We have a rather large blended family, seven kids and ourselves. So a couple of years ago, we were in the market for a vehicle that could accommodate all of us. In addition, we needed a vehicle with enough power to pull our 20-foot bass boat to the lake. We investigated everything from vans and min-vans to even a small school bus. We, finally, decided on a 1994 GMC Suburban SLE 1500. We purchased it with 56,000 miles on it.
From the time that we purchased the Suburban, it has been on road trips from San Antonio to places all over the state of Texas. We have, also, taken it four times to Colorado Springs, Colorado (900 miles). There have been anywhere from five to eight people on the trips. In addition, we have taken our 20-foot bass boat to the lake several times. In other words, we have put our Suburban to the test.
The Suburban has provided a very smooth ride with a minimal amount of road noise. There are two rows of seats behind the front seats, which has allowed us to fit up to six more people for a total of eight. Nine is pushing it. There has been plenty of room for the passengers, which has kept the long trips bearable for everyone.
Behind the third seat, there is adequate extra storage for the long trips. Access to the rear compartment is through two side-hinged panel doors. On the long-trips, I have had several occasions to use the luggage rack on the Suburban’s roof. I have found that it was actually functional, rather than just for decoration. I have found luggage racks on many other vehicles, totally useless.
It is not an easy task to get in and out of parking spaces. But, it is something that you learn to deal with, for having a vehicle of this size. But, even with the size of the Suburban, it has not been too large to fit inside our garage.
The engine is a 5.7-liter V8. It averages about 15-16 MPG on the highway and 14-15 MPG in town. The 42-gallon gas tank costs a fortune to fill up, but it allows a cruising range of just over 600 miles. The cruising range has been great for traveling the long distances across isolated areas of Texas and Northeastern New Mexico. The driving position is excellent and allows a full view of traffic.
There is an extra large console between the driver and front passenger, which has a two-cup holder for drinks at the top and a two-cup holder that pulls out of the back of the console for the rear passengers. The console is large enough to hold all of our maps, tapes, etc.
Our other accessories were power seats, power windows, power door locks, cruise control and air-conditioning with dual climate controls. My only wish is that it had a child safety lock for the second row doors. In addition, it came with a six-speaker stereo cassette player.
The Suburban has been able to pull our bass boat with relative ease, except that it has had occasion to struggle on steep inclines. I have found that the tow hitch on the rear bumper more decorative than functional for towing, especially for making sharp turns when backing up. But adding an after-market tow hitch solves the problem.
It has had two safety recalls since I have owned it. One was for “Windshield Wiper Motor Failure” (TSB # 98043) and the other for “Brake Switch Wiring Polarity” (TSB # 98065). As far as repairs, I have had to replace a battery, and an alternator, neither of which is unexpected considering the age of the vehicle.
I have had one other problem that I have not found addressed in any of the Safety or General Recalls. The problem is that the brakes lock when having to stop quickly. This is something that I had to unintentionally experience recently. It is an issue that I will be taking up with the dealer.
In the final analysis, the Suburban makes a great fit for families that have large families and/or travel long distances. For my money, the purchase of the Suburban has paid for itself many times over.