Bodyguard. Movie star. First of its kind. Enduring symbol of Americana. These are a few words that could be used to describe the Chevy Suburban, a model that’s been around since 1935 and almost literally done it all. Seriously – the model was given an Award of Excellence Star by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce for decades of service in the film industry, appearing in 1750 films and TV series since 1952. No nameplate has been in service as long as Suburban, and the model is looking 85 years young – ladies and gentlemen, introducing the 12th generation 2021 Chevy Suburban.
It all started with an observation – wagons with soft-material cargo holds weren’t holding up to commercial application. This inspired Chevy to design an all-steel wagon body that was released as the 1935 Suburban Carryall, and they never looked back. The model continued to grow in popularity after WWII, and the 50’s saw a revolutionary design that eliminated running boards and widened the body to match the fenders. That also heralded the birth of the V8 Small Block engine and the introduction of four-wheel drive.
Passenger comfort became a serious consideration in the 60’s – air conditioning became an option, and before long the Suburban had 4 doors instead of the classic 2. The body has become sleeker, more aerodynamic, and increasingly stylish over the generations since. Engineering advancements improved engine performance, and new tech has fleshed out the interior. The 2021 Chevy Suburban is yet another major evolution in the design of the industry’s seminal SUV, continuing to set the standard for what it means to be a full-size sport utility vehicle.
A Can-Do Attitude
The 2021 Suburban is like therapy for a defeatist mindset. For 85 years it’s been designed with an eye on raising the bar for what can be achieved by a passenger vehicle. The heart and soul of the line is a 5.3L V8 engine that makes 355 hp and 383 lb-ft of torque. That’s a lot of muscle – this engine can tow up to 8,300 lbs when properly equipped. Aerodynamic design, automatic start/stop, and a dynamic fuel management system, which disables unnecessary cylinders, work together to enable that same powertrain to achieve 18 MPG combined that competes with many mid-size SUVs. Even more power is available from a 6.2L V8 that achieves 420 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque, a heavier option which slightly reduces the towing limit but significantly improves the towing experience.
Last but not least, the segment’s only diesel engine is available on all Suburban trim levels; details are pending, but it’s expected to be the most efficient engine in-segment and has an anticipated towing limit over 9,000 lbs. The Max Trailering package to achieve these numbers includes a high capacity radiator, an integrated trailer brake controller, hitch guidance with a hitch view feature, and the Chevy Trailering App for added convenience.
If how much the Suburban can handle on the outside is impressive, what it can handle on the inside is unbelievable. The body has been completely redesigned for 2021 with the new Silverado-based truck architecture as a base and passenger comfort as a priority. With goals of increasing passenger and cargo space, and improving the driving experience, the designers have lowered and flattened the load floor. This makes loading cargo and passengers significantly easier, increases rear legroom by 10”, and only a small increase in length has boosted the Suburban’s cargo volume by 20% to a cavernous 144 cu.ft.
Speaking of seats, the folding process has been made easier and can be powered at high trim levels. For the first time, the 2nd row seats can slide forward or back up to 5.5” to suit passengers and cargo of all sizes, which is good, because with a passenger capacity of up to 9, you’ll have a diverse cast of characters filling up the back seats. That’s achieved with an optional front bench on the base LS trim. LT, RST, and Z71 trims seat 8 with a 2nd-row bench. Heated front seats and leather upholstery, with a 12-way power-adjustable driver seat and memory, become available here.
On Premier and High Country trim, the 2nd-row bench is replaced by bucket seats, reducing capacity to 7, but also introducing ventilation for the front seats. The lowered floor and improved body proportions work to ensure no passenger feels cramped like they might in older models, so all are able to enjoy the Suburban’s many comforts.
A First-(in)-Class Legacy
As heir to an 85-year legacy, the 2021 Chevy Suburban has big shoes to fill, but it’s got the pedigree to fill them. For the 12th generation model, Chevy has implemented state-of-the-art refinement and features that make the Suburban stand out for more reasons than size alone.
First and foremost is the ride quality, which takes more than just a smooth, powerful drivetrain. The 2021 Suburban is garnering notice for the suspension system and related options. The core of the new truck architecture is a longer wheelbase and a multilink independent rear suspension, which naturally delivers excellent ride smoothness and handling for a vehicle of this size. Tim Herrick, VP of global product programs for Chevrolet, went on the record to say, “I think the most impressive aspect of the all-new  Tahoe and Suburban is how well they handle. Despite being big, they offer responsive, confidence-inspiring handling that will change expectations for the full-size SUV driving experience.”
To further improve ride quality, a Magnetic Ride Control system is standard at high trim levels to “read” the road and independently adjust damping speed nearly instantaneously. It’s one of the fastest-reacting dampening systems on the market, virtually eliminating the frequent bumps and vibrations that plague truck-based vehicles in on-road driving, and significantly improving the off-road experience as well.
Additionally, an available Air Ride Adaptive Suspension technology kit provides automatic load leveling at all four wheels and road height adjustment when selected. It’s basically a modular lift kit and can be had on off-road-tuned Z71 and top-trim High Country models. Up to 4” of adjustment provides additional ground clearance when off-roading, lowers the SUV when getting in and out, and drops the height by ¾” on the highway for improved efficiency.
Combined, these three design upgrades give the 2021 Suburban one of the most sophisticated suspension systems on the market and a ride quality to make one forget just what it is that they’re driving.
In addition to the sublime ride quality, the Suburban provides an interior to get lost in. While the layout of the controls is familiar to previous owners, that familiarity may be accurately interpreted by others as “easy-to-use”, just like the 10.2” infotainment screen. Size matters – with best-in-class 9 camera views available, including HD Surround Vision on High Country trim, that large screen makes it easy to clearly see everything around your full-size SUV. A unique 15” HUD and 8” digital instrument cluster conveys information to the driver in an easy-to-read futuristic style. USB ports are scattered throughout the cabin, and a wireless charger is available on all models except LS.
Connectivity is no issue, with Apple CarPlay, Amazon Alexa, and 4G Wi-Fi hotspot availability That courtesy extends all the way to the rear with the state-of-the-art rear entertainment system. Two 12.6” LCD screens offer independent connections, screen sharing with each other and paired Android devices, and can “share” information (like the location of the restaurant that the kids want to go to) with the front infotainment system.
A note on the safety of the vehicle. The 2021 Chevy Suburban includes 30 standard safety and convenience features. Most of the comprehensive Chevy Safety Sense technology suite comes standard, including automatic emergency braking, and non-standard features from the suite are available as options. With technology that can monitor the surroundings of your Suburban, even while towing, you’ll have peace of mind that you’re not missing anything when you check those side mirrors.
Americana at its Finest
That’s only a sampling of what Suburban has to offer. Special editions and trims to bring out the many different personalities of this awesome SUV to make every model unique and a perfect fit for its driver. That includes the street-inspired RST, off-road-focused Z71, luxury-focused Premier, and king-of-the-hill High Country trim packages, which all deliver exquisite styling, top-tier muscle and comfortable accommodation.
Many nameplates fail to see 12 years of production; Suburban has now seen 12 generations. Maybe that’s because this can-do road warrior has always emulated the ideals of self-sufficiency, limitless freedom, and endless possibility that underpin modern American culture. It’s a legacy of excellence that the 2021 Chevy Suburban continues with grace; we think you’ll agree, about as soon as you get behind the wheel.