One of my favourite vehicles has just been updated aaaand things are a little mixed. For nearly 80 years Chevrolet has been producing the Suburban, a family carryall that has transformed from what was essentially a van through to the full-size SUV that it is today. Based on the pick up platform which also underpins GM’s large pick up trucks, their SUV line-up has expanded to 4 model line ups; Chevrolet has the Suburban and the slightly shorter Tahoe, GMC has the Yukon (and XL extended wheelbase version) and Cadillac has the notorious Escalade (and EXT extended version). In the height of the economic boom period of the early-mid 00’s these vehicles provided massive profits for GM to the extent that they neglected their passenger cars massively.
Launched just before the 2008 crash, the last generation of these cars was by far the most advanced and attractive yet, although given popular opinion of full size SUV’s now that sounds like faint praise.Shiny grilles and straight edges were the order of the day when the designers were drawing up the ‘GMT900’ trucks but this didn’t stop GM from including a more car-like interior and seating for up to 8, although the rear most seats still did not fold flat into the floor like they do on the vast majority of other 7/8 seat vehicles. Maybe GM’s trucks deserve a few of the criticisms that have been thrown at them (cheapy interiors, thirsty engines and trucky steering), but they were certainly better than anything offered by rival manufacturers. Ford’s Expedition and Lincoln’s Navigator are still based on a 10-year-old designs, as is Nissan’s Armada, and Toyota’s Sequioa is arguably even more bloated and thirsty than GM’s offerings…as a result 3 out of 4 full-size SUV sales in the USA have been of one of GM’s models in recent years.
So it’s a pretty big deal that GM have released a new update for their trucks, but like I said I’m not entirely convinced on the new models…at least on the outside. The previously square lines of the vehicles have been tamed a bit, with the Chevy gaining the new family grille and interestingly shaped lights, and the GMC has gained slightly swept back lights and a larger mesh grille. Around the back there is a more raked rear end on both cars and of course fancier lights. Although the Tahoe and Suburban are basically same from the front, the longer length of the Suburban does not sit quite as well as it did before and to my eyes look a little awkward and saggy.
Inside things are clearly much better; this is an area where GM and the other 2 of the ‘Big Three’ have made real strides in recent years. Whilst the previous interiors of the trucks was decent enough, the new ones feature masses of soft touch materials, LED mood lighting and the ‘MyLink’ software (each brand having their own version). Pictures show the GMC models with an LCD dial set up and all the cars seem to carry over the column shifter which has been a characteristic of GM trucks for years. Out back the cars finally gain fold flat seats and so finally they don’t have to be lifted out whenever any luggage space is needed.
These vehicles are still based on a pick up platform and as such I am sure they drive pretty sloppily compared to more athletic competitors like the Mercedes GL, but I guess considering their sizes that’s to be expected. Interestingly a magnetic suspension is available on top trim versions of the ChevroletS and is standard on the GMC…combined with the long wheelbase and sensible wheels of most models they are sure to be smooth riding cars. A six speed gearbox is modern enough but quite far behind Ram’s 8 speed offerings, but again combined with the massive engines that these cars have performance is still going to be better than these things have the right to be. MPG ratings have yet to be released but I suspect they won’t be massively better than the current car’s, although with GM and Ford bringing an 8 speed gearbox out soon it seems probable this will find it’s way into these profitable vehicles.
I doubt I will have chance to buy any of these cars or even take a ride in them, but for anyone who is in the position (financially or geographically) to do so, I’d wait for the as-yet-unveiled Cadillac Escalade, I’m betting the Caddy will look the best as usual.