SEE ALSO: Chevrolet Buyer's Guide
The Chevrolet Suburban is the longest continuously-running nameplate in the U.S. auto industry, dating back to 1935. The 'Burb has come a long way since then, but has stayed true to its heritage as a serious vehicle with a large capacity for cargo or passengers. The current generation of Suburban made its debut for model year 2000, and features a sturdier, fully-boxed frame, more rigid body structure, and suspension system redesigned for greater comfort and control. Versatility and flexibility are hallmarks of the Suburban lineup, with two- or four-wheel drive, three trim levels, and plenty of options to make Suburbans at home anywhere from a construction site to a country club.
I've just spent a week with a mid-level two-wheel drive LS model, with the smallest engine, the Vortec 5300. It's a big vehicle, but never unwieldy, and has plenty of power and comfort. It really is the modern interpretation of the classic American station wagon of the past, but, while it's larger and more spacious than most old wagons, it's also more efficient. And, with its flexible interior and strong towing ability, the 2001 Chevrolet Suburban is a very versatile vehicle for anyone with really large needs.
APPEARANCE: Although all body panels have been changed since the previous generation, there is little doubt as to the maker or model of the 2001 Chevrolet Suburban. It's still a large two-box SUV, and even though it has more style than any of the older models and is a popular vehicle in upscale suburbia, it is not overly flashy. Chevrolet truck identity is proclaimed by the thick chromed bar with the gold bowtie logo bisecting the rectangular eggcrate grille and rectangular headlights. The body is more rounded and sculpted than that of its immediate predecessor, with a strong shoulder line and subtle fender flares that can be enlarged with plastic flares that match the bumper caps and optional running boards.
COMFORT: The Suburban's versatility is most evident in its interior. Depending on trim level and optional equipment, a `Burb can be anything from a basic utility vehicle to luxury transportation. My LS test vehicle is equivalent in appointment to a middle-class sedan, with grippy cloth upholstery, a leather-wrapped tilt steering wheel, power windows, mirrors, and locks with remote keyless entry, front and rear air conditioning, and a good 9-speaker sound system. Puddle lights in the outside rear-view mirrors add convenience and safety at night. If that's not enough, the LT offers leather upholstery, an upgraded audio system, and more comfort and convenience features. A split front bench is standard in both base and LS models, giving a nine-passenger capacity. My test vehicle has the optional front buckets, which are quite comfortable and allow a huge center console for storage. Second-row buckets are an option, but the standard second-row bench is more useful.
The third-row bench can be removed, and, with the second-row seat flipped and folded, there is a large, flat cargo area. Even with all seats in place, there is no shortage of cargo space. Buyers have a choice of a tailgate/liftgate or side-hinged "dutch doors" for rear cargo access. The dutch doors require less reach into the cargo area, an advantage for shorter people, and the tailgate offers improved visibility. Take your pick.
SAFETY: All 2001 Suburbans have four-wheel antilock disc brakes, dual front and front side air bags, a central steel safety cage, and front and rear crush zones. The "OnStar" telematics system is standard on LT models and available for the LS.
ROADABILITY: In two-wheel drive 1500 LS trim, the Suburban is about as carlike on the road as a real truck can get. Thanks to a rigid, fully-boxed chassis and improved, much more rigid body structure, the body-on-frame `Burb feels as stiff as any smaller unit- construction vehicle, with no squeaks or rattles even on poorly- surfaced roads. The independent front suspension and well-located, coil-sprung rear axle of the lighter-duty 1500 models are designed for everyday comfort, in keeping with the "small" Suburban's popularity as family transportation. Its long wheelbase helps the ride comfort, too. Only a tiny hint of truckish harshness, most likely from the relatively heavy unsprung weight of the large wheels and tires, keeps the two-wheel drive 1500 Suburban from feeling like a family station wagon. Trucks don't get much better than this.
PERFORMANCE: Although the Vortec 5300 5.3-liter (325 cubic inch) V8 is the smallest engine offered in the 2001 Suburban, it has plenty of strength for any intended use. Its 285 horsepower beats the last-generation 350 cubic inch "small block's" 250, and its 325 lb-ft of torque is not down much on that engine's 335. There is never any problem with acceleration, and standard four-wheel antilock discs scrub off speed well. The four-speed automatic transmission has a "tow/haul" mode that delays shifting under acceleration and keeps the transmission in one gear on hills, both good characteristics when hauling or trailering. The 5300 is the "baby" of the Suburban line, with "merely" an 8800-lb towing capacity. If more power is needed, a newly-upgraded 6.0 liter, 315- hp V8 and the all-new 8.1-liter big-block V8 with 340 hp and 455 lb-ft of torque are available. 8.1-liter Suburbans can tow up to 12,000 lbs.
CONCLUSIONS: Improved engineering and styling make the newest Chevy Suburban useful and comfortable.
SPECIFICATIONS 2001 Chevrolet Suburban 1500 LS 2WD Base Price $ 25,921 Price As Tested $ 37,267 Engine Type pushrod overhead valve 16-valve V8 Engine Size 5.3 liters / 325 cu. in. Horsepower 285 @ 5200 rpm Torque (lb-ft) 325 @ 4000 rpm Transmission 4-speed electronically-controlled automatic Wheelbase / Length 130.0 in. / 219.3 in. Curb Weight 4914 lbs. Pounds Per Horsepower 17.2 Fuel Capacity 33 gal. Fuel Requirement unleaded regular gasoline, 87 octane Tires P245/75 R16 General Ameri* 660 AS Brakes, front/rear vented disc / disc, antilock standard Suspension, front/rear independent short and long arm / solid axle with coil springs and 5-link location Drivetrain front engine, rear-wheel drive PERFORMANCE EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 14 / 18 / 16 0 to 60 mph est. 10 sec Towing Capacity 8800 lbs OPTIONS AND CHARGES LS Preferred Equipment Group - includes: AM/FM/CD 9-speaker stereo sound system with subwoofer, cruise control, remote keyless entry, front and rear air conditioning, rear heater, leather-wrapped steering wheel, enhanced sunshades, power windows, machined cast aluminum wheels, dual power heated outside mirrors with ground illumination $ 7,423 Traction Package - includes: traction assist, locking differential, recovery hooks $ 485 Trailer Package - includes: trailer hitch platform, 7-lead wiring harness connector $ 285 Convenience Package - includes: carpeted floor mats, Homelink(tm), driver's-side electrochromic outside rear-view mirror,1 year OnStar communications service $ 683 6-way power bucket seats $ 855 Assist steps $ 325 Wheel opening flares $ 180 Rear-seat audio controls $ 165 AM/FM/CD/cassette stereo-replaces unit in option group $ 125 Front foglamps $ 85 Destination charge $ 735