Like DB, I too have recently been able to experience a car only available in the US, but the country of origin is where the similarities end between these two machines.
The first thing you’ll notice about the Chevrolet is its size. Cars just aren’t this big in the UK – in fact, I can’t express through words alone the sheer size of this vehicle. On one occasion, we parked next to an Audi Q7, one of the largest cars available in the UK, and this leviathan made the Audi look like a child’s toy: the Chevy is more HGV than SUV.
And the monumental exterior doesn’t go to waste: inside, the car is just as large. The Suburban can be purchased with 9 seats (ours had 8) and even with all seats unfolded, the boot remains cavernous. The layout could have been improved, as all the rows of seats were rather close together in order to keep the boot space large. If the rows of seats were more spaced out at the expense of a few centimetres of excessive load area, it would have been perfect – nobody needs to have the terminal row of seats unfolded all of the time anyway. Even with this issue, space was still sufficient and the seats themselves were sublimely comfortable – one could travel for any length of time without once having to change position. Smooth suspension and 3-zone air conditioning made the experience even more enjoyable.
Unfortunately, the quality of the car wasn’t necessarily the standard one would hope for. Materials didn’t feel very expensive or especially well assembled; the interior door panels could be moved about using one finger and nothing seemed as robust as the vehicle’s exterior appearance would suggest.
The specification of the Suburban LT 1500 4WD are as follows:
Price (at current exchange rate): £31,000
Engine: 5.3l V8
Power/Torque: 320bhp 335lb/ft
Economy: 18-25mpg (imperial)
Max. Towing: 3600kg
And so you can see that this huge car gets a huge engine which is hugely underpowered and hugely inefficient. The lack of a turbo means that the engine doesn’t have much extra power, aside from that required to pull the mass of the car itself. How an 8000lb towing load is possible is beyond me, especially in the UK where the train weight of a car isn’t allowed to exceed 3500kg. The automatic gearbox also struggles to decide which gear is best when on an incline of any pitch.
But in the US it all makes sense. Fuel is cheap, the roads are huge and tax rates on vehicles are negligible compared to those in the UK. I worked out that this 5.2l behemouth can be run in the USA for the same price as a 1l Toyota Aygo in the UK.
Were I reviewing the car as though it existed in the UK, I’d probably give it nothing, but as a car in the US, its comfort, presence and space earn it 3.5 stars.