2018 Chevrolet Suburban Premier RST Review - A Riff on the Familiar

Matthew Guy
by Matthew Guy
Fast Facts

5.3-liter Ecotec3 V8 (355 hp @ 5,600 rpm, 383 lb-ft @ 4,100 rpm)

Six-speed automatic transmission, four-wheel drive
15 city / 22 highway (EPA Rating, MPG)
19.3 (observed mileage, MPG)
15.3 city / 10.9 highway (NRCan Rating, L/100km)
12.2 (observed, L/100km)
Base Price: $68,300 US / $76,650 CAD
As Tested: $76,875 US / $86,855 CAD

In some segments, familiarity is a good thing. The General has been the beyond dominant ruler of the king-size SUV segment for ages, ever since its competitors either stopped playing in the field or opted to equip their machines with V6 engines and independent rear suspensions. Both of those features are nobly forward-thinking but have yet to be rewarded by customers who seem to favor things they already know.

Casting a large-and-in-charge shadow, the Suburban you see here is endowed with seating for eight, cargo space best measured in acres, and 22-inch wheels. What’s absent? Oh yeah, a 6.2-liter engine.

Let’s get one thing clear from the start: your author firmly believes all RST-badged Suburbans and Tahoes should be equipped with the mighty 420 hp 6.2L V8 motor. That they are not is the equivalent of raisin cookies masquerading as chocolate chip treats. One bite and you know something’s amiss.

On Premier-trimmed Suburbans, such as the our test unit, the optional RST Edition package adds visual drama in the way of gonzo-sized 22-inch wheels, color-keyed e’rything, and a generally mean appearance. It also adds $2,705 to the truck’s $68,300 base price. What that sum does not include is the 6.2L engine. To gain access to the engine with which I have an admittedly unhealthy fascination, one must also pop for the $2,820 RST Performance package.

Not that my protestations will have much impact on the sales success of the Suburban and its XXL brothers. GM absolutely dominates the body-on-frame SUV market, with the Chevrolet and GMC tag team accounting for nearly three-quarters of sales in that segment each year. There is absolutely a market for an eight-passenger rig that can also tow 8,000 pounds or more. Most of these fans are ardently loyal, even – some may say especially – the fleet customers.

Inside, the RST will be familiar to Suburban fans. Shown here, it is outfitted with dapper cocoa/mahogany leather-lined Barcaloungers and scads of head- and legroom for passengers. Storage space in the aft section is still quite commodious even with the with the third-row deployed. Folded flat, your author easily found space for bicycles and all manner of detritus for a weekend at the campground.

With this in mind, be sure to spec the no-charge power folding middle bench in place of the captain’s chairs. Why? Well, with the third row stowed, the Suburban is transformed into an enormous four-passenger conveyance. The middle bench folds and flips with equal ease as the buckets for access to the third row. Your author also thinks more SUVs should have a back hatch pane of glass that opens separately from the liftgate, as on this Suburban.

One observation that escaped me on all other occasions in which I’ve piloted these big brutes is the truck’s proclivity for providing great HVAC performance. In a world where more and more machines wheeze out air conditioning with the force of an asthmatic breathing through a straw, the Suburban deploys giant air vents with which to push forth a volume of air rivalling the gale force northeasterlies which regularly appeared in my hometown. Thanks to the design of the left side window and adjacent air vent, a breeze actually curls around the driver’s neck, acting like the Airscarf in a Mercedes.

Most touch points are soft and acceptable for this price point, save for a few low-lying bits of plastic covered with strips of leather that are thinner than the tomato slices on a church cold plate. They’re hardly a deal breaker. The cubbyhole behind the infotainment touchscreen is revealed when the screen itself rises up like a walker chasing Rick Grimes in a neat bit of theatre of which I never tired.

Fuel economy was not the apocalyptic nightmare one might expect from a machine of this size, either. The 355 horsepower 5.3L and retro six-speed automatic returned just over 19 mpg (that’s 12.2L/100km measured in maple syrup and hockey sticks) in mixed driving, most of which was in town. The figure was calculated the old fashioned way, using math, rather than relying on the dashboard readout.

As noted, your author feels the RST trim would have more cachet if its appearance was only available with the 6.2L engine. However, marketers gonna market and I’m sure they’ll sell all the RSTs they can build, big V8 or not. In fact, the RST line has already migrated to the new 2019 Silverado, where it is similarly hewn into a good looking festival of color-keyed trim and comes furnished with ­– gulp – a four-cylinder engine as standard equipment.

Profits from big machines such as the Suburban fuel the engine that drives an automaker such as General Motors. This Premier trim, with 4WD, starts at $68,300. Adding the RST package, sunroof, third-row DVD screen (which flips down from the roof to block your six, by the way), a HUD, and adaptive cruise rings up a bill of $76,875.

If all you want is to roll around like a Secret Service agent – and embarrass your kid by picking him up from school dressed like one – simply pop for the $56,895 LT trim in 2WD guise and then ladle on the RST package, costing $2,995 in that example. One will then be the proud owner of a machine imbued with legions of amenities that looks largely identical to our tester and has the same 5.3L mill.

Nice and familiar. Job done.

[Images: © 2018 Matthew Guy/TTAC]

Matthew Guy
Matthew Guy

Matthew buys, sells, fixes, & races cars. As a human index of auto & auction knowledge, he is fond of making money and offering loud opinions.

More by Matthew Guy

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  • Crtfour Crtfour on Oct 10, 2018

    I like naturally aspirated V8 body on frame SUV's. I'm young and could care less about crossovers and lifestyle activity vehicles or whatever they are called these days. At this price on paper, the Infiniti with it's V8 would be hard to pass up, but perhaps the Suburban drives better? One thing on these vehicles that I've noticed and now hard to unsee is the gigantic wheels but small brake rotors. They may all stop the same but especially if something is mentioned as a sport option or is designed for towing, at least offer some Brembo's or similar that look the part.

    • Krhodes1 Krhodes1 on Oct 15, 2018

      Or you could just get wheels that aren't fashion-victim sized and put tires with a higher profile than 45 on them. And improve the ride and handling considerably in the process. About 4-5" smaller in diameter should do the trick (smallest that will clear the calipers). Those brakes are huge, just the wheels are stupid.

  • Nrd515 Nrd515 on Oct 18, 2018

    Those wheels, wow! It's a reasonably OK looking vehicle but those wheels are seriously ugly and would have to go if I ever was looking at one. what was/is wrong with silver painted or machined, or black five spoke wheels? It seems like over the last couple of years the wheel designs have gone into the crapper along with the rest of car design in many cases.

  • Grant P Farrell Oh no the dealership kept the car for hours on two occasions before giving me a loaner for two months while they supposedly replaced the ECU. I hate cords so I've only connected it wirelessly. Next I'm gonna try using the usb-c in the center console and leaving the phone plugged in in there, not as convenient but it might lower my blood pressure.
  • Jeff Tiny electrical parts are ruining today's cars! What can they ...
  • CEastwood From zero there is nowhere to go but up . BYD isn't sold in the U.S. and most Teslas are ugly azz 90s looking plain jane drone mobiles . I've only seen one Rivian on the road and it 's not looking good for them . I live out in the sticks of NW NJ and EVs just aren't practical here , but the local drag strip thrives in the warmer months with most cars making the trip from New York .
  • Lorenzo Aw, that's just the base price. Toyota dealers aren't in the same class as BMW/Porsche upsellers, and the Toyota base is more complete, but nobody will be driving that model off the lot at that price.
  • Mike The cost if our busing program is 6.2 million for our average size district in NJ. It was 3.5 last year.
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