By on August 2, 2008

The Gran\'pappy of the SUVOil shock version three-point-something is roiling the global economy. SUVs are doing a fair imitation of the dinosaurs in Fantasia. As the U.S. auto industry undergoes a rapid, convulsive, paradigm product shift, I feel a slight pang for T-Rex: the Chevrolet Suburban. I hope this example of the species pulls through. The SUV segment may be history, but the Suburban IS history.

In the last thirty years or so, GM's cycled through product names at a fearsome clip. The Suburban is the exception; it’s been in The General’s lineup for sixty-plus years. Even more astoundingly, it's hardly changed. It’s always been a very large enclosed truck (originally called a “station wagon”), skirting the line between personal and commercial vehicle.

During those years, panel vans were America's urban workhorse. And there have always been jobs requiring more power or rough-road ability. Built for the great American outback, the Suburban was blue collar to its bones. The Car Talk brothers have joked that the Suburban should have been named the Chevy “Rural;” “suburb” wasn’t far enough out (even in the sixties).

The basic “covered truck” design carried through the years. The Suburban didn’t get much bigger, but the cars got a lot smaller. By the nineties, the Suburban was a true dinosaur: body-on-frame, large overhangs, freakishly huge engine, you name it.

The big-ass ‘Burban held one trump card: it drove like a pickup truck, not a panel van. While the 'Burban occupied huge chunks of the road, the SUV was reasonably easy to keep on it (parking the behemoth was another matter). Even Consumer Reports praised the road manners of later models (if not the brakes). 

No one is exactly sure what kicked off the boom at the huge end of the SUV market. Jeeps, Broncos and Blazers had been steadily carving out a nice little niche for themselves in the snow belt, the mountains, the midwest and the plains of Texas. And then, suddenly, sales for the Chevy Suburban went crazy.

I’ve heard tell it was a survey that named the SUV the safest vehicle on the road (four tons of not-too-tippy metal will do that) that pushed the Suburban over the tipping point. The built-like-a-brick-shithouse Suburban also held its value incredibly well. The much-bemoaned Corporate Average Fuel Economy "light truck" fuel economy exemption sure didn't hurt sales. Or the fact that the price of gas remained incredibly cheap (relative to incomes). 

Sometime in the 70’s, half the soccer team arrived at the field in a Suburban, albeit one kid at a time. Having conquered its namesake, the Suburban belated tried to become worthy of the crown. 

Over the next decade plus, GM slowly honed the old work horse’s roughest edges. They couldn’t do much about the size (that was the Tahoe) or the mileage (just barely double-digits), but amenities arrived. GM made the so-called “Texas Cadillac” into a real one (and a GMC to boot). Environmentalists moaned. Safety experts wailed. And still they sold.

With profits approaching five figures per vehicle, challengers for the champ arrived in force. Ford finally won the “mine’s bigger than yours” contest with the Excursion, which was slightly bigger, just as thirsty, far more ungainly and a lot tippier than the 'Burban. The Excursion went into the books as proof that even Americans have limits. The Suburban partied like it would always be 1999.

When gas prices started creeping up, the GM sheltered behind the need for “utility.” They also started a trend to keep the metal moving that has yet to play out: discounts, incentives and low-rate financing. Five plus years later, it’s clear that most of those 'Burban buyers never needed that so-called utility. Turth to tell, the Suburban will always be a compromised car/minivan. But as a “just shy of totally commercial” work vehicle, it was– and is– divine. 

A common tale of the Suburban’s power: you can put your whole race team in it, stash the tools in the cargo bay and tow your race car to the track. With that kind of load, eight to ten mpg looks pretty efficient. 

I wasn’t sure if this was an apocryphal advantage until one of my ESL students drove a Suburban to Buffalo/Niagara Falls. The truck carried the entire Japanese staff of a tier one Honda supplier and their luggage, and towed the boat for their “retreat."  He had instructions from his boss “don’t try to go around any trouble.” The trip made quite an impression on the driver; he looked into buying a Suburban when he transferred to the States (only to be saved from financial ignominy by an attack of sanity).

OK, here it is: I love that old brick. The piggish, plenty-powerful Chevrolet Suburban forces you to stretch your horizons to find a task worthy of its capabilities (and justify the fuel bills). These days, ten grand will buy you a nice, clean, relatively low mileage example. I can’t quite justify one, and my life is the poorer for it.       

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41 Comments on “In Defense of: The Suburban...”


  • avatar
    bumpy

    No one is exactly sure what kicked off the boom at the huge end of the SUV market.

    Jeep Grand Wagoneer. There had always been the occasional family that had a Chevy (or GMC) Suburban or an IH Travelall, but the school-bus-grade accomodations kept most people buying station wagons (crew cab pickups barely existed, and were strictly job-site denizens).

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    Great review Andrew.

    By the way, you can get a ten year old model with less than 100k on it and a monster 8.1L engine for somewhere around $3000 in today’s market. I actually sold a MUCH much older 91′ model with low miles and a Dale Earnhardt inspired interior for only $600. That’s cheap.

    I don’t have an enduring love for these models, but I do understand their appeal. The powertrains will pretty much last forever. The size gives you a sense of distance from overall traffic and grandeur when driving it… for obvious reasons. Finally, it’s actually a relatively inexpensive vehicle to maintain if you factor out the gas costs and generally don’t do a lot of driving. Kind of like a classic old Lincoln on stilts which coincidentally could tow more than most Suburbans.

    A large family that lives in a compound and needs to tow a boat in case of apocalypse (or taxes) would be the perfect fit for this vehicle. So would older men who happen to have the name Dick Cheney, or at least those who aspire to such lofty ambitions.

  • avatar
    Captain Tungsten

    The current version (unladen) gets a real world 17 MPG, which for it’s size is remarkable.

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    Great idea for an editorial.

    I always wanted a Suburban but never quite got around to getting one. I’d never consider it now, as I no longer have need of it’s carrying or towing capacity.

    I like the “covered truck” comment. I’ve always looked at the Suburban as a full sized PU with a factory installed built-in truck cap. When gas was cheap, this vehicle had a LOT of utility.

  • avatar
    stevejac

    I bought one 10 years ago. My justification: a family and a horse trailer to haul. For its intended purpose, it’s a remarkable vehicle. 8 really could ride in comfort and still carry their luggage.

    We once drove it all the way from Jackson Hole, WY to Modesto, CA in one nearly non-stop day. At the end, we weren’t even tired. It was the most comfortable highway cruiser I’ve ever experienced.

    The brakes were marginal and the reliability questionable, but if you actually need what it offers, you’ll not do better.

    Now my horse is lame and my kids have left the nest. I traded mine last winter for a BMW 5-series. Now there’s a contrast in motoring!

  • avatar
    Deepsouth

    These vehicles are alive and well at local auctions. They are bought to be exported to go the middle east. They also sell in a certain price point in the local area. Anything with that kind of capability for 10-k and under gets scooped up pretty quick as long as the unit looks and drives well. It’s alot of vehicle for the money.

  • avatar
    poltergeist

    I’m sure they’re great if you really have a need to haul that much stuff around. Just wait until your “normal” sized car gets backed into by chubby Ms. 30-something single Mom-of-one who can barely climb in or out of the thing let alone see out of it to “navigate” it out of a parking space…..

    …..but at least she’s “safe” and her chubby 30-something friends in the PTA are impressed.

  • avatar
    AGR

    The Suburban was the commercial station wagon ideally 4×4 that could transport a work crew to almost any location.

    The serious Suburbans were 3/4 ton 4×4 with skid plates, panel doors, huge gas tank.

    Up to 1976 you could get a full size GM station wagon with a 455 that could carry 7 passengers, and tow a trailer.

    When GM downsized the cars in 1977 the Suburban started gaining in popularity as a replacement for the full size wagon with the 455. The half ton fully equipped Suburban with a 454 was the replacement.

    By the late 70′s Suburbans were popular as personal vehicles…

    There are folks out there that will always need a Suburban…

  • avatar
    Runfromcheney

    One thing I always noted was that when the SUV boom ended, the Tahoe, Yukon, Expedition, Explorer, Durango and what-not will all be dead and unwanted. However, there will always be a market for the Suburban, as mentioned above in the editorial. It is still popular among people who buy these things to actually use them. They are also popular as fire chief cars and as crew/equipment transport by the FBI.

  • avatar
    volvo

    No one is exactly sure what kicked off the boom at the huge end of the SUV market.

    A large driving force was the ability to rapidly depreciate vehicles over 6000 GVW for tax purposes. Where a $50,000 car might take 20 years to depreciate (look at the IRS tax tables) a $50,000 Suburban or Sequoia might be fully depreciated (business use %) over 3 years with a very large deduction for the first year in service. Thus if you could claim a reasonable % business use (and who’s really counting for a small businesses) for your >6000 lb vehicle the after tax cost was significantly reduced due to this rapid depreciation.

    The law of unintended consequences strikes again.

  • avatar
    Andy D

    When I was a kid, my folks had 2 of them, a 49 and a 54. They were great. 2wd, 6 cylinder, 3 on the tree, Armstrong steering and brakes. My older brother maintained them when he was in junior high school. Nothing like the over blown Luxobarges of modern times.
    I have had a series of Grand Wagoneers. They are dinosaurs, but they have more off road capability than a 4wd pickup, because they have better weight distribution.

  • avatar
    rudiger

    “No one is exactly sure what kicked off the boom at the huge end of the SUV market.”To begin with, the article should have made mention of a couple of the Suburban’s original names, i.e., Carryall and ‘Canopy Express’.

    While the 1966 Jeep ‘Super’ Wagoneer is credited as being the first true SUV in today’s sense since it included many of the features that are now taken for granted in a 4WD vehicle, the reason for the seemingly sudden boom a couple of decades later is easily answered.

    The popularity of the SUV really came into vogue a few years after the minivan started to attain the unflattering moniker of a ‘soccer mom’ vehicle. Suddenly, it wasn’t hip to be seen driving a minivan. The problem was that the experience of driving a minivan, with its higher, more expansive view of the road and hauling capacity, was still quite desirable.

    With gas prices low, domestic manufacturers quickly realized the potential for big profits on SUVs based on archaically designed (but cheap to build) body-on-frame pickups. They seized on the trend and began marketing the SUV as a much more fashionable alternative to the minivan as a ‘practical’ people mover, one of the most popular being the Ranger-based Ford Explorer. Even though the gas mileage wasn’t much better than a full-size SUV, its smaller size meant it was a lot easier to manuever (plus the added bonus of 4WD), important features for ex-minivan owners who wanted to retain the practical qualities of a minivan without the stigma. It also didn’t hurt that since most SUVs were classified as a truck (and exempt from those pesky CAFE requirements), Detroit was essentially free to use whatever gas-guzzling V8 they could stuff into the engine bay. God knows that Americans love vehicles with stump-pulling torque and passing power, fuel economy be damned.

    The ‘Sport’ in the term ‘Sport Utility Vehicle’, along with the 4WD high center of gravity that gave an even higher command driving position than a minivan, quickly escalated those big-profit SUV sales, eventually surpassing the minivan.

    The bottom line is that the phenomenal success of the SUV was simply nothing more than an outgrowth of the astronomical success of the 1984 Chrysler minivan, ironically coinciding with the introduction of the first compact SUV, the 1984 Jeep Cherokee. It could easily be said that although the initial battle was won by the minivan, the war was eventually won by a market that was created by the Cherokee (if not by the Cherokee itself). Too bad skyrocketing gas prices slammed the brakes on what seemed to be a limitless market (at least to the Big 2.8).

  • avatar
    briandfromo.p.

    I have always enjoyed owning my Ford Expedition. I’m all about utility; I have 4 kids, one of which is already taller than I am. When we lived in Colorado, this SUV made reasonable sense. Our vacations involve exercise and the outdoors. Many places we went involved access to remote places that would bury any other type of vehicle. We also have a cabin in the mountain of southern Wyoming which requires a vehicle that will get us there safely year-round. These vehicles are extremely comfortable, the transmission shifts smoother than any other car I have owned, and is large enough to carry my family of 6 and gear inside the vehicle.

    The desert is probably our favorite destination, specifically southeastern Utah and southwestern Colorado. We sometimes visited/camped/mountain biked there 4 times per year. Many areas outside of town are no place to be an amateur regarding you or your vehicle’s capability.

    Now that we are living in New York, I see no reason to own this vehicle. There are fewer backcountry roads (none really) and the state of New York (at least where I live) is excellent at plowing roads. The street in front of my house is done before 7am every time it snows. Colorado relies on another method to clear roads: sunlight (which is rare in New York in the wintertime).

    Actually, I see no need for a 4wd vehicle at all in my area of New York. A minivan along with a small 4-cyl., manual trans. truck for the rare moment you need to haul mulch/lumber/gas can for the mower/other bulky items seems to be more sensible.

    We only drive the SUV when all 6 of us are going somewhere at the same time, otherwise I use my ’94 Honda Accord wagon with 208,000 miles (my commuter car).

    Different types of vehicles serve different purposes in different parts of the country…

  • avatar
    rob

    It seems that the suburban is a bit excessive compared to the cheaper/larger full size vans on the market.

    My family has a Ford Econoline van, purchased new in 1994. This thing easily swallowed my family of six, our dog, and whatever shit we wanted to bring along on trips. Now it does not get much use, but it has served our family well during our vacations, handled our towing requirements, and is an excellent utility vehicle. And the milage is reasonable (~17 – 18 hwy).

    Compared to the suburban, it is bigger(!), more spacious on the inside, can actually hold a reasonable amount of luggage behind the 3rd row, and had/has a cheaper purchase price. Other than a lack of 4wd, which it seems many people do not really need, I’d say the van was/is a better deal. I guess there is that image problem … though I’m sure now that gas prices are up people will get over the stigma.

  • avatar

    “The SUV segment may be history, but the Suburban IS history.”

    Very nice writing, Mr. Dederer — that was a clever play on words.

  • avatar
    NulloModo

    During college I grew to really appreciate the Suburban. As a member of my university’s marching band in the Tuba section, and the one whose parent’s lived nearest, I was often called upon to appropriate one of my parents’ vehicles when the need arose to move anywhere from 8 to 20 sousaphones (marching tubas) and occasionally some musicians as well.

    My Jeep Wrangler could swallow up three to four instruments if no one else was going to need to travel in it, but they all had to be dissassembled first (bells removed, leadpipes untaped and broken down, etc, a long and annoying process). My mom’s Dodge Caravan could handle a respectable 8 – 10 sousaphones if no other seats were needed but the drivers. My dad’s Suburban however could swallow up 15 – 16 instruments easily, and still let me see out of the rear window. Only his large box truck ever bested it, but the Suburban was far more responsive and easier to drive.

  • avatar
    rudiger

    brent: “Very nice writing, Mr. Dederer — that was a clever play on words.”Reminds me of the time GM executive Semon E. ‘Bunkie’ Knudson moved from GM to become the president of Ford in the late sixties. He quickly fell out of favor with then Ford CEO Henry Ford II (‘Hank the Deuce’), supposedly because he failed to knock when entering Henry II’s office, and only lasted a short time.

    In a play on Henry Ford I’s famous line, “History is bunk”, when Knudson was fired, the office joke became “Bunkie is history”.

  • avatar
    peoplewatching04

    My father grew up in a family of eleven kids. Until his father brought home a Suburban, they were never able to go anywhere together. Before that, they had an International with a trailer attached to the back. The younger kids went in the trailer. (White trash? Maybe a little.) Although their Suburban didn’t have eleven seats for them, they made it work somehow. My dad and his brothers still talk about it being a revolutionary vehicle for its time. Those are the kind of fuzzy memories GM needs now more than ever. Kind of ironic that they’d come from its least fuel efficient vehicle.

  • avatar
    ronin

    >>”A large driving force was the ability to rapidly depreciate vehicles over 6000 GVW for tax purposes. Where a $50,000 car migh”

    That capability was in effect- what, barely one year, if that? Effected in 03, it was quickly limited to an SUV costing no more than $25,000, for which you could not touch a new Big Butt Burban.

    To support the first responder: the Grand Wagoneer was the iconic family truckster, in one incarnation or another, through the 60s and 70s. It was the first ever luxury SUV geared at the high end family. It’s fake wood grained domestication was seen in set driveways on movie and tv shows even today, 18 years after its demise, to represent THE suburban family carryall.

    My 90 got 13 mpg, and, while not the most reliable vehicle perhaps, certainly set the tone for grand lady ocean cruisers that would get you there eventually.

  • avatar
    shaker

    NullaModo’s testimonial regarding sousaphones is legendary; GM should use it to market the vehicle to marching bands (which there are no shortage of in the USA).

  • avatar
    Andy D

    The Grand Wagoneer was a 5 passenger vehicle, Suburbans held 8. The 1st year of production was 1935. They were 2 door with a tailgate until about 1980, when 4 door models were introduced. Has their time come to go extinct? Oldsmobile was a hundred years old when GM pulled the plug.

  • avatar
    volvo

    To Ronin

    No. What was in effect for one year on an immediate $100,000 write off on equiptment for your business (including SUVs). Since 1997 you can 1st year expense $25,000 on a vehicle over 6000 gvw and write the entire amount off over 5 years. You do have to keep the vehicle in service for 5 years. If you take it out of service before that time you have to pay recapture. The $25,000/5 section 179 rule was in effect from 1997 to at least 2007. Don’t know about this year.

    A google search “rapid tax write off SUV” will give you numerous links. Here is one

    http://www.viciousenterprises.com/summersblog/2006/02/suv-tax-loophole.html

  • avatar

    A family next door to us bought one in the early 2000′s because it was the only vehicle with 8 seat belts within a reasonable price range.

  • avatar
    rudiger

    The Suburban’s impact on the big SUV boom is more subtle and nuanced than vehicles like the 1966 Jeep Super Wagoneer, 1984 Jeep Cherokee, 1991 4-door Ford Explorer, or 1996 Toyota RAV4. For one thing, the original Carryall or Canopy Express wasn’t based on a truck or had 4WD. It was essentially a panel delivery with windows. The platform didn’t change until 1955 when it became, literally, nothing more than a truck with an enclosed bed and an extra bench seat. Unlike the luxurious 1966 Jeep Super Wagoneer, it was a crude, basic, work vehicle, as were all trucks of the era. The modern, four door Suburban that has gone on essentially unchanged to this day (from the A-pillar back) didn’t appear until 1973.

    More importantly, the 1973 and later four door Suburban was much bigger and more unwieldy than a traditional 5-passenger SUV. There was (and still is) nothing ‘sport’ about a Suburban. Ex-minivan soccer moms could live driving around in a relatively short wheelbase SUV, but the Suburban was like driving a bus in comparison. It wasn’t until much later in the ‘boom’ when manufacturers began lengthening SUVs and/or trying to stuff vestigial 3rd row seats into the rear ends of SUVs that really weren’t designed for them.

    One of the best examples of the reason that the Suburban was never really a leader in the SUV movement was GM’s last minivan, the Uplander. By the Uplander’s quasi-Suburban styling, it’s readily apparent that it was an attempt to turn a minivan into a smaller, much more manueverable Suburban than, say, a Tahoe with the aforementioned 3rd row seats. As can be seen by the dismal sales (and the fact that 2008 is the last year for any GM minivan), it didn’t work.

  • avatar
    davey49

    The Suburban is by far the best vehicle ever made/sold in the US. My family has/had 3 of them and my brother is looking for a late 1990s/2000 version for cheap (under $5K)
    Full size vans were always a lot more difficult to drive than the Suburban
    True about the ‘burb not quite being an SUV. The Blazer was the SUV of Chevys lineup in the 70s

  • avatar
    poltergeist

    davey49 :

    The Suburban is by far the best vehicle ever made/sold in the US.

    Yea, those Ohio built Honda Accords are junk….or not!!!

    Quite a bold statement there Davey49.

  • avatar
    mxfive4

    volvo :
    A large driving force was the ability to rapidly depreciate vehicles over 6000 GVW for tax purposes…

    The law of unintended consequences strikes again.

    I am not sure those were unintended.

    The federal government knew damn well that they were effectively giving the the Big Three what amounts to a subsidy.

    They disguised it as a helper for small business – but anyone who knows the Google can tell you most small businesses don’t need a 6000lb beast.

    Hell this law sold more Hummers than Arnold.

  • avatar
    CarnotCycle

    We’ve had a ’76 Burb in the family for twenty years now. The old man got it to pull his oversized boat and family to the marina, and the one we had originally came with a 400 c.i. motor, but that was a low-nickel ’70′s block and it dropped its crank (big boat). Old man tossed a 454 with a 4:10 rear-end in it to pull the boat, which it does quite well these days. We put throttle-body injector on the motor about three years ago, but it still takes dinosaurs and dinosaurs of petrol just to get around town in that thing with the 4:10 rear-end, and it sounds like its going to blow when you’re doing 60 down the road, but it sure is a strong ride.

    All the old-man’s kids basically learned to drive in that thing too, so it has taken lumps and dished some out on fellow motorists and their contraptions. That Burb has three “kills” to its credit, a ’72 Vanagen, Ford Pinto, and a Lexus LS400. All hits were low-speed affairs perpetuated by my sisters on these unfortunate rides while they were parked and said sister(s) were attempting to maneuver in said parking lot.

    ‘Burb was strong enough and massive enough that it bent the frame, and thus totaled the opposing machine each time it encountered the ‘Burb. Old man never gave up on that truck though, and today it is basically a cherry ’76 Burb right down to the ’70′s era gold-flake in the paint.

    Tough truck, family heirloom, great In Defense Of article. I hope the Burb is one dinosaur that survives the current fuel environment.

  • avatar
    blautens

    Even as a young boy in elementary school in the 1970′s, I admired the practicality of the rare Suburban that would show up in the drop off area…but I never would have thought they would have turned into the ubiquitous family hauler that it did.

    I drive them quite often when my truck is in for service (which is all too frequent). It’s almost class leading in every respect – except the (admittedly durable and well suspended) live rear axle serious compromises 3rd row seating when compared to the Expedition/Navigator L models.

    Of course, I couldn’t testify to their reliability – but it drives pretty well for such a large beast. Interior quality is relatively decent, too, relative to the competition.

  • avatar
    korvetkeith

    Suburbans are awesome. Last weekend myself and 4 friends took my ’02 on a float trip. 5 full size people, 3 coolers, hundreds of pounds of beer, food, ice and equipment. All inside the vehicle. Nothing on the roof, nothing hanging off the back, no trailers. 3 years ago when we took the same trip with slightly more people, I specifically remember that we drove 4 lightly packed vehicles instead.

    My family currently has a’97 2 door tahoe, ’02 4×4 Burban LT, ’07 GMC Denali XL. The GMT900s are far and away the best of the bunch. Big power from the 6.2L, 6-speed trans, XM, a fantastic interior and much better brakes. Unfortuneately they’ve had to be demoted from daily driver status for our more fuel efficient vehicles.

    The government tax incentive allows businesses to right off the entire value of a 6000lb+ truck in the first year (the year it was purchased). A 50K right off gives a significant savings tax wise.

  • avatar
    WildBill

    Friends have had a ‘Burban since we’ve known them for their antiques business (25+ yrs. or so). Nothing beats it for “junking” trips and when it’s show time you can hook onto a mighty big box trailer and go where ever you need to go. We have an Expedition for livestock trailer towing and we really like it compared to our full size van, nice luxo environment for those long trips, friends, tack and a full load of llamas on the 16′ trailer. Otherwise, we wouldn’t need one.

  • avatar
    Airhen

    I grew up riding in a Suburban, as my dad took a month off every year and took the family camping. What a great truck that was to ride around in! My brother and I could play in the back (in the days before nazi style seat belt enforcement) while towing a big trailer over the Rockies.

    Although I am now a Jeep guy, I’d still love to buy a new one someday for the same use. I too hope that the Suburban will survive. The current model is a beauty!

  • avatar
    adam0331

    Never really appreciated the ‘burban until borrowing a friends when I moved. Pushed a full sized sofa in the back and shut the doors. Simply amazing. On most pickups the thing would’ve been hanging out the tailgate and in the weather. Still, it was a pig and a 40 gallon tank was painful even when gas was cheap. Makes sense only if you’re moving the masses, i.e more than 5 people or over 1000 lbs. Still, would be nice to have one for that occasional utility need.

  • avatar
    davey49

    Accord, great car, fine quality, can’t tow your living quarters and your family across the country.
    Read the other comments here to understand why I said the ‘burb is the best vehicle ever sold/made in the US. The Excursion and the Expedition EL are also good but the Suburban wins based on the longevity of the name.

  • avatar
    davey49

    Remember that the S in SUV stands for sport as in fishing and hunting and hiking and skiing and snowboarding, etc. Not “sporty”
    I still want GM to bring back a K5 Blazer.

  • avatar
    adam0331

    Accord, great car, fine quality, can’t tow your living quarters and your family across the country.

    If you want to debate what the best vehicle made/sold in the US is you need to have standards to grade it by. The Suburban simply is not practical for the masses most of the time, where the Accord often is, and why I wouldn’t call the Suburban best. But I can see an argument for best GM car since I find it far more useful than the Corvette, everything else they make can go in the dustbin for all I care.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    ‘Burbs rule when you need ‘em. My friend had his parents to use when we were just out of high school. What we put that truck through was nothing short of amazing. Nothing could kill that thing, not even the tree he hit in from of my house while on Lemmon 714′s. A true testament to durability, both his and the truck’s…

  • avatar
    Mike66Chryslers

    My dad has an ’88 Suburban (1/2 ton, 2WD) with 6.2L diesel and over 250,000 miles on the odometer. it gets considerably better mileage than the gas-powered equivalent. It’s been his daily driver since he bought it used in ’98, and been used to tow the boat to the cottage, tow most of our other cars using a car dolly from time-to-time, and most recently tow my parents’ house trailer.

    He’s looking for something newer and more powerful (used, not brand new) to tow the trailer. His first choice would probably be another Suburban, but GM didn’t offer the Duramax diesel in the Suburban, so he’s looking at crew-cab pickups.

    My daily driver til 2001 was an ’84 GMC 3/4 ton passenger van with the 6.2L diesel. I wished it had barn doors on the side instead of the slider, but otherwise I’d say it was equavalent to the Suburban in most respects.

  • avatar

    I still have a soft spot for the Yukon XL Denali (not the current one, the last one). In “get the **** out of my way” jet black. It just had amazing presence that I cannot ignore – a ginormous, poor to drive barge that has curb appeal? Whoda thunk. Never mind the Escalade, that’s too much of a poseur’s truck in my mind. The Denali just oozed wanton elegance (well, aside from the GM-tastic interior anyway). I still want one, fuel cost be damned.

    If I ever need something to haul with, that’s second on my list – right after “idiotic choice number one”, the Land Rover Disco II, still one of my favourite trucks despite the infamy. Unlike the Sub/Yukon/whatever, the Disco can actually go offroad with ease. Mind you, carrying seven people in an Disco II (hilariously available in a seven passenger version) is pretty much a no-go unless you are going to a clown convention.

  • avatar
    Martin Albright

    My favorite ‘burb would have to be the ’67-’72 3-door style. From a distance, it appeared to have 4 doors as it does today but when you got close you realized that there is only one door on the driver’s side, and that’s the driver’s door. While there is a roll-down window on the driver’s side for the rear passenger, there’s no door, sort of like the early minivans that only had a passenger door on the right (curb) side.

    They were true workhorses, though, and several examples are still running around in my blue-collar neighborhood. Rusty, but still running, quite a testament to a vehicle that has been on the road in Colorado’s less-than-perfect climate for 36+ years.

  • avatar
    shiney2

    I’ve owned 2 Suburbans, both 3/4 ton 4x2s, and loved them both! Best car ever for west Texas: comfy as a town car, nearly indestructible, lots of dirt road ground clearance, and stable enough to cruise 90mph all day on big open desert highways. The last one I had was still running at close to 350K miles, the last 30K or so run on 7 cylinders…

    I’ve since switched to full size vans because they are far larger inside and generally easier to park.

    But – in answer to Robs pondering – I fully understand why some peaple prefer them to vans. They handle far better and are much more comfortable and stable highway rides. If I had to drive on twisty or rough roads with any regularity, or did not need as much interior carrying space, I would be shopping for one right now.


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