Pre-Owned Profile: 1992-1999 Chevrolet/GMC Suburban

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author photo by John Rettie December 1998

One of the largest passenger vehicles on the market, the Chevy/GMC Suburban offers tremendous versatility and a tough reputation.

No wonder it's known as the state vehicle of Texas. The Suburban is one of the largest vehicles on the market. In the southwest, with its wide-open spaces, the Suburban has long been an ideal vehicle for hauling up to nine people or a ton of cargo.

Yet as its name suggests the Suburban is also at home around town hauling the kids to school, or turning into a weekend vehicle for hauling lumber for the do-it-yourselfer.

The Suburban was first introduced over sixty years ago. It remained essentially unchanged between 1972 and 1992, since then it has become more and more refined while maintaining its rugged appeal. It's ideal for those who want a vehicle that can tow a large boat or horse trailer, and yet remains smooth enough for the commute to the office each morning.

The Suburban has long been based on GM's full-size pickup truck. That platform gives it a solid chassis with a wide variety of optional engines, drivetrains, accessories and creature comforts. But some options are very common. About half the Suburbans on the road have four-wheel-drive, making them even more versatile.

The Suburban is available as either a Chevrolet or GMC model -- both are essentially identical, save the name badge.

What You Need To Know:

1. Review of a 1997 GMC Suburban

2. Summary of Good and Bad Points by Owners

3. History of Suburban

4. Review of Current Model

5. Basic Facts

6. Changes Year-to-Year

7. Safety Information

8. Value Guide

9. Option Installment Rate

10. Sales History

11. Awards and Commendations Earned

12. Other Reviews

13. Recall Information

14. Price of Spare Parts

1. Pre-owned Vehicle Review (1997 GMC Suburban )

Likes: rugged, tough people/cargo hauler

Dislikes: so-so handling, fuel economy

Competitors: Ford Expedition, Lincoln Navigator, Chevrolet Tahoe, GMC Yukon/Denali, and Toyota Land Cruiser

Miles: 21,070

Condition: A

Price when new: $38,500 (est.)

Estimated current value: $28,000

Trying to find a pre-owned Suburban to test drive was difficult. Because of their recent popularity, dealers have trouble keeping them on their lots. I turned to one of my neighbors, who let me try out his 1997 GMC Suburban K1500 model. (A word about nomenclature: the K designates 4WD, while C stands for rear-drive. The 1500 designates a half-ton payload, while 2500 models have a 3/4-ton payload.)

When I drove the vehicle it had only the two front seats functioning. The owner had temporarily removed the third row of seats and folded down the second row so he could carry some 4x8 sheets of plywood. The following week he'd replace the seats to take eight people on a 100-mile trip.

The owner told me he liked the Suburban because of this versatility. One moment it served as a cargo hauler capable of carrying 30 sheets of plywood, and the next day it could haul up to eight or even nine people. Needless to say this cargo hauling had left some marks on the carpeting, otherwise the vehicle was in good condition -- but then it was less than two years old.

Essentially it's a two-man job to remove the third row of seats because of the weight. The second row folds down and out of the way so it does not need to be removed to provide maximum cargo carrying capabilities. Unfortunately, the full-size spare wheel takes up some storage space as it is stacked up at the side near the tailgate.

There is no denying the Suburban is big. Yet when I set off for a test drive I was amazed at its tight turning radius. The ride was still truck-like, but not as bouncy as the C/K pickup truck on which it is based -- undoubtedly because of the more balanced weight provided by the extra bodywork on the Suburban.

From a driver's point of view, the Suburban offers a decent cockpit with a large instrument pod that contains plenty of easy-to-read gauges. The height of the Suburban also gives a commanding view of the road. It also makes getting in and out a bit of a climb! Handling is what one expects from a truck -- it needs to be treated with respect. Thanks to its long wheelbase, though, it is somewhat more stable than many smaller SUVs. However, when it comes to stopping its mass makes the braking distance greater than in a car. Anti-lock brakes have been standard since 1990, which is, in Martha Stewart terms, a good thing.

Although a base Suburban without such luxuries as air conditioning has always been available, it has been more theory than practice. Fully 99.8 percent of Suburbans sold in the past few years have A/C, which means most of them came with one of the preferred equipment packages -- which add $7,500 to $9,000 to the base price listed of a new vehicle.

If a large vehicle doesn't intimidate you and you want maximum utility, the Suburban makes a lot of sense. It can carry more people than a minivan, it can haul stuff almost as well as a truck with the added benefit of cargo being in an enclosed secure environment and it can tow a trailer with ease. It's no wonder it is such a popular vehicle with Texan ranchers.

If you want a similar vehicle that's slightly smaller, remember that the Chevrolet Tahoe and the GMC Yukon are basically shorter versions of the Suburban. Beyond giving up the third row of seats and the ability to carry the ubiquitous sheet of 4x8 plywood, they are all but identical.

2. Summing It Up -- Owners Views


"I can carry 30 sheets of plywood one day or eight people the next."

"It provides much more security than a pickup"


"The rear seat is awkward to remove"

3. History of Suburban

Chevrolet introduced the Suburban in the 1930s, making it the longest running model name in the U.S. The first Suburban carried up to eight passengers and the seats could be removed to transform it into a cargo carrier. Its full name was the Chevrolet Suburban Carryall -- an entirely appropriate name if ever there was one.

The incredible versatility of the Suburban has endured through the years. It is based on the full size C/K pickup truck giving it the same cargo-hauling and trailer-towing capabilities. But in order to meet customer demands for more luxurious vehicles the Suburban has gained more and more of the creature comforts one expects in a luxury car. Although a base "stripped" Suburban is listed in the prices below, almost 100 percent of Suburbans sold in the past few years have air conditioning, power windows, remote keyless entry and other features. In the past couple of years, one-quarter of Suburbans have leather seats installed as an option.

There is a comprehensive list of options available ranging from different seats to the OnStar GPS/emergency service system. Commonly requested truck items such as running boards to towing packages are also easily added. About half of Suburbans sold have 4WD and the vast majority are powered by the 5.7-liter V-8. Over the years this workhorse engine has been refined and the power output has gradually increased without any worsening of the fuel consumption. The 4WD system has been improved over the years as well. The latest models have the optional AutoTrac 4WD system that can be set to automatically switch in and out of 4WD as needed. Prior models could be switched while driving only on slippery surfaces while even earlier models could only be put into 4WD mode while the vehicle was stationary.

Chevrolet and GMC have introduced new versions of the full-size pickup truck for 1999. A new version of the Suburban, based on these trucks, will follow in 2000 -- it'll be slightly bigger and have a smoother ride, but it's likely to look much the same.

4. Review of Current Suburban

The latest Suburban has not changed much since 1992, when the current model was introduced. What I did notice was the increase in power and a continued refinement of the interior. The latest model is all but identical to the 1997 model I tested with the exception of the newest AutoTrac 4WD system on the K model, which is much more user friendly. It is standard on GMC's K models and optional on Chevrolet's. Available since 1998, this 4WD system can be used on dry pavement, which is a boon in wet weather as the safety aspect of 4WD can be utilized on highways and not just off-road or in snow. I left it in this automatic mode but unfortunately I never experienced it switching into 4WD because of dry weather during my test period.

5. Basic Facts: 1992 -- 1999 Suburban

Vehicle Type: Full size sport-utility vehicle

No. Passengers: up to nine

Origin of assembly: Janesville, Wisconsin and Mexico (since 1996)

Engine: (standard): 5.7-liter V-8 190 hp (1992) to 255 hp (1999)

(optional): 7.4-liter 230 hp V-8 (1992 - 1995), 290 hp (1996 to 1999)

(optional): 6.5-liter 190 hp V-8 diesel (1994 to 1999)

Transmission: 4-spd. auto; rear-drive or 4WD

Length: 220 inches

Wheelbase: 132 inches

Width: 77 inches

Height: 70 inches

Curb weight: 4700 lbs. (approx.)

Cargo volume: 150 cu. ft.

Fuel tank capacity: 42 gals.

Fuel Economy (EPA City/Highway): 10/16 to 15/19 (depending on year and engine)

6. Changes in the Chevrolet/GMC Suburban Line 1995 -- 1998

1992 Model Year

New-generation model shares exterior appearance and platform with latest C/K Pickup.

New features include 4-wheel ABS, Insta-Trac 4WD and new suspension.

1993 Model Year

4L60-E electronic 4-speed automatic transmission introduced.

1994 Model Year

New 6.5-liter diesel engine introduced.

1995 Model Year

Standard driver airbag added.

Redesigned interior.

1996 Model Year

Daytime Running Lamps added; new Vortec series of engines offered.

1997 Model Year

Outboard front-passenger airbag and speed-sensitive power steering added.

1998 Model Year

Second-generation air-bags and Passlock theft-deterrent system added as standard.

OnStar and Autotrac 4WD added as options.

Durability enhancements made to the 4L60-E and 4L80-E automatic transmissions.

1999 Model Year

No major changes.

7. Safety Notes

NHTSA Crash rating ('95 model year): Driver NR; Passenger NR (5 is best)

ABS standard from 1992

Driver side airbag from 1995

Dual air bags standard from 1997

8. Value Guide

Prices listed are for base models. Options can add considerably to the lowest price listed as these are usually "stripped" models. In many cases, very few vehicles are ever sold at the lowest price listed! Source: Kelley Blue Book

1992 Model Year

New: 1500 2wd $18,795 to $24,102

1500 4wd $20,995 to $26,302

2500 2wd $19,999 to $25,038

2500 4wd $22,199 to $27,238

1993 Model Year

New: 1500 2wd $19,810 to $25,173

1500 4wd $22,010 to $27,373

2500 2wd $21,014 to $26,377

2500 4wd $23,214 to $28,577

1994 Model Year

New: 1500 2wd $21,346 to $27,377

1500 4wd $22,010 to $27,373

2500 2wd $21,014 to $26,377

2500 4wd $23,214 to $28,577

1995 Model Year

New: 1500 2wd $23,037 to $32,199

1500 4wd $25,347 to $34,510

2500 2wd $24,269 to $33,181

2500 4wd $26,488 to $35,400

1996 Model Year

New: 1500 2wd $24,682 to $33,545

1500 4wd $26,988 to $35,851

2500 2wd $25,974 to $34,587

2500 4wd $28,133 to $36,746

1997 Model Year

New: 1500 2wd $25,323 to $34,261

1500 4wd $27,924 to $36,862

2500 2wd $26,555 to $35,243

2500 4wd $29,174 to $37,862

1998 Model Year

New: 1500 2wd $25,740 to $34,908

1500 4wd $28,340 to $37,508

2500 2wd $27,324 to $36,242

2500 4wd $29,924 to $38,842

9. Option Installment Rate

Generally, when you order a new car you have a choice of factory-installed options. When you buy a pre-owned vehicle the choice is limited to what was actually installed on vehicles sold in that model year. Use this option installment rate as a guide to the chances of finding particular options on a pre-owned vehicle. Source: Ward's Automotive Yearbooks

1992 Model Year

Installment Rate


5.7-liter V-8 93%

7.4-liter V-8 7%

4WD 47%

1993 Model Year




5.7-liter V-8 90%

7.4-liter V-8 10%

4WD 53%

1994 Model Year




5.7-liter V-8 89%

7.4-liter V-8 7%

6.5-liter diesel 4%

4WD 54%

1995 Model Year




5.7-liter V-8 87%

7.4-liter V-8 9%

6.5-liter diesel 4%

4WD 59%

1996 Model Year

Installment Rate


5.7-liter V-8 90%

7.4-liter V-8 8%

6.5-liter diesel 2%

4WD 63%

Leather Seats 24%

Remote/Keyless Entry: 84%

1997 Model Year

Installment Rate


5.7-liter V-8 92%

7.4-liter V-8 6%

6.5-liter diesel 2%

4WD 54%

Leather Seats 29%

Remote/Keyless Entry: 84>%

10. Production/Sales Volume History

Normally a model year runs from October to September. Often though, when a new version is introduced it hits the market before October. Legally, a model year can start as early as January of the preceding year. Accurate model year sales counts are almost impossible to collect as different model year vehicles are regularly sold side-by-side for several months. Production figures, when listed, include vehicles made for export to Canada, Mexico and overseas. Source: manufacturers, Ward's

1992 Model Year (first year of new model)

Production run: Oct. 1991 through Sept. 1992

Total number produced: Chevy, 67,394; GMC, 38,478

Total no. sold in U.S.: Chevy, 41,982; GMC, 17,766

1993 Model Year

Production run: Oct.1992 through Sept. 1993

Total number produced: Chevy, 83,418; GMC, 49,372

Total no. sold in U.S.: Chevy, 81,098; GMC, 31,225

1994 Model Year

Production run: Oct. 1993 through Sept. 1994

Total number produced: Chevy, 96,440; GMC, 46,253

Total no. sold in U.S.: Chevy, 86,972; GMC, 33,130

1995 Model Year

Production run: Oct. 1994 through Sept. 1995

Total number produced: n/a

Total no. sold in U.S.: Chevy, 84,549; GMC, 32,668

1996 Model Year

Production run: Oct. 1995 through Sept. 1996

Total number produced: n/a

Total no. sold in U.S.: Chevy, 87,770; GMC, 37,704

1997 Model Year

Production run: Oct. 1996 through Sept. 1997

Total number produced: n/a

Total no. sold in U.S.: Chevy, 96,051; GMC, 42,861

1998 Model Year

Production run: Oct. 1997 through Feb. 1998

Total number produced: n/a

Total no. sold in U.S.: Chevy, 107,708; GMC, 43,358 (both include '99 models)

11. Awards and Commendations

No major awards


"The Suburban's strength remains its unparalleled utility. Chevy and GMC Truck flat-out own a market with this truck." - AutoWeek Autofile 1994

"Big as it is, the Suburban is not the ultimate off-road vehicle, but it has no equal as a heavy-duty station wagon that will occasionally venture off into the rough stuff." - Automobile, 1993

". . . .The new Suburban is smoother-shaped, quieter, and as heavy-duty as ever. But for all these improvements, it's still a truck. And a big one at that." - Car and Driver, 1993

13. Recalls (Only major recalls listed)

ID Number: 93V119000

Component: Brakes: disc hub

Potential number of units affected: 341,364

Year: 1992

Year of recall: '93

Summary: Severe corrosion due to road salt at the joint of the stamped steel center section and the cast outer section can cause the sections to separate.

ID Number: 98V150000

Component: Windshield wiper and washer

Potential number of units affected: 1,566,510

Year: 1994 - 1996

Manufactured from: Apr. 1994 to: May 1996

Year of recall: '98

Summary: Solder joints near the wiring harness connector can crack causing the windshield wipers to work intermittently.

ID Number: 95V124000

Component: High mounted stop lamp assembly

Potential number of units affected: 96,607

Year: 1995

Manufactured from: Apr. 1994 to: Mar. 1995

Year of recall: '95

Summary: The center high mounted stop lamps were inadvertently wired in a manner which permits the lamp to momentarily flash while the driver is activating or deactivating the hazard flashers.

ID Number: 95V139000

Component: Power train: transmission: automatic

Potential number of units affected: 36,641

Year: 1995Manufactured from: Mar. 1994 to: Oct. 1994

Year of recall: '95

Summary: The transmission shift-cable lock clip can back out of its installed position resulting in a loss of cable adjustment. When the shift lever is placed in the "park" position, the "park" indicator light may not illuminate.

ID Number: 96V057000

Component: Throttle linkages and control

Potential number of units affected: 379,004

Year: 1995 - 1996

Manufactured from: May 1995 to: Nov. 1995

Year of recall: '96

Summary: These vehicles were assembled with the throttle cable contacting the dash mat that could bind the throttle. This does not meet with the maximum return times required by federal motor vehicle safety standard no. 124, "accelerator control systems."

14. Cost of Parts (relative to other vehicles)

Headlight unit: $47 (below average)

Side marker lamp: $19 (below average)

Door (left front): $395 (below average)

Fender (left front): $149 (average)

Note: these are estimated retail prices for commonly replaced body parts on a 1995 model. Prices are current as of mid-1998 but will vary from region to region and are subject to change at any time. Source: ADP Collision

The Rettie Report and Pre-Owned Profiles contain objective information from a variety of sources. The subjective comments are those of John Rettie.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Pre-Owned Profile: 1992-1999 Chevrolet/GMC Suburban - Autotrader