2009 Chevrolet Suburban Review

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Based on 7 reviews

Review

The Good

With a new six-speed automatic standard in 1500 trims, as well as a multitude of new features including blind-spot alert and heated and cooled front seats newly standard on LTZs, a wireless cell phone link, a dual-screen DVD entertainment system, and a backup camera, 2009 provides plenty of reasons to be impressed with Chevrolet's Suburban.

The Bad

Even with flex-fuel capability and cylinder deactivation, we have to wonder whether the '09 Suburban, whose mileage rating never exceeds 17 mpg, remains a viable product.

The Cargurus View

The 2009 Chevrolet Suburban is a behemoth, but if fuel efficiency isn’t a concern, you really can’t do better. A well-optioned LT Suburban is both a tremendous compromise on luxury and practicality and a great value for the class. Look over the options list, and you can have a truck that fits everything you need.

At a Glance

In continuous production since 1935, longer than any vehicle in history, the Chevrolet Suburban has been produced on the GMT900 platform since its redesign for model year 2007. Seating up to nine, it shares its basic design with the Chevrolet Silverado and is the largest SUV in its division.

Available in three trims – LS, LT, and luxury LTZ – across its half-ton 1500 and three-quarter-ton 2500 platforms, it comes with either rear-wheel or four-wheel drive. With a maximum towing capacity of 9,600 pounds in its three-quarter-ton 2500 configuration, it has the highest towing capacity of any 4WD SUV.

New for 2009 is a blind-spot alert now available on the LTZ as well as heated and cooled front seats newly standard for that trim level. Also added this year are a wireless cell-phone link, dual-screen DVD entertainment, and a backup camera that has been criticized by owners and reviewers alike for excessive image distortion.

Drivetrain

Standard in 1500 Suburbans is a 5.3-liter, 310-hp V8 that, along with the optional 6.0-liter, 366-hp V8, is newly mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. 2500s come with a 352-hp V8, and while that represents a drop in power from the 1500’s 6.0-liter, torque increases to 382 versus the 1500’s 376, and as a result 2500s have a maximum towing capacity of 9,600 pounds, as opposed to the 1500’s 8,100 pounds.

While 2500s have previously enjoyed the six-speed automatic, it’s a new addition to the 1500 lineup, replacing a four-speed. 1500 V8s come with GM’s Active Fuel Management cylinder deactivation, and the 5.3 will run on E85 ethanol. All versions are available with either RWD or Autotrac 4WD that can be left engaged on dry pavement and includes a low-range gear for off-road use. EPA estimates have yet to be released for the 5.3 and 2500's 6.0, but the 1500’s 6.0 will is rated at 12/17 mpg.

Power is exceptional across the lineup, with only the base engine struggling a bit under capacity loads.

Ride & Handling

Among the only complaints encountered with the Suburban, across all trims, is that when equipped with the optional 20-inch tires, steering response can become a bit aggressive, especially at speed. That said, the Suburban provides one of the best rides of any entrant in its class, helped by a 130-inch wheelbase that minimizes reactions to inconsistencies. Bumps and ripples are absorbed with minimal notice, and body lean and roll are kept well under control, especially considering the sheer size, height, and weight of this largest of SUVs.

Cabin & Comfort

The Suburban exceeds class standards with regard to style, design, and comfort on the inside, providing a sleek, practical interior with impressive comfort as well. Gauges are well-placed and easy to read, although some have complained about relatively recent changes in font that make markings harder to decipher for some owners.

Room is abundant in all but the third row, which makes the claim of a nine-person capacity a tad dubious, unless at least three of those people are children. In fact, the middle position in all of the bench seats is slightly less than comfortable, although not impossibly so. Adjustable pedals make for a wide range of options with regard to seating position, even for shorter drivers, and entry to and exit from the third row is less of a task than in competitors.

A welcome surprise is a navigation system that has received almost universal praise, both for placement and readability, as well as uncomplicated absorption of secondary functions. Noise is kept well under control both inside and out, with neither wind nor road noise intruding into the cabin. All engines are similarly refined and quiet, even under load, with the 5.8 receiving particular praise for its composure under all conditions.

LS trims come standard with air-conditioning with dual-zone manual climate controls, including rear air-conditioning and heater, a tilt leather-wrapped steering wheel that incorporates radio controls, cruise control, OnStar with one year of service, cloth upholstery for the front split bench seat, a 6-way power driver seat with lumbar adjustment, second- and third-row split-folding seats, heated power mirrors, power windows and door locks, remote keyless entry, an AM/FM/CD/MP3 player with satellite radio, a wireless cell phone link, a tachometer, illuminated visor mirrors, and floormats.

LTs add front bucket seats, a 6-way power passenger seat, center console, and rear radio controls.

The real luxury comes with the 1500-exclusive LTZ trim, which adds leather upholstery to the heated and cooled 12-way power front seats and power-adjustable pedals with a memory system for the driver seat and mirrors, heated second-row seats, power-release folding second-row bucket seats, a Bose AM/FM radio with in-dash 6-CD/MP3 changer, driver's-side automatic day/night and passenger-side tilt-down back-up aid mirrors with turn signals, rain-sensing wipers with heated washer fluid, automatic day/night rearview mirror, remote engine start, a universal garage-door opener, and a power liftgate.

Safety

All Suburban trims come standard with dual front and curtain side airbags with rollover deployment, antilock four-wheel disc brakes, an antiskid system with rollover sensor, a tire-pressure monitor, and daytime running lights. The LTZ adds a rear-obstacle-detection system that has received criticism for distorting the rear view excessively and a limited-slip differential.

NHTSA ratings showed five stars for all categories excepting rollover and rollover resistance, which were rated at three stars.

What Owners Think

The Suburban is seen as a highly versatile vehicle, offering comfort, utility, and luxury, depending on configuration. With the ability to tow over four tons, this workhorse has found a place in many niches. Owners have found very little to complain about, with fuel efficiency leading that short list, and with the addition of the six-speed automatic this year, it seems GM has been listening.

Updated
by

A CarGurus contributor since 2008, Michael started his career writing about cars with the SCCA - winning awards during his time as editor of Top End magazine. Since then, his journalistic travels have taken him from NY to Boston to CA, completing a cross-country tour on a restored vintage Suzuki. While his preference is for fine German automobiles - and the extra leg room they so often afford - his first automobile memories center around impromptu Mustang vs. Corvette races down the local highway, in the backseat of his father's latest acquisition.

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