General Motors’ “Suburban” is one of the longest running nameplates in the entire automotive landscape, at 85-years old as of last year. It’s a name that is associated with do-it-all family hauling, with more than enough capability, power, and space to haul, well, a small city. Now the long-wheelbase version of the popular Tahoe, the 2021 Chevrolet Suburban High Country is all new for this year. We’ve sampled just about every variant of the new full-sizers, this generation called “T1XX” internally.
To put it into context, my personal daily driver for the past little while has been the previous generation Yukon with this exact powertrain, so it’s safe to say I have a few miles under my belt. This year’s Suburban is all new from the ground up, and the long wheelbase version adds 15 inches of overall length, the majority of which is in the cargo area. I’m not quite sure the new, more modern design will age quite as well as the last one, but it looks fresh and reflects last year’s redesign of the Silverado pickup truck.
In Suburban form, much like the Tahoe, there are three engine choices available. The L84 5.3-liter engine is standard, with 355 horsepower, however our top-trim High Country tester gets the bigger L87 6.2-liter V8. Output is 420 horsepower and 460 lb-ft., and this powertrain is a carry-over from last year. A Duramax diesel is available as well, for those who do regular long haul driving. The 6.2-liter is more than just adequate, and is likely the most appropriate powerhouse for most Suburban buyers.
A 10-speed automatic is the only available transmission, and has a focus on efficiency. While other gearboxes require the lightest of feet to hold top gear, but the GM unit is much better at this. The latest Dynamic Fuel Management (DFM) system can shut off many combinations of cylinders and even bring it down to run on just one cylinder in certain conditions. As a result, fuel economy shouldn’t be nearly as bad as the general public usually perceives these big galoots to have.
Chevrolet Canada rates the 6.2-liter Suburban with four-wheel-drive to get 16.8L/100km in the city and 12.4L/100km on the highway. I regularly best 10L/100km highway in my previous gen short-wheelbase truck with the same powertrain, so my expectations were to surpass these numbers. Unfortunately, even with the idle stop/start system and minimal traffic on the roads for the holidays, we weren’t able to do much better than 15.1L/100km despite my substantial efforts. The 106-liter tank is massive, and will mean minimal fuel stops on those long road trips.
Perhaps the most impressive and biggest improvement to the latest Suburban is in ride quality. Thanks to the body-on-frame layout, while every Suburban has been better riding than its predecessor, it was never really able to shake its truck roots. The 2021 model gets an independent rear suspension, finally joining the Ford Expedition in this regard. Combining this with the optional four-corner air suspension with adjustable ride height results in a very serious improvement in road manners. The Suburban is seriously supple and handles imperfections very nicely.
The Autotrac two-speed transfer case is standard on the High Country and can toggle the vehicle between rear and four-wheel-drive on demand. Most drivers will want to keep their Suburban in rear-drive form to maximize economy unless conditions get tough, and a drive mode selector can select between a few modes as well. When properly equipped, the new Suburban can tow up to 7,800 pounds and hold a 1,750-pound payload.
Plenty of new conveniences are on board this latest generation of GM full-sizers, too. This starts with a 360-degree camera to help navigate the big galoot with ease, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability, a larger touchscreen for the infotainment system, a power sliding center console with hidden compartment, and much more. The independent rear suspension also contributes to a huge improvement in third row space, and adults can finally fit back there without complaining!
Frankly, ergonomics are an area in which the latest Suburban, and its siblings, excel. The driving position is perfect, visibility is as good as can be for a vehicle of this size, and the seats are sofa-levels of comfortable. No massage is available, but the second row is now more adjustable than before, and 1,163-liters of your luggage can fit behind the third row. Fold down the third row, and this number grows to 2,630-liters. A new push-button gear selector frees up more real estate as well, and is in a much better location than Lincoln’s setup.
The 2021 Suburban starts at $59,498 in LS form without four-wheel-drive. The High Country sits right at the top of its lineup, adding the bigger 6.2-liter engine, and starts at $83,898. Our top-trim tester with the High Country Deluxe Package ($5,805) and 22-inch black wheels came to $97,433 before taxes and fees. Those wanting a unique touch to their truck can opt for the off-road oriented Z71 package, which gets a differentiated front end and tougher bits all around.
If you’re looking for a full-sized SUV in long-wheelbase form, your only choices are from GM, and the the Ford Expedition or Lincoln Navigator. The Fords were fully redesigned a few years ago, but this latest update from the General has set the bar again. The 2021 Chevrolet Suburban High Country is very much a premium SUV without the badge. It drives beautifully and has all of the capability needed to do, you know, just about anything and everything.