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Chevrolet Suburban 1500 4WD (2000)

by John Heilig

Chevrolet Full Line Video footage (23:22)

SEE ALSO: Chevrolet Buyer's Guide

MODEL:  Chevrolet Suburban 1500 4WD
ENGINE:  5.3-liter V-8
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 285 hp @ 5,200 rpm/325 lb-ft @ 4,000  rpm
TRANSMISSION:  Four-speed automatic
WHEELBASE: 130.0 in.
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT: 219.3 x 78.8 x 73.3 in.

It must be because our "family vehicle" for so many years was a full-size van, and a Chevy to boot, but every time I sit behind the wheel of a Suburban I feel at home. For one, the size of the vehicle doesn't intimidate me, as it does many people, because our van was so large. I actually find the Suburban to be more maneuverable than the van was, and I have noticed that the more modern 'Burbans approach the handling and maneuverability of sedans, albeit large sedans.

Suburban was redesigned for the 2000 model year. Even with the "redesign" you're not going to mis-identify one when it's rolling down the highway. A Suburban is a Suburban, and the only identification problem you'll have is discovering whether it's a Chevy or a GMC. Ours was a Chevy.

Chevrolet claims the "Burban will fir in an average parking space or family garage. We didn't do the garage test, but the vehicle was definitely parking space-friendly. We hit a few malls and even parallel-parked one time and had no difficulties. Again, a little experience driving large vehicles may have helped.

Our test vehicle was equipped for seating of up to seven adults. Second-row bucket seats are offered for the first time in a Suburban, which makes the vehicle even more van-like. These seats were a $290 option, and depending on the amount of people hauling you have to do, they may make sense. Having an aisle between the second-row seats did make access to the third row easier.

Behind that last bench seat was a significant amount of carrying capacity. We discovered we needed all we could get when we "attacked" some garage sales and found treasures that our grandson can use in a couple of years. The time is rapidly approaching, though, when we'll have to up-size our house to hold all the Carter treasures we find. Here are the cargo numbers for the Suburban. With the third seat in place, there are 45.7 cubic feet of cargo space. Take the third seat out and the number jumps to 90.0 cubic feet. Take both the second and third row seats out and you have 138.4 cubic feet. That's couch-size, and if we didn't have so many toys we probably would have put a couch back there.

Also new for 2000 is a 5.3-liter Vortec V-8 engine. This engine is downsized form the old 5.7-liter V-8 that has powered big Chevys for years. With 285 horsepower, that's 30 more than the bigger engine, and the fuel economy is improved as well. The new engine also delivers 85 percent of its peak torque between 1,700 and 5,300 rpm, aiding in towing. The 1500 series Suburban with the 5.3-liter V-8, for example, can tow an 8,800-pound trailer, using a 4.1 rear axle.

Enough about size, how is the Suburban as a driver? You have to take this report with my overall fondness for the vehicle's family, but I felt it drove exceptionally well. On the highway it shone, with a lot of power that could help us keep up with the ambient traffic, yet pass when we had to. It's also nice to be able to sit higher than the sedans to get a better overall view of the situation.

We took the Suburban to a DC suburb with some tight narrow streets. I felt I drove it pretty well, but my son-in-law, whose prime experience has been with compact sedans, also zipped around pretty well. With good power steering and those tall front fenders that let you know where the corners are, it's pretty easy to know where you're going in the Suburban.

Unlike the older engines, the new Vortec V-8 seemed quieter as well. We were able to enjoy normal conversation levels inside the 'Burban and even listen to some quiet music.

My only complaint was with the seats, and Chevy has done their best to make the seats as comfortable as possible. After four hours of driving, both my wife and I had minor backaches. We both used the power lumbar adjustment to add pressure to the lower back, but the leather seats didn't offer the long-term comfort we would have wanted. The front seats had fold-down armrests to keep you held in snugly, but still there was something amiss. I'm willing to put the blame on our weak backs.

Suburbans are all about size, or so I thought. But the new-for-2000 Suburban still offers all the size of the previous vehicles, but it seems to have shrunk a bit when it comes to handling and maneuverability. The new vehicle raises the bar for the Excursion to try to match.