LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – Back in 1935, when there were only 48 stars on the American flag, Chevrolet introduced the Suburban. In the eight decades that followed, it would become an American icon and the industry’s longest-running model.
No other vehicle in the auto industry has been in continuous production as long as the Suburban. An all-new model debuts for 2015, marking the original SUV’s 80th anniversary and its 12th generation, with technology, refinement and efficiency that engineers and customers couldn’t have imagined in 1935.
“Times have changed and America has grown beyond all imagination, but the Suburban remains a fixture for those who need the capability of a truck with maximum passenger and cargo space,” said Tim Mahoney, Chevrolet global chief marketing officer.
The original Suburban could seat eight, while easily removable seats provided a large, 75-inch-long by 77-inch-high (1,905 mm x 1,956 mm) cargo area. It was powered by an inline-six-cylinder engine that produced all of 60 horsepower.
The all-new 2015 Suburban seats up to nine and offers up to 121.1 cubic feet (3,429 L) of maximum cargo space. Power comes from a 5.3L V-8 delivering 355 horses – 490 percent more power than the 1935 model.
A brief history of innovation
Through the early 1930s, most manufacturers offered car-based wagons for professional use, but the Suburban was born out of a need for a heavier-duty, truck-based wagon for commercial customers.
Prior to the Suburban, most car-based professional vehicles featured wood sides and canvas tops; and while they were versatile, their car-based chassis and damage-prone bodies were compromises. Chevrolet began experimenting with an all-steel wagon body mounted on a commercial chassis in the mid-1930s, and the Suburban Carryall was launched in 1935.
Car-based commercial vehicles, including sedan deliveries, remained in production, but the heavy-duty chassis of the Suburban increasingly found favor with professional customers. In the post-World War II years, its popularity with private customers who appreciated its uncompromising capabilities increased steadily.
The Chevrolet Suburban hit the mainstream in the early 1990s, with the overall popularity of sport-utility vehicles. But while many customers were new to the Suburban then, it had garnered a legion of longtime owners who had purchased multiple examples over the years – using them to haul Little League teams and their equipment, tow a horse trailer or seat a work crew on the way to a job site.
Generation 1 – 1935-36
The Suburban Carryall is introduced on a half-ton chassis, with a signature two-door body style that would last through 1967. Power came from Chevrolet’s tough “Stovebolt” inline-six that produced 60 horsepower (45 kW).
Generation 2 – 1937-40
New, streamlined exterior styling carried Art Deco cues, and horsepower from the Stovebolt six increased to 79 (59 kW).
Generation 3 – 1941-46
Production of almost all civilian cars and trucks halted during America’s involvement in World War II, although many Chevy trucks – including the Suburban’s body style – were pressed into military duty.
Generation 4 – 1947-55
Representing first significant redesign of Chevrolet’s truck line since before the war, the Suburban was welcomed by professionals in need of an all-new workhorse. Torque from the inline-six engine was 174 lb.-ft. (217 Nm) at only 1,200 rpm, giving the Suburban excellent towing capability.
Generation 5 – 1955-59
Revolutionary new styling is introduced midway through the model year. Known as the “second series” design, it features a wraparound windshield and the elimination of running boards – the body is flush with the fenders for the first time. The second series model also introduces the legendary Small Block V-8. In 1957, factory-installed four-wheel drive is offered for the first time, with the famous NAPCO-supplied “Powr-Pak” system.
Generation 6 – 1960-66
All-new styling greets the 1960s and Chevrolet institutes the C/K designations to denote models with 2WD (C) and 4WD (K). During the sixth generation, engine choices ranged from a 230-cubic-inch inline-six to the 283- and 327-inch versions of the Small Block V-8.
Generation 7 – 1967-72
A redesign of Chevy’s half-ton trucks is introduced, including Suburban, which carries a unique three-door arrangement – with a single door on the driver’s side and front and rear doors on the passenger side. The unique configuration, with easier access to cargo area, was popular with ambulance companies.
Generation 8 – 1973-91
A new generation of Chevy trucks is launched, with Suburban offered in a conventional four-door body style for the first time. Increased focus on interior comfort and amenities brings more customers to Suburban for use as a personal vehicle. By the late-1980s, electronically controlled fuel injection and a four-speed overdrive transmission bring greater efficiency.
Generation 9 – 1992-1999
An all-new Suburban features sleek styling with flush glass and composite headlamps. Other updates include four-wheel anti-lock brakes, Insta-Trac on four-wheel-drive models and a suspension system designed to provide a more carlike ride. In 1998, OnStar and the full-time AutoTrac all-wheel-drive system are added. In Australia, right-hand-drive versions of the Suburban are offered through GM’s Holden brand.
Generation 10 – 2000-2006
Launched in 1999 as a 2000 model, the 10th-generation Suburban brings new styling, new interiors and new powertrains. The engines include the Vortec 5.3L and 6.0L V-8s from the same Gen III Small Block family introduced a couple of years earlier in the Corvette. Other new features include four-wheel disc brakes and a load-leveling suspension system.
Generation 11 – 2007-14
A new generation of the Suburban features a wind tunnel-shaped exterior and the elimination of traditional chrome front and rear bumpers. More efficient, comfortable and capable than ever, the Suburban continues to offer customers of all walks of life uncompromising capability and versatility. In 2010, Suburban’s 75th anniversary is marked with a limited-edition model: The 75th Anniversary Diamond Edition.
Generation 12 – 2015+
Designed to be more functional and refined, while offering more safety features and a greater range of advanced technologies, the all-new Suburban is also more efficient, thanks to a range of vehicle-wide enhancements that include a more aerodynamic design and a new, direct-injected EcoTec3 5.3L engine. Improved aerodynamics also contributes to a quieter interior.
Founded in 1911 in Detroit, Chevrolet is now one of the world's largest car brands, doing business in more than 140 countries and selling more than 4.9 million cars and trucks a year. Chevrolet provides customers with fuel-efficient vehicles that feature spirited performance, expressive design, and high quality. More information on Chevrolet models can be found at www.chevrolet.com.