General Motors must think I have a large family or something, as they have sent me one version or another of their extra-large family sport ute (AKA Carryall). I admit I am a fan of the Chevrolet Suburban and GMC Yukon XL vehicles, but five in the test driveway over the past two years – overload, perhaps?
The big vehicle I affectionately call the “Prairie Schooner” has long been a favorite of mine and is getting ready to head into its 82nd year of production. Suburban is the longest continuously running nameplate in the industry and carries with it (along with all your family and gear) a well-deserved legacy. While it boasts all of GM’s newest technology it still manages to carry up to eight passengers and offers cavernous capacity (121.1 cubic feet to be exact) thanks to second and third rows of seating folding flat AND it can tow up to 8,300 lbs.
The latest iteration of the GM Carryall arrived for the 2015 model year and featured quite a few upgrades along with the all-new styling. The rigs boast Generation III Ecotec engines and utilize aluminum in hoods and liftgate panels for reduced weight. They are more aerodynamic and now feature power folding third-row seats along with power liftgate and side running boards. They arrive in two- or four-wheel drive variants and even utilize the luxurious magnetic ride control for maximum comfort on the road. Front seat occupants are comforted by heated/ventilated seats and the driver can choose a heat function for the steering wheel as well.
Technology abounds inside the big rigs as GM offers the latest OnStar with 4G LTE and WiFi hotspot with up to six USB ports and six power outlets including 110V AC. Rear seat passengers can enjoy overhead monitors in second and third rows a la Blu-Ray DVD player or auxiliary inputs and up front the automaker utilizes a large 8-inch color touchscreen display (with hidden storage cubby accessed via motorized display panel). If that were not enough there is a device-charging pad in the top of the center console armrest.
For those comfortable with balance when their arms are loaded up and cannot reach the keyfob you can simply stand on one foot while waving the other underneath the rear fascia panel to open the liftgate hands-free. Now, if you are like my wife and just left work after a long day and your arms are full and you are still wearing your heels, I do not recommend this operation. (And for what it’s worth, this operation works in reverse to close the liftgate as well.)
We have enjoyed the Enhanced Driver Alert Package that has been included on some of the vehicles we have tested including the Suburban and Yukon XL models. While it adds power-adjustable pedals to the package it also features forward collision alert, intellibeam headlamps with automatic high-beam control, lane keep assist, and safety alert seat. I like the safety alert seat in particular as it vibrates the seat in the direction the hazard is approaching (left, right, or both sides if in front or – ahem – behind).
Driving these larger vehicles does require a bit more attention and some additional care as they occupy a larger footprint. While they handle and steer quite easily they do require a larger radius for turning and parking but the added seating height provides a better all-around view. Despite their size and weight they ride very stable and quiet and they do not lack for acceleration either for passing or entering freeways. The Suburban is outfitted with the Ecotec3 5.3-liter V-8 that generates 355hp and 383 lb. ft. of torque and in our 4×4 LTZ tester it was rated for 15 mpg city and 22 mpg highway. The GMC Yukon XL features the 5.3-liter V-8 as standard but our Denali testers are powered by the 6.2-liter V-8 that puts out 420hp and 460 lb. ft. of torque with 4WD fuel economy rated at 14 mpg city and 20 mpg highway.
All this size and capability does not come cheap by most standards. And when arriving in top trim level and fully loaded with all the bells and whistles from the factory they can shock some consumers with the bottom line of the window sticker. While most buyers opt for packages somewhere in the middle range, our testers in the press fleets usually arrive with nearly every feature the automakers offer so that we can evaluate as much as possible during our week behind the wheel. The most recent Suburban rolled in here with a final sticker of $77,270 and the last Yukon XL Denali we tested was listed at $81,045.
The big Carryalls from GM will carry on and carry forward as they have proved for more than 80 years there is a place and purpose for them. While many consumers are satisfied with shrinking engine sizes and platforms, some just prefer the real estate of a vehicle like the Suburban or Yukon XL and I find myself in that camp more and more, especially with every new grandchild announcement.