- The Washington Times - Friday, January 24, 2003

Whoa. Did you say $54,495? For a Chevy? What is it, gold-plated? Well, no. But it does have a lot of stuff.
It should, for this 2003 Chevrolet Suburban 2500 may be the priciest Chevy ever, certainly among those aimed at transporting people. It costs more than a Corvette Z06, more than any Chevrolet other than heavy-duty cargo and dump trucks.
With the demise of the Ford Excursion, the Suburban once again is the biggest of all sport utility vehicles, along with its more luxurious but essentially similar cousin, the Cadillac Escalade ESV.
It hardly seems right to call the Suburban 2500 a sport utility vehicle, because sporty it's not. It is more than 18 feet long and weighs almost 3 tons. But equipped as the version tested for this review, it qualifies as the most capable of the big SUVs, though not the most luxurious.
It doesn't start out in the nosebleed price territory. The base price of the 2500 is $41,595. Extras carry it to the mid-50s. That looks horrifying until you consider that some luxury SUVs such as the Range Rover and the Mercedes G-Wagon are priced well into the 70s. And the Hummer H1 is more than $100,000.
The biggest item on the options list is the General Motors Quadrasteer four-wheel steering system, which carries a price tag of $4,495 and likely is the best thing ever to happen to folks who haul big trailers for boats, horses and houses.
The difference between towing a big trailer with and without the four-wheel steering is amazing the first time you try it.
You go from a fear of making any quick moves to almost forgetting that the trailer's out there. For anyone with the large investments big trailers entail, the $4,495 price tag likely will seem paltry.
If you don't have to haul a trailer, you don't need Quadrasteer. But you might still want it because it markedly improves the handling of the big Suburban.
Instead of back-and-forth maneuvering in parking lots, you can turn into tight spaces almost as if you were driving a compact car. And you can easily do U-turns because it reduces the turning circle to a 35-foot diameter.
In addition to the four-wheel steering, the tested Suburban 2500 also had a sophisticated four-wheel-drive system and a host of other goodies, including a load-leveling rear suspension system, side-impact air bags, leather upholstery, three-zone electronic climate controls, a rear entertainment system with a DVD player, an in-dash six-disc CD changer, heated power seats with memory settings, power adjustable brake and accelerator pedals, outside camper-style power mirrors that fold, extend and retract for trailer towing, an automatic garage-door opener and built-in XM satellite radio.
The last, one of the best inventions to come along for long-distance travelers, offers 101 channels of mostly commercial-free radio (for $10 a month) that is beamed all over the continental United States, so you can listen to the same station all the way on a cross-country trip.
The Suburban 2500 is based on the three-quarter-ton Chevy pickup truck, with more load carrying and towing capability than the standard half-ton 1500 model.
Its gross vehicle weight the total of its curb weight plus its maximum load of 2,480 pounds is more than 8,000 pounds, which means that Chevrolet doesn't have to determine EPA fuel economy numbers because heavy-duty trucks are exempted. Overall, without much of a load or doing much towing, you're likely to get about 10 miles to the gallon.
The standard engine in the Suburban 2500 is the GM Vortec 6000, a 6.0-liter V-8 that delivers 320 horsepower and 360 foot-pounds of torque. The latter is a measure of low-rpm pulling power. If you want to spend more money, you can move up to an 8.1-liter V-8 340 horsepower and a whopping 455 foot-pounds of torque.
With almost 3 tons of mass more if you're hauling people and cargo the Suburban won't win many stoplight drag races. But it has plenty of grunt to more than keep up with traffic, even in hilly terrain.
Though it seems daunting at first, the 2500 becomes easy to drive as you become more familiar with it. The four-wheel steering contributes to confident handling, though you'll never mistake this machine for a sports sedan. On the road, it tracks steadily and is as quiet as a luxury car.
Equipped with bench seats, Suburbans can carry nine passengers. But the test vehicle had bucket seats up front and in the second row, with a bench seat in the third row, dropping the capacity to seven.
The four buckets offered deep and supportive comfort, with middling accommodations in the third row.
Even with all the seats occupied, there's still 46 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third seat, which is more than twice the amount of room in the trunks of large luxury cars. Fold all the seats and the cargo area can accommodate a standard 4-by-8-foot piece of plywood with the tailgate closed.

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