There’s no way around the fact that the 2021 Chevrolet Suburban is a gigantic vehicle. With an overall length of 225.7 inches, the full-size SUV casts a shadow large enough to cover one and half Chevy Sparks. And it’s heavy, too: Our moderately equipped 2021 Suburban Z71 test vehicle tipped our scales at 5,991 pounds. With that in mind, we weren’t expecting to be exhilarated behind the wheel, but the big ‘Burban does a good job of mitigating its heft to deliver a pleasant driving experience.
Senior features editor Jonny Lieberman previously drove a nearly identical version of our test vehicle and had high praises for the powertrain, specifically the new 10-speed and its smooth shifts. Spinning the automatic transmission’s gears is a 5.3-liter V-8 making 355 horsepower and 383 lb-ft of torque. This will be the volume engine choice in a powertrain lineup that also encompasses a Duramax diesel (which we’ve tested) and a stronger 6.2-liter V-8.
That said, the 5.3-liter is more than adequate, and the gearbox’s work was hardly noticeable under hard acceleration. At the track, the 2021 Suburban Z71 ran to 60 mph in 7.6 seconds and through the quarter-mile in 15.7 seconds. How does that compare to what Ford has to offer? The last similar full-size Ford we tested was a 2018 Expedition Max Platinum 4×4 with the higher output 3.5-liter twin-turbo V-6 making 400 hp and 480 lb-ft. The boosted Ford put down zero-to-60-mph and quarter-mile times of 6.9 seconds and 15.3 seconds, respectively. And based on EPA ratings for four-wheel-drive models, the Ford has the fuel-economy advantage as well. The Expedition Max is rated at 16/21/18 mpg city/highway/combined, while the Suburban returns 15/19/17 mpg.
When it comes to stopping, our 2021 Suburban needed 127 feet to halt from 60 mph, while the Expedition did it in 130 feet. The Chevy’s longish distance isn’t surprising considering our example was fitted with knobby Goodyear Wrangler TrailRunner all-terrain tires that come with the Z71 package. For comparison, the Suburban High Country Duramax diesel we recently tested was wearing more normal all-season rubber and recorded a fairly decent 115-foot stopping distance from 60 mph. And for the rare few Suburban customers who may be curious about figure-eight test performance, we recorded a lap time of 30.9 seconds, roughly three seconds off pace from the Expedition. Numbers rundowns are only part of the story, though, and we’re eager to pit the Suburban against the Expedition in a proper same-place, same-time comparison test.
And what’s more important than test results is how the Suburban behaves on the road. The 2021 Suburban rides on a new chassis with independent rear suspension, and the latter combines with our test SUV’s magnetic dampers and adaptive air suspension to deliver good ride quality and surprisingly good body control through corners. The steering is light and accurate, too, accuracy being key to placing such a big beast on a winding back road or even within a freeway lane. We have yet to drive a Suburban with the standard suspension, but we have driven a version of its short-wheelbase—and otherwise essentially identical—sibling, the Chevrolet Tahoe. And based on our experience with the non-magnetic-damper Tahoe, you should, at the very least, spring for the magnetorheological setup if your budget allows it. That means for rear-drive Suburbans you’ll need to step up to the Premier trim, which starts at $66,595 with rear-wheel drive. The least you can spend on a Z71 with magnetic dampers is $68,930, which also includes air suspension.
Now that we’ve driven and tested the new Suburban, it’s clear the Chevy shines with a smooth gearbox, handsome sheetmetal, and an outstanding ride when equipped with the fancy suspension. But the Expedition, despite being a few years older, stands out with its premium interior and strong engine, both of which come at only a small premium in terms of base price: $53,720 for the Expedition Max 2WD versus $52,995 for the Suburban LS 2WD. Should be an interesting showdown. We can’t wait.
|2021 Chevrolet Suburban Z71 4×4|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$78,875|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, 4WD, 7-pass, 4-door SUV|
|ENGINE||5.3L/355-hp/383-lb-ft OHV 16-valve V-8|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||5,991 lb (52/48%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||225.7 x 81.1 x 75.7 in|
|0-60 MPH||7.6 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||15.7 sec @ 89.6 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||127 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.67 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||30.9 sec @ 0.50 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||15/19/17 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||225/177 kWh/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||1.17 lb/mile|