It seems that over the past several decades, drivers have started focusing on the family-friendly aspects of SUVs. This makes sense, given that larger SUVs have plenty of seats and space for growing families. Gone are the days of stacking as many family members and friends as you can in the back of a station wagon; today, everyone gets a seat with a safety belt. In fact, it might be very easy to dismiss the 2022 Chevy Suburban and 2022 Ford Expedition as just “really big people movers.”
However, both three-row SUVs are much more capable than their current reputations belie. After all, “SUV” stands for “Sport Utility Vehicle.” There’s no mention of people, families, or safety belts in the name. These vehicles come from a long history of towing, stowing, off-roading, and exploring.
SUVs are tall enough to clear uneven ground, while powerful enough to safely carry people and belongings through a variety of travel scenarios. But somehow, we’ve erased our knowledge of these facts with terms like “land yacht” and “portable living room.”
The general public may have forgotten that an SUV is designed to be capable, dependable, and even a little rugged, but Chevy and Ford have not. In fact, lurking under the guises of these family-friendly vehicles lie competent and efficient vehicles. Let’s take a closer look.
More Than the Sum of Its Seatbelts
There’s no denying that one of the strong points of full-size SUVs is the sheer number of safe and secure places to put people. The Partridge Family had a psychedelic bus. The Bradys had a 1971 Plymouth Satellite Wagon. Today’s families have a Suburban or an Expedition.
The 2022 Chevy Suburban can be configured to provide a seat for up to 9 passengers, with three rows of bench seats. However, many drivers opt instead for two cozy seats in the front, two captain’s chairs in the second row, and a bench in the rear. This setup allows for 41.5 cu.ft. of room for everyone’s stuff, which is around double what you would find in the Chevy Spark with all the seats folded.
But what happens when those seats aren’t occupied? With the second and third rows folded, the Suburban opens up to provide 144.7 cu.ft. of cargo room. While that’s not quite as large as the average actual living room, it’s certainly enough room to hold more than suitcases and backpacks. In fact, the Suburban Carryall was specifically designed to (as the name implies) handle a lot of cargo.
Likewise, the 2022 Ford Expedition provides seating for 8 passengers. While the ninth passenger has to find a ride, those who are on board the Expedition can enjoy power reclining seats, even in the third row, and heated and ventilated seats in the second row.
The cargo space, however, is not quite as massive as that of the Suburban. The standard Expedition provides a grand total of 104.6 cu.ft. of cargo room, while the Expedition MAX, which gains a foot in length, provides up to 121.5 cu.ft. of places to put stuff. In that case, perhaps it’s just as well that the ninth passenger found alternate accommodations.
Both the Suburban and the Expedition include roof rails on all trims. These handy rails extend the cargo capabilities to suit a variety of large equipment, from canoes to ladders, and beyond.
The Power to Perform
You might argue that SUVs drive like giant cubes. They’re sluggish, bulky, and not as responsive as other vehicles, like trucks. In that case, you might be surprised to learn that the 2022 Suburban is built on the same platform as the Silverado 1500. The 2022 Ford Expedition shares a platform with the F-150. And, the similarities don’t end there.
The 2022 Suburban is offered with three engines. The first is a 5.3-L V8 that comes standard on all but the High Country trim. Good for 355 horsepower and 383 lb-ft of torque, this engine is clearly no slouch. However, drivers who are looking for a little more power can check out the 6.2-L V8 offered on the High Country trim, which takes things up a notch with an outstanding 420 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque.
Those looking for higher torque and less fuel consumption can check out the 3.0-L turbocharged diesel inline-6 offering, which can be optioned onto any trim except the Z71. With 277 horsepower and a massive 460 lb-ft of torque, the diesel engine puts on a good show—especially when concentrated torque and heft are required.
On the other hand, the 2022 Expedition gives drivers one engine option: a very capable, 3.5-L twin-turbocharged V6. This particular engine is tuned to each specific trim. In most versions of the Expedition, it provides 380 horsepower and 470 lb-ft of torque. However, in the Platinum trim, these numbers increase to 400 horsepower and 480 lb-ft of torque. The Timberline and Stealth Performance Edition crank things up yet again to 440 horsepower and 510 lb-ft of torque.
Seeing these numbers on paper may be a bit deceiving. After all, reading about horsepower and actually feeling the power of pedal-down acceleration are two very different sensations. But consider this: the 2022 Suburban can tow up to 8,300 lbs, and the Expedition can handle 9,300 lbs of trailer weight. That’s actually more than what most compact pickup trucks can handle.
You Don’t Have to Stay on the Road
Here’s another fun fact about full-size SUVs: they go off-road. In your mind, you might be concocting a nightmare situation, in which a giant full-size SUV gets mired in deep mud. Full of screaming children, it’s impossible to watch as the huge vehicle slowly gets sucked into the sticky mess—as enormous rescue vehicles attempt to dig it out and return the SUV to safety.
While this scenario would certainly be terrifying, it’s pretty unlikely. First, that’s because the Chevy Suburban and Ford Expedition are both offered in all-wheel-drive versions. They stand tall, with plenty of ground clearance and power to deal with the demands of most standard terrains.
However, where the pavement ends and the adventure begins, both the Chevy Suburban and Ford Expedition offer an SUV that can handle even more. The Z71 is Chevy’s answer to the off-road call. With skid plates, recovery hooks, and all-terrain tires, it’s equipped to deal with sloppy conditions with nerves of steel and specially tuned mechanicals that keep off-roaders safely climbing and crawling—putting traction where it’s needed.
Ford’s response is the Timberline model. Not only does it sport a more highly-tuned engine, but it has been given premium shocks in the front and rear to smooth out wilder terrain. Drivers can also opt into the FX4 package to add skid plates, an electronic limited-slip differential, and two-speed four-wheel drive to round out the Expedition’s off-road performance.
More Than a Family Room
Sure, there are a lot of cushy amenities that, on paper, divide full-size SUVs from pickup trucks. Both the Suburban and Expedition offer family-friendly packages that add perks like a dual-screen entertainment system, USB ports, and an almost unreasonable number of cupholders. These features are ideal when the seats are occupied, especially when attempting to keep the peace on longer drives.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that both the 2022 Chevy Suburban and the 2022 Ford Expedition are very capable vehicles. They include plenty of storage space for tools, supplies, luggage, and more. They can tow just as well as they stow, and they’re equipped with engines that keep things fun. Furthermore, these full-size SUVs have off-road chops that put smaller, rear-wheel-drive vehicles to shame.
Should you replace your light truck with a full-size SUV? Ultimately, only you can make that call. However, if your main concerns include plenty of cargo room, towing capability, and all-wheel drive, maybe the time has come to expand your horizons just a little bit—to include the very capable and dependable full-size SUV.