GM's 1992 Suburban an improved, restyled version

January 19, 1992|By Jim Mateja | Jim Mateja,Chicago Tribune

The Suburban always has been big and able to carry a swarm of people and still tow a boat or trailer.

Those basically were the good points.

But the Suburban handled like a locomotive. Fuel economy was measured in gallons per mile. The rectangular box on wheels was prone to wind noise. And perhaps a better name would have been Rusty, considering the potential longevity of the body panels.

For 1992, long-awaited and long overdue changes have been made, and General Motors has brought out a new Suburban in the Chevrolet and GMC lineups.

How long has it been since the last major remake of the vehicles? Let's just say that Custer's biggest mistake was leaving his Suburban at home and traveling to the Little Big Horn by pony instead.

But good things come to those who wait, and that can be said of the 1992 GMC Suburban we test drove, a styling update with the rough edges smoothed out and clutter eliminated.

It still is big and carries a large crew of folks, plus the boat or trailer. But now it rides and handles more like a full-size pickup truck than a choo-choo.

By smoothing out the rough edges, the wind noise was reduced dramatically. And thanks to increased use of galvanized metal, when you buy a Suburban you don't have to ask for five pounds of steel wool and a 50-gallon can of touch-up paint as options to get you through the first winter.

Some things never change, however. Fuel economy still is measured in gallons per mile, with the standard 5.7-liter, 210-horsepower V-8 engine rated at 12 mpg city/16 mpg highway.

Not only has the Suburban moved into the 20th century in looks, but it also has stepped up to the concern for safety by offering four-wheel anti-lock brakes as standard equipment to ensure that when you apply the pedal, all those folks and the boat behind them don't end up in the culvert.

Rather than calling the Suburban a van or utility vehicle, it would be more appropriate to call it a versatility machine. It holds up to nine people and can tow up to 10,000 pounds, which is a 500-pound increase from 1991.

With new aerodynamic curves for the sheetmetal, the Suburban now sits on a 131.5-inch wheelbase, a 2-inch increase. Overall length stays at 219.5 inches. Width and height have been reduced slightly to help accomplish the exterior aero look. Interior hip and arm room doesn't seem to suffer from a little tuck, but even with the slight reduction in height you'll need a ladder to wash the roof.

We test drove the Suburban half-ton or 1500 version in two-wheel-drive form and upper level SLE trim. Four-wheel drive also is available. Suburban also is offered in a three-quarter ton or 2500 version. For the first time, the three-quarter ton is available with 4WD and not just 2WD.

The 1500 is powered by a 5.7-liter, 210-h.p. V-8 gas engine. A 7.4-liter 230-h.p. gas engine is available in the 2500.

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