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Looking to buy used '90s Suburban, what combo gets best mpg? [Expired Topic]

9286 Views 8 Replies 7 Participants Last post by  Tachyon
I'm thinking of buying a used 2 wheel drive Suburban, 1992 or newer, and would like to know if Chevy ever made a 6 cylinder version. I know it would be slow, but I would like to get decent gas milage. It would be a daily driver, kid hauler, family trips, no towing. What's the best Suburban combination for gas mileage? What can I expect in city and highway milage?
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Define "Decent"? for what it sounds like you want a suburban may not be the best choice. I am not aware of a V6 version but some of the other guys here will know better. If milage is such a big concern you may want to look at newer E85 compatable Burbs, I think (2002 or newer) or maybe a mini van. Of all the strengths of the suburbans milage is not necessarily one of them. The diesel guys may disagree but I get 10 mpg with my 95 and very happy with it. But I don't use it just to haul kids around, without a requirement for towing or hauling gear of some sort there is probably a better fit for you with a more fuel efficient vehicle.

Please note that my comments are ONLY because you seem to have a very high priority on gas milage. If that were not your primary issue then the suburban is the perferct kid hauler.
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Looking to buy used '90s Suburban, what combo gets best mpg?

Most of my driving is city driving, and I would like to get 15 MPG or better in the city. Not sure if that's realistic, but something to shoot for.
My first concern is cost of the vehicle, then milage.
I'm looking for the best bang for the buck. I've had a minivan before, it was great, but I really like the look of the '92 and newer Suburban, the parts availabilty, and ease to work on. With the exception of fuel cost, it seems like it would have low operating cost.
I would like a good used vehicle for under $6k. I only drive between 6000-7000 miles a year, and the added cost of a better gas milage newer model would take a long time for the cost tradeoff to payoff.
What's the smallest V8 used on one of these? I think a 350 or 454 is what I've usually seen. Do they make one with a 305? Maybe I could find one that needs a motor, and install a 305. Assumming the original motor was a small block, a 305 would be an easy swap. Not sure if the engine management system would work going to a smaller motor. Any thoghts on this?

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My 99 4wd has the vortec 350 and I consistantly get right around 14mpg around town. If it were 2wd with 3:42's instead of 3:73's, it would probably get 15mpg or better. I beleive 350 is the smallest they put in them in the 90's. The 96-99's should get a little better gas milage than the 95 and older ones because of the vortect motors and the prices are not bad if you stay below the 2000 model year.
Pretty sure that the burban was only offered in V8's. If they did offer a 6 cyl, it would be a 4.3L, and it would struggle, and there would be no decent gas mileage. sorry.
There is no question that a diesel 2wd with an overdrive transmission will get the best MPG in a suburban. 15-17 in town and up to 20+ on the highway depending on gearing and speed.
To the best of my knowledge, there was no 6 cyl offers in the 1990's. There were some earlier years like in the 70's where a strong I6 was offered, but that was a long time ago.
I hated the slow powerlessness of our '86 Suburban (4wd 2500) with the 350 engine. I wanted to get the 454 when we bought the 99 but my husband overruled me. But, the '99 with the vortec 350 has MUCH more power than the old one and gets better mileage too. I wouldn't advise getting a 350 before the 99 engine (or 96 if that's the year they started making the engine that it has) and CERTAINLY nothing smaller (even if it was possible). Mileagewise, I guess my husband was right about my driving style--I don't get near as good mileage as GaryL. My mixed city/highway is only a little above 10 mpg.
The smallest engine in recent history was the 305 V8 which was discontinued (in the Suburban) in 87. However, smaller is not always better.
A big, well designed, efficient that's not working hard usually will get better MPG in a large heavy vehicle than a smaller engine beating itself to death.
For example, Some guys with new 2500 Avalanches with the 8.1 litre V8 get up to 18MPG on the highway.

That said, there's no doubt in my mind that a diesel is the way to go. It will give you excellent mileage, much more power than a V6 (which you can't get anyway) or 305. If you're not a diesel guy, don't let it scare you. They run great, are extremely reliable (PMC cooling excepted, get a cooler kit) and get better mileage than any gasoline combo. Plus if you have a biodiesel dealer in your area, you can get even better prices, lower emissions, and do your patriotic duty to reduce foreign oil imports. ;')

If you went diesel, 96-98 is the way to go IMO. That or a pre 91 non turbo, but the turbo 6.5l is an all around good performer.
If you insist on gas, than look for a 96-99 350/5.7l gas model. In those, a 4x4 really doesn't cost you any significant MPG when you are not using it, and it's sure nice to have in bad weather. The older, pre 91 machines will use a little more fuel than the newer ones due to the older 4x4 system.
Whichever one you get, put synthetic oil/lube in it, a good air filter (like a K&N) and watch your tire pressures. A free flow exhaust, and computer chip upgrades can also improve mileage. Remember most mods meant for modest performance gains really just make an engine more efficient, and therefore, as long as you can keep your foot out of it, you will also get improved MPG.
My 99 Tahoe had a K&N filter/intake kit and it never got under 16 MPG no matter how hard I flogged it, and got as much as 20 MPG on a good day.

Good luck with your search and keep us posted on the results.

P.S. Diesel plus veggie kit = extreme cheap fuel.
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