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New Car/Review


By Matt/Bob Hagin


SEE ALSO: GMC Buyer's Guide

     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 27,313
     Price As Tested                                    $ 38,923
     Engine Type                             5.7 Liter V8 w/SFI*
     Engine Size                                 350 cid/5735 cc
     Horsepower                                   255 @ 4600 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               330 @ 2800 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                  131.5"/76.7"/219.5"
     Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
     Curb Weight                                     5250 pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                    42 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                                     P245/75R16
     Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
     Drive Train                   Front-engine/four-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                       Nine-passenger/four-door
     Domestic Content                                 95 percent
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                               N/A


     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            12/16/14
     0-60 MPH                                         10 seconds
     1/4 Mile (E.T.)                     16.7 seconds @ 74.5 mph
     Top-speed                                           102 mph
     * Sequential fuel injection

(Having had a couple of Suburbans in years past, Bob Hagin knew that the latest GMC version would be big. Matt knew it would be big too, but was surprised at its car-like qualities. This time, the Hagin family test team evaluates the K-Series, a four-wheel drive version, rather than the C-Series, which uses rear-wheel-drive mechanicals.)

MATT - I expected this '97 GMC Suburban half-ton to be big, Dad, but I wasn't ready for how smooth and sophisticated it's become. The ride and ease of handling make it a true "Cowboy Limousine." It gives a great view of the countryside, too, because the driver sits high above the rest of the traffic - even Suzanne had no problem piloting it around, but she drew the line at parking. It doesn't seem so big looking out over the hood and straight ahead, when it seems more like a GMC pickup, but if you look over your shoulder and into the back seat, you'd swear that you were driving a school bus.

BOB - With a wheelbase of 131 inches, overhangs of almost seven feet, and a weight of over 5200 pounds, it's really the Queen of The Road. And if you and Suzanne strap the baby into the third row seat, you'll to need an intercom to talk to her. Our test Suburban seated eight adults, and if the buyer orders one with the optional bench seat up front, another rider can be accommodated. Even then, I don't think there would be any crowding. The 255-horse 5.7 liter small-block V8 that powers our test rig would be fine in a smaller rig, but with the size of the Suburban, it's a little underpowered. There's an optional 454 cubic-inch monster V8 available that puts out almost 300 horses and enough torque to pull tree stumps, but it only comes with the 2500 three-quarter-ton version. And sad to say, you can't buy a Suburban with a stick-shift. The only gearbox available is a four-speed automatic, but the ratios are different between the 1500 and the 2500 Series Suburbans.

MATT - No one in their right mind would want anything else but an automatic in a Suburban, Dad, except maybe yourself. Engine-wise, though, there's another choice. A 395-inch V8 diesel engine is available as an option on all Suburbans, but the only thing going for it is that it gets better fuel mileage than the gas jobs. Lately, there's been some suspension changes to the Suburban, too. Last year it took a football field to complete a U-turn, but GM engineers have modified the suspension up front and now the turning circle is down to 45 feet. That's not great, but most owners aren't going to try to run their Suburbans through a timed gymkhana course. And although we didn't have a chance to try out our Suburban on a run to the ski resorts, its four- wheel-drive system would make driving lots easier when the roads got slippery. GMC dropped the floor-shifter for the 4WD system, so now it can be shifted into 4WD at any speed, just by flicking a switch.

BOB - Unfortunately, we got the SLT version which comes standard with leather upholstery. As you know, Matt, I'm not keen on leather and I think it's out of place on a sport/utility vehicle. But since most of these land yachts never see terrain any rougher than the streets of New York City, I guess it doesn't matter. The traditional GM tilt-steering is slick as ever, although it's antiquated compared to some of the electrically-powered systems I've seen. Your brother Tom would appreciate the fact that all new Suburbans come with trailer wiring and some hardware all ready to go.

MATT - And since he's just bought a new house, he'd appreciate that Suburban comes with either a pair of side-swing "barn doors" in back, or the traditional drop-down tailgate. Also, GMC made a good move when they made air conditioning standard for the rear passengers. Oh yeah, now they've put an air bag in front of the front passenger's seat as well.

BOB - I really like the fact that the Suburban is big enough to carry a load of people in comfort over any terrain. I could get all the grandchildren into it if I had to.

MATT - That's the way it is now, Dad, but the way things are going, in a couple of years we'd have to road test a real school bus to haul all of your grandkids.