NEW YORK — It was a beast, too large for the city. We dared not drive it anywhere close to this place, having already enraged so many motorists on Interstate 95 and the New Jersey Turnpike just by our very presence in the 2015 Chevrolet Suburban LTZ, among the largest of an increasingly hated genre of full-size sport-utility vehicles.
We got off the turnpike at Exit 10 and headed north along Interstates 287 and 87 to our family’s residence in Cornwall, N.Y., some 60 miles north of famously congested, hyper-space-competitive New York City. The good people of Cornwall and environs, a largely rural and agricultural region, are more forgiving, if not fully accepting, of four-wheeled leviathans such as the Suburban. In Cornwall, at least, there is space to park the thing, which is what we did.
We picked up a family vehicle, an aging Subaru Outback, loaded it with stuff and the family’s chocolate Labrador, Miss Parks, and headed back to the city. We immediately missed the Suburban, whose gargantuan cabin, by comparison with that of the Subaru Outback, was substantially less crowded. It is an apples-oranges thing, but that is the point.
People buy compact wagons and smaller vehicles because they fit easily into urban spaces, are more compatible with urban bank accounts that are often battered by higher urban living costs, and are less likely to provoke the kind of you’re-blocking-my-view road rage that so often greeted the Suburban on our journey north from Virginia.
But not everybody lives in a city, certainly not in one as crowded and prickly as New York. Many people live in rural, family-and-neighbor-centric areas, where transporting large groups and all of their stuff is the rule rather than the exception. The Chevrolet Suburban, in one iteration or another, has been doing that work since 1936. It has been redesigned for 2015, largely based on the body-on-frame platform of the Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck, to continue meeting those needs. It does that — and then some.
Miss Parks, Rosa Parks Brown, her full name, loves the thing. She was never fond of being confined to the rear seats of passenger cars, especially not those in compact and subcompact automobiles. In the Suburban, she had the full run of a rather generous middle lane, which she used to snooze on the floor near the front of the vehicle. That made for a bark-free, whine-free drive. She loved it. We loved the peace of it.
With new-for-2015 third-row seating in the Suburban, there is butt-room for nine people. Ever take a road trip with five to nine people? It can be messy if you have no demilitarized zone in your passenger cabin. There is enough space in the new Suburban to keep everybody out of everybody’s way. Peace. Blessed peace.
General Motors, maker of all things Chevrolet, has given the new Suburban a base 5.3-liter, direct-injection, gasoline V-8 (355 horsepower, 383 pound-feet of torque). It is a smart engine, designed to run on eight cylinders at highway speed and in carrying or pulling heavy loads. At lower speeds and carrying light loads, it uses four cylinders. The upshot is fuel efficiency of about 16 miles per gallon in the city and 23 miles per gallon on the highway — not bad for a vehicle with a factory weight (weight minus occupants and cargo) of 5,546 pounds, stretching nearly 19 feet with a width of almost seven feet.
The base engine is more than adequate to move that hulking vehicle body, the driving ease of which is facilitated by some neat technology, such as adjustable foot pedals. But girth is girth, and mass is mass. And the girth and mass of the Suburban simply gets in the way of everything else, especially in urban traffic. The size of the thing also requires very careful maneuvering and mental measuring, which can become tiresome on a long drive. Ah, and stopping! You have to really allow for longer stopping distances with the Suburban. No speeding and tailgating with this one!
But if you have to haul lots of people and stuff, and if you regularly do that kind of work over long distances, the new Suburban is hard to beat. It is comfortable, commodious, and equipped with all of the advanced electronic safety equipment (blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure warning, and a high-definition backup camera) in the top-of-the line Suburban LTZ driven for this column. Just keep it out of the city.