Still The One: 2015 Chevrolet Suburban LTZ

Front 3/4 view of 2015 Chevrolet Suburban LTZ
The 2015 Chevrolet Suburban LTZ.
So many people (yours truly included) had full-size American SUVs in the 1990s that it became something of a fad.  Like all fads, it ended and the people who really didn't need such huge machines (yours truly included) moved on to more practical conveyances, and the segment contracted.  20 years on, the survivors are few, and the fittest of the survivors is the big wagon that started it all 80 years ago...the Chevrolet Suburban.

Rear 3/4 view of 2015 Chevrolet Suburban LTZ
2015 Chevrolet Suburban LTZ.
Yes, Chevy's been making the big brute since 1935...and each generation has brought improvements and refinements to keep it on top of the game and ahead of the competition. The result is the state-of-the-art of big SUVs...but if you haven't shopped one in a while, prepare for sticker shock.  My mid-range 1993 GMC Suburban 1500 4X4 (GMC hadn't re-named theirs "Yukon" yet, and apart from badges and grilles, they were identical to the Chevies) stickered at a shade over $31,000 and I dickered the dealer down to $26,900.

The least expensive 2015 Suburban, a two-wheel-drive LS, starts at $49,000. The top-of-the-line Suburban LTZ 4X4 we just spent a week in begins at $67,980, which is a bit more than $41,000 in 1993 money.  But, as when visiting the Dalai Lama or buying a hot dog from a street vendor, when you say "LTZ 4X4" to Chevrolet, you're essentially saying "make me one with everything."  A few years ago, this was Cadillac Escalade money.  But the Escalade of yesterday wasn't as well equipped as the Suburban of today.
2015 Chevrolet Suburban LTZ interior.
Standard equipment includes tri-zone automatic climate control, Chevy MyLink with an 8-inch color touchscreen, rear vision camera, front and rear park assist, remote starter, leather seats (12-way power heated and cooled in the front), a programmable power liftgate, lane keep assist, forward collision alert, a Bose premium sound system, high-intensity discharge headlamps, fog lamps, memory power tilt and telescope steering column, power release second-row and power folding third row seats, side blind zone alert with lane change alert and rear cross-traffic alert.

There's only one engine to be had, the 5.3-liter EcoTec V8, which makes 355 horsepower, and only one transmission, a six-speed automatic.  Extra gears would help the fuel economy, which is an EPA-estimated 16 city/23 highway.  That's certainly an improvement over my '93's 12 city/16 highway, which came with only 190 horsepower from the old Chevy 350 and a four-speed automatic.  But it's also just an estimate.  In a week of driving split 70/30 urban freeways/city streets, the best we saw was 16.8 and the trip computer ratted out the other autojournos who'd been in the tester, showing an all-time best of 17.5.

Gotten comfortable with that $67,980 yet?  Good.  Because here come the options.  Turns out Chevy's making you one with almost everything when you say "LTZ 4X4". Ours added the Sun, Entertainment and Destinations package (navigation, a moonroof and a Blu-Ray rear-seat entertainment system) for $2,860, all-weather floor mats for $225, a rear cargo mat for $85 and a cargo shade for $185.  With shipping, it came to $70,845.

Even at that price, it's hard to come up with a better machine for taking up to 8 friends for a drive in comfort, and for hauling darn near anything you want to haul. Navigator found a great buy on a six-and-a-half-foot tall cabinet.  We just pressed a couple of buttons, the second and third-row seats folded flat, we slid it in, closed the liftgate and went home.  With my old one, I saved so much money on delivery services, it probably paid for a year's worth of gas.  There's very little that won't fit in the back of a Suburban.

And for something that P.J. O'Rourke once called "as tall as a fish story and as long as an excuse", the Suburban handles exceptionally well.  Steering response is now so sharp that parallel parking is a breeze (the parking assist and rear camera help a bunch).

The Chevrolet Suburban was always going to weather the fallout when big American SUVs went out of fashion, because it was simply so good.  I almost envy the people who really do need one...because it is simply the best in its segment.