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Driver's Seat: Suburban: A McMansion on wheels

2015 Chevrolet Suburban 4WD ½ Ton LTZ: The all-new King of the Road. Price: $72,835 as tested ($64,700 base).

Chevrolet's Suburban LTZ, the all-new King of the Road, has a base price of $64,700.
Chevrolet's Suburban LTZ, the all-new King of the Road, has a base price of $64,700.Read more

2015 Chevrolet Suburban 4WD ½ Ton LTZ:

The all-new King of the Road.

Price: $72,835 as tested ($64,700 base).

Marketer's pitch: "Built for everything and everyone."

Conventional wisdom: A McMansion on wheels.

Reality: Ginormous on the outside. But the inside? Debatable.

Redesigned for 2015: "All new" may be a bit of an overstatement. General Motors' leading media pitch is the new 5.3L V-8 that gets direct injection and other technologies for greater highway efficiency.

New outside: A slightly updated exterior keeps the ginormous box that has defined the Suburban since its inception in 1935.

New inside: The second- and third-row seats now fold flat.

The big fella: This is it, the beast, the mother (or father; the Suburban is all masculinity) of all family vehicles. With seating for up to nine and plenty of room for storage, they don't offer more space than the Suburban, right?

To the test: Fortunately, Mr. Driver's Seat recently purchased one of the latest-generation Toyota Siennas, so I have an easy comparison for bigness. The Seat family Sienna, of course, has none of the coolness of the Suburban.

For the family: With the bucket seats in the middle row of the test Suburban, getting in the back is surprisingly easy. I didn't have to scrunch down to reach my destination all the way back yonder. (Our example had room for just seven.)

Tight fit: Upon arrival in the way, way back, though, I was surprised to find the rear seat less than comfortable. Fourteen-year-old Sturgis Kid 4.0 points out that the Suburban seems to use its space to provide more cargo area than seat.

A real downside over most minivans is that the middle row doesn't move. My feet barely fit behind the middle row, so this vehicle poses more problems for adult passengers than the Sienna.

Cargo space: The 121 cubic feet of space behind the front seats is just about 80 percent of the Sienna's 150. The 38.9 behind the rear seat compares to Sienna's 39.1.

Still, the cargo area could best be described as "adequate." It's longer than the Sienna, but not nearly as tall. (I recently employed the Sienna to carry home a full-size sofa and armchair, and the tall, square tailgate opening made this trip possible.)

Performance: The Suburban's 5.3-liter EcoTec3 V-8 engine creates 355 horsepower and 383 foot-pounds of torque, so getting the vehicle up to speed is not really a problem.

On the curves: It's not nearly as sloppy as you'd expect. Curvy roads are not fun but the Suburban makes it through without much lean, and I didn't feel fatigued as I have with some big trucks.

The steering input is not what I'm used to, though, so I found I needed to correct my angle on some turns.

One surprise: For a big monster, I found the Suburban succumbed to seams in the roadway quite easily. While it smoothed out extremely rough surfaces and swallowed speed bumps, any flaws in newly paved roads transmitted in creative ways.

Visibility: Without lane-change monitor and back-up camera, this vehicle would be like driving a box truck. The rear window is so far away that it feels like looking at a badly added CGI movie background. The side pillars are large and plentiful, so checking the other lanes yourself is almost not an option. And the enormous, tall hood causes small pedestrians to disappear. Be careful in town and parking lots, folks.

Parking: Still, when I found myself in a tight parking garage in Philadelphia, I was surprised at how easy it was to back the Suburban into a parking space.

Shutdown: The Suburban's 5.3-liter EcoTec3 V-8 engine helpfully shuts down half the cylinders to save gas at highway speeds.

Fuel economy: 17 m.p.g. in the usual Mr. Driver's Seat mix of suburban and highway driving.

Where it's built: Deep in the heart of Arlington, Texas. No more appropriate place for this all-American treasure.

How it's built: It has solid Consumer Reports scores for the last few years, but those drop off precipitously in pre-2010 models. The 2013 model scored below average, above average for 2012 and average for the two years prior. Before that - all below average or poor.

In the end: Sorry, Suburban lovers and minivan haters. Unless you're towing or foraging through the muddy hills of the Dark Forest - or if you want something that lots of people will notice - a Sienna is a more versatile people mover. Still, the caché of the Suburban will keep this monster popular for years to come, I'm certain.