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Car reviews - Holden - Suburban - 1500 LT 5-dr wagon

Our Opinion

We like
Space, grunt, fortress-like feeling of security
Room for improvement
A byword for conspicuous consumption, American excess and lack of taste

Holden logo10 May 2001

By MALCOLM LIVERMORE

HOLDEN let loose a piece of automotive Americana - the huge Suburban - on an unsuspecting Australia in February, 1998, to obtain a slice of the LandCruiser-dominated country towing market.

Big is best with Suburban, boasting seating for nine, a pair of the biggest capacity petrol and diesel engines on sale in four- wheel drive form and a Range-Rover like price.

But it lacks refinement and quality, and feels low-rent with slap-dash build quality inside and out, with hard plastics and cheap materials.

Suburban excels at towing over vast distances on rough roads so it is best considered an all-terrain wagon version of a large ute. It is a truck with tough workhorse underpinnings so forget about sharp, responsive steering, well tied down suspension or a firm, progressive brake pedal feel.

In vivid contrast to the Outback, around town the free play in the steering, the roly-poly suspension and the spongy, long travel brake pedal make precise positioning taxing and tiring.

The 5.7-litre petrol engine rumbles obligingly quietly through the rev range, though with so much torque on tap so low down you will sweep along at well under 2000rpm all day. The old iron lump revs freely to 5000rpm without waking the dead while the four- speed overdrive transmission is unobtrusive.

The accelerator pedal on the 6.5-litre turbo-diesel version is practically obsolete. A tiny dab is all you need to get it moving and then the 800rpm tick-over is enough to keep you moving along at the urban speed limit.

Interiors are bathed in a sea of standard issue mid-grey plastic which co-ordinates nicely with the blue-grey leather seat upholstery on LT or quality tweed weaves on lower spec models. The base turbo-diesel has vinyl floor coverings for easy hose- out.

There are storage spaces everywhere while the door pockets swallow large-size map books. There are 10 cupholders.

Despite its old-world design, the creaky dash manages to arrange most switches within easy reach. But the obscured handbrake is positioned too far forward and under the dash.

The deafening full-size ventilation system was well up to the task of providing chilly air to cool the vast cabin.

Switching to four-wheel drive or low range is push-button easy, as is loading, thanks to the split tailgate.

The Suburban's easy-going nature will win friends if used on open plains, not in the close quarters of a bustling city. There is a price to pay for being the biggest.

- Automotive NetWorks 09/06/1999

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