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New Car/Review

1997 Chevrolet Suburban K1500 LS

by John Heilig


SEE ALSO: Chevrolet Buyer's Guide


ENGINE:  5.7-liter V-8
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE:  255 hp @ 4,600 rpm/330 lb-ft @ 2,800 rpm
TRANSMISSION:  Four-speed automatic
FUEL ECONOMY:  12 mpg city,  16 mpg highway,  13.4 mpg test
WHEELBASE:  131.5 in.
OVERALL LENGTH:  219.5 in.
OVERALL HEIGHT:  73.0  in.
OVERALL WIDTH:  76.7 in.
CURB WEIGHT:  5,234 lbs 
FUEL CAPACITY:  42.0 gal. gal.
LUGGAGE CAPACITY:  149.5 cu. ft. (max.)
TIRES:   P245/75R16
INSTRUMENTS: Speedometer, tachometer, fuel level,
             water temperature, oil pressure,
             battery voltage, digital clock, outside
             temperature readout, compass.
EQUIPMENT: Power windows, power door locks, power mirrors,
                 cruise control, air conditioner, AM-FM stereo
                 radio with cassette, anti-lock braking,
                 dual air bags, heavy duty trailering equipment,
                 rear compartment heating and cooling.

I'm beginning to develop a fondness for the Suburban. I drove a big van for a long time and then went back to "normal" cars. I've driven minivans and just about everything else. But I've had suburbans to test now four or five times and I'm beginning to like them.

Yes, it's probably the biggest vehicle on sale in America today, aside from a real truck, and its size causes maneuverability problems, especially if you're on a narrow street or in a small town. But the advantages of the Suburban so far outweighs its disadvantages that it's become a car that I like very much.

It is known as the "Texas Cadillac" because so many are sold in Texas. It is a good towing vehicle, especially with the heavy duty towing package that our tester had. We've seen many people on the highway towing large trailers with Suburbans. The 5.7-liter engine that was in our tester has a towing capacity of 6,500 lbs., while the available 6.5-liter turbo diesel can tow 5,500 lbs. There's a big block 7.4-liter V-8 that can tow even bigger loads. So if you're towing a big trailer or boat and if you're doing a lot of traveling you'll be interested in the Suburban for this type of use.

Suburban is also valuable because of its interior carrying capacity. there are a lot of vans and minivans that may carry more but the vans have a slightly weird driving position. You're almost up over the front wheels and you have a small hood area in front of you. With the Suburban you have a more conventional driving style. You're sitting down looking forward, and you can see the front of the hood stretching out in front of you.

You also have a huge rear end behind you with its "station wagon" type styling. Our Suburban was configured for eight passenger seating; two in the front, three in the second and third row. The far right side of the second row tilts forward to gain access to the third seat. And even with eight passengers you have a good carrying capacity behind the rear seat for luggage and anything else you may want to carry. You have a vehicle that is slightly larger than a van, but if you use three banks of seats in a minivan there's no carrying capacity behind the rear seat. In a full-size van there is capacity, but it's close to the Suburban's.

For 1997, the Suburban has been redesigned in the instrument panel and dash. It now has dual air bags and a good sized glove box. Instrumentation is complete. Our sound system was an AM/FM stereo system with a cassette player. And the heating/air conditioning controls were about the same as you're going to find in any Chevrolet, which is an advantage.

In between the front seats is a nice console with cupholders and a fold-up clipboard that is convenient for holding a pad for notes. There are also cupholders in the dash. The console also has the standard big hole in it to carry anything you need.

This was a well-equipped Suburban, and as such it had a well-equipped price. Our tester was the four-wheel drive version. We had an opportunity to test the four-wheel drive in some mushy snow we had on the last day of our test. While it handled the snow easily, the truck wanted to stop when I turned the wheel to pull into a parking space. Many four-wheel drives don't give you the maneuverability you get with full-time all-wheel drive.

The Suburban is a big, heavy car. It is very utilitarian. It's good for carrying stuff, people and stuff, and it's good for trailering. And it does it in reasonably good comfort and reasonably good style.