The 2021 Chevrolet Suburban SUV builds on a successful platform with advanced technology and comfort to make the 12th generation the best yet.
Everything. We mean it too. Aside from the name and some powertrain components, the 2021 Chevrolet Suburban is all new and it’s a fantastic sequel to the outgoing model. A diesel motor makes a debut and proves to be a fantastic choice, independent rear suspension adds better road manners, there’s more cargo space, and the technology in this SUV is better than ever before.
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Excellent drivetrain options
Towing capacity of a truck
Exterior styling is polarizing
Some cheap materials still used
Single complementary maintenance visit
Add more tech from Cadillac
Make the 6.2 V8 available on lower trims
None of the engines available in the Suburban are disappointing. The smaller of the two gasoline engines, the 5.3L V8, will be the most widely used. With 355 horsepower and 383 ft-lbs of torque, it’s more than adequate for everyday driving. That means that, unlike many others in the segment, there won’t be a version that feels underpowered. We wish the 6.2L V8 was available on more trim levels since it’s so much fun to drive, but having it available at all is a good thing. The diesel is a fantastic addition as well. With tons of torque on tap and great fuel economy, it’ll fit nicely in the lineup for those needing just those characteristics.
All-three motors will feed power to the wheels via a 10-speed automatic transmission that is one of the better options that we’ve driven. When selecting your own gears it’s quick and responsive. When driving in traffic it’s calm and comfortable, so there’s really no down side.
Regardless of the engine and overall drivetrain you choose, the lowest towing capacity for the Suburban in 2021 is a hefty 7,800 lbs. The best rating is given to the 2WD 5.2L version, which can haul up to 8,300 lbs. Payload is anywhere from 1,684 to 1,884 lbs depending on the spec you’re driving. These numbers mean that, while the Suburban has become far more comfortable and luxurious, it hasn’t lost its ability to work hard. Clearly, sharing much of its core DNA with the Silverado has been a benefit in this aspect.
As the largest Suburban ever, mileage is perhaps not the forte of this vehicle. Mileage for the gas engines is rated at 16 city, 20 highway and 18 mpg combined. The diesel does far better though with 21 in the city, 27 on the highway and 22 mpg combined. All-wheel-drive models all lose a single mpg across the estimates. That’s not bad when compared to the rest of its competitors and we’re fascinated to see what happens when GM starts to integrate all its latest EV technology into the Suburban.
GM vehicles for a long while have suffered from a lack of high-quality materials inside of their vehicles. The Suburban is no different, as many of the touch surfaces and buttons feel of plastic. Once you get past that and realize that these materials are made to handle families’ daily consistent use, it becomes much more understandable and liveable. The remainder of the interior is incredibly comfortable and ergonomically laid out.
Most ventilated seats are a nice addition, but these ones will freeze you out quickly. We’re not sure how they’re different than the previous version, but it’s noticeable. In addition, the interior space is much larger overall than it was in the last generation. That’s good, because over the past few generations interior space has slowly been shrinking. Cargo space is bigger than ever with a maximum cargo capacity of 145 total feet.
Chevrolet offers quite a lot of good interior tech for drivers and passengers in the Suburban. We love that Wi-Fi connectivity is available across the lineup. The sound system is solid in every tier and the Bose 9 and 10 speaker systems are even better. The HD Surround Cam is a fantastic addition in the High Country trim level and we hope that in subsequent years that we see it trickle down to more variants.
Rear occupants can enjoy optional 12.6-inch touchscreens in the back of the front seats and those come equipped with HDMI ports for further versatility. Navigation instructions can even be forwarded to the driver from a rear seat occupant from those large screens.
The Suburban comes standard with some solid safety features, like collision warning and automated braking as well as a trailer camera. Optionally, you can add things like blind spot monitoring and lane-keep assist, but it could be argued that at $50,000+ the big Burban should have a bit more safety tech as standard.
Perhaps the best equipped base SUV in the class, the Suburban offers LED DRL headlights, Rear park assist, auto start/stop, and more. We especially love the 18-inch wheels, but at the same time, any smaller wheel and tire package would likely look far too small. The inside is graced with a 10.2-inch infotainment screen and has available Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Wi-Fi connectivity. Across the board, the base Suburban is a winner and it only gets better from here.
If the “S” in LS stood for standard then the “T” in LT might stand for tech. This Suburban gets everything from the base model, but adds to it with much more technology. A 9-speaker Bose audio system is included as well as heated front seats with driver memory positions and an auto-dimming rear-view mirror. Other benefits include a hands-free liftgate and wireless charging for your mobile device. The LT can be had with a bench seat in the front making this the only 8-seater Suburban.
When it comes to the RST trim level, the name of the game is style. Outside you’ll find a unique blacked-out trim package along with 22-inch wheels and tires. Inside, the RST model gets special stitching and seating along with an upgraded driver information center. Unlike previous generations, this RST won’t be available with the biggest motor in the lineup and won’t have visible exhausts out the back. That’s a change that we don’t love, but nothing is perfect.
The Z71 package can only be had with the 4WD package, which makes sense since this has historically been an off-road focused variant. To that end, the changes are largely performance focused. All-terrain tires are standard as is a 2-speed transfer case, frontal skid plate, hill-descent control, and a slightly revised frontal area that provides better ground clearance.
This is almost a “diet” High-Country, so to speak, with a boat load of new technology. The Premier trim includes a digital instrument panel, magnetic shock absorbers to further dampen road vibrations, additional safety features like lane keep assist and blind spot monitoring, as well as heated and ventilated seats. It’s basically going to make every Suburban beneath it look rather suburban in nature, but the High Country turns the dial to 11.
If you’re looking for the biggest, baddest Suburban on the market, then this is it. As the only Suburban that features the 6.2L V8, it’s going to have nearly 70 more horsepower than the next tier drivetrain. In addition, it’ll get the most advanced tech available in the Suburban including a surround-view parking system, a heads up display, 12-way power front seats, HD surround sound, and a rear camera mirror.
While the Suburban complimentary maintenance is pretty silly with a single complimentary maintenance visit, the rest of the warranty coverage is on par or better than its competitors. That includes 3 years and 36,000 miles of limited warranty coverage and 5 years or 60,000 miles of powertrain coverage.
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The Suburban is a very versatile vehicle that can do most anything the modern family needs it to do. With one of the most reliable powertrains and comfortable interiors in the business, it’ll sure be a complete hit with buyers despite what can be seen as polarizing styling. The top of the range High Country model is a bit overpriced in our opinion considering you can get better tech at the same price if you choose the GMC Yukon Denali. We wish the entire lineup had more advanced safety tech, but frankly, despite these tiny gripes, the Suburban is going to be a great vehicle for anyone wanting a super reliable, comfortable, and capable 3-row family SUV. If we had to pick one, we’d go for the Z71. It’s the most capable in terms of off-road capability and can be had with most all the same high end tech from the Premier trim level.