2021 Chevy Suburban and Tahoe vs. Ford, Nissan and Toyota: Is the biggest the best? – Roadshow

The 2021 Suburban is still large and now, thanks to new tech and an improved interior, it’s once again in charge.

Nick Miotke/Roadshow

When it comes to vehicles with long-lived nameplates, it’s pretty tough to be Chevrolet’s Suburban. The ‘Burban laughs at the Ford Mustang’s 55-year run, and even the Porsche 911 can’t hold a candle to Chevy’s big SUV, which got its start in 1934. Now, for the 2021 model year, there’s a new one, but how does it stack up against its competition?

The Suburban is a massive vehicle, and its sibling, the Tahoe, is only slightly smaller, so we’re not really cross-shopping crossovers here. We’re also looking at a pair of SUVs that start at around $50,000. That pits the Suburban and Tahoe against vehicles like the Ford Expedition, Nissan Armada and Toyota Sequoia.

Powertrain and performance

The 2021 Suburban and Tahoe are, as you might expect, offered with a few different engine choices. The base engine is the perfectly competent 5.3-liter V8 that returns decent performance — some 355 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque. Folks can also opt for the 6.2-liter V8 that we’ve seen in the new Silverado, which offers increased power and torque (420 hp and 460 lb-ft).

For those people for whom fuel economy is king, the economical Duramax I6 diesel engine is also available. GM’s new oil-burner makes 277 hp and 460 lb-ft, but if its performance in the Silverado 1500 is anything to go by, it should let its owners skip a lot of gas stations.

The Ford Expedition is offered with a 3.5-liter, twin-turbo V6. Ford’s really figured out how to get maximum power and torque out of a smaller turbo engine, and with headline numbers like 400 hp and 480 lb-ft of torque, it makes a compelling case for itself. Fuel economy doesn’t suck either, with a combined EPA rating of 19 mpg.

Nissan’s 5.6-liter overhead-cam V8 is practically ancient by now, having been introduced in its current form some nine years ago, but it still sounds good, and its 390 hp and 395 lb-ft will still allow the big Armada to get out of its own way. Fuel economy though is not so good, with the Armada only able to return a combined 15 mpg.

Toyota’s Sequoia has the same problem as the Armada. It’s got a perfectly competent, under-stressed engine that’s about as old as the Appian Way. The venerable 5.7-liter V8, which also does duty in Toyota’s Land Cruiser makes 381 hp and 401 lb-ft of torque and also like the Nissan mill, can only offer a combined 15 mpg.

Technology and safety

The 2021 Suburban and Tahoe get modern safety features like automatic emergency braking, forward-collision alert, rear park assist, passenger detection, automatic headlamps and more — all features Chevy already engineered for its new Silverado pickup. GM claims that there are around 30 new safety features in total.

On the tech side of things, the most significant change for the Suburban and Tahoe is the inclusion of a rather large and cleanly integrated 10-inch touchscreen on the dash. Now, don’t get us wrong; the Suburban is enormous, so the 10-inch screen doesn’t immediately strike you as big, but the extra real estate should prove agreeable to use. That system is running Chevrolet’s own infotainment system but also supports both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Things like a wireless hot spot and wireless charging with charger cooling are available, too.

In the Expedition you get Ford’s CoPilot 360 safety suite as standard, and that includes features such as automatic emergency braking, automatic high beams, blind-spot warning, lane-keep assist and adaptive cruise control. We’ve experienced it in other Ford vehicles, and it works pretty well.

In terms of tech, the Expedition makes use of the perfectly acceptable Sync 3 infotainment system which supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The Expedition has plenty of USB charging ports and offers wireless charging, as well.

The Nissan Armada is old, and as such, its tech and safety situation is less than ideal. Still, Nissan has been able to add things like adaptive cruise control and automatic emergency braking, but that’s kind of the bare minimum of what’s acceptable in 2019. Infotainment comes courtesy of the NissanConnect system and offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as well as navigation. The Armada is only available with an 8-inch touchscreen, though, so that’s another point against it.

Things aren’t much less grim in the Toyota camp either. The Sequoia’s infotainment system is only available with a 7-inch touchscreen, though, like everybody else, it includes Apple and Android compatibility, as well as Alexa integration. Toyota only offers the Toyota Safety Sense P system on the Sequoia, which gets you a precollision system, lane-departure warning, automatic high beams and adaptive cruise control. Want more? Look elsewhere.

Interior space

As ever, the Suburban excels at being cavernous. It’s got plenty of room for people with additional room for all their luggage, groceries or whatever else it is you haul around. The 2021 Suburban advertises a cargo capacity of 41.1 cubic feet behind the third row of seats, while the smaller Tahoe still manages to offer a respectable 25.5 cubic feet. Of course, if you don’t need the third row, those numbers jump up to 92.9 and 72.7 cubic feet, respectively.

The Expedition and its longer-wheelbase Max variant are in a similar boat to the big ‘Burban, but just ever-so-slightly behind, with a cargo capacity of 20.9 cubic feet behind the third row in the standard Expedition, and 37.8 cubic-feet in the Max. Those climb to 63.6 and 80.5 cubic feet, respectively, without the third row in place. 

Nissan’s Armada has just 16.5 cubic feet of space with the rear-most seats up, but if you fold them away, that expands to 95.4 cubic feet, leaving it a little out of its depth when compared to America’s SUVs.

The Toyota, as ever, is much the same as the Nissan, though it does offer a third row. The Sequoia has room for 18.9 cubic feet of your belongings behind that way-way back seat, and 66.6 cubic feet if you fold it down.

Pricing and conclusion

While Chevrolet hasn’t given us pricing for the 2021 Tahoe and Suburban, we’d expect them to be just a bit more expensive than the outgoing 2019 models, which started at $49,000 and $51,700, respectively. Of course, there’s lots of room for that price tag to grow as you tack on options.

The Ford Expedition will set you back $52,810 in its most basic form, and $55,835 for the longer-wheelbase Max model. If you decide to leave the land of the red, white and blue for your large SUV purchase, you can expect to see sticker prices for the Armada starting at $47,100 for a base model with two-wheel drive. The Toyota Sequoia SR5 with two-wheel drive begins at $49,905.

Taking everything into account, including pricing, the Suburban and Tahoe make an exceedingly compelling case for themselves, in a way that they maybe haven’t for some time. Sure, they’re big — the Suburban is perhaps too big to live with in a major metropolitan city — but with their excellent available powertrains and new-found tech, we’d expect the General to move them like hotcakes.

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