LOS ANGELES—When it came time to analysis a 2021 Chevrolet Suburban with its new 3.0-liter Duramax diesel, I insisted to our ed-in-chief that, as the buyer of a alluringly crumbling agent Suburban of 1983 vintage, I was by far the best able Automobilian to analysis it. My editor’s acknowledgment cannot be printed here; answer it to say, it began with “bulls” and concluded with “hit”.
Apparently, he was beneath the cool consequence my smoke-belching Radwood-era ancestors truckster has annihilation in accepted with the latest and greatest in compression-ignition technology. If there’s one affair I apperceive about my boss, it’s how to abrasion him down. Two dozen emails and argument letters later, the appointment to analysis the 2021 Chevrolet Suburban agent was mine!
Actually, OK, I fabricated up all of that. But it’s the affectionate of barter the bang-up and I could’ve calmly had. Mostly, I feel the allegation to endeavor to prove my 38-year-old Suburban, with its gurgling 6.2-liter V-8, is functionally identical to the aboriginal 2021 Chevrolet Suburban diesel. Watch me work, people.
Let us alpha with the 2021 Chevrolet Suburban Duramax diesel’s acumen for existing, which is the aforementioned as my ’83: Ammunition economy. General Motors aboriginal alien the agent powered-Suburban in 1982, aback the gasoline-fueled choices included 305 (5.0-liter) and 350 (5.7-liter) V-8s that alternate about 12 afar per gallon, and a 454 (7.4-liter) agent that captivated ammunition about as bound as you could pump it into the tank. The agent bigger those numbers by about 50 percent. Alike with 38 years and 200,000 afar on the clock, my Suburban allotment mid-teens in the burghal and 20 at its loping artery pace.
With automakers acclamation accountability to advance ammunition economy, it’s not hasty history repeats itself. Today’s gas-powered Suburbans accept EPA accumulated abridgement abstracts in the 16-18 range, while the new agent is rated at 21 city/27 highway/23 accumulated with two-wheel drive, and 20/26/22 with four-wheel drive. And like my old Suburban, it keeps its promises: I averaged appropriate about 21 mpg (including some towing, which we’ll allocution about soon), and it calmly continued into the mid-to-high 20s on the freeway.
Does that not prove the two agent Suburbans are functionally identical? Of advance it does!
Granted, aback in 1983, accepting such (relatively) acceptable ammunition abridgement meant giving up any affinity of performance. Diesels bound becoming a acceptability for actuality smokey, smelly, and slow, and Suburbans like abundance are a big allotment of the acumen why. Aback I booty my Suburban out, I rarely bother locking the doors—if anyone tries to abduct it, I will bolt them on foot.
Modern-day car buyers are afraid to accomplish such compromises, and with the new 2021 agent Suburban, they don’t accept to. While it’s not a rocketship like the 6.2-liter, gasoline-fueled Suburban I collection a few months back, it’s quick enough, accelerating from 0-60 in 8.5 seconds, according to our colleagues bottomward the anteroom at MotorTrend. For comparison, they activated a 2021 Suburban with the 5.3-liter gasoline engine, and they timed it to 60 in 7.6 seconds. And while the 2021 agent Suburban is a lot quicker than my old one (as are commitment trucks, baby dogs, and octogenarians with walkers), ability commitment is similar: It is arch off of the band but it feels a little pokier at artery speeds.
Actually, highway-speed dispatch in my Suburban isn’t amour so abundant as it’s about nonexistent, acknowledgment abundantly to the engine’s abridgement of a turbocharger. (Yes, kids, there was a time aback they fabricated diesels after turbos.) Natural aspiration explains its improbably low application appraisement of 135, and torque is a paltry 240 lb-ft, which is beneath than what you get from a avant-garde Toyota Camry’s V-6.
Happily, the accompaniment of the agent art has bigger abundantly during the accomplished 40 years. The 2021 Chevrolet Suburban’s agent produces 277 application and a massive 460 lb-ft of torque (which aloof so happens to be the aforementioned torque achievement as the 6.2-liter gasser). Its 3.0-liter agent is an inline-six, aloof like a big-rig engine. Straight-sixes are inherently balanced, and the accuracy of the Suburban’s new agent stands in able adverse to my old Suburban’s V-8, which doubles as a bench massager.
And while my old Suburban roars, the new one alone grumbles. The abandoned is quiet and audibly diesel-y, and beneath ability it’s louder than the gas engine, but not by much. As we confused amid photo locations, I collection my old Suburban while adolescent staffer Conner Golden followed in the new one, and he said he could apprehend my agent louder than his own.
Waking up the agent agent in my 1983 Suburban is a process: Key on, delay for the GLOW PLUGS ablaze to go on, again off (a few abnormal actuality in brilliant California; bisected a day or so in albino Vermont, as I’ve been told), again crank the engine. It usually lights appropriate up, which is what you want, because its two batteries don’t accommodate abundant added than a minute or so of cranking time. The modern-day Duramax makes it a lot easier: footfall on the anchor and columnist the button. Pre-warming (if needed) and starting are automated.
Despite about four decades amid them, the active acquaintance amid the two Suburbans is afterpiece than you ability expect. The new Chevy Suburban steers and handles in a way that belies its massive size: It goes area you point it and keeps body-roll accurately in analysis as you corner. My ’83 has one-finger-light council that’s chargeless of both acknowledgment and precision, but the able suspension—it’s a 2500 3/4-ton model—makes it every bit as steady, if not as smooth, as the new ‘Burb.
My Suburban was purchased by a friend’s ancestors as a towing machine. It’s semi-retired now, but it still has the automated trailer-brake controller, which is affiliated by a metal rod to the anchor pedal. The 2021 Suburban agent additionally has towing on its resumé, and Chevy was affectionate abundant to advance me one with an alternative congenital trailer-brake controller, which is electric and neatly chip into the birr rather than blind bottomward from it.
Towing accommodation for a agent Suburban with the max-trailering amalgamation is 8,000 pounds for two-wheel drive, and 7,700 pounds for my four-wheel-drive tester, which is lower than gasoline-powered Suburbans, apparently due to the engine’s added weight. I absorbed up our horse bivouac and loaded up our horse Aiden, which brought the absolute bivouac weight up to about about 4,700 pounds.
You accept to drive extra-smoothly aback carriage horses so they can accumulate their balance, and the diesel’s abiding torque build-up, additional the 10-speed automatic’s cottony shifts, should accept fabricated it a magic-carpet ride for Aiden. But he was in a decidedly angry affection and seemed to be aggravating his best to destabilize the trailer. The Suburban took no notice; alike with 1500 pounds of rocking-and-rolling horse, we acquainted no movement from the bivouac until we chock-full at a light. (Our added horse, Rugby, did the aforementioned affair aback we towed him abaft the gasoline-powered Suburban. Maybe they’re Ford fans.)
The 2021 Chevrolet Suburban agent we activated averaged 13.5 mpg on my arresting towing test-route. I collection the aforementioned avenue in a 6.2-liter gasoline Suburban, with a slightly-lighter load, and couldn’t breach 10 mpg. Allotment of my towing ambit is a decidedly continued and abrupt artery on-ramp, over which the new Suburban was able to advance to 60 mph after the allegation for abounding throttle. That’s a far cry from my old truck, which can almost get itself up that on-ramp at 40.
With the bivouac put away, I took the 2021 Chevrolet Suburban agent out for one aftermost circuit and focused on a few allowance and ends. There accept been some complaints from our staffers about the new Suburban’s interior, but I rather like it—I anticipate Chevrolet makes acceptable use of the Suburban’s advanced dash, overextension out the controls and authoritative them accessible to accept and operate. (My old Suburban is no slacker in that regard, either, admitting accepted there are beneath controls, and beneath that still work.) I decidedly like the push-button shifter, or conceivably I should alarm it a pull-button shifter, alike admitting it appears to be fabricated of recycled power-window switches.
I waited a while to attending at the price; I apperceive what the Big Three allegation for diesels in their able trucks, and why annihilate my diesel-fueled buzz? So, I was abundantly afraid to see Chevrolet accuse aloof $995 for the agent option. At that price, it won’t booty added than a few alley trips afore the agent pays for itself.
By the time my anniversary with the new agent Suburban drew to a close, I was added assertive as anytime that the two ‘Burbs were about accessory twins. Granted, the new one is a abundant bigger machine. Let’s face it, the 6.2-liter agglomeration in my old Suburban (which morphed into a 6.5-liter agglomeration and again a 6.5-liter, turbocharged lump) is a big allotment of the acumen Chevrolet abdicate authoritative agent Suburbans in 1999 and waited added than 20 years to advertise the abutting one.
And yet I still anticipate Chevrolet’s 2021 Suburban agent and my old one are affiliated spirits. Both are aggressive beasts of accountability that get abundant ammunition economy. I wouldn’t appetite an old Suburban after the agent engine, and I can’t see affairs a new Suburban after it, either.