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Venerable Suburban sports a new look for 2007

October 02, 2006

Providing big size, equally big power and a passenger-friendly cabin was the mission of the original 1936 Suburban. More than 70 years later, Chevrolet's all-star sport-utility vehicle stays true to this philosophy.

Plus-size sport-utes have traveled a rocky road of late as escalating fuel prices have forced some shoppers to rethink their transportation priorities. But for many customers, there's simply no alternative to living large.

Truck-based wagons such as the Suburban offer the space and power that's needed, whether for work, play or both. And for rural dwellers, this multi-tasking marvel is considered a vital lifeline that can tackle bad roads and equally bad weather without missing a step.

For 2007, General Motors has taken the clean-slate approach with the Suburban, as well as the rest of its platform-sharing body-on-frame relations that include the Chevrolet Tahoe, GMC Yukon/XL and Cadillac Escalade/ESV.

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For starters, the chassis has been stiffened to improve the ride and reduce noise and vibration. There's more space between the left and right wheels, referred to as "track," which tends to improve overall cornering stability.

The designers also paid particular attention to the interior. For instance, the passenger car-styled two-tone instrument panel looks as though it came out of the Chevy Impala. As well, the reshaped seats are firmer this year and feature more lateral support.

As before, there's room for up to nine passengers on bench-seat models, but ordering individual front-, second-, or third-row chairs will reduce that capacity to as few as six.

Transporting some bulky items requires folding or removing the third row and tumbling the second row forward, either manually or by activating the optional power-release feature.

It's on the outside of the Suburban, however, where the changes are most apparent. The rounded, tight-fitting body panels, bulging fenders, hood and attractively shaped nose set the big rig apart from last year's version as well as the rest of the big-ute field. The new design also has less wind resistance, which helps improve fuel economy.

Also helping to conserve precious petroleum are the Suburban's latest powerplants that come with what GM calls Active Fuel Management. The system shuts down half of the cylinders when they're not needed, such as when idling or cruising at a steady clip. This system, available only on 1500 series (half-ton) models, is standard on the base 5.3-liter V-8 and optional on 6.0-liter-equipped models. The former makes 310 horsepower (320 on 4x4 units), while the 6.0, which features variable valve timing, churns out 366 horses.

Despite a 500-plus pound weight gain, a 5.3-equipped 1500 4x4 earns a city/highway rating of 15/20 mpg compared to a 13/17 rating for 2006.

The 2500 (three-quarter-ton) models, with their beefier frames and 9,700-pound maximum towing capacity (1,500 greater than the half-ton) are available with a 352-horsepower 6.0.

All motors are connected to four-speed automatic transmissions.

The 2007 Suburban is available in 1500- and 2500-series LS and LT and 1500-only LTZ trim levels. Along with the expected power-operated amenities, base content includes tri-zone climate control, overhead storage console, remote keyless entry, eight-speaker audio system and stability control. Moving up to the LT adds a floor console, cargo shade, rear-seat audio controls and fog lights, for starters.

The top-ute LTZ equipment list features fancier chrome grille, chome door handles and outside mirrors, plus a power rear liftgate, a heater for the windshield-washer fluid and a sonar-based backup sensor.

Returning for '07 is the Z71 off-road suspension package for the LT that includes a locking rear differential, wheel flares, skid plates, tubular steps, high-capacity air cleaner and Z71-specific gauge cluster and interior trim.

Of course, the Suburban isn't for everyone, but if you need a big, comfortable, go-anywhere wagon with plenty of seating and cargo space, it's certainly worth a test drive.

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