The Best And Worst Chevy SUVs Ever Created
Where Does Your Favorite Chevy SUV Stand?
Updated December 3, 2017
The first Chevy SUV to hit the market was the 1935 Chevrolet Carryall Suburban pictured above. The first Chevy SUV lacked what would be considered basic amenities by today’s standards, but it offered seating for a maximum of eight occupants or could be configured as a delivery van. As an added bonus, buyers could opt for side-hinged rear panel doors or a rear tailgate with a lift window. Today, you can buy a Chevy SUV with every imaginable tech, safety, and comfort feature..if a GM engineer can dream it, you can have it equipped on a Chevy SUV.
Chevrolet has built many SUVs since the 1935 Carryall Suburban. With so many Chevy SUVs, there are bound to be a few that have risen to become the cream of the crop and others that have been the worst imaginable mistakes. Unfortunately, it can be hard to know which Chevy SUV falls into which category. That brings us to today’s list of the best and worst Chevy SUVs.
While building our list, we considered power, ride quality, towing, passenger capacity, and dependability. To confirm our numbers for power output, passenger capacity, and towing, we searched the Chevrolet website, JD Power and Associates, and KBB.com. As for ride quality and dependability, we looked to owner reviews, Consumer Reports, and time spent with ASE certified mechanics.
The Best Chevy SUVs
Being firm believers in delivering the good news before the bad, we are starting our list with the best Chevy SUVs. They are not listed in any particular order, so you will have to ride along to the end to find out which is the absolute best Chevy SUV in our opinion.
Why not start with the granddaddy of the Chevy SUV family? The Chevy Suburban has been in constant production since the 1935 model year and has been very popular across North America. The Suburban has morphed many times, but has always remained a large, truck-based SUV capable of carrying eight or more passengers, towing a large load, and going off-road whenever you really needed it to.
As the SUV-crazed North American market has switched its focus toward smaller crossover SUVs, the Suburban has remained large and bold. Crossovers may offer car-like maneuverability and fuel efficiency, but they lack the adventurous spirit of a tough, truck-based SUV. The Chevrolet Suburban has an overall length of nearly 17 feet, so there is plenty of legroom for eight or nine passengers. The tough, body-on-frame construction allows it to have an 8,300 lb towing capacity and all-terrain mobility when it is equipped with 4WD. Even the 2WD version is able to tackle some off-road obstacles with vigor. Currently, power comes from a 5.3L V8 that produces 355 hp and 383 lb-ft of torque. The engine is always mated to a six-speed automatic. RWD with a locking rear diff is standard, but 4WD with a single-speed transfer case is optional with all trim levels. If you step up to the Max Trailering and Z71 Off-Road packages, a two-speed transfer case becomes available.
The biggest knock on the Chevy Suburban is its ride quality. This is a truck-based Chevy SUV, so it rides like a Chevy truck. Trucks offer a poorer ride than sedans. The ride really isn’t bad, it’s just worse than that of a car. The less-than-stellar ride quality is overridden by the Suburban’s decades of dependability. It is not uncommon to find older Suburbans being used as daily drivers with more than 250,000 miles on the odometer.
The GMC SUV alternative to the Suburban is the GMC Yukon XL. Some owners say that the Yukon offers a smoother ride. That may just be a subjective opinion since these SUVs are built on the same basic platform.
The Tahoe is another truck-based Chevy SUV. The Tahoe is very similar to the Suburban in size and capacity. Despite their similarity, many owners and reviewers believe that the Tahoe offers a better overall ride quality than the Suburban and there is a slight price differential to be considered.
The Chevrolet Tahoe is a reminder that the ”utility” in Sport Utility Vehicle can still be paramount. It has the ability to carry up to nine passengers, measures in at 17 feet, and has a max towing capacity of 8,600 lbs(4WD versions top out at 8,400 lbs). Power is provided by the same 5.3L found in the Suburban and output remains at 355 hp and 383 lb-ft of torque. Again, the engine is always mated to a six-speed automatic. When you have a formula that works, why change it? As you can see from the numbers for towing, the Tahoe offers 300 lbs more capacity with its Max Trailering package than a similarly equipped Suburban. On top of having a cavernous interior and tremendous towing capacity, the Tahoe can be equipped with tri-zone automatic climate control, forward collision warning with low-speed automatic braking, a vibrating safety-alert driver seat, automatic high beams, lane keeping assist, and power-adjustable pedals, to name a few. In an age where the crossover is trying to take over the SUV world, the Tahoe and Suburban are holding the line for truck-based SUVs.
The GMC Yukon(not the Yukon XL) is the GMC SUV alternative to the Chevrolet Tahoe. Again, detractors say the Yukon offers an improved ride quality when compared to the Chevy Tahoe. It also offers a noticeable price bump over every Chevy SUV.
The Chevrolet Traverse was introduced for the 2009 model year and sold side-by-side with the last models of the Chevrolet Trailblazer before replacing it entirely the following year. Considered a full-sized Chevy SUV during its first generation, the Traverse was reclassified as a mid-size starting with the 2018 model year.
The Traverse offers three rows of seating and all of the amenities that you would expect from a top tier SUV. The second generation models have shed nearly 400 lbs while gaining power, passenger space, and technology. Second-gen models have two engine options. The first is a turbocharged 2.0L I4 that is capable of 255 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. The turbo four is only available in the sport-themed RS trim level. The standard powerplant is a 3.6L V6 that provides 310 hp and 266 lb-ft of torque. This engine is paired exclusively to a nine-speed automatic gearbox for added durability and fuel economy.
The second-gen Chevy Traverse has added a luxury top trim, added 3 inches of legroom for the second row, and expanded the legroom in the third row of seating compared to the first-gen models. The added space allows this Chevy SUV to have more passenger room than you will find in a similar model year Honda Pilot or Toyota Highlander. The only way to find more passenger legroom is to move up to a full-size Chevy SUV like the Suburban or Tahoe. Topping off the added legroom is 98.5 cubic feet of cargo space to carry all of your family’s gear. The first-gen Chevy Traverse had a single detraction: its fuel economy. That has been addressed by shedding weight and adding the nine-speed gearbox.
The GMC SUV twin to the Chevrolet Traverse is the GMC Acadia. The Acadia is a tad smaller, is more expensive, and has eliminated its third row of seating.
The Chevrolet Equinox was first introduced for the 2005 model year as a mid-size Chevy SUV. The Equinox was an immediate success and by 2016 was outselling every other GM product except the Chevy Silverado. While that sounds great, sales of the Equinox began to lag behind those of its main competitors from Honda, Ford, and Toyota by the end of 2016. In response, the Equinox was redesigned and became a compact crossover SUV starting with the 2018 model year.
The latest models of the Chevy Equinox are lighter and feature an array of turbocharged four-cylinder engines to address the performance issues pointed out by owners and reviewers of first-gen units with four-cylinder engines. The base engine is a 1.5L turbo four that is rated for 170 hp and 203 lb-ft of torque. This engine is paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. Next up is an optional 2.0L turbo four capable of 252 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. It is paired to a nine-speed automatic gearbox. Rounding out the engine options is a very fuel-efficient 1.6L turbodiesel that offers 137 hp and 240 lb-ft of torque. The turbodiesel is paired to a six-speed automatic and is rated for an amazing 40 mpg on the highway. Though downsized, the Equinox still offers copious leg and headroom. Additionally, the standard features have been upgraded to include a rearview camera, Chevy’s Teen Driver reporting feature, a parking camera system, as well as lane departure warning and intervention.
The redesign to a smaller CUV footprint has improved the Equinox’s already excellent ride quality and driving experience. The improvements should allow the Equinox to build on its reputation for long-term dependability as well.
The GMC SUV cousin of the Equinox is the GMC Terrain. Like the Equinox, the Terrain has been downsized but comes with the irrefutable cons of a slightly smaller cargo area than some rivals and much higher pricing.
Technically, the Avalanche is not a Chevy SUV, but a four-door pickup truck. Despite the technicality, the Avalanche offers all of the features you could want from an SUV and throws in a short pickup bed.
Built between the 2001 and 2013 model years, the Avalanche can seat up to six passengers and is based on the same platform as a similar year Suburban. With the interesting ”midgate” feature, the rear seats can be lowered so you have an 8 foot long load area. The Avalanche offers an SUV-like ride quality rather than the more bouncy experience of a pickup. That ride quality is complemented by a towing capacity of 8,100 pounds. Power for the most recent models comes from a 5.3L V8 producing 320 hp and 335 lb-ft of torque. The engine is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. Over its 13-year production run, the Avalanche built a reputation for toughness and durability. Additionally, it is quite nimble off-road. Having been discontinued after the 2013 model year, the Avalanche can be a budget-friendly used Chevy SUV for your family.
There is no GMC SUV alternative to the Chevrolet Avalanche. A GMC Sierra Crew Cab comes close, but does not offer the superior ride of the Avalanche and can be significantly more expensive.
The name Chevrolet Blazer is a bit of a catchall. It includes the full-size K5 Blazer and the mid-size S-10 Blazer. Let’s have a look at both with one caveat…both are much older models and must be viewed from that perspective.
First up is the Chevrolet K5 Blazer built between 1969 and 1999. The oldest models are collectible today, so we will concentrate on the last generation of the Blazer. The last gen was equipped with any one of six engines. The most noteworthy are a 5.7L V8 and a 6.2L diesel V8. The 5.7L is capable of 210 hp and 285 lb-ft of torque. The 6.2L diesel is much rarer, but is capable of 135 hp and 240 lb-ft of torque. The K5 Blazer is more of a truck than it is a Chevy SUV by current standards. It is great for off-road use and is quite often equipped to plow snow in northern climates. The best feature the K5 has to offer is its incredible long-term durability.
The S-10 Blazer is based on the Chevy S-10 pick-up truck. The S-10 Blazer capped its 23-year production run during the 2005 model year. The last units could be powered by a four-popper, but your best option is to find one powered by the optional 4.3L V6. The six produces 190 hp and 210 lb-ft of torque. Where the S-10 Blazer excels is in its handling and ride; both are exceptional for city driving. Perhaps the best aspects of this Chevy SUV are that the latest models are easy to find, inexpensive, hard-to-kill, and easy to repair yourself.
The Worst Chevy SUVs
Every automaker builds bad vehicles along with their solid models – it’s inevitable. That is not to say that any particular model listed below is dangerous or a total waste of money, but other Chevy SUV options are better. As hard as it may be to believe, it is our opinion that these models are a poorer choice than the decades-old options of the K5 and S-10 Blazer.
The Chevrolet Trailblazer was introduced for the 2002 model year. This mid-size Chevy SUV was discontinued after the 2009 model year, mainly because it offered bottom-of-class ride quality. If you are willing to look past that, it can be a viable used SUV for families that need plenty of space, but have a budget to stick to.
The Chevrolet Trailblazer was a popular choice among SUV shoppers throughout its seven-year production run. Its ride quality suffered because it is a truck-based SUV and very little was done to soften that. The ride quality could be forgiven if the Trailblazer added beefy towing capacity or off-road capability. It did not. Edmunds.com said best: ”The Chevrolet TrailBlazer lags behind other traditional midsize SUVs and newer crossover designs due to its aging platform and disappointing performance in key areas.” Fortunately, Chevrolet addressed these issues with the Trailblazer’s replacement, the Chevrolet Traverse.
The latest models of the Trailblazer are powered by a standard 4.2L I6 that produces 285 hp and 276 lb-ft of torque. The powerplant is mated to a lackluster four-speed automatic. The only other engine choice is a 6.0L V8 available in the SS trim only. That engine is exciting, thrusting out 390 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque. The SS has an optional AWD system that maximizes street performance and can jump from zero to 60 in under 6 seconds. Max towing is just 6,800 lbs and a standard equipped Trailblazer only gets 14 mpg city and 20 mpg on the highway.
The GMC Envoy is the twin model to this Chevy SUV. The GMC Envoy suffers from the same handling and ride quality issues as the Trailblazer, but throws a cheap feeling interior into the mix.
The most compact Chevy SUV is the Chevrolet Trax. Labeled as a subcompact crossover SUV, the Trax is based on the Gamma II platform that underpins the Chevrolet Aveo. The Chevrolet Trax is a great SUV for those buyers looking for an affordable CUV that is easy to drive and park while still offering plenty of tech and safety features. If you want power and an outstanding ride, this is not the CUV for you.
The usual powerplant is a 1.4L turbocharged I4, but several engine options are available. The Trax offers decent fuel economy and plenty of legroom for four. Standard equipment includes automatic headlights, full power accessories, air-conditioning, the Chevrolet MyLink interface, and a rearview camera. As you add packages, LED daytime running lights and taillights, remote start, heated outside mirrors, a seven-speaker Bose audio system, keyless entry and ignition, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and rear parking sensors, and forward collision and lane departure warning systems become available. As an added bonus, the Trax is more budget friendly than some of its competitors like the Honda HR-V and the Mazda CX-3.
So, why is the Trax in our section of the worst Chevy SUVs? Horrible ride quality, a cramped interior, and sketchy reliability. Yes, there is legroom for four, but elbows and heads are not so comfortable. The Trax has only been in production since the 2013 model year, so GM may address the initial quality issues before long-term dependability becomes a major issue.
As with the Chevrolet Avalanche, there is no direct GMC SUV cousin to the Chevrolet Trax.
The Chevrolet Captiva was sold as a fleet vehicle only when it was new but is available as a used model to the general public. Because the Captiva is a fleet purpose model, it is not very well appointed and the ride quality is subpar. Those may be common aspects of fleet models, but for everyday use, they make for a poor SUV choice.
Having noted its downsides early on, one positive is that this Chevy SUV is one of the most budget-friendly options on the market. It is great that the price tag is low, but the Captiva is ”cheap” in every way. Tech and comfort options are minimal, interior quality is laughable, and the ride is more like a go-kart than an SUV. At best, a Chevrolet Captiva can be equipped with parking sensors, heated seats, automatic climate control, Bluetooth compatibility, stability control, remote start, and traction control. The Captiva isn’t even particularly fuel-efficient or inexpensive to insure. It has fuel economy numbers of 20 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway. There are full-size sedans that offer better.
Thankfully, GM does not build a GMC SUV equivalent to the Chevrolet Captiva.
The Best Chevy SUV To Buy
In our opinion, the best Chevy SUV to buy is the Chevrolet Equinox, whether new or used. The Equinox offers class-leading leg and headroom in both of its generations. The first generation features an optional 3.6L V6 that produces 301 hp and 272 lb-ft of torque while offering 24 mpg on the highway. After the redesign, the 2.0L turbo four and the 1.6L turbodiesel offer excellent fuel economy. Every negative aspect of the first-gen Equinox has been addressed during the redesign and the Chevy Equinox now offers a very comfortable sedan-like ride.
The Absolute Worst Chevy SUV To Buy
In our opinion, the absolute worst Chevy SUV to buy is the Chevrolet Captiva. We did not mince words above when we listed all of the reasons to avoid buying a Captiva, so why rehash them?
Categories: List Articles