KBB Editors' Overview
By KBB.com Editors - Updated Date: 11/14/2011
Say what you will about the 2012 Chevrolet Suburban SUV, be it praise or scorn, at the end of the day the Suburban has survived as long as it has because it fills a huge need. Whether you've got a small brood of offspring or a big toy that needs transport to the summer vacation spot, you'll need the seating space, cargo room and towing capability of the 2012 Chevy Suburban. Available in 1500 half-ton and heavy-duty 2500 3/4-ton models (the 2500 increases the Suburban's max payload and tow ratings), the 2012 Chevy Suburban SUV fears no task. Yet, despite its critics, today's Suburban isn't really the gas-thirsty hog it once was, nor does it handle poorly and drive like an old-fashioned truck. In fact, the 2012 Chevy Suburban SUV has an EPA rating of 21 mpg on the highway, is loaded with the latest GM safety equipment and, despite its bow-tie badging, is a pretty luxurious cruiser.
You'll Like This Car If...
If you require the ability to carry up to nine people and/or need to tow more than 9,000 pounds, the 2012 Chevrolet Suburban is up to the job. And, since the Suburban seems to be the vehicle of choice for most government agencies (and Hollywood films portraying said agencies), your kids might actually think your new SUV is cool. Get it in black.
You May Not Like This Car If...
While the 2012 Chevrolet Suburban SUV achieves decent fuel economy on the highway, around-town jaunts will likely yield much lower figures. The Suburban is big and it's no joy to try and fit it into crowded shopping-mall parking spots or maneuver through narrow confines. If you don't need the Suburban's towing capability, the 2012 Chevy Traverse crossover SUV may be a better choice.
What's New for 2012
The 2012 Chevy Suburban SUV receives a new navigation radio option, while the standard StabiliTrak now includes trailer sway control and hill start assist. The LTZ trim gains a heated leather-wrapped steering wheel and side blind zone alert, while the LT trims gains heated leather seats.
Despite being an extremely large SUV built on a truck frame and designed to pull or carry heavy loads, the 2012 Chevrolet Suburban SUV delivers a 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 6-speed automatic transmission, though more powertrain noise makes its way to the cabin than some 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.
With its available front bench seat, the 2012 Chevrolet Suburban can seat up to nine passengers, although we suspect most will have the 8-person configuration and front bucket seats. A clever set of fold-and-tumble second-row seats makes for easier access to the third-row seats which, when not in use, can be folded flat. Unfortunately, unlike the Ford Expedition, whose third-row seat folds flush into the floor well, the 2012 Chevy Suburban's third-row seats must be manually removed, requiring some labor on your part as well as a place to store the 50/50-split seats. As for the interior itself, we'd say it's conservative yet attractive, with a few too many hard plastic bits on base trims, but a nicer set-up on the premium LTZ. Naturally Chevrolet gives the Suburban lots of storage areas, cup holders and power outlets, as well as up to 137.4 cubic feet of storage space behind the front-row seats.
Of all the cars on your dealer's lot, the one that stands out head and shoulders (or bumpers and roof racks) above the rest is the 2012 Chevy Suburban SUV. Despite its massive size, Chevy has given the Suburban a clean-slate look, with smooth sides, flushed side glass and simple, straight lines. Its body-on-frame architecture is shared with stable siblings the Silverado pickup and Avalanche truck, but somehow the Suburban manages to come off less work truck and more limo. Chevrolet's careful attention to detail includes engineering minimal gaps between body panels and a restrained use of chrome trim. Tire and wheel packages range from the standard 17-inch set all the way to the available 20-inch chrome-clad wheels on the LTZ trim. Dealer-installed accessories include 20- and 22-inch wheels. Side step rails make accessing the roof a bit easier and big side mirrors help eliminate blind spots. If there is one weakness in the Suburban design, it's the lack of a vented rear side-glass panel, something the third-row passengers would probably appreciate.
Notable Standard Equipment
Chevrolet offers its 2012 Suburban SUV in three flavors: LS, LT and LTZ. 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 SiriusXM satellite radio service and OnStar's Turn-by-Turn navigation tool. The LT adds upgrades such as leather upholstery, heated front seats, triple-zone automatic climate control, power-adjustable pedals and a remote-start system, while the LTZ packs on second-row bucket seats, heated and cooling front seats, Bose Centerpoint Surround Sound audio, a heated steering wheel, navigation with a rearview camera and SiriusXM's real-time NavTraffic updates.
Notable Optional Equipment
There's no shortage of optional equipment available for the 2012 Chevrolet Suburban SUV, as Chevy offers the 2012 model with a variety of stand-alone features and equipment packages. The options include a power sunroof, power-retractable running boards, a remote-controlled rear DVD unit with wireless headphones, a blind-spot system and 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.
Under the Hood
Chevrolet equips its 2012 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 gasoline). 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 6-speed automatic transmission, serves to improve the efficiency of Chevrolet's heavy-hauling SUV.
5.3-liter V8 FlexFuel
320 horsepower @ 5,200 rpm (gasoline)
326 horsepower @ 5,300 (E85)
335 lb-ft of torque @ 4,000 rpm (gasoline)
348 lb-ft of torque @ 4,400 (E85)
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 15/21 (gasoline), 11/16 (E85)
352 horsepower @ 5,400 rpm
382 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4,200 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 10/16 (2WD), 10/15 (4WD)
The 2012 Chevrolet Suburban's Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starts in the low $40,000-range for a rear-wheel-drive LS and you can stretch to almost $60,000 for the luxurious LTZ. Data indicate Suburbans are typically selling for about $1,500 below MSRP but, before starting negotiations with your dealer, we suggest checking the Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price to see what consumers are currently paying in your area. From a resale perspective, the 2012 Suburban is expected to match the performance of the Ford Expedition EL and GMC Yukon XL, but trail behind the Nissan Armada and Toyota Sequoia.