Given the growth of the full-size SUV market in the last few decades, it’s easy to forget the vehicle that started it all.
Some may point to the Ford Bronco, which hit U.S. roads and trails in 1965, or Jeep Wagoneer, which came to be two years earlier as the genesis of this craze. However, it’s the Chevy Suburban, which came to life in 1934 and is the longest continuously used automobile name in history. In fact, both the Bronco and Wagoneer disappeared and returned during the nearly century-long run of the Suburban.
The new Suburban Z71 epitomizes what’s kept the it a multi-decade mainstay of the Chevrolet line-up: evolution borne out of a resolution to give buyers what they want: a tough, capable, big vehicle. Despite it no longer being just a slab-sided rectangle on wheels (Ok … it still is but it’s got a few creases on the side … remember: evolution, not revolution), it’s still capable of filling a variety roles.
Need something to haul around the soccer team? Got it covered. Need to go to the big box home improvement store for supplies? Easy peasy. Taking a long trip with plenty of luggage? Good to go!
Today’s vehicles are truly utility machines. However, the price of a full-size SUV can quickly — and easily — climb past the $100,000 mark. Fortunately, our Sterling Gray Metallic with a Gideon interior test model was well under that at just about $77K, while offering a slew of features as well as the function longtime Suburban fans expect.
It’s a handsome beast, certainly looking the part of an off-roader. It features a massive grill with smaller, slit-like headlights that seems de rigueur for so many SUVs these days. Plus, you can’t miss the big black bow tie in the middle — it almost looks like a nose. At the bottom of the “face” are bright red tow hooks that say, “I can help get you out of trouble.”
It’s undoubtedly a giant rectangle, but the designers have softened the corners a bit just to keep it looking different from some of the competition. Moving down the side, there’s a crease that extends from the end of the headlamp all the way to the taillights, giving it a high-waisted look that makes it look stout, but not pudgy.
All in all, it’s masculine look without being over the top and more than suitable for a full-size ute.
The interior on the Z71 is a great place to be. Ours came with comfortable leather seats, a heated steering wheel as well as heated front and second-row seats. The panoramic roof lets in plenty light, making an already big space feel positively arena-like.
The layout of the vehicle’s controls and gauges is simple without seeming cheap — a fine line to walk in the automotive world, one that Chevy often fails to succeed at, but not this time. The 10.2-inch center touchscreen was clear and easy to reach. The shift buttons sit just to its left and, aside from Park, must be pulled toward the driver to engage the gear selected. It’s a safe treatment, but it’s still unnerving to me and I’m pretty sure I’m not a fan. At least not yet.
The climate controls sit just below the center air vents and are a simple collection of knobs and buttons that make me very happy. The wireless charging pad along with the USB and 12-volt ports are just above that to allow for multiple phones to be charged at the same time. The center storage console is massive, but not so deep becomes “like a purse” as one passenger pointed out to me. I’m not sure if that was intentional, but after hearing that assessment, let’s give the design team bonus points for it.
Making sure you can traverse those trails are three different powertrains, including a diesel. Our tester came equipped with the 5.3-liter V-8 putting out 355 horsepower with four-wheel drive and a 10-speed automatic transmission, and it’ll tow 7,600 pounds.
If you’re looking for something to rival the Cadillac Escalade-V or anything on that order, you’re going to be disappointed. However, I found the 5.3 V-8 to be very responsive in everyday driving situations, eagerly doing everything you ask of it with no fuss, including no hard shifts from the 10-speed.
According to the EPA, it gets 15 miles per gallon city, 19 on the highway and 16 combined. Our real-world results were a bit better at a little over 17 miles per gallon in combined driving — a pleasant surprise.
Safety and Technology
It comes with Chevy’s Infotainment 3 setup with built-in Google capability. It’s connected to a nine-speaker Bose audio system that delivers clear, crisp sound even at higher decibel levels. Again, it’s nice, but it’s not as good as what you find if you move up to GMC and Cadillac — or Lincoln and Wagoneer, for that matter. The native system is easy to use and pairs wirelessly to Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, which I used all the time after an initial run with Chevy’s system.
It also came equipped with a bunch of safety and driver assistance technology like front pedestrian braking, forward collision warning, lane keep assist and more. I didn’t put any of these systems to the test, which I’m sure the folks over at Chevrolet are very happy about. It’s nice to know they’re working, if only behind the scenes.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gives it four out of five starts for crash protection, including five out of five driver’s side frontal crash and front and rear seat side crash ratings.
The Z71 is off-road ready, although I don’t think I’d run the thing over the gnarliest of trails. However, it’s clear it can handle some tough territory with a front skid plate, electronic limit slip differential and air ride adaptive suspension.
It’s also kind of cool to hear the hiss of the air ride’s release when you walk away from the Z71 after parking it.
So often “ready from the factory” off-roaders are not a pleasant experience for everyday driving. This often makes for a tough choice when one’s looking to spend more than $75,000 on a vehicle. But the Z71 isn’t bouncy and stiff like so many others. It really benefits from the magnetic ride control technology that ensures the drive modes make a difference. In fact, it was so comfortable on the 75-minute ride to the closest Ikea, my front seat passenger nearly nodded off.
That said, riding on 20-inch wheels, featuring plenty of off-road name brand components, it’s certainly ready to head off into the woods or plenty of other off-tarmac spots.
2023 Chevrolet Suburban Z71 Specifications
|225.7 inches/W: 81.1 inches/H: 75.7 inches/Wheelbase: 134.1 inches
|5.3-liter V-8/10-speed automatic transmission and four-wheel drive
|15mpg city/19 mpg highway/16 mpg combined
|355 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque
|Base price: $65,700; As tested: $77,195 including $1,795 destination charge.
I’ve enjoyed several six-figure full-size SUVs in recent months and save massaging seats, there was nothing they provided in terms of ride and handling, equipment or technology that I felt I needed that the $30,000 cheaper Chevy Suburban didn’t have.
It’s got classic styling — if such a thing exists for large utes — and better-than-expected performance from the smaller gas powerplant. If you want a well-equipped full-size SUV for a good price in that segment, this is a good option.
2023 Chevrolet Suburban Z71 — Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Z71 package on a Suburban?
This off-road package comes with a metal underbody shield, all-terrain tires, a high-capacity air filter, Hill Descent Control, an off-road suspension with Rancho shocks, a two-speed transfer case, and an electronic locking rear differential.
How many miles can a Suburban Z71 last?
The average Chevy Suburban should last around 200,000 miles. With regular maintenance, it’s likely to last even longer. There are several owners who have surpassed the 500,000-mile mark.
What’s the difference between RST and Z71 Suburban?
The 22-inch wheels on the RST are 2 inches larger than those on the Z71. On the Z71, there are 20-inch machined aluminum wheels with technical gray pockets. There’s not even the option to get the 22-inch wheels on the Z71. Hardly anything is different about the interior of the Z71 when compared with the RST.