Earlier, our beloved [Editor’s Note: hmm…] Jeff Glucker posed a question: who needs a Chevy Suburban? This question was not intended to rhetorically imply that the answer is “nobody,” but rather to start an honest discussion about the necessity of a vehicle the size of, well, a suburb. Here, I will provide my take on Jeff’s question, which is simple: nobody. Nobody needs a Suburban. But that’s not the point.
The Chevrolet Suburban bears the longest-running nameplate in automotive history. Born in 1935, the Suburban has become symbolic of the American way of life. With that connotation has come accusations of excess, especially from our neighbors across the pond. Many have argued it is far too wasteful and brash, and that something like a minivan or a crossover does the same job better.
However, the Suburban was not designed with space constraints in mind. It does not care about efficiency, packaging, or driving dynamics. It’s big, spacious, and brawny. Based on a truck, it offers a king-of-the-road driving feel — something a minivan cannot replicate. It can also tow quite a lot. Will most Suburbans ever tow anything? No. But it can.
The Suburban is quite literally a family vehicle for the American suburbs, where space is aplenty. Space to park, space to build large roads, space to develop widespread master-planned communities. Fuel is also relatively affordable. All of this means that the compromises you make to step up from a crossover to a Suburban — mostly size and fuel economy — are pretty insignificant.
So the drawbacks of a Suburban versus a minivan or crossover are fairly minimal, but it doesn’t end there — there are benefits to a ‘Burb as well. The Suburban is a large, boxy, truck-ish vehicle — it’s simply cooler than some wimpy crossover. GM’s full-size SUVs are also some of the most durable vehicles on the market, frequently reaching 300,000 miles and beyond of family duty before needing significant repairs. Finally, the Suburban is a do-it-all vehicle — maybe you’re thinking of getting a toy hauler or a boat. If you do, you can’t tow it with a Highlander.
Finally, the general concept of necessity as it pertains to vehicle purchasing is often a point of contention among car enthusiasts. Many gearheads dislike full-sized pickup trucks because they are “too big” and “most buyers don’t need a truck.” The problem with this argument is cars — especially as a hobby — inherently transcend the realm of necessity. Is a 1,000 horsepower Supra necessary? No, but it’s awesome, so you want one nonetheless.
The question of “need” when discussing the Suburban is an interesting one, but in my view, it’s misdirected. When shopping for a family hauler like this, don’t ask yourself whether you need something as large as a Suburban. Instead, start with a Suburban, and ask yourself whether you need something smaller.