By Don Fuller, Contributing Editor
KBB Expert Rating: 8.8
Chevrolet’s eternally popular Suburban was all-new last year and is the pinnacle of the full-size SUV market, with a combination of striking looks, impressive capabilities, noteworthy luxury, detail refinement and a driving experience that makes it tops in its class. Changes for 2016 are understandably minimal, and include new driver aids for enhanced operation, convenience and safety, an upgraded sound system and some new colors. The main competition in this category is the Ford Expedition EL, a popular and capable choice in its own right, but the newer Suburban beats it on newness and refinement, and the import competitors, such as the Nissan Armada and Toyota Sequoia, simply do not match up on size and capabilities. This really is the top of the full-size SUV class.
You know who you are. If your needs include a cavernous capacity, incredible interior, prodigious power for terrific trailer towing and delightful driving, go no further than the 2016 Chevy Suburban.
Chevy’s big Suburban takes up a lot of parking space and it’s no fuel-economy champ. If you don’t need what it offers, it could be an unfortunate purchase choice. Consider a minivan or smaller SUV, either of which will be much better suited to your needs.
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Since the Suburban was as new as new gets in 2015, changes for 2016 are minimal. An enhanced Driver Alert Package includes several convenience and safety features, there’s an available head-up display, a new standard 8-inch screen with Connected Radio, enhanced Chevrolet MyLink with phone integration and some new colors.
Science works. Chevrolet’s 2016 Suburban, at close to three tons, drives pretty much like a luxury car with a lot of room inside. Clearly, the engineers have...
... spent quality time on ride and handling, and all models of the Suburban deliver an exemplary driving experience. Exceptionally impressive is the Magnetic Ride Control, available on the upper-level LTZ trim; its advanced shock absorbers continually monitor road conditions and adjust themselves accordingly, delivering both a supple ride and remarkably precise control. Occupants will also appreciate the conversationally quiet interior, whether chatting to each other or taking in some tunes. The only engine choice is a fine one: the familiar and long-proven 5.3-liter V8, which is seamlessly competent, strong, quiet and smooth. Except for having to put gas in the tank, the only real downside to driving is parking it at the end of trip, as maneuvering in tight spots takes some awareness.
Step into the 2016 Suburban and expect to be captivated, as nothing here says “truck.” The layout, the artistic flow and selection of materials are far beyond merely very nice. Control operation defines user-friendliness and there’s nearly 40 cubic feet of space behind the fold-flat 3rd-row seat.
We like the commanding looks of Chevy’s big new Suburban. It has a definite attention-grabbing presence, and we particularly appreciate that it does not look like an 8-passenger version of the Silverado pickup, but instead brings its own identity to valet parking. Nothing wrong with a great-looking ride.
The 2016 Suburban's upscale interior grabs your attention from the moment you step inside; its artful shapes, high-end materials and excellent fit and finish seem more appropriate for a luxury sedan than a full-size SUV. The 2nd-row's comfy seats recline but, unfortunately, don't slide fore and aft. The third row has enough foot- and legroom for adults, at least for shorter trips, and kids will be fine. A high cargo floor provides space for the flat-fold 3rd-row seats, but that space is not wasted – under the floor is a handy hidden storage area.
For 2016 the Suburban’s exterior shares nothing of design or components with its Silverado pickup truck counterpart. Chevy’s exterior designers had a lot of space at their disposal and used it well; this big SUV has a presence that is decidedly commanding. Long, flowing lines emphasize the Suburban's considerable length instead of hiding it, and the broad front face owns the traffic lane. Dimensionally, the 2016 Suburban is about the same size as all those versions of years past, but then, when you're talking about full-size SUVs, an inch here or there doesn't make much of a difference.
Standard on all Suburbans is the 5.3-liter V8 engine, 6-speed automatic transmission and a cavernous interior. The base-level LS trim has cloth seats, automatic climate control, rear parking sensors and the new standard Chevrolet MyLink 8-inch diagonal touch screen that includes Bluetooth streaming audio and other features. The mid-range LT trim has forward-collision alert, lane-departure warning, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and the availability of features not offered on the LS. The LTZ models add rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot alerts, up-level audio, heated and cooled seats, the package availability of Magnetic Ride Control, 20-inch wheels and a boat-load of other items.
The 2016 Suburban’s available-equipment list is extensive. Among the choices: Order the LS trim level with the front bench seat and Chevy’s biggest can haul nine people to the movies. For the LT version we like the exceptionally comprehensive Luxury Package which, for $3,110, adds many of the LTZ's luxury touches, and a $3,355 Sun, Entertainment and Destinations Package bundles navigation, a Blu-ray rear-seat entertainment system, a power sunroof and many other items on LT and LTZ trims. Rear-seat DVD by itself is $1,695 and there is a wide variety of wheel choices, all the way up to 22-inchers.
Chevy’s sole powertrain for its 2016 Suburban is a fine one: the very well-proven 5.3-liter 355-horsepower V8 with a 6-speed automatic. The larger engines of years past have been dropped because very few people bought them. No loss; the 5.3 makes plenty of power, cranks out 383 lb-ft of torque, features direct fuel injection and Active Cylinder Management and, if not a fuel-economy leader, delivers efficiency which is at least reasonable, considering the big Suburban’s muscular capabilities. The smooth 6-speed automatic does a good job of keeping the engine in the best part of its power range and 4-wheel drive (4WD) is optionally available. Maximum towing capacity with 2-wheel drive (2WD) is 8,300 pounds, so the 5.3 is more than willing and able.
355 horsepower @ 5,600 rpm
383 lb-ft of torque @ 4,100 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 16/23 mpg (2WD); 15/22 mpg (4WD)
The 2016 Suburban is not inexpensive but, if it’s what you need, it’s the best and biggest available. The base LS carries a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) just above $50,000 for a 2WD version, the mid-range LT starts below $56,000 and the LTZ is around $65,500. Add $3,000 for 4WD. You can keep checking the options list and go way up from there. That's markedly more than a Toyota Sequoia or Nissan Armada, but the Suburban is a lot bigger. It’s more expensive than the Ford Expedition EL but, in that case, the Suburban is newer and, well, nicer. Check the Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price to see what buyers in your area are paying for a 2016 Suburban. Historically, Suburban resale values have been down around its Ford and Nissan rivals and measurably below those of the Toyota Sequoia. But this new Suburban might start to change that.