A beautiful black-and-white Great Dane named Penny is one of the dogs that play in the park near my house. Penny is smart, well-trained and amazingly graceful for a creature the size of a Shetland pony. I'm amazed at how nimbly she plays with smaller dogs and confounded by how much space and food she must require. Penny's owners wouldn't trade her for a gold-plated Yorkie, though. She's just right for them.
I suspect the same goes for owners of the 2015 Chevrolet Suburban SUV. Like Penny, the new Suburban, which is based on the same mechanical underpinnings as the Chevy Silverado pickup that went on sale last year, is huge and extremely appealing.
Suburban prices start at $47,300 for a rear-wheel-drive model. Four-wheel-drive models start at $55,700.
All Suburbans have a six-speed automatic transmission and a 355-horsepower 5.3-liter engine that's the latest in GM's legendary line of small block V-8s. The engine boasts direct fuel injection, cylinder deactivation and other goodies that help the Suburban achieve surprisingly good fuel economy.
The Suburban's roomy interior holds seven, eight or nine people, depending on the seating configuration.
I tested a loaded seven-passenger Suburban 4WD LTZ that stickered at $73,130. It had leather seats, Bluetooth phone and music compatibility, a sun roof, adaptive cruise control, blind spot and lane departure alerts and much more.
Within General Motors' stable, the Suburban is similar to the GMC Yukon XL and Cadillac Escalade ESV. The three SUVs have nearly the same dimensions, but offer different engines and other features. The Suburban and Yukon XL share most of their exterior styling, but have different lights, grilles, wheels, etc. The Escalade has more unique exterior elements.
Beyond its GM siblings, the Suburban has few direct competitors. The Ford Expedition EL and Lincoln Navigator L have plenty of room and higher towing capacities, but don't match the big Chevy's power, fuel economy and features.
The Expedition EL and Navigator L should become more competitive later this year when face-lifted models go on sale with a powerful and fuel-efficient 3.5L twin-turbo V-6 and other new features.
The largest other SUVs on the market: trucks like the Infiniti QX80, Lexus LX570, Nissan Armada and Toyota Land Cruiser are considerably smaller than the Suburban. Despite that, none can match the Chevy's fuel economy, and some cost more.
The all-new 2015 Suburban has less power than most competitors, but I found acceleration to be more than adequate. The Suburban's 8,000-pound towing capacity is at the low end of its class.
The EPA fuel economy rating of the four-wheel-drive Suburban I tested was at the top of the class, with the exception of a Yukon XL with the same drivetrain. The Suburban's rating of 15 mpg in the city, 22 on the highway and 18 in combined driving is 2-4 mpg better than the competition, even the smaller trucks.
Get the picture about why it's hard to move a Suburban owner to another vehicle? In many ways, there simply is no substitute.
The truck I tested had leather seats, handsome two-tone trim, first- and second-row bucket seats, dual video screens and a 60/40 split folding rear bench seat. The wood is obviously fake, but everything else looks and feels good. Push-button controls fold the middle and rear seats flat for cargo. The second-row buckets also tilt up for easy entry and exit to the rear seat.
There was a surprising amount of wind noise – most of which seemed to come from the B-pillars, near front-seat occupants' ears – but the Suburban is otherwise very comfortable and accommodating. The ride is smooth, absorbing bumps easily. The steering is responsive and has good on-center feel.
The Suburban can be a bear to park, though. At 18 feet, 8.4 inches, it's simply at the outer limits of the size most garages and parking lots are designed to contain.
Like the owners of big dogs, though, drivers who discover that the Suburban suits them are unlikely to settle for less.
2015 CHEVROLET SUBURBAN:
–Type of vehicle: Four-wheel-drive seven-passenger SUV
–Rating: Four out of four stars
–Reasons to buy: Passenger and cargo space, four-wheel-drive, towing capacity
–Shortcomings: Hard to park; wind noise.
–Engine: 5.3L 16-valve OHV V-8
–Power: 355 horsepower at 5,600 rpm; 383 pound-feet of torque at 4,100 rpm
–Transmission: Six-speed automatic
–EPA fuel economy rating: 15 mpg city/22 highway/18 combined. Regular gasoline.
–Wheelbase: 130.0 inches
–Length: 224.4 inches
–Width: 80.5 inches
–Height: 74.4 inches
–Curb weight: 5,896 pounds
–Base price: $47,300
–Price as tested: $73,130
Prices exclude destination charge.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Mark Phelan is the Detroit Free Press auto critic. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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