Quick question for the experts. For now I have decided on a Chevrolet Suburban as my tow vehicle. Is there a major difference between the 1997-99 and 2000-up models? I know the newer ones have the better Vortec engine but is it really worth the extra money? Is it thatmuch better on gas mileage? Any reliability issues with the prior generation Suburbans? Any other suggestions on SUV's? Which model Suburban should I avoid? Fuel economy? Ease of repair? Any suggestions would be appreciated. (BTW I will be purchasing an open trailer and towing ~2850# car)
My background: GM Master Tech, previous tow vehicle was a 2000 Silverado 2500 (6.0L, 4L80E, 3.73 rear end), current tow vehicle is a 2002 GMC Yukon (5.3L, 4L60E, 3.73 rear end). The Silverado had the same drivetrain as a Suburban 2500.
You absolutley want a 2000 or later model. The difference in build quallity between a 1999 and a 2000 is HUGE. The interior is worlds better, and I'd rather have a 5.3 or 6.0 over a 350 any day of the week. Drive both, you'll be amazed how much better the newer trucks are.
Any Yukon/Yukon XL/Tahoe/Suburban will tow an open trailer/car. The difference is that the 5.3 that you get in the 1/2 ton has to work a lot harder to get it done. With the 6.0 I was able to maintain speed in overdrive and not have the truck downshift, with the 5.3 I generally lose speed whenever I hit a decent hill. The 6.0 tows using the cruise control, with the 5.3 I actually have to work the throttle myself.
Fuel mileage was comparable, I get around 13 mpg in either vehicle.
Get the 3.73 rear end if at all possible. The 3.42 is just too low to tow with, and the 4.10 gets crappy mileage. The 3.73 is the best ciompromise.
The 1/2 ton trucks (1500) use the 4L60E transmission, the 4L80E you get in the 2500 is a lot tougher. I'd loan the Silverado to people to tow with because I knew it was bulletproof, I'm a lot more selective about who borrows the Yukon because of the weaker trans. I've had the trans apart in the Yukon already, mine was an unusual breakage but it's not unusual for people that tow a lot to have problems.
Is there any chance you will ever get an enclosed trailer? I pulled a 24 foot enclosed trailer empty with the Yukon and it literally couldn't stay in overdrive in a 55 zone, I ended up having to leave it in 3rd gear. It might have been better in a 65 zone (more revs) but it was really working to pull it without a car inside.Pulling the same trailer with the Silverado (6.0L) I was even able to do some passing on the 2 lane on the way to CMP.
If I was going to do it again I'd probably go with Yukon XL 2500 or Suburban 2500 w/ the 6.0L. You could get the big block but the fuel mileage will SUCK. It can pull a house off the foundation, but you'll have to fill the tank as soon as you're done. The 6.0 is the best compromise, enough power to get it done, but not so big that the mileage will kill you.
BTW, don't even think about a Yukon Denali. Yeah, it has the 6.0L, but it still has the 4L60E, and it's AWD. You WILL have to rebuild the front axle, all the AWD vehicles have front axle problems at one time or another.
edit: And yeah, the new motors do piston slap when cold. Sounds like crap, hasn't caused any problems that I've seen at the dealership.