By KBB.com Editors
High gas prices are the talk of the day, leading many car buyers to focus on smaller, more efficient models. For some people, however, bigger isn't necessarily better, but it is necessary. Especially well-suited for large families and those who tow a camper, boat or horse trailer, the 2011 Chevrolet Suburban is a completely modernized version of a genuine workhorse. It's available in light-duty 1500 and heavy-duty, three-quarter-ton 2500 guises and three trim levels: the base LS, the mid-level LT and the upscale LTZ. Inside its cavernous confines is seating for up to nine occupants, cargo space that maxes out at 137.4 cubic feet, and all of the available luxuries and amenities required by families, contractors, and others.
If you need the towing capacity of a full-size pickup truck coupled with the capability to seat nine people or fill an expansive dry and secure cargo area, the 2011 Chevy Suburban (and similar GMC Yukon XL) is arguably your best choice.
It takes a lot of fuel to haul this much mass up and down the road. With prices at the pump continuing to trend upward, buyers should ask themselves if they need the Suburban's space and utility enough to justify the expense.
Chevy has treated its largest SUV to a few tweaks this year, including the availability of new exterior colors, a new 20-inch chrome wheel option and a towing package that now includes an integrated trailer brake controller.
Driving Impressions Despite being an extremely large SUV built on a truck frame and designed to pull or carry heavy loads, the 2011 Chevrolet Suburban delivers suitable comfortable ride around town and...on the highway. Occupants will certainly feel the bumps, but the suspension does an admirable job of absorbing them. All models benefit from capable V8 engines and a smooth-shifting six-speed automatic transmission, though more powertrain noise makes its way to the cabin than drivers may prefer.
Active Fuel Management Technology
This technology is also known as cylinder deactivation. In light load situations, such as cruising on a flat highway, power is cut from eight to four cylinders in an effort to conserve fuel. As soon as more power is needed, all eight cylinders are automatically put back to work.
Power-Operated Running Boards
The available power-operated running boards, which pop out when a door is opened and retreat when closed, are of considerable help for passengers who find getting into and out of the Suburban to be difficult.
Inside the 2011 Suburban is a cabin that includes seating for up to nine passengers, with standard front buckets that can be replaced by a split three-passenger bench seat. The third-row bench is easily accessed courtesy of an available second-row fold-and-tumble feature. That third row is, however, a bit old school in that it cannot be completely folded into the floor; it must be removed if you wish to maximize cargo space. Interior materials are acceptable, if not high-end, and the overall appearance is stylish yet understated. Storage is plentiful, with generous armrest storage and multiple pockets and cupholders.Exterior
When it comes to vehicles you can buy off your local dealer's lot, there's not much capable of casting a shadow over the 2011 Chevrolet Suburban. It's a full-size SUV, indeed. Modern styling shared with the Chevy Tahoe and Avalanche models allows the body-on-frame rig to appear big, yet refined at the same time. That's due in part to restrained hood and fender bulges as well as precision body gaps that were introduced with the Suburban's last redesign. The whole package rolls on 17-inch wheels, which can be replaced by new-for-2011, dealer-installed, chrome 20-inchers.
Chevrolet offers its 2011 Suburban 1500 in three flavors: LS, LT and LTZ, while the Suburban 2500 comes in just LS and LT. Shoppers considering the LS will discover a list of standard features that includes USB and auxiliary input jacks, Bluetooth connectivity, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, and complimentary access to satellite radio service and OnStar's Turn-by-Turn navigation tool. The LT adds upgrades such as leather upholstery, triple-zone automatic climate control, power-adjustable pedals, and a remote-start system, while the LTZ packs on second-row bucket seats and a rearview camera.
There's no shortage of optional equipment available for the Suburban, as Chevy offers the 2011 model with a variety of stand-alone features and equipment packages. The list includes a power sunroof, power-retractable running boards, a remote-controlled rear DVD unit with wireless headphones, a blind-spot system and dealer-installed chrome wheels measuring up to 22 inches. For a more aggressive look and added capability, the Z71 Off-Road Package fits the Suburban with off-road tires and suspension components, skid plates, an automatic locking rear differential and a chrome grille.
Chevrolet equips its 2011 Suburban 1500 with a 5.3-liter V8 that delivers 320 horsepower when running on gasoline, or 326 horses if the fuel tank is filled with E85 (a mixture of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gas). The heavy duty Suburban 2500 packs a bigger punch with its 352-horsepower 6.0-liter V8. Both engines feature Chevy's Active Fuel Management system, which cuts power from eight to four cylinders under light load situations. This technology, along with a standard six-speed automatic transmission, serves to improve the efficiency of Chevrolet's heavy-hauling SUV.
5.3-liter V8 FlexFuel
320 horsepower @ 5400 rpm (gasoline)
326 horsepower @ 5300 (E85)
335 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4000 rpm (gasoline)
348 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4400 (E85)
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 15/21 (gasoline), 11/16 (E85)
352 horsepower @ 5400 rpm
382 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4200 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 10/15 (2WD), 10/15 (4WD)
By BC on Saturday, January 17, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 80,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"My wife and I have had this car for over 7 years and not a single problem. We love it and will buy another now that the body style has changed."
6 people out of 11 found this review helpful
By Outdoorsman on Wednesday, December 31, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 80,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "Great interior setup and nice comfortable ride."
Cons: "Needs more HP, even when not pulling anything."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"Nice ride for a family on the go, but needs more power so you can pull your toys along with you. Another 100 ponies from the 5.3 would make a huge difference."
8 people out of 18 found this review helpful
By Notoohappy on Tuesday, November 25, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 165,000overall rating 5 of 10rating details
Pros: "Big Space,Comfort on long distance drives,"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 2
"The is a Truck converted to a car. Almost all of the milage is highway. At 105,000 miles the transmission needed to be replaced. $5,000 WOW. Of course just after my 100,000 mile extended warranty was over, it must be engineered this way. I never trailered or overloaded this vehicle I moved three children and a 12 lb. dog. Now at 165,000 mile I have serious engine problems. This car was always serviced at the dealer with regular oil changes. This 2009 Suburban is a disappointment and I feel that with such light usage and regular maintenance on a heavy duty vehicle it should have performed MUCH better. I won't buy another Suburban. Back to Japanese cars where they respect my big dollar expense to purchase a car."
8 people out of 17 found this review helpful
By A/B on Monday, November 17, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 79,400overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Excellent vehicle and selling due to new vehicle purchase. Mileage is a little high but highway miles"
18 people out of 36 found this review helpful
By XL Man on Monday, November 03, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 12,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Ride/handling, good looks, people/cargo capacity"
Cons: "MDS cyl switching not as smooth as it could be"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"My 2013 Suburban gives me all the utility and comfort I could ask for. From hauling the family and dogs around town and occasional 9-hour road-trips for work to getting extra kids to and from sports and other school activities our 'Burban cannot be beat! The LT interior is excellent with leather seats for comfort and easy cleaning but yet I can still haul 4x8 sheets of plywood or drywall, mulch, or a couple dozen flats of flowers for the flower beds at home without any problem. I used to own full size four-door pickups before I moved to the GMC/Chevy full-size SUV's, and other than hauling very tall items (like large appliances) I have found nothing I used to haul in a pickup that I cannot with my Suburban. For anything really tall that will not fit inside I just hook up a small utility trailer and take advantage of the effortless towing the Suburban provides. Yes, the third-row seats are heavy to haul out if you need maximum cargo space but GM has made them very easy to roll in and out. It is an easy one-person job. No issues driving in any weather. I can count on one hand the number of times I needed to switch out of 2WD to the "auto" setting for 4WD including during several winter trips in heavy snow across PA on I-80 or during the numerous snow storms here in lower Michigan last fall. And most of those times were more to soothe my nerves than for actual traction or control issues. Smooth and responsive at highway speeds but agile enough to easily handle the local shopping mall or home improvement parking lots. Gas mileage is not an issue for me. It's a full size truck with a 320 horse 5.3L V8. What do you expect? Overall a great truck with outstanding utility you will not regret owning."
11 people out of 18 found this review helpful
By Wissa on Monday, October 27, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 100,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"I love my vehicle but it should have heated mirrors for the price. I have a LTZ without heated mirrors"
7 people out of 18 found this review helpful