim, Chevrolet supplied a Z71 trimmed four-wheel-drive Suburban for a weeklong test drive.
If the already large Chevrolet Tahoe isn’t quite capacious enough, the Suburban offers more rear passenger and cargo space, in the case of the latter, 16 additional cubic feet of cargo space with the seats in use, and 21.8 cubic feet more with them folded. But otherwise, these vehicles are identical cousins, using the same platform and drivelines. Even towing is similar, although the Tahoe edges out the Suburban by 300 pounds, and has a 30-pound higher payload.
The Suburban received an extensive redesign for 2021, and gets a number of detail changes for 2022. The 420-horsepower 6.2-liter V-8 is now offered on RST, Z71, and Premier trim levels, while a 12.3-inch configurable infotainment screen is now standard on all but the base. It now features integrated Google features, as well as Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Parking assist, lane keep assist and lane departure warning on now standard on all models, and the exterior camera offers up to 13 views, including those to make trailering easier.
While the styling updates haven’t held as much appeal as previous versions, its broad slab sides and colossal grille are an imposing, and intimidating presence, whether you simply walk up to it or are driving alongside it. The grille and headlamps are a complicated bit of design, but it lacks the refined feel of its competitors. Still, it’s hard not to be impressed by its massive, macho presence, especially in Z71 trim.
Given that the Suburban’s size is akin to that of a mobile garden shed, it should come as no surprise that it has a very spacious interior. Legroom is impressive in all three rows, something that hasn’t always been true of all Suburbans, with 36.7 inches of legroom in the third row, and a generous 42 inches of legroom in the second. It’s quite impressive.
That said, you do lose some headroom the further back you sit, but that shouldn’t be a problem for most passengers. Cargo space is equally impressive, with 41.5 cubic feet with the seats in place, and as much as 144.7 cubic feet with them folded.
Less impressive is material quality, which is just average at best. The seats prove comfortable enough, although the Chevrolet designers still love buttons, and lots of them. While appreciated, they are scattered all over the instrument panel, a complaint we had with the Chevrolet Tahoe.
Like the Tahoe, the Suburban comes with choice of powerplants. The standard engine is a 5.3-liter V-8 that generates 355 hp and 383 lb-ft of torque. If that’s not enough power for you, opt for our test vehicle’s 6.2-liter V-8, with 420 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque.
But fuel economy is about what you’d expect with wither engine; you’ll be lucky if you break 20 or 21 mpg at best. If you need a full-size rig and require better fuel economy, consider the 3.0-liter turbocharged diesel engine. It returns 21 mpg city, 27 mpg highway and 23 mpg combined. A smooth-shifting 10-speed automatic transmission is standard. Both rear-wheel and all-wheel drive models are offered.
Safety and technology
When it comes to crash safety, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gives the Suburban an overall score of four stars. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has not crash-tested the new Suburban.
Standard driver assistance safety systems include automatic emergency braking, forward collision alert, lane keep assist with lane departure warning, following distance indicator, front pedestrian braking, front/rear park assist, rear vision camera, and automatic high beams. A surround view camera, rear pedestrian alert, head-up display, adaptive cruise control, reverse automatic braking, rear cross traffic alert, and blind spot alert are among the options, or are standard on the upper trim levels.
As for tech, the 12.3-inch touchscreen proved to have the sort of features most drivers would appreciate. But its new interface is baffling at times, and its graphics not up to snuff for an SUV of this price. And the system proved slow to respond when flipping stations. The reconfigurable instrument cluster proved to be quite useful, however.
The same could be said of the vehicle’s driving technology. As part of the Suburban Z71’s Off-Road Package, the test vehicle had the Max Trailering Package, which adds enhanced radiator cooling, a smart trailer integration indicator, trailer brake controller and hitch guidance. Its Luxury Package include GM’s awesome magnetic ride control with adaptive air suspension.
This is no shrinking violet. It’s possibly the largest Suburban ever built, one wide enough to barely fit in parking spaces or stay within its lanes. Squeezing though the drive-thru may elicit sweat in some drivers. It’s almost too wide for anywhere on the East Coast of the U.S.
This makes its Normal driving mode a tension filled exercise, as its on-center feel is a little loose, and its suspension fairly soft. While that provides the requisite comfortable ride, it allows for some wallow, which makes wrangling this bus into its lane a constant chore.
But the engine and transmission are remarkable. The V-8’s plentiful well of torque and the 10-speed automatic’s programming are perfectly matched, always there with power when requested, and settling down for a cruise when you require it. Acceleration is effortless, as is high-speed passing power. It makes for a dazzling well-engineered driveline. Bravo.
That said, fuel economy was nearly dead on, with overall mileage coming in at 16.9 mog overall, with highway stints returning more than 19 mpg.
2022 Chevrolet Suburban AWD Z71 specifications
|Dimension||L: 225.7 inches/W: 81 inches/H: 75.7 inches/Wheelbase: 134.1 inches|
|Powertrain||6.2-liter EcoTec3 V-8, 10-speed automatic transmission and four-wheel drive|
|Fuel Economy||14 mpg city/19 mpg highway/16 mpg combined|
|Performance Specs||420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque|
|Price||Base prices: $63,000; As tested: $75,410 including $1,695 destination charge.|
|On-Sale Date||Available now|
If you can afford the 2022 Chevrolet Suburban AWD Z71, you can no doubt afford the gas. That’s what has attracted buyers to the Suburban for decades, even in times of escalating gas prices. It has a combination of abilities that few vehicles possess. Just be sure you’re comfortable driving something so gargantuan.
2022 Chevrolet Suburban AWD Z71 — Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Z71 package on a Suburban?
It’s the off-road package that’s widely respected by those who love off-road driving.
Does Suburban have 4WD?
Yes, although rear-wheel drive is standard on some models.
How much is a Chevrolet Suburban?
If you can live without the Z71 off-road trim you’ll save some money, as the Suburban’s base price is $52,900 before destination charge, options and taxes.