Critics' Notebook: 2016 Chevrolet Suburban LTZ
It's good to be King Kong
In the week leading up to taking delivery of this 2016 Chevrolet Suburban LTZ, I was a little intimidated. I was about to take a very big vehicle on some very small roads.
To be tackled first on a Friday drive were the skinny streets of Manhattan’s Greenwich Village, followed by 30 miles of the windy, treacherous, thin lanes known as the Taconic State Parkway in New York’s Hudson Valley. My intimidation evaporated fairly quickly, however, as the Suburban proved itself to be very manageable throughout.
Driving it in stop-and-go traffic—Friday evening Manhattan rush hour traffic, no less—its size helped keep trouble at bay; less people cutting me off, less short-merging in front of me, less getting in the way in general. There’s something to be said for bulk.
And at higher speeds the Suburban floats right along. It’s disconnected from the world a bit—you can see life happening through the huge windows but you can’t hear it, and this big vehicle keeps you well insulated from the harsher bits of road, too. This isn't a sports car, nor do I expect it to behave like one. In this case, floating along high above sketchy, erratic traffic, in silence and on cushion was a most welcome approach to the typically buzzy, busy Friday night commute.
Over the weekend me and the teeny-tiny girlfriend were off to New Jersey for furniture shopping. We must have looked funny, just the two of us, in such a behemoth. The Suburban claims to seat nine people, and from what I saw it could handle a baseball team with room to spare. Yet, despite 115 cubic feet of total available cargo space, the thing was somehow cramped-feeling up front.
A huge center console between the drive and passenger seats does little for organizing small, in-flight necessities like sunglasses, iPhones, and key fobs, but succeeds in reducing elbow room. It does open up, but instead of any effective organizing trays what you get is a simple, square cavern large enough to stow a bagged bowling ball and lunch for four.
We drove up and down NJ Route 17 near Paramus and found that notoriously bad New Jersey drivers stayed clear of us and deferred to the right-of-way that's granted at birth to the very, very large. This, I thought, is what it must be like to drive a city bus.
Parking was amusing—a bit of an event. If you don’t pull into a parking space fully and completely, you’ll find yourself sticking out at one end or the other by about three feet. Backing up is aided by a capable rear-view camera, but it is a leap of faith that there isn’t a baby stroller hidden back there somewhere.
When we found some furniture bargains at spring-season discounts, loading up the Suburban was a pleasure. The back hatch opens itself, the rear-most seats collapse themselves (both at the touch of buttons), and there's room enough to toss in two armchairs as casually as tossing steaks to a dog.
As we continued the furniture bargain hunt, we eventually added some full-length mirrors, a teak table with four accompanying armchairs (folding chairs, folded), a glass coffee table, a six-foot bench, and a potted snake plant. After all this, there was still room for a football player to sit in the back.
It works well for cargo, and I imagine it works well for a family of seven, too.
Gas wise, we’re talking a 31-gallon tank, so that’s a pricey fill-up, but at 18 miles a gallon you’ve got a pretty impressive range of 560 miles. The 5.3L V8 had plenty of power, although it wasn’t, as I've noted before, particularly sporty. It's straight-line grunt, and speaking of which, this LTZ 4WD version can tow 8,000 pounds if you spring for the hitch.
Electronics, controls, and ergonomics were refined American fare. New is Apple CarPlay, a pretty useful heads-up display, a glass cockpit with reconfigurable instruments, and an 8-inch touchscreen. Also new for 2016 are safety features: the Enhanced Driver Alert package, with Forward Collision Alert (FCA), Lane Keep Assist (LKA), IntelliBeam headlights, and a driver’s seat with haptic alerts.
The weekend ended, we commuted back along the Taconic State Parkway and, again, the commuting class showed us the courtesy of deferring to our presence and lane position. Later that day we were back amid the deserted Monday-evening streets, cruising through lower Manhattan and enjoying immensely our last miles in the the belly of the beast.
2016 Chevrolet Suburban 4WD 1/2 Ton LTZ
PRICE (as tested): $74,735
POWERTRAIN: 5.3-liter V8 Ecotec3, six-speed automatic transmission, 4WD
MPG: 15 city/22 highway
SIZE INTIMIDATION FACTOR: 12/10