Suburban carries on with ride, performance

Roominess is also a major plus for Chevrolet Suburban. (Bud Wells photos)

Opening a rear door on the 2017 Chevrolet Suburban, I placed an iPad on the seat, closed the door, then opened and crawled into the driver’s seat. We drove in to Denver, on out south, and upon parking the vehicle, its message center posted this: “Rear seat reminder, Look in rear seat.”

The reminder alert is one of only a few new features on the ’17 Suburban, which even with few updates continues relatively strong in sales. There is not a better ride in a large sport utility vehicle than that of the Suburban; complementing its cushiness is smooth performance from its V-8 engine.

It’s been around forever, it seems. Dating back to 1935, when it was introduced as a Suburban Carry-All, it’s the oldest model name sold in America.

The drive I made with the Suburban was for the grand opening of the Mike Ward Maserati/McLaren/Alfa Romeo/Fiat on Lucent Court in Highlands Ranch.

The Suburban, still of body-on-frame truck-type build, handled well, even on the return along construction-narrowed C470, where two narrow lanes with concrete barriers along the edges kept drivers alert. Zipping along at 65 miles per hour in heavy traffic, the Chevy made no unusual moves.

The Suburban competes with the Ford Expedition, Toyota Sequoia and Nissan Armada, in addition to the Tahoe and Yukon from its own General Motors stable.

It has long boasted the best ride of its class. A direct challenger to the Suburban from the mid-1950s to mid-1970s was the International Travelall, which competed well with the Chevy in toughness, but yielded competitive ground in ride quality and maneuverability.

By 1949, the Chevy Suburban was growing into the popular model it is yet today. (Bud Wells photo)

The launch of the Suburban in 1935 with an all-steel body on a commercial chassis was the answer to a need for a heavy-duty, truck-based wagon. Power came from Chevrolet’s “Stovebolt” inline-6 that produced 60 horsepower for the half-ton chassis. The model, which offered its first V-8 in 1955, has prevailed through more than 80 years of style changes and performance demands.

Next oldest model names, after the Suburban, are the Ford F-series trucks in 1948, Volkswagen Beetle in ’49, Toyota Land Cruiser in ’51, Chevy Corvette in ’53 and Mercedes SL in ’54.

For 2017, a smooth-shifting 6-speed automatic transmission is tied to the Chevy’s 5.3-liter V-8 (355 horsepower, 383 lb.-ft. torque). Cylinder deactivation will cut use to V-4 at times cruising t\he highway, and even occasionally in town. My overall fuel-mileage average was 19.6; the Suburban’s EPA estimate is 15/22.

It rides on Continental P275/55R20 tires; 22-inch wheels are available, but that may bring harshness to the normally soft ride.

Only the extended-length Ford Expedition will out-tow the Suburban, which has max of 8,000 pounds. Same with Suburban’s 39-cubic-feet of cargo space behind the third row of seats; only the Expedition EL exceeds that among competitors. Fold the rear seats and the Suburban’s cargo area expands to 76.7 feet.

Pushing a button inside the power rear liftgate will fold the third row of seats, and a button inside the side doors will flip-fold the second row for ease of entry to the far-back.

From a base price of $58,155, the four-wheel-drive Suburban LT  half-ton climbs to sticker of $66,020 with the addition of numerous options, including color touch with navigation and audio, power sunroof, remote keyless start, power tilt and telescope steering column, heated steering wheel, lane-change alert and side-blind-zone alert.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration are standard in the Suburban, which has five USB ports in the cabin. The rear seat alert is tied to safety as a reminder to check for child occupants before leaving the vehicle.

Craig Rutherford of Golden and his daughter, Lena Rutherford, a junior at Miami of Ohio in a business program, admire one of the new 2017 McLaren models at grand opening of Mike Ward Maserati/McLaren/Alfa Romeo/Fiat in Highlands Ranch. (Photo by Bud Wells)