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  • Has the Chevy Suburban seen the end of the road? How do new Suburbans compare?

    Do you have a modern Chevy Suburban? If not, would you buy one?
    Anyone over the age of 30 must remember the old-style Chevrolet Suburban. All of our parents had one it seemed, and many of our grandparents had one as well. Am I right? It was the perfect vehicle for hauling kids during the week, towing a boat to the lake, picking up groceries one day and a few sheets of 4'x8' plywood the next.

    Once it got a few miles on it, Mr. Smith, who used it for the family truckster, decided to sell it. So, Mr. Johnson bought it and he was going to use it as a contractor vehicle, or for his landscaping crew or to go to job sites. When a major mechanical problem occurred with the 350 or 454, the engine was rebuilt. The same for tranny issues as well because the overall life of the vehicle was so lone with different owners able to get different uses that it might stay on the road for 20+ years.

    That's the way it was, at least from the early 1970's until at least the 1999 model (and for some configurations until the redesigned 2007 model).

    Starting with perhaps the 1973 Suburban, when you looked at the interior, you got a pretty basic layout and configuration. Yes, it could haul some people, but the rear deck has a smaller 3rd passenger seat as an option (or 3rd party) and most people had the two-row configuration with a fold-flat rear seat - yes, allowing you to haul a 4x8 sheet of anything that comes in a 4x8 sheet.

    The Suburban has changed dramatically on the interior
    NOW, when you look at the 2007+ models, built on the GMT900 platform, you get a different interior layout. No longer is the Suburban the all-purpose vehicle it once was. It's clearly not designed for anything except for people hauling. The 3rd row seats do some out, but try folding flat the 2nd row and getting a sheet of plywood in the back. Can't be laid flat.

    Suburban sales have dropped of sharply over the past few years, mostly due to the high cost of fuel and the thirsty nature of the 'burban itself.

    Has the purpose for the old-style Chevy Suburban gone and will never return?
    My question is - if nothing else, should a utilitarian version of the Suburban be offered once more to meet the hand-me-down paradigm that worked so well for two or three generations? Or, have other vehicles such as the Avalanche, Silverado and Traverse stepped in to fill the market gap left when gasoline prices went sky-high, leaving the Suburban as a dinosaur of the past, with no real purpose in the 21st century America?

    Thoughts? I'd love to hear them.

    This article was originally published in forum thread: Has the Chevy Suburban seen the end of the road? How do new Suburbans compare? started by Steve View original post
    Comments 86 Comments
    1. TELORVEHC's Avatar
      The new Suburbans are a lot more "soccer mom" oriented compared to the more boxy versions of the 'burb from the 70s until the late 90's IMO. It was and still is a great vehicle to do pretty much, well, anything haha. As mentioned above, you can haul your tools with it one day, take your friends out that night and tow your boat (along with all of your gear) the next day. It's a great vehicle and being the longest running vehicle nameplate in history, I'm confident that the Suburban will be around for quite sometime, in some way, shape or form.
    1. Chevy Girl's Avatar
      Chevy Girl -
      I think they got "uncool" for a while, for all these milf soccer moms that got into driving their smaller suvs and crossovers. While it might be true (??) that familes are getting smaller, car seats are manditory for even more years now so having a large suv is going to be a requirement for many many families still.
    1. occupant's Avatar
      occupant -
      Unfortunately they're trying to make every vehicle they sell an everyman's car. You can't do that. Fine, have your Tahoe with 5-6-7-8-or-9 passenger seating options. But leave the Suburban alone. There's a reason people buy them, because they perform certain tasks just right. Try taking a minivan out to Mennonite country to haul workers around. Try a crossover when you're out on the ranch and need to mend 11 miles of fence. Try driving a compact SUV for 8 hours a day on the interstate with three screaming kids and a PMS'g wife for a family vacation. It doesn't work.

      The Suburban does many jobs and it does them well. Want to carpool but there's six coworkers in your neighborhood and one of them still uses a Compaq luggable computer and carries a dot matrix printer and a box of track-fed paper around with him? You need a Suburban. And you'll get 15-20mpg while you're doing it. Take advantage of the rebates always available on them and you can buy the guy a new laptop. He just pays double fuel share for the next 142 weeks.

      You still see me shopping for Suburbans. But you will see me only paying attention to the 1992-1999 models. I only PRETEND to look at the newer models when my wife prods me to tell her what's available around us. We have owned 1984 and 1988 model Suburbans, both 3/4 ton, the '84 was a 4x4 with a carb'd 350 and the '88 was a 2wd model with a 454TBI. If I have my way we'll have a 1998-1999 2WD, half-ton, 350/auto OD, charcoal gray outside, gray cloth inside. Because that is a truck that will still get high teens for mileage and will haul me, my wife, our 5 kids we have at home, plus the two older daughters, plus all the stuff needed for a weekend in Austin. The only other way to do that is one of those 15-passenger vans and then you're getting low teens for mileage and everybody's complaining about the wind/road noise and the seasickness as the winds toss us from lane to lane.

      I have no interest at all in the 2007+ models. And I would only take a 2000-2006 model with 9-passenger cloth seating. Anything else (leather, buckets here or there, DVD systems, etc) is just a waste of money in what is a UTILITY truck. It's not an SUV. There's no sport about a 3-ton people hauler. It's a utility vehicle at best so why not treat it like one? You can't get Expeditions and Excursions like this either unless you're a fleet buyer and good luck getting a third row in that Expedition SV. Excursions haven't been made for six years. I could go on and on.

      I guess I'd be happy with the '73 model, too. Something older than our 80s models, more vinyl, more metal, less stuff to break. Still want the 3 rows of seats and the front and rear AC, though.
    1. Kraziken's Avatar
      Kraziken -
      I like the new look to be honest. The interior capacity is of concern to me. I have a '98. I wouldn't mind a 2000-2006 because the rigs did have improved brakes, engine. It might have taken a downturn slightly in reliability. It seems to be the norm for cars nowadays that have more and more electronics. I still think there is a need for the Suburban. Not many families can afford the 45k+ for a brand new one though. Reduce the options, bring back the rear cargo (yes I occasionally haul flat sheets), increase the mileage, lower the overall vehicle weight. I think they can do it.

      If they get rid of the Suburban, what is the government going to use for important transport? What are the fire stations going to use for command rigs? Big work vehicles are a necessity.
    1. newsie23's Avatar
      newsie23 -
      Mind you, I don't like trucks - but I have a '03 AWD, passenger, Express . Just turned 50,000km (30,000mi). Just LineX the floor - to carry a snowmobile, inside! Wish it had folding, removable rear seats (prefer buckets, but 'park' benches would be OK). My old Suburban was too low (inside).

      The next, non-pick-ups - will be Sprinter, EuroTransit, etc., type vehicles. Hopefully, short/long, with AWD available, and utility/gussied up configurations. (and DIESEL)
    1. AdrianR's Avatar
      AdrianR -
      My daily driver is an ´85 4x4 Suburban with the 6.2 diesel - 22mpg easily and lots of power. When that motor dies, I'll have it rebuilt.

      GM's mistakes (for there are many) include dropping the diesel option from the Suburban. As others said, it has become more of a gussied-up SUV and less a workhorse-with-comforts.

      If I ever buy another one, it will be a diesel pre-1992 - hate the way the new models look.
    1. Als09Sierra's Avatar
      Als09Sierra -
      My biggest issue with the new ones is the price. I did a search last night and the first few came up in the 60k range. If I ever get one, it will be pre-owned. Plus, most are sold with the 5.3L. I like my 5.3, but for a Suburban I would prefer the 6.0L or the Duramax.
    1. tlhodgson's Avatar
      tlhodgson -
      Chevy Girl is right in that the Suburban has become a soccer mom vehicle. I hate to see it happen that way. I am positivie that GM will keep the Suburban. It has ruled the world of the full size SUV for so long that it has achieved icon status. GM would be foolish to discontinue it. And in spite of gas prices, they still sell pretty well. I think the role of the Suburban has been at least partially taken over by the popularity of pickups and smaller SUVs. Seems like everybody has a pickup nowadays, and now you see utility trailers everywhere. So Suburban no longer has to fill the roles it once did. It is now a glorified station wagon. I believe it will live on, but will adapt to the market.
    1. bluestreak94's Avatar
      bluestreak94 -
      The suburban will be continued for many years to come, there have been some bumps along the way, like droppping the fold flat 2nd row seats, but it still fills a gap no other vehicle can, I've had a 1994 1500 2x4 with the tbi 350, I have a 2004 1500 4x4 with the 5.3 and a 2007 2500 4x4 with the 6.0 and all have done it all with flying colours and whether it be driving the kids to soccer, hauling sheets of plywood or pulling my camper or utility trailer none comes even close. Not to mention the fact that if proper maintenance is done to them they cost next to nothing in repairs. In the last 9 years with my three suburbans i've put in about $3000 in repairs ( 2 fuel pumps on my 94 and a tranny on my 04 which was slipping 2 years before I finally decided to change it )
      I would definately love for GM to wake up and drop a DURAMAX into a suburban, I'm positive that that alone would give the Suburban a HUGE boost in sales as well as giving us big family haulers the equivalent to a monster pickup but with the ability to haul around our little angels! just my 2 cents!!!
    1. Jacqson's Avatar
      Jacqson -
      I think there is still a market for Subs. Just a smaller one.
    1. ElbowJoe's Avatar
      ElbowJoe -
      Funny. I was just thinking about this last week when I saw an older Suburban on the road. I love my '03 Suburban. Wouldn't trade it for anything and my wife feels the same. I think new ones are pretty neat, but the points made earlier are valid. Chevy needs to offer a working mans version of this truck. Used to be a time when you could pretty much order a truck how you wanted it but now you have to get what they offer in packages - even if you don't want what comes along with the package. You are beginning to see the Japanese and Europeans offering more flexibility here. I hope the US automakers are taking note. Not everyone has $55K plus to shell out on a new vehicle. It sure would be an interesting test bed to see GM strip things down a bit and see what sells. I would think that the aftermarket folks would love it too. Could see some rather interesting configurations this way. They probably won't do it though because it makes too much sense.

      For me, I plan on driving my '03 till the wheels fall off.
    1. Psyc0's Avatar
      Psyc0 -
      Mine's an '04, and when the wheels fall off, We'll install some new wheels, bearings, yadda, and continue.
    1. lt1george's Avatar
      lt1george -
      Quote Originally Posted by silveradotrailblazer View Post
      The Suburban is a icon at GM. I think they will keep it.

      GM doesn't care. Did you forget about Oldsmonile and Pontiac. If it isn't going to make will be Gone.
    1. Nargg's Avatar
      Nargg -
      I think, and truly hope they will stay. My father drove a '72 Suburban, the truck I learned how to drive in. This was by all accounts a very "utility" vehicle.

      My last purchase, a 2011 Silverado was almost an Avalanche, which we all know is just a converted Suburban. Only price kept me in the Silverado, as I would have preferred the Avalanche. I do think that Chevy should consider a "Work Truck" version of the Suburban. One that is much more utility minded and more simple inside. That I believe would bring back the sales for the vehicle, bringing more people who need a real work vehicle.
    1. 80cutbrougham's Avatar
      80cutbrougham -
      there will always be the need for large families to have large safe vehicles to haul the kids around with and the occasional need to move large items. and there will always be a need for contractors to have a big enough vehicle to move tools and materials around with ease other than in pickups. i cant see the suburban disappearing... what i can see is it being redesigned as a better work truck

      i guess in the end we'll see what happens when it happens
    1. swedp's Avatar
      swedp -
      hi everyone,i´ve had 3 suburbans ´71 ´78 ´85. i loved them all even thou they were hard on gas.the ´85 had a 350/400 combo and that engine had an M stamped at the motor.strong as hell it was.i think the newer ones today seemes to be nice but a face lift wouldn´t be in the way,the fronts on the latest burbs and tahoe etc are too round in some way.much too like jappsies. but i hope they will keep up building them anyway,best from your peter in sweden
    1. jprpdr's Avatar
      jprpdr -
      No way. My '97 (1500LT-special ordered new) with 88,000 miles is a keeper. Have not yet found a task it cannot handle. The newer ones look beefier, but apparently are not as flexible as my series. Mine new was 30K+. Making luxury vehicles out of Suburbans defeats their purpose.

      Westchester, CA
    1. lee1272's Avatar
      lee1272 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Psyc0 View Post
      Mine's an '04, and when the wheels fall off, We'll install some new wheels, bearings, yadda, and continue.
      My first suburban was a 1999, after many Blazers in my 67 years, I got the fever ! I now have a 2005 Z71 with all options, at 77000 miles the transmission failed, but GM did foot half the bill to repair. Being retired my wife and I will continue to drive the most comfortable vehicle on the road. Easy to get in and out of, haul anything I like without knocking off the DVD player, I guess it works , who cares !! I tow with it when necessary, and am always elected to haul friends to the event where their " little SUV's" can't make the cut. 16-19 mile @ gallon with all synthetic fluids and K&N air filter. We have not much control over the minds of GM engineers as they struggle to meet their quota---but then again I can repair mine for a lot less than the 60 grand for a new one !! Keep driving your 'Burb !!!!! After all you wouldn't throw away that ol' pair of RED WING BOOTS !!
    1. barneyfife912a's Avatar
      barneyfife912a -
      Three years ago I lost my late '93, early '94 model Caprice Station Wagon. This particular model was known as the SSW(Special Service Wagon). I put the roof lights, push bar, spotlight, and communications equipment back in and on it. I do roadside assistance and am a storm spotter so I used every inch of space in it. Loved it! When I lost my car in an accident 3 years back, I needed something along the lines of my wagon. I looked at trucks and thought "No, I won't have the storage space". I looked at vans and there's just not enough room to work on things when odd happenings occur to the engine or trans. I found my '97 Suburban K1500 and fell in love! 350 V-8, 4x4, and like a station wagon on steroids! Plenty of room for family and tools! It's just a damn shame that Chevy seems to just make certain vehicles for certain duties, forgetting that being utilitarian, such as the 'Burban, can be a good choice also.
    1. KidHauler's Avatar
      KidHauler -
      We had a 78 for a number of years, I'm on year 6 of my 99, and 2 years on my wife's 02. I like my 99 best.
      The 78 was a beast - if I could find the sale flyer I made up, I would post it. Something about 'this is not a SUV, 4 tons of pissed off Detroit steel...'
      The 02 is 'fancy' - cloth seats, power thisnthat, and my wife likes the 6L.
      The 99 was a government truck - vinyl baby!, crank windows, dual a/c, floor shift 4x4. I looked a year and half for it, and intend to put 400k on it.

      I hope that GM keeps the line around - this is the 75th year, right?! Nothing else works like them. I have to agree with others that getting back to basics will keep the interest up, and in the market that is has served best. Drop the fancy crap, offer the diesel, and ftlog, bring back cargo doors!

      When GM dropped the cargo doors, I sent them a letter. My memory has faded of the entire content, but something about argyle socks on heated leather seats whilst you waive at your friends through the sun roof...bah.

      I have a bunch of kids, and they have friends, and they have stuff, and we're always going somewhere. I haul everything for friends and family, pull the trailers, do the jump starts, and find some reason to go to the back of that field in the rain. All of it with very little mechanical trouble. Yeah, I pay for fuel, but I don't drive like a moron, either.

      I still have a use for a Suburban. I'll have a use for a Suburban for a long time. I don't even look at other "SUV's", because nothing else compares - no matter what you call 'em. Someday I'll need to replace my truck, and I hope there is still a Suburban available; under 60k and true to it's heritage.

      Thanks, Steve. You, too, GM, for a workhorse of a vehicle.
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