New Suburban to Dominate Full-Size SUVs in 2020
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, Jeep and Alfa Romeo.
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.
The redesigned Chevy Suburban, Yukon XL, and Escalade, along with the Tahoe and Sierra, will debut in 2020, as 2021 models; the 2020s will be a short model year, with minor changes (e.g. adding Apple Carplay and Android Auto, and taking out text messaging). So what can we expect?
2021 Chevy Silverado changes (due in 2020)
First, since GM has a new truck platform (dubbed T1), the Suburban and Tahoe will switch to that, adding stiffness and better ride and handling. Interior space is expected to increase from the current cavernous standard. Following the Ram pickups’ five-link coil-spring rear suspension, the two wagons will go further, with a full independent rear suspension, dramatically improving ride and handling and making more space in back. The Suburban and its partners will remain rear wheel drive based, with all wheel drive options.
The electronics architecture is being upgraded, unsurprisingly; this will mean faster systems, better network security, and over-the-air updates replacing dealer-installed updates. One convenience addition, along with expected Apple and Android compatibility, is power retracting running boards.
2021 Chevrolet Silverado engines / powertrain
As for engines, one can expect the usual V8 line to continue; because GM has moved to entirely eight and ten speed automatics, they should be quite sprightly despite the heavy weight. We don’t expect the new 2.7 liter turbocharged four-cylinder to appear, but chances are that when a hybrid Suburban is announced, that surprisingly powerful little engine will be used with it. A V6 is almost certain, and should be a better option if/when GM pairs it with 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. Another question is the new straight-six diesel engine, which should be ready at launch time; the Suburban has traditionally had a diesel option, of varying popularity. That option might wait a while for gas prices to rise, or it might be offered right up front to provide low fuel-economy numbers for the media and TV commercials.
As for the Cadillac Escalade, the 4.2 liter twin-turbo V8 is a 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.