New 2021 Suburban to dominate full-size SUVs
The Chevrolet Suburban/Tahoe and its companions at GMC and Cadillac have long dominated America’s full-size SUV sales. Known for their solid reliability, they were often the only domestic car affected by well-off import owners who had to tow something now and then (say, a BMW racing car). Recently, though, the Tahoe, Suburban, Sierra, Yukon, and Escalade have been facing more serious competition from Ford, Toyota, and, soon, even Jeep.
The design of the Tahoe and Suburban now has some softer lines on the side, with the shape of the side window mimicking that of the Traverse. The rear end design is unique, sharing little with the Silverado and looking more than a little bit like an Expedition. The front end sees the most change, looking very similar to the latest Silverado but with some unique design elements.
Already massive in size, the 2021 Tahoe and Suburban have both grown—the Tahoe by 6.7 inches (with a 4.9-inch wheelbase stretch, the rest coming from overhang) and the Suburban by a more modest 1.3 inches (with 4.1 inches added to the wheelbase, cutting the overhang). That and the new independent rear suspension dramatically increases interior space; the Tahoe’s cargo capacity increases from 94.7 to 122.9 cubic feet, while the Suburban’s swells from 121.7 cubic feet to a whopping 144.7, giving the latter model the most passenger and cargo space of any SUV currently available.
Trimlines are similar to the Silverado: LS, LT, Z71, RST, Premier, and High Country (the latter is new to the Tahoe and Suburban, while the Z71 is now a standalone trim level).
The Silverado’s 2.7L 4-cylinder turbo failed to appear in the Tahoe and Silverado, despite rumors; instead, buyers get two V8s and one straight-six diesel. The base engine is a 5.3L V8 rated at 355 horsepower; the High Country has a 6.2 producing 420 horsepower. The award-winning Duramax diesel engine, brand new, is rated at 277 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque, and promises the best gas mileage.
The suspension still has optional Magnetic Ride Control; but now the Z71 and High Country have an optional air suspension that can adjust ride height by up to 4 inches (joining competitors with similar options).
Inside, a 10 inch touch screen is standard, while a 15 inch head-up display is available on higher trim levels. The rear entertainment system screens are now 12.6 inches. Automatic emergency braking is standard on all models and other options on the safety roster include front pedestrian braking, adaptive cruise control, a rear mirror camera, and a surround-view monitor. As expected, the interior design differs from the Silverado, with more soft-touch materials and wrapped surfaces to give the design a more premium appearance.
At first glance, these new GM SUV’s appear to have hit the nail on the head. They have fresh designs, new powertrain options, improved interior space, and more technology features.
With the first use in 1935 (Carryall Suburban), the Suburban carries the longest continuously used automobile name. The wagon has been based on Chevrolet pickups since 1947; sales were minimal until the 1970s, when a four-door version was added (not surprisingly, sales vary dramatically with the price of fuel). The last major update was launched in 2013; the best year for U.S. sales was 2001, with 154,782 Suburbans sold, and 225,582 Suburbans and Yukon XLs sold. Recent years have not been as kind, despite low gasoline prices, partly because there are so many credible choices.
Since GM has a new truck platform (dubbed T1), the Suburban and Tahoe switched to that, adding stiffness and better ride and handling. Following the Ram pickups’ five-link coil-spring rear suspension, the two wagons went further, with a full independent rear suspension, dramatically improving ride and handling and making more space in back. The Suburban and its partners remain rear wheel drive based, with all wheel drive options.
The electronics architecture was upgraded for faster systems, better network security, and over-the-air updates replacing dealer-installed updates. One convenience addition, along with Apple and Android compatibility, is power retracting running boards.
Future engines / powertrain
Chances are that when a hybrid Suburban is announced, the turbo four-cylinder or (more likely) a gasoline V6 will be used with it; that would be a good option paired with a hybrid setup. GM could also use a mild-hybrid in Ram style (it could be the 3.6 or the new 3.0 twin-turbo V6, which has near-V8 torque). We can also expect, whether at first or later, and possibly on the Cadillac version rather than the Chevy, a high-performance option; GM is unlikely to let Jeep have all the fun with its 707-horsepower Hellcat-powered Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT.
As for the Cadillac Escalade, the 4.2 liter twin-turbo V8 is a future possibility; it would beat the Jeep Grand Cherokee’s naturally aspirated 6.4 liter V8, but not come close to the 6.2 liter supercharged “Hellcat.” The 4.2 is estimated at 550 hp and 627 lb-ft in the CT6-V.
Clark Westfield grew up fixing up and driving past-their-prime American cars, including various GM and Mopar V8s. He has ghostwritten auto news for the last few years, lives in Farmingdale, New York, and can be reached at +1.516-531-4021.