No Longer Exceptions, But Exceptional

Now part of the mainstream, big rigs may be here to stay.

By Isaac Bouchard

NOW THAT pickups, SUVs and crossovers comprise over 75 percent of new vehicle sales in the United States, it seems time to evaluate them as we do cars. They are no longer the exception for the “urban cowboy”—they’re now the normal mode of transport that Americans choose. Nor do they necessary signal to others that their owner is outdoorsy or adventurous. As they have become more ubiquitous, that vibe has diminished. In that spirit, here is a cross section of some of the most recent.


EPA Ratings: 56 gas/elec

0-60mph: 5.0sec

Price as tested: $90,460

Lincoln has done a superb job of reestablishing itself as a true luxury vehicle maker. And since the public has switched parties and overwhelming votes for SUVs and crossovers now, it is timely that the new Aviator was ready. In its standard form it is terrific; with a strong, twinturbo 3-liter V6, smooth 10sp automatic, lovely interior and (to these eyes) gorgeous styling. They have certainly upped the ante with the Grand Touring model, whose plugin hybrid drivetrain allows it to go about 20 miles on electrons and significantly bumps power and torque. Totals of 494 ponies and 630lb-ft of twist mean it is competitive with all but the hottest class entrants, and mixed-use fuel economy in the mid-20s mean it is pretty equivalent to what BMW gets from the plugin X5 45e. The Lincoln’s third row is more habitable too, on par with those in the Audi Q7, Volvo XC90 and Cadillac XT6 (whose powertrain offerings and interior ambiance are far behind the others). The Aviator has the kind of serene ride that many of us find vastly more useful than the ability to circle a skidpad at 1g; there is even the option of a camera that scans ahead for potholes and the like, so as to prime the computer-controlled suspension to better deal with our awful roads. Steering precision is great and the brakes feel nicely calibrated—hard to do in a hybrid. About the only noticeable area for improvement is that the Aviator kicks the gasoline engine back on more frequently (and noticeably) than some other plugins due to its small electric motor.

Lincoln is right there on tech and customer interaction, too. Their warranty is fully competitive (including up to eight years and 100,000 on the hybrid’s drivetrain) and there is concierge services that come with top models. You can unlock and start the Aviator from your phone, there is wire- less Apple and Android phone sync, great sound systems from Revel with up to 28 speakers and

lovely graphics for the two screens. The intuitiveness and simplicity of con- trolling the Lincoln through them is also a calming respite from the overly complex systems in many rivals. Completing the focus on occupant comfort are the optional Perfect Position front seats, which can be adjusted 30-ways (!) and are of course heated and ventilated. Interior material quality is on par with the competition from Europe, too, and the color palette options are daring yet classy. Making Lincoln aspirational to those of us in midlife was always going to be hard, but with vehicles as good as the Aviator Grand Touring, they have cracked the code.


EPA Ratings: Silverado N/A; Suburban 20/26/22

0-60mph: Silverado 8.0sec (est); Suburban 8.5sec

Price as tested: Silverado $61,220; Suburban $75,300

The General shows its truck-building acumen with these two heavy haulers—one for people and one for gear. Based on a shared platform, they can accomplish most any outsized mission, yet are perfectly acceptable daily drivers. To these eyes, they both look the part; the Silverado, dressed up in Z71 Sport trim, boasts a bitchin’ body-color panel that bisects the huge grill and prominently spells out CHEVROLET, evoking some of the company’s glorious past. It could use a bigger wheel/tire combo to fill out those fender wells, but many owners will choose to do that for themselves. The Suburban High Country goes for refined elegance and succeeds; its form language is clean and it leaves plenty of air for the Cadillac Escalade (also built on the platform) to strut its stuff. Inside, the Chevy is beautifully designed and finished in high quality materials; sadly, the same cannot be said of the pickup, which suffers from the company’s penchant for letting the “bean counters” cut material quality to save $50 per vehicle. It also lacks a less-than-cohesive design inside—unacceptable when the trucks from Ram and Ford are now so good. If the scuttlebutt is right, next year the Silverado might get an interior like the Suburban, which would be terrific.

They both drive great; the Suburban glides—as nicely as a Rolls-Royce in my experience—and is exceptionally quiet. It certainly shames its archrival Ford Expedition in the former category. The test vehicle featured the 3-liter turbodiesel, which is refined and fairly quiet, but perhaps not the best engine option for this leviathan. To me, that would be the sonorous 420hp, 6.2-liter V8. But it is pretty cool to get 25mpg on the highway, because of the diesel. Now that it has an independent rear suspension, the Suburban boasts class-leading room for cargo and people, and the middle and back rows are quite comfortable. This can also be said of the Silverado 2500HD, which had its wheelbase stretched 10 inches in this new model, meaning there is no need for a “mega” cab—this one has all the space one could want, and a standard bed that is so capacious few will want the longbox option. The engine lineup for the 2500 is strong too, with the tester’s gasoline 6.6-liter V8 providing more than adequate power. 401 horses move it along smartly when nothing is hooked to it, and even towing my flat-front trailer and its 6,000lb load (well within the 17,000-plus pound max tow rating), it could easily run well above the speed limit, thanks to its 464lb-ft of torque. The only areas where the optional Duramax diesel beats it is high altitude pulling power, and that you cannot get the slick 10-speed automatic with the gas engine. Real world fuel economy on both engines is almost the same too, so there is a good upfront value play to go for the 6.6L. The 2500HD’s frame feels like the strongest in the class, its chassis tuning is great and its steering is superb. It’s wonderful that we have reached the point where a 3⁄4-ton truck like this Silverado can be one’s only vehicle; I’ve owned two prior versions and while they were true workhorses, they didn’t suit urban living nearly as well as this one. Thanks especially to its updated suspension and improved interior, the Suburban continues to be the best bet in many ways for large families who need to take it all with them.

Automotive Editor Isaac Bouchard owns Denver-based Bespoke Autos ([email protected]; 303-475-1462). Read more of his automotive writing, reviews and recommendations on and

This article was also featured in the May Issue of Colorado AvidGolfer.

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