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Driven: 2018 Chevrolet Suburban offers space, versatility to haul big families and their stuff

Our 2018 Chevrolet Suburban 4WD 1500 Premier tester was powered by its 5.3-litre V8 engine.
Our 2018 Chevrolet Suburban 4WD 1500 Premier tester was powered by its 5.3-litre V8 engine. - Richard Russell

Big, bad, bold

The 2018 Chevy Suburban I report on this week was initially provided for a French film crew shooting in Quebec. The blacked-out Suburban looked very much like the ones used throughout North America by security services and protection details.

Already sinister looking in its black paint, this one was made even more menacing thanks to heavily-tinted windows and blacked-out trim.

The 2018 Suburban received a number of upgrades, among them the $3,000 RST appearance package that graced our tester.

That brought 22-inch black alloy wheels, black bowtie emblems front and rear, black grill, black door handles, black nameplates, roof rails and mouldings.

Have I made it clear that there was a preponderance of black on this vehicle?

Topping off the dominant appearance was the sheer size of this thing. At 5.7 metres in length, weighing 2.65 kilos with nothing aboard, riding on those 22-inch wheels, and an $87,000 price tag, the numbers are all big.

Two other impressions of size linger — interior space and appetite. There are three rows of seats suitable for full-size humans and a very large cargo space behind the third row.

Fold the second and third row out of the way and that space becomes cavernous.

The 5.3-litre V8 does a decent job of moving all that weight but gobbles a lot of gas while doing so.

The Tahoe and Suburban are based on a Chevrolet pickup. They share the same platform, drivetrain, suspension and steering.

But the Suburban has an extended wheelbase resulting in more passenger and cargo space. The equivalent GMC products are the Yukon and Yukon XL.

The test vehicle was the Suburban in Premium trim. Think of it as a pickup that has been through a finishing school and given a set of high-end clothes. The pickup base is evident in several ways, both good and bad.

The good is the ability to carry or tow around lots of big things and to do so for hundreds of thousands of kilometres.

On the negative side, the solid rear axle and suspension necessary to accommodate those heavy chores, means compromises are necessary.

The third-row seats have to be perched atop the giant rear differential. Occupants will find their legs and feet stretched out in front of them instead of down.

The clearance between the top of the wheels and fender are massive and do little to enhance the appearance. That distance shrinks as the load increases, but looks pretty silly when the vehicle is less than full.

The truck-based suspension probably does a decent job of providing a comfy ride on smooth surfaces with the standard 20-inch tires.

But the optional 22-inch wheels wrapped in low profile (45-series) rubber on the test vehicle destroyed any semblance of ride comfort on anything other than billiard table smooth surfaces.

Complaints such as this will be pushed aside by anyone who buys one of these for what it does best — accommodate lots of people while towing as much as four tons of toys.

A minivan or any number of smaller and lighter utility vehicles will provide equal or better passenger accommodations, more economically.

A pickup will tow as much or more. But it is the combination of the two where the Suburban excels.

The fully-loaded tester’s $87,000 price is on the high end — until you think of it as two vehicles — one for towing and one for people.

The fact there is a huge cargo space behind the three rows is a bonus.

The cavernous interior is well executed. The general impression is one of luxury and refinement. Noise levels — both road and wind — are commendably low for such a tall, boxy, body-on-frame vehicle.

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