Here’s something I recently realized: the Chevrolet Suburban is the Ford Crown Victoria of SUVs. What I mean by this is that the Suburban is the very last remnant of the old school, the last vehicle hanging on to an aging design philosophy as its rivals move on — and the last vehicle with a die-hard following who hopes it never changes.
Hear me out. The Ford Crown Victoria, as you may know, was built on Ford’s old-school Panther platform, using body-on-frame construction that simply isn’t done anymore in sedans. The Crown Victoria, and its related versions — the Mercury Grand Marquis and the Lincoln Town Car — eventually left the market in the early 2010s, when Ford simply couldn’t stretch on this platform any longer. As a result, the “traditional” old-school, rear-wheel drive, V8-powered body-on-frame full-size sedan — which used to be so common in the American auto industry — finally died off.
Now the Chevy Suburban is in a similar spot. It, too, is body-on-frame — and while that’s not so unusual in the world of big SUVs, it’s becoming less common, just as it did for cars. I suspect there’s a day in the future when body-on-frame is reserved solely for pickup trucks. Even less common is the powertrain and drivetrain setup: the Suburban uses a V8, while many rivals are ditching big 8-cylinder engines to save fuel. Its closest rival, the Ford Expedition, went V6-only at its last redesign. The Suburban is also RWD (or 4-wheel drive, of course), which isn’t going away just yet — but, again, it’s trending towards that direction.
There’s also the target market. The Suburban is aimed at livery companies and shoppers who have a big family and also want to tow or haul — small segments that many automakers seem to be leaving behind. It’s the same with the Crown Victoria, which was mainly aimed at taxi companies and full-size sedan traditionalists at the very end, despite once being a huge market segment.
Indeed, even Chevrolet has started debuting alternatives, as the smaller Traverse crossover also has 3-row seating — like the Suburban and the similarly-aging Chevrolet Tahoe — and is designed to appeal more to the suburb-dwelling family who probably would’ve bought a Suburban years ago. These days, families like this want something more maneuverable with better gas mileage, and the Suburban isn’t that vehicle — so it’s relegated to the aforementioned haulers and livery companies as it ages.
Of course, those two groups also make the Suburban similar to the Crown Victoria in another key way: they hope it never goes away, because there’s no suitable replacement. Unfortunately for them, the Crown Vic did eventually depart — but in the climate of rampant SUV sales, I suspect it’ll be a very long time before the Suburban departs, even though it seems like the dinosaur of the segment.