Test Drive: 2021 Chevrolet Suburban High Country
2021 Chevrolet Suburban High Country 4WD
Class: Large SUV
Miles driven: 187
Fuel used: 13.3 gallons
|CG Report Card|
|Room and Comfort||A|
|Power and Performance||A-|
|Fit and Finish||B|
|Report-card grades are derived from a consensus of test-driver evaluations. All grades are versus other vehicles in the same class. Value grade is for specific trim level evaluated, and may not reflect Consumer Guide's impressions of the entire model lineup.|
|Big & Tall Comfort|
|Big & Tall comfort ratings are for front seats only. "Big" rating based on male tester weighing approximately 350 pounds, "Tall" rating based on 6'6"-tall male tester.|
|Engine Specs||420-hp 6.2L|
|Drive Wheels||4-wheel drive|
Real-world fuel economy: 14.1 mpg
Driving mix: 65% city, 45% highway
EPA-estimated fuel economy: 14/19/16 (mpg city, highway, combined)
Fuel type: Premium gas recommended
Base price: $75,300 (not including $1295 destination charge)
Options on test vehicle: High Country Deluxe Package ($5605), rear-seat media system ($1995), power-sliding center console ($350) High Country Deluxe Package discount (-$500)
Price as tested: $84,045
More Suburban price and availability information
The great: Cavernous room for both people and cargo; pleasant road manners for such a large vehicle
The good: Long list of standard and available features; satisfying acceleration
The not so good: Brawny V8 is thirsty for premium fuel; extra-large dimensions can make close-quarters maneuvering a challenge; interior trimmings aren’t particularly impressive for a top-of-the-line luxury model
Introduced in 1935 as a people-toting addition to the Chevrolet light-duty truck line, the Suburban is the old dog of American automotive nameplates. However, for 2021, this old dog has learned some new tricks.
In the span of its first 85 anniversaries, the Suburban rested on a solid rear axle. For number 86, it switches to a multilink independent-rear setup that improves ride quality and contributes to a roomier interior. A number of other new features are sprinkled in—and the final novelty is a Consumer Guide “Best Buy” designation in the large SUV category.
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CG’s test Suburban was a 4-wheel-drive version in High Country trim. High Country sits at the top of five rear-wheel and six 4-wheel-drive trim levels, and pulls the big Chevy sport-ute into luxury-vehicle price territory. As a 4×4, it starts at $76,595 with delivery, $3000 more than a comparable 4×2. The test truck reached $84,045 with options that included an extensive High Country Deluxe package, rear-seat media system, and power sliding floor console.
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However, if you want a vehicle with the Suburban High Country’s dimensions and 6.2-liter V8 but a genuine luxury ambience, you’ll have to get a GMC Yukon XL Denali or Cadillac Escalade ESV. Features are one thing; the High Country has lots of them, as we’ll see. But while not stark, it doesn’t come off as plush as, say, the top trims in rival brands’ pickups that put some luxury cars to shame. There are plenty of places to see or contact plastic, and even soft-faced surfaces on the dash and doors have virtually no padding beneath them. (At least third-row riders get a vinyl-covered patch of armrest on the grained-plastic sidewalls, which is more than many other 3-row SUVs do for back-benchers.)
What does come in the High Country are perforated-leather bucket seats in the first two rows, all heated (and ventilated in front). The leather-wrapped steering wheel is heated, too. Backs and cushions of the Jet Black seats in the test truck were interwoven with bronze-colored threads that complemented trim highlights on the steering-wheel arms. A woodgrain band runs through the dash and resumes on the doors. Doors open to expose High Country sill plates.
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There’s a 10-speaker Bose audio system, satellite radio, head-up display, wireless charging, Wi-Fi hotspot, keyless entry and starting, trizone automatic climate control, rear camera mirror, and driver’s-seat memory settings. Chevrolet Infotainment 3 Premium comes with navigation, a stand-up 10.2-inch color touchscreen, voice recognition, and wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto capability. On the outside are LED headlamps and taillamps; hands-free liftgate; 22-inch alloy wheels, sterling-silver painted with chrome inserts; and a specific bright grille with bronze highlights atop the horizontal bars. Nearly every conventional system for traffic and pedestrian monitoring, parking assistance, and emergency braking is standard; adaptive cruise control and enhanced emergency braking were added as parts of the High Country Deluxe group.
There is plenty of adult-sized room and seat comfort in every row, even in back, where three fit grown-ups might fit—but two for sure. With a 3.4-inch-longer wheelbase and the more-compact rear suspension, legroom grows by 2.3 inches in the second row and 2.2 inches in the third row. Second-row seats adjust for legroom and tilt to clear access to the third row, though it’s about as easy to pass between them to reach the back. Headroom is very good throughout, even in the third row, and even under the optional panoramic sunroof (Deluxe package again) that extends over the front two rows.
Drivers face good-sized analog speedometer and tachometer dials above which run a somewhat-crowded series of digital dials for other functions. External buttons help make it a cinch to program audio settings on the touchscreen. Front climate controls use a mix of convenient dials and function buttons, though seat heating/cooling buttons sit a bit low. Personal-item storage choices come down to a big glove box, a large covered console box, pockets in the sides of console and in each door, and pouches on the backs of the front seats. An extra $350 buys the sliding console box that tracks back to expose a large tray and access a drawer that is hidden when the console is in the full-forward position. Exposed cup holders in the console serve front- and middle-row passengers, and cup holders are molded into the sidewalls for use by third-row passengers.
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The physical changes to the ’21 Suburban add 2.2 cubic feet of cargo room behind the third-row seat, where there’s 41.5 cubic feet of luggage space. Switches on the right side of the cargo hold raise and lower the rearmost seats. Lowering middle and rear seats opens up 144.7 cubic feet of flat-floored area, albeit with gaps behind and between the middle-row buckets.
A 6.2-liter V8 of 420 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque and a 10-speed automatic transmission continue as standard in the High Country, but a 277-horse 3.0-liter inline-six turbodiesel is a new option. The gas engine gets the big body-on-frame wagon moving smartly and gives the 4WD High Country the ability to tow up to 7900 pounds when equipped with the Max Trailering Package. (Owners interested in obtaining every last pound of pull from a Suburban will want a lower-trim rear-drive model with the 5.3-liter gas V-8—capacity is 8300 pounds.)
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The 6.2 incorporates new Dynamic Fuel Management that enables the engine to run on two, four, six, or eight cylinders according to conditions, but even with this and a subtle stop/start function it’s no gas-sipper. This driver’s 97.6-mile test with 59 percent city-type operation yielded just 12.6 mpg, well below the EPA’s city-use estimate of 14 mpg.
With standard Magnetic Ride Control suspension, the going is quiet and comfortable. There’s a moment of patter over pavement cracks, but nothing that crashes or reverberates. There’s also good sealing against outside noise—including the engine under acceleration, which comes across as a muffled roar. Handling is fairly easily—for a thing this size. At least the standard HD Surround Vision display makes it easier to reverse or park with confidence and precision.
Among the new Suburbans, the High Country isn’t the best dollar value. However, buyers with needs for lots of room and power in an SUV who zero in on one elsewhere in the lineup will find it the doggonedest thing.
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2021 Chevrolet Suburban High Country
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