2021 Chevrolet Suburban Review

Christian Wardlaw, Independent Expert | Aug 20, 2021

Introduction - Find the best Chevrolet deals!

Since 1936, the Chevrolet Suburban has provided American families with more seating space, cargo room, and towing capacity than most other enclosed models. You could argue that it was the first sport utility vehicle (SUV), though there’s nothing sporty about it.

The redesigned 2021 Chevrolet Suburban carries on in this long-established tradition. Essentially an extended version of the Chevy Tahoe, the Suburban costs $2,700 more than its shorter sibling but pays dividends when you’ve got a big crew to carry around.

Buyers can choose from LS, LT, RST, Z71, Premier, and High Country trim levels and select between a gasoline-fueled V8 or a diesel-burning inline 6-cylinder engine. For all but the Suburban Z71, on which it comes standard, 4-wheel drive (4WD) is an option.

Highlights of the all-new 2021 Suburban include an independent rear suspension design that dramatically improves passenger comfort and cargo space, new infotainment and safety technologies, the off-road-oriented Z71 model, and the new High Country luxury version.

Otherwise, the recipe is the same as it’s always been. There is seating for up to nine people, as much as 144.7 cubic feet of cargo space, and up to 8,300 pounds of towing capacity. To squeeze nine aboard, you need to get the LS trim and the optional split-bench front seat.

What Owners Say About the Chevrolet Suburban - Find the best Chevrolet deals!

2021 Chevrolet Suburban Premier Dark Blue Front Quarter View

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

The Chevrolet Suburban competes in the Large SUV segment. According to data collected from verified new-vehicle buyers for the J.D. Power 2020 Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study, 61 percent of previous-generation Chevrolet Suburban buyers are male (vs. 59 percent for the Large SUV segment), and the median age of a Suburban buyer is 53 years (vs. 55).

As part of the APEAL Study, owners rated the previous-generation Suburban in 10 primary categories. Listed below in descending order, you’ll find their preferences from their most favorite thing about the vehicle to their least favorite:

  • Exterior styling
  • Driving feel
  • Feeling of safety (in a tie with Powertrain)
  • Interior design
  • Driving comfort
  • Setting up and starting
  • Getting in and out
  • Infotainment
  • Fuel economy

In the 2020 APEAL Study, the previous-generation Suburban ranks fourth out of six Large SUVs.

What Our Independent Expert Says About the Chevrolet Suburban - Find the best Chevrolet deals!

In the sections that follow, our independent expert provides an analysis of a 2021 Suburban Premier equipped with the following options:

  • Four-wheel drive
  • Duramax turbo-diesel engine
  • Premium package
  • Rear Media package
  • Power assist steps
  • Power-sliding center console

The price of the test vehicle came to $79,515, including the $1,695 destination charge.

Getting In and Getting Comfortable

2021 Chevrolet Suburban Premier Maple Sugar Front Seats

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

For this 2021 Chevy Suburban review, I put more than 1,500 miles on the odometer during a family road trip to the Midwest. There is no better way to evaluate this vehicle.

Thanks to the optional power-deploying running boards, it was easy for everyone to climb up into and down out of the Suburban. However, based on my experience, they don’t deploy fast enough, especially when exiting the SUV.

Once you and your passengers are aboard, the Suburban offers plenty of room in all three rows of seats. Compared to the previous-generation Suburban, the improvement in both second- and third-row comfort is significant. Moreover, adults won’t mind riding in the third-row seat because they’ll enjoy enough room for their legs and feet as well as substantial leg support from the bottom cushion.

The Premier test vehicle had 12-way power-adjustable front seats wrapped in Maple Sugar-colored leather, and they supplied heating and ventilation. The second-row captain’s chairs were heated, too, but this feature went unused during the warm and muggy weather. The Suburban’s triple-zone climate control had no trouble cooling the cabin, despite the swampy heat.

An optional power center console divided the front seats. When moved back toward the second-row passengers, it revealed a large storage tray perfect for oversized water bottles and other travel provisions. The Suburban’s remaining storage spots proved more than adequate during the trip.

Thanks to the optional panoramic sunroof and light interior color, the Suburban felt even more open and airy than it already is. My youngest kids, born and bred in Southern California, thoroughly enjoyed the front-row view of thunderstorms during our travels.

Take the time necessary to set the Suburban’s technology up to your liking, and your interaction with the driver information display and the infotainment touchscreen is minimal. Though Chevrolet supplies traditional volume and tuning knobs on the dashboard, we found the steering wheel controls perfectly useful. The infotainment system also provides an excellent user experience, limiting frustration during the drive.

Chevrolet Infotainment System 3 Review

2021 Chevrolet Suburban Premier Interior Dashboard

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

If you know how to use a smartphone, you’ll have no trouble using the Suburban’s standard Chevrolet Infotainment System 3 technology. Quick response to input, appealing graphics, intuitive menu structures, and useful virtual buttons in the form of icons are hallmarks of the technology.

Every 2021 Suburban includes the following infotainment features:

  • 10.2-inch high-definition touchscreen
  • Bluetooth hands-free calling and music streaming
  • HD Radio
  • Satellite radio
  • Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
  • Chevrolet Connected Access compatibility
  • 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot service

The Premier-trimmed test vehicle had the better-equipped version of the technology, which adds a connected navigation system. A 10-speaker Bose surround-sound audio system is also standard with Premier trim.

We put the Suburban’s Wi-Fi to good use during our travels and had no trouble pairing to the Bluetooth or the wireless Apple CarPlay. The voice-recognition system worked well, too, and the Bose speakers produced decent sound quality.

The road trip revealed a need for a “road trip” voice prompt that limits choices to fuel stations and restaurants that are ahead and close to freeway exits. For example: “Road trip, find a Starbucks.” It would also be great if Duramax drivers could request directions to stations known to sell diesel. For instance: “Road trip, find a diesel station.”

The test vehicle had the optional Rear Media package, installing dual 12.6-inch touchscreen displays on each front seatback. Viewers can watch individual programming, share screens, plug in an Amazon Fire stick, connect via USB-A or USB-C ports, and even send destination recommendations to the dashboard navigation system where the driver or front passenger can accept or decline the suggestion. My kids briefly explored the screens to sample the system’s capabilities and then resumed using the Suburban’s Wi-Fi hotspot and their own devices.

What It’s Like to Drive the 2021 Chevrolet Suburban

2021 Chevrolet Suburban Premier Duramax Diesel Engine

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

Chevrolet offers three different engine options in the 2021 Suburban. All trims come with a standard 355-horsepower 5.3-liter V8, except for the High Country. This top-of-the-line version of the Suburban is the only one to get a 6.2-liter V8 good for 420 hp.

A 3.0-liter turbo-diesel inline 6-cylinder engine is an option in every Suburban except for the Z71. Called the Duramax, this diesel is quite affordable at $995. With High Country trim, the base price actually drops when you choose the Duramax.

Aside from needing to use diesel fuel pumps, which are often a real mess, there isn’t a downside to the Duramax other than the loss of the V8 engines’ resonant exhaust note. The good news is that you won’t stop for fuel very often. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says a Suburban with 4WD and the Duramax diesel will average 22 mpg, and we got 24.1 mpg with mainly highway travel.

You’ll sense a bit of turbo lag when you step on the accelerator, but then the turbo-diesel’s 460 pound-feet of torque kicks in at just 1,500 rpm, and away you go, the 10-speed automatic transmission making expert use of the power. Peak horsepower measures an unimpressive 277 ponies, but it arrives at an accessible 3,750 rpm. At no point during the trip did we wish for more power, especially given the Duramax’s efficiency.

From the driver’s seat of a Suburban with 4WD, you’ll enjoy a commanding view of the road ahead. The SUV cruises effortlessly at Michigan’s generous 75-mph speed limit, and a Magnetic Ride Control adaptive damping suspension helps make the big ‘Burban ride less like the truck that it is. The test vehicle had the standard 20-inch wheels and tires, undoubtedly saving unsprung weight while providing more of a cushion from the road in comparison to the available 22-inch wheel-and-tire combinations. Certainly, the Suburban’s new independent rear suspension also contributed to the SUV’s composed highway ride.

Mountain roads and big-city driving were not on the menu for this evaluation. Mostly, my family and I stuck to the Interstates, where the Suburban’s size is not an issue. However, there were situations when a smaller vehicle would have been nice to have.

Case in point: the overnight parking lot at Shepler’s ferry to Mackinac Island. Narrow lanes that dead-end into nowhere, combined with tiny parking spaces filled with large trucks and SUVs, made negotiating this lot treacherous. The available surround-view camera and parking sensors really helped in this situation.

Also, we picked the SUV up at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport after dark and immediately headed out of town on I-294, which was a maze of construction. New to the Suburban and driving amidst 18-wheelers in a seeming hurry to get the heck out of the city and onto I-80, the SUV’s size combined with the narrow and shifting construction lanes posed a challenge to a weary traveler.

Fortunately, the test vehicle had every driving-assistance and collision-avoidance feature Chevy offers for the Suburban.

Suburban Driving Assistance Technology Review

2021 Chevrolet Suburban Premier Head Up Display

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

Chevrolet equips every 2021 Suburban with the following advanced driving assistance systems (ADAS):

Upgrades to this basic package of ADAS include the following features:

Additionally, every Suburban has Teen Driver technology. This system tracks driver behavior and produces a “report card” to show the owner how the teen driver drove the SUV. A center airbag between the front seats is standard except with LS trim and the available front bench seat. Chevrolet also provides a standard rear-seat reminder system designed to prevent the driver from leaving someone or something important in the back seat.

The test vehicle had all the available ADAS. However, it was still surprising to discover that this redesigned SUV, wearing a price tag of nearly $80,000, did not provide a Level 2 ADAS combining lane-centering assistance with adaptive cruise control. Perhaps future iterations of the Suburban will be eligible for General Motors’ Super Cruise hands-free highway driving technology.

Other than this omission, the ADAS is impressive. In fact, during the entire trip, I never felt as though I needed to turn off the lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assistance technology. It is accurate and subtle, which means you’re more likely to leave it turned on than to get frustrated and turn it off.

Another feature I liked was how responsive the adaptive cruise control is when you change lanes to pass slower vehicles. It doesn’t take long for the Suburban to get back up to your cruising speed. The surround-view camera is also invaluable when parking, as are the front and rear parking sensors.

The test vehicle also had a large 15-inch head-up display that proved its worth during the trip. Its brightness faded when I wore polarized sunglasses, but not entirely, so it remained useful.

2021 Chevrolet Suburban FAQ - Find the best Chevrolet deals!

2021 Chevrolet Suburban Premier Cargo Space

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

How much cargo space does the 2021 Chevrolet Suburban have?

According to Chevrolet, the Suburban supplies 41.5 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third-row seat, which means you can carry up to eight people and quite a bit of luggage at the same time. This figure includes the roomy storage bin underneath the cargo floor.

Fold the third-row seat down, and the Suburban provides 93.8 cubic feet behind the second-row seat. That’s more than the maximum volume of most midsize 3-row SUVs with all seats folded down.

When all the seats are folded in the Suburban, you’ve got 144.7 cubic feet of volume at your disposal. That’s as much as a typical minivan.

Does the 2021 Chevrolet Suburban get good gas mileage?

According to the EPA, the 2021 Suburban returns between 16 mpg and 23 mpg in combined driving, depending on the engine and drivetrain configuration. Naturally, the gas-engine models are less efficient than those equipped with the Duramax diesel.

Our test vehicle’s Duramax averaged 24.1 mpg over more than 1,500 miles of mostly highway driving. Given its 28-gallon fuel tank, a Suburban Duramax supplies almost 675 miles of range. During our road trip, it certainly seemed like the SUV never needed to stop for gas.

Is the 2021 Chevrolet Suburban safe?

Weight is a contributing factor to vehicle safety. When heavier vehicles collide with lighter vehicles, the occupants in the heavier vehicle typically fare better. While this makes something like a Suburban, which weighs a minimum of 5,616 pounds, inherently safe in many situations, it is also incumbent on the big SUV’s driver to drive more carefully and to avoid collisions in the first place.

Looking at crash-test ratings, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives the Suburban a 4-star overall rating, one rung down from its top 5-star rating. The SUV earns top ratings for all crash evaluations except for the front passenger, who can count on 4-star protection. However, both the 2-wheel-drive and 4-wheel-drive models earn a mediocre 3-star rating for their ability to resist a rollover in a collision.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has not assessed the new Suburban for crashworthiness.

How much is the 2021 Chevrolet Suburban?

Suburban prices range from $52,200 to $74,095, not including the destination charge of $1,695.

What are the 2021 Chevrolet Suburban competitors?

In the J.D. Power 2020 Initial Quality Study (IQS), the Nissan Armada ranks highest in the Large SUV segment. The Chevrolet Tahoe and the Toyota Sequoia are the next highest-ranked models.

In the 2020 APEAL Study, the Nissan Armada ranks highest in the Large SUV segment. The GMC Yukon and the Chevrolet Tahoe are the next highest-ranked models.

Other competitors to the 2021 Suburban include the Ford Expedition MAX and GMC Yukon XL. In 2022, the Jeep Wagoneer will also compete against the Suburban.

Independent Expert Opinion - Find the best Chevrolet deals!

2021 Chevrolet Suburban Premier Dark Blue Rear Quarter View

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

Aside from its sheer size in certain situations, the 2021 Chevrolet Suburban made everything about our family road trip more manageable. It held six people in genuine comfort, it carried all our luggage behind its third-row seat, and it provided plenty of storage for all the things that tend to accumulate on a road trip.

Better yet, it could travel all day without a stop for fuel, and don’t you agree that getting better than 24 mpg out of a heavy brick like the Suburban is something of a miracle?

This 1,500-mile road trip made me a fan of the new Suburban. There isn’t much to criticize, and there is plenty to like, and even love, about Chevy’s version of the Incredible Hulk.

Christian Wardlaw is a veteran digital automotive journalist with over 25 years of experience in test-driving vehicles. In addition to JDPower.com, his work has appeared in numerous new- and used-car buying guides, newspapers, and automotive industry trade journals.

The opinions expressed in this review are the author’s own, not J.D. Power’s.

No portion of these reviews may be reproduced, distributed, publicly displayed, or used for a derivative work without J.D. Power’s written permission. © 2021 J.D. Power

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