Confession: big V8 trucks and I generally don’t get on well. Not only due to my inherent aversion to throwing money down the fuel tank, but mostly because my family lives with a relatively small urban driveway and garage. So anything larger than a carefully parked mid-size SUV on the driveway becomes a blight to the locals – its bumper and sometimes entire cargo area rudely protruding onto the sidewalk, forcing the continuous stream of dog walkers and strollers onto nearby boulevard grass.
Stepping up and inside the Suburban is like stepping into your favourite den.
But after a family vacation in a Cadillac Escalade ESV last summer in BC, where it ended up being called into unplanned upscale loft service for a night, we all found a new appreciation for a vehicle with this much stretch-out room. Especially for those long trips where you want to bring along lots of gear, either inside or towed behind you, it’s perhaps a bit unfair to throw shade on all such massive SUVs.
Thus when I saw the blacked-out 2018 Chevrolet Suburban RST lined up as part of Chevrolet’s available sampler of SUVs in and around the Las Vegas Speedway, it seemed like a great opportunity to test out the classic full-size SUV without annoying the neighbours back home.
The RST (Rally Sport Truck) trim may sound like a tax to Canadian ears, but it actually adds up to a fairly menacing overall look that Suburban owners may appreciate. The RST adds massive 22-inch gloss black wheels, along with a host of blackened exterior touches: mirror caps, roof rails, sidestep, Chevy badges, and the grille.
This Suburban’s whole menacing theme seemed reinforced by the regular stream of fighter planes streaking along overhead from nearby Nellis Air Force Base. Hoped perhaps for a coffee-spill-inducing fly-by in our brief time driving and shooting this largest of Chevy SUVs – but no such luck. Though you may spot an F-25 or F-16 (we think) in the distance of some of these shots.
Menacing to behold, comfortable to drive
Stepping up and inside the ’Burb is like stepping into your favourite den, with a roomy driver’s seat and plenty of cupholders around to welcome you to have a seat, take a load off, and relax. Granted, there’s a huge centre console that rises up like a friendly Labrador between the front seats, but there’s enough elbow and shoulder room available that it never seemed in the way or obtrusive.
This RST came with an optional $995 Driver Information Centre that adds a head-up display that projects vehicle speed and other info on the windshield – it’s visible with polarized sunglasses, but barely. The massive column-mounted shifter helps free up space in between the seats, where two USBs and a large covered cubbyhole offer both driver and passenger a handy spot to recharge their phones.
On the road, the Suburban felt powerful but not quite sport SUV energetic, with 355 hp and 383 lb-ft of torque courtesy the Suburban’s standard 5.3L V8. On the smaller Tahoe RST, there’s a performance package available that also brings GM’s larger 6.2L V8 and its 420 hp, along with a 10-speed automatic, but this Suburban sticks with a six-speed automatic.
Handling-wise, the focus on comfort over sportiness is still clear. It leans over slightly in corners and off-ramps, but it smooths over speed humps and bumps with no drama, even with the larger 22-inch wheels. It drives more like a truck than a car still, being that high up especially, but comfort-wise, it’s well into the SUV side of the crossover–SUV–pickup continuum.
Practicality to the max, mostly
Practicality is another key in something this large and imposing. Its 5,697 mm length and 2,045 mm width provides plenty of stretch-out room, though a quick drive back to the hotel in the second-row captain’s seat had my knees surprisingly close to the rear of the fronts, with no ability to move it rearward.
Some second- and third-row passenger space may have been sacrificed for extra cargo volume – even with all three rows up, there’s still a healthy 1,113 litres of space. Fold the second row and that number rises to 2,173 litres, with a hulking 3,446 maw available when all the seats are down.
Four-wheel-drive models can tow up to 8,000 lb, while rear-drive models max out at 8,300 lb, so it also gives you flexibility to bring along lots of large toys or a trailer.
Granted, you’ll be paying for that practicality at the pump, especially with lots of urban driving. The rear-drive models are rated at 15.1/10.4 city/highway, while the more popular 4WD models bump that up to 15.3/10.9 L/100 km.
With the Suburban starting at $61,390, the RST package can be added to any LT or Premier trim. This RST with the HUD in an equivalent Canadian trim would have come out to an as-tested price of roughly $79,645, and an additional $1,795 in freight and levies.
Sure, that’s a healthy amount of scratch for a Chevrolet SUV, but it offers much of the room and practicality of the pricier Escalade, just without the flashier interior and power running boards, or the more powerful V8. If your driving has you tackling more outdoorsy areas with the crew than downtown cores, and you have room to park it, this blacked-out Suburban RST will literally help you cast the longest shadow in the business.