All-new 2021 Chevrolet Suburban and Tahoe revealed in Detroit
Both vehicles to arrive in mid-2020
DETROIT – Question: what is the longest continuous production model in automotive history?
If the Chevrolet Suburban wasn’t your first guess, chances are you probably weren’t alone. The biggest Chevy SUV blends into the background of our daily lives so well, it’s easy to forget its been in GM’s lineup every year since 1935. After 85 years, the Suburban will be renewed once again when the 12th generation model goes on sale next summer as an all-new 2021 alongside its slightly smaller Tahoe sibling.
The current-gen models were first revealed in late 2013 and have been in production since 2014 and are two of the oldest vehicles in GM’s lineup. With the Suburban and Tahoe breaking cover as all-new ‘21s, expect to see next-gen versions of the Cadillac Escalade and GMC Yukon, which are built on the same platform and in the same Arlington, Texas plant, in the coming months.
Given their extensive use as emergency service vehicles across North America and their status as the preferred choice for bad guy transport in movies, the Suburban and Tahoe are more popular than one might expect.
In fact, these vehicles have appeared in more than 2,500 films and TV shows, which helps explain why the Suburban became the first vehicle ever to receive an Award of Excellence Star in Hollywood earlier this month.
Two other remarkable factoids GM revealed during the unveiling of the new trucks in Detroit this week:
• A Suburban has appeared in at least one film every year since 1960.
• A Tahoe has appeared in at least one film and one TV show every year since 1995.
The popularity of the Suburban and Tahoe in film and television production echoes their wider popularity in the full-size SUV segment in the U.S., where the two lead the category with a roughly 50 percent combined share. In other words, GM can’t build them fast enough, even though the Arlington plant runs three shifts six days a week and has received $1.4 billion USD worth of investment since 2015 and cranks out a finished vehicle during every minute of production time.
Given their enormous popularity, GM could be forgiven for taking a more conservative route with the new Suburban and Tahoe, but instead are throwing a ton of change at the new trucks.
Both are built on a new chassis that features a longer wheelbase (105 mm Suburban / 125 mm Tahoe) and independent rear suspension. The benefits of these changes include more interior space for passengers and cargo, and better driving dynamics, especially on rough pavement (more on this shortly), and improved handling.
The ‘21 Suburban and Tahoe will be offered with three engines, two of which were offered previously. The 5.3-litre V8 (355 hp / 383 lb-ft.) returns as the standard powerplant for most grades on both vehicles (LS, LT, Z71, RST and Premier), while the 6.2-litre V8 (420 hp / 460 lb-ft.) is standard on High Country models. Both engines feature GM’s Dynamic Fuel Management technology with 12 modes of cylinder deactivation. Essentially, this means V4 mode is possible when the engine isn’t under load (i.e. highway driving with the cruise control engaged).
Joining the engine lineup is an all-new 3.0-litre Duramax diesel inline six-cylinder (277 hp / 460 lb-ft.), a first in the segment, that’s designed to deliver good fuel consumption and impressive trailering capability. All engines will be paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission.
Big chassis changes
GM engineers have taken some huge swings when it comes to chassis changes made for the new Suburban and Tahoe.
For the first time, the rear suspension features an independent multilink set-up, that works in conjunction with an Air Ride Adaptive Suspension and GM’ Magnetic Ride Control. The changes are designed to produce better body control, ride quality, steering responsiveness and better overall handing versus the solid axle design used in the outgoing models.
The Air Ride Adaptive Suspension offers 101 mm (4 inches) of travel and will automatically lower ride height by 19 mm (¾ inch) during highway driving for improved aerodynamics and fuel consumption. Driver selectable settings can also lower the suspension by 51 mm (2 inches) to aid entry and exit when parked and to raise the body for off-roading (25 mm / 1 inch) in 4WD High and an additional inch (25 mm) in 4WD Low. Air Ride Adaptive Suspension is available on High Country and Z71 models.
During a brief ride-along at GM’s Proving Grounds in Milford, Michigan, the Tahoe High Country pre-production unit had better body control, less hard rebounding over broken pavement and a ride character that felt less floaty and ponderous than a Ford Expedition Platinum that was brought along for comparison purposes. I’d need to drive both to get a really strong and definitive feel for the difference, but it was noticeable from the passenger seat nevertheless.
Acres of space
The Suburban and Tahoe were already cavernous vehicles, but they’re now even more spacious thanks to a lower cargo floor, which delivers a whopping 4,106 litres of maximum cargo space for the Suburban (a 19 percent increase over the outgoing model), which is greater than any other SUV. Other highlights include greater second row (58 mm) and third row (56 mm) legroom, more cargo room behind the third row (51 litres) and overall (651 litres).
Meanwhile, the Tahoe has 254 mm (10 inches) of extra third row legroom, 66 percent more cargo space behind the third row and 30 percent more maximum cargo volume overall. Both vehicles also offer second row sliding seats with 254 mm of travel in either direction, second and third row seats that fold flatter for easier loading and unloading and rear door openings that are bigger due to their longer wheelbase.
New design, new interior, more tech
A fresh exterior design includes a face like the one on the current gen Silverado pick-up, standard LED headlights and taillights, active front grille shutters, available dual exhaust (Premier and High Country with gas engine), standard 18-inch wheels with 20-inch polished aluminum wheels for Premier grades, and 22-inchers for RST and High Country trims.
Anchoring the interior is a completely revised dashboard, instrument cluster and centre console. A 10-inch, pin sharp touchscreen display is standard on all models, and it’s accompanied by either an 8-inch configurable instrument cluster screen (Premier, High Country) or 4.2-inch cluster display (LS, LT, RST, Z71).
And the available screens continue with a 15-inch diagonal head-up display with a 3×7-inch colour display (standard on Premier and High Country), along with a second-row media package that comes with twin 12.6-inch touchscreens mounted to the front seat headrests.
Other tech highlights include a new camera mirror, new front and rear pedestrian detection, 9 camera views, lane keep assist and advanced adaptive cruise control. Plug-ins for devices with HDMI ports are also offered and users will be able to ‘send’ content from one screen to another for viewing on multiple screens.
A wireless change pad, cell phone tray and extra console cupholders have been added to the centre console.
Lots of Safety Tech, too
The new Suburban and Tahoe will arrive with a broader array of safety tech. Among the 30 safety and driver convenience technologies are a restraint system with driver inboard seat-mounted side-impact airbags and passenger sensing system, HD rear vision camera, automatic emergency braking, forward collision alert, forward distance indicator, forward pedestrian braking, rear park assist, IntelliBeam automatic headlamp control, hitch guidance for trailering and more.
Positioned to succeed
Given the reveals for the Suburban and Tahoe didn’t include any driving, apart from the brief ride-along at Milford, there’s only so much I can say about them until I get some quality seat time behind the wheel. However, based on what both offer in terms of design, technology, engineering, utility and available power, it would seem these ‘21s will have a good chance of landing even more starring roles than their predecessors.
2021 Chevrolet Suburban / Tahoe (basic specs)
BODY STYLE: full-size SUV
DRIVE METHOD: Front-engine, Four-wheel drive
ENGINE: 5.3L V8 Power: 383 hp @5600 rpm; Torque: 383 lb-ft. @4100 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 10-speed automatic
CARGO CAPACITY: 1,164 L / 4,097 L (behind third row / first row – Suburban)
FUEL ECONOMY: N/A
OBSERVED FUEL ECONOMY: N/A