Chevrolet Suburban
Patrick Rall's picture

A review of the 2013 Chevrolet Suburban: America's oldest model is better than ever

The Chevrolet Suburban is the longest running vehicle nameplate in the American auto industry with the first version being introduced way back in 1933 and after an incredible 80 years on the market – the 2013 Chevrolet Suburban LTZ is a clear illustration of why this brawny SUV is still one of best options in the segment.

The Chevrolet Suburban has undergone a great many changes inside, outside and under the hood over the past 80 years but the 2013 Suburban follows the same basic design trend as the first Suburban back in 1933. This is a big, roomy sport utility in a segment where many “big SUVs” come up short on the promise of being big.

A perfectly American vehicle, the Suburban has always offered the capabilities of a pickup truck with tons of cargo space and seating for the whole family – and the 2013 Suburban brings a touch of luxury to the tried and true full sized SUV.

The Exterior
Since the inception of the Suburban name 80 years ago, this has been a vehicle that was larger than pretty much anything else in the industry and the 2013 Chevrolet Suburban is just that – bigger and brawnier than anything else on the market. Where some SUVs leave you wondering whether it is really a sport utility vehicle or a really big station wagon, the 2013 Suburban has an exterior design that is distinctly truck based.

Also, where past Suburban models have been a little too far to the direction of “rugged pickup truck turned SUV”, the modern Suburban offers some luxury cues inside and out that allow this SUV to compete againt smaller SUVs with more expensive names.

Across the front end, the 2013 Chevy Suburban LTZ has a big, bold front end that has an upright design much like the Chevy Silverado pickup. The split metal mesh grille has a very dressy look, flanked by highlights that are among the biggest on the market today. Where many SUVs have gone for smaller, slimmer LED or projection headlights, even the high end Suburban uses large, Halogen headlights that are joined in the same housing by all of the turn and parking signal bulbs as well. These headlights work with the grille to give the Suburban an angry look while the bulging hood bolsters the big, American design of the front.

Along the sides, the 2013 Chevy Suburban has a massive wheelbase that allows for four full sized doors for great interior access. Where some SUVs have gone to a smaller footprint (physical, not carbon) with a smaller wheelbase which leads to a smaller rear door opening, the Suburban has gigantic rear doors that make for easier loading of passengers and large cargo.

These large rear door openings also make it much easier to load or unload a child seat. A chrome strip running along the lower portion of the body, chrome mirror caps, chrome door handles and a few more chrome accents adorning the side in the form of the Suburban and LTZ logos add some luxury feel. Running boards are standard on the Suburban LTZ as are the great looking bright aluminum 5-spoke rims. The darkened rear windows work nicely with the black exterior paint to provide a very smooth, fluid design along the large greenhouse.

Out back, the design cues borrowed from the Silverado lineup continue with the big, tall headlight that cover the corner of the 2013 Chevy Suburban between the back bumper and the rear glass. A low profile spoiler hangs off of the rear roofline with an integrated 3rd brake light while a subtle chrome strip that runs along the bottom of the rear opening continues the mild luxury feel.

Much like the large rear passenger doors, the rear hatch is gigantic and that allows for optimal use of the rear cargo area. Where some SUVs have a large cargo area that you cannot utilize to the fullest due to a small rear liftgate, the opening of the Suburban’s rear hatch is big enough to accommodate the biggest box that will fit in the cargo area.

The 2013 Chevrolet Suburban LTZ doesn’t offer the level of luxury of the premium Cadillac Escalade but with a touch of chrome combined with the limo-like black out treatment, the Suburban has a very upscale look applied to the tried and true pickup truck design. This isnt an SUV that will wow you will cutting edge, high tech exterior amenities but this is an exterior design that puts function before form – but it looks great doing so.

The Interior
The 2013 Chevrolet Suburban LTZ is one of the largest vehicles on the market today and that translates to one of the roomiest vehicles that you can buy in the US shy of maybe some commercial grade vans but when it comes to SUVs – no one offers the extensive level of space throughout the cabin.

This is a vehicle that has become popular with limo companies (also as GMC and Cadillac models) and that is due to the massive amounts of passenger space. The driver and front passenger seats have enough room for an adult to almost lay down when the seat is laid all of the way back and that level of space means that there is more than enough head, elbow, leg and knee room for even the tallest driver and passenger. There is a reason why so many NBA players love these GM SUVs and the fact that they can comfortably seat a 7 foot tall guy shows just how much space the Suburban offers.

While leg space is a little tighter in the second row of seats, there is still plenty of room in every direction for adults of average to slightly above average height to sit comfortably and maybe even stretch their legs even when the front seats are shifted all of the way back.

My Suburban LTZ test rig was fitted with rear bucket seats rather than a split bench which means that you can only seat two people but there is a ton of knee, head and elbow room for those two people. The other big upside to the 2nd row bucket seats is easier access to the 3rd row seats. Those 3rd row seats suffer from the same downside as most SUVs with a 3rd row of seats. Due to the design of the floorpan of the Suburban (and every other SUV out there), the rearmost seats sit on the floor more than the front two rows so taller passengers parked in the third row don’t get much leg room.

However, the Suburban’s 3rd row seats are far more comfortable than any other vehicle Ive tested with this rear row so while most of these 3rd row seats are really just functional for kids – the Suburban offers rear seats that can seat adults – I just wouldn’t make them sit back there for very long.

When you do not need the 3rd row of seats, they fold down to make for an even larger rear cargo space that – like the rest of the interior dimensions of the 2013 Chevrolet Suburban – is bigger than any of the cargo areas offered by the competition. The shape of the cabin allows this rear cargo area to offer a very square shape so unlike many SUVs that have a roofline that tapers in and down (meaning that large boxes will only fit in the very middle), the Suburban has a massive cargo area that will allow you to pack more largo cargo than any vehicle Ive tested…shy of a pickup truck.

Spaciousness aside, the 2013 Chevrolet Suburban LTZ is packed full of features that bring even more comfort to this big SUV. The front seats are heated and cooled with full power adjustment while the second row of seats are also heated to warm up four people on cold mornings. Multi-zone climate control helps to keep everyone comfortable in all temperatures with simple bush button controls mounted in the middle of the center stack around a small display panel. The large touchscreen infotainment screen does not control the HVAC system but it does offer easy control of the music and navigation systems with buttons and knobs mounted on either side of the touchscreen working with the steering wheel controls for those who prefer traditional controls over the high tech screen.

Finally, wood grain finishes on the dash and door panels work with the optional rear entertainment system to give the interior a more upscale layout for those who want some luxury feel without the heftier price tag of the related Cadillac Escalade.

The 2013 Chevrolet Suburban LTZ is huge inside with ample seating space for four large adults and three smaller kids without compromising any of the rear cargo area. This is an ideal vehicle for someone who spends lots of time driving around a large family with plenty of space for sporting equipment out back. For a big family on the go, the Suburban is ideal for everyday errands or a trip across the country. If interior space is your top priority – you shouldn’t be looking any further than the Suburban.

The Drive
My 2013 Chevrolet Suburban LTZ test vehicle was powered by the 5.3L small block V8 mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission; a drivetrain which is standard across the entire Suburban lineup. Four wheel drive is optional and my test vehicle was fitted with the driver selectable 4WD system. I am a fan of 4WD systems that allow the driver the option of locking it into either rear or 4 wheel drive rather than an electronic all wheel drive setup that decides how to distribute the power. During my time testing the Suburban, I didn’t need to use the 4 wheel drive system so to make the most of the available 320 horsepower and 335lb-ft of torque – I did all of my driving in rear drive mode.

The Suburban isnt quite as peppy as the Cadillac Escalade that shares the same chassis platform as the Caddy comes with a larger V8 but compared to the competition in full sized SUVs, the Suburban is offers an advantage in power. Ultimately, this isnt a vehicle that is going to win many drag races (where the more powerful Escalade will) but it packs enough power to allow this large SUV to clip along the highway at well above the speed limit. Also, this drivetrain will allow you to tow up to 8,100 pounds when properly equipped.

The 2013 Chevy Suburban is one of the few sport utility vehicles on the market that is based on a pickup truck’s body on frame construction rather than the lightweight unibody design. The result is a vehicle that rides more like a pickup with a high center of gravity and a rigid ride so while this is a vehicle that isn’t going to hit the curves like a supercar, this is about as good as it gets in terms of an SUV that gives you a high seating position and the greater ground clearance of a pickup.

Now, the suspension workings of the Suburban do give this large SUV a smoother ride than a half ton pickup, especially when cruising at speed on the highway but you can expect a slightly stiffer ride with the Suburban than you will with some other modern SUVs. Those SUVs that offer a better ride quality and an advantage in road handling cannot offer the passenger and towing capacity of the Suburban so if you are looking for an actual large SUV that can do the same work as a modern half ton pickup, the stiff ride is well worth the compromise.

The 2013 Chevrolet Suburban existed before the term “sport utility vehicle” was ever uttered and unlike many modern SUVs that put too much emphasis on “sport” and not enough on utility – the Suburban is a true work horse. It isn’t blazing fast but considering that this is one of the largest vehicles sold in the American consumer market, it really doesn’t need to be fast. What it needs to do is offer a smooth ride for a family of 6 to comfortably spend 6 hours driving to Grandma’s house while also towing a trailer, boat or car along for the ride.

The Final Word
In an era where many sport utility vehicles have made cuts in and around the vehicle to improve fuel economy measures, the 2013 Chevrolet Suburban is still doing what it has done for the last 80 years – providing more combined passenger and cargo space than any vehicle on the market today. The Suburban is one of the biggest vehicles on sale in the US today but GM has made sure that every bit of that space is functional and that is very clear from the second that you climb into this roomy SUV.

If you are in the market for a large SUV that can reasonably seat 6 adults for a quick trip across town or you are looking for a vehicle to get the family from New York to Florida with room for your two kids, two of their friends, yourself, your spouse and still have lots of space for luggage – the Suburban continues to be the clearest option. On top of the interior space, the Suburban can tow up to 8,100 pounds so you can even tow a large camper or boat without any concerns. This means that you can load up your Camaro race car on the trailer and pack up four or five of your buddies for a day at the track with enough space out back to hold a grille, a cooler full of cold beer and all of the tools that you will need for a day at the races.

The Suburban was introduced 80 years ago as the ultimate family hauler with truck-like work capabilities and while the 2013 Chevy Suburban offers more luxury features like the heated leather seats and the DVD entertainment system – this is still the hardest working SUV in America.


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