Older Model Short Tahoe vs. Suburban For Towing

Joined
Mar 17, 2011
Messages
822
Location
Florida
Anyone know how the older model short wheelbase Tahoes/Yukons tow compared to the longer wheelbase Suburbans?
Looks like tow capacity is similar.
We tow our RV with my 2003 Suburban 1500 and it rides and tows great, but does struggle a little in the mountains.
I am curious if the smooth ride and towing experience comes from the longer wheelbase of the Suburban.
Looking at options to replace the daily driver Expedition and also use it as our tow vehicle.

Considering searching for a 6 speed 6.0L Tahoe/Yukon/Suburban. I like the idea of the 2500 series, but very concerned about ride quality and fuel consumption, plus they are hard to find and expensive.
Looking to maintain about 9 MPG while towing, which is what I get with my Suburban.

There are a lot more options available for the 1500's.

I love my 5.3 Vortec with 4:10 gears and wouldn't hesitiate to get another, just a little undersized for mountains towing. Perhaps a 6 speed tranny helps with that.

Should I avoid the shorter wheelbase for towing?
 
Joined
Nov 9, 2008
Messages
21,328
Location
NH
I see you are in Florida--what kind of "mountains" are you talking about? ;)

What are you towing? Length and weight. I think that'll be important. That said, longer wheelbase usually makes for a better tow vehicle.

As for mpg, usually the barn door that an RV is sets the mpg, and I want to say, 1500's and 2500's tend to converge on the mpg--it's the wind drag that sets the work to be done. Unloaded is where the 2500 loses mpg.

Not sure if the 6AT 'burbs picked up towing mpg or not. I know the extra gears help, keep from winding out the engine in 2nd on "every" climb, but I'm not sure if they really helped mpg during towing.

Just to play devil's advocate, what about opening up exhaust or other minor mods that won't make a ton of power but might help with towing? Usually adding more power adds more heat that has to be gotten rid of, and cuts reliability, so maybe not a great idea... but maybe a mild rear gear change would tide you over.
 
Joined
Dec 7, 2012
Messages
2,773
Location
WNY
Is your current Suburban clean? Would you keep it if it wasn't for the towing performance that you'd like improvement with?

My wife's Suburban rides noticeably better than my Tahoe. But I seem to like the size and "truck/rugged-er" feel of the Tahoe.

Consider camming and tuning your 5.3 in your Suburban. Stock cam in the LM7s were kinda lame... they're fine but eh... Summit SUM8718R1 cam is a good base option. IMO they should've had a cam like this from the factory. Cam the 5.3 and have it tuned, I am sure you'd have a healthy improvement in power.

Additionally, you could plop a LQ4 6.0 in there. I am presently getting together a 2007 LQ4 for my Tahoe. Thread in the coming weeks.
 

AZjeff

$50 Site Donor 2023
Joined
Jan 14, 2011
Messages
7,622
Location
in Az where the Deer and Antelope play
A Tahoe isn't going to tow like a Suburban, period. More bucking, less stable. Wheelbase and weight matter.

A 2500 crew cab truck with a cap should cost less than a same year/miles 2500 Sub and do the same job. Yes a 2500 rides firmer than a 1500.
 

Fitz98

Thread starter
Joined
Mar 17, 2011
Messages
822
Location
Florida
Perhaps a diesel engine might be better for towing :unsure:

You should also consider the Express/Savana. A 2500 van may cost less than a 2500 Suburban.
I don't think I could psychologically handle the cost to fill at a diesel pump. I realize it may be more fuel efficient, but that fill cost and DEF would bother me.
Not much of a van guy, but more importantly, when we are not towing 11 months of the year, it will be my wife's daily driver. That was the main reason I was even thinking of a Tahoe, more like the length of the Expedition she currently drives, but it needs to do well for our longer trips as well. AZ Jeff's feedback makes me lean more to another Suburban or Yukon XL.
Not sure about ride quality and economy of the 6L 2500 Suburban, but it is on my radar for sure.
 
Joined
Jun 5, 2003
Messages
26,272
Location
Apple Valley, California
I don't think I could psychologically handle the cost to fill at a diesel pump. I realize it may be more fuel efficient, but that fill cost and DEF would bother me.
Not much of a van guy, but more importantly, when we are not towing 11 months of the year, it will be my wife's daily driver. That was the main reason I was even thinking of a Tahoe, more like the length of the Expedition she currently drives, but it needs to do well for our longer trips as well. AZ Jeff's feedback makes me lean more to another Suburban or Yukon XL.
Not sure about ride quality and economy of the 6L 2500 Suburban, but it is on my radar for sure.
When did def come out?
 

Fitz98

Thread starter
Joined
Mar 17, 2011
Messages
822
Location
Florida
You didn't mention your trailer specs.
About 6k lbs.
29 foot towable.
I looked at some newer 5th wheels as alternate options, but by the time I looked at the cost of that plus a truck that could tow it, the price got beyond what was reasonable for me at this time.
I decided to stay with what I got for now and get a better SUV that is more capable for towing than my Expedition.
My Suburban 1500 is setup for work and it is a lot to make it ready for a family trip. Looking for something ready to hook up and go on demand.
 
Joined
May 16, 2011
Messages
1,459
Location
Greenville, SC via Chicago, IL
About 6k lbs.
29 foot towable.
I looked at some newer 5th wheels as alternate options, but by the time I looked at the cost of that plus a truck that could tow it, the price got beyond what was reasonable for me at this time.
I decided to stay with what I got for now and get a better SUV that is more capable for towing than my Expedition.
My Suburban 1500 is setup for work and it is a lot to make it ready for a family trip. Looking for something ready to hook up and go on demand.

I tow a 5000lb 26ft camper with my 05 Suburban 5.3, 4x4, with air-ride. I use a 4-point weight distribution hitch as well. To me, it feels underpowered but I'm never in a rush and I don't go over 65mph. I will say that this combo feels planted, safe, and has ample room for everyone and everything! My next truck will be a 2500 of some sort.

Our first camping trip of the year is the weekend of the 17th!
 
Joined
Apr 18, 2013
Messages
1,268
Location
Kevil,Ky
I think you already have a good combination for towing what you have. The long wheelbase definately helps with the control and ride quality for your family.
 
Joined
Sep 23, 2008
Messages
11,112
Location
Ontario, Canada
Which has the shorter rear overhang? I found my little 4 door 2003 Tracker a surprisingly very stable towing vehicle, and I think it was because the rear overhang was very short. I dragged a 5x8 uhaul trailer out to Manitoba and back in all sorts of crosswinds in Wisconsin and Minnesota, and a few rapid lane changes in Chicago and didn't have the ~2500lb tail wagging the dog at all that I can remember and this is with no stabilizers or weight distribution hitch. The Tracker was about 3600lbs with 2 of us in it and some gear, so not much heavier than the trailer.
 
Joined
Sep 26, 2014
Messages
2,382
Location
US-WA
IIRC it's $12 every 2.5k mi for DEF. Hardly an expense.
As a daily, it takes forever to warm up (not gauges, but the fuel consumption), so DD big diesel isn't great, I admit. If your commute is 50 mi or so, then a diesel is certainly a better option.
I don't think I could psychologically handle the cost to fill at a diesel pump. I realize it may be more fuel efficient, but that fill cost and DEF would bother me.
Not much of a van guy, but more importantly, when we are not towing 11 months of the year, it will be my wife's daily driver. That was the main reason I was even thinking of a Tahoe, more like the length of the Expedition she currently drives, but it needs to do well for our longer trips as well. AZ Jeff's feedback makes me lean more to another Suburban or Yukon XL.
Not sure about ride quality and economy of the 6L 2500 Suburban, but it is on my radar for sure.
 
Joined
Feb 20, 2007
Messages
6,732
Location
Southeast
A 29' trailer could get sketchy with a Tahoe with any wind. People do it and defend it but it wouldn't be as stable as your burb.
This. Such a solid statement.

a 30 foot trailer *should* cause some struggle up the hills. This idea that everyone towing should have a divine right to hold 70 is nuts. I’ve seen stupid money spent on trucks because hills make us slow down.

the longer wheelbase is the way to go, especially with such a long trailer. There’s a lot of tail wagging the dog potential here. The stability is so important not only for safety, but to enjoy the drive. And, assuming the vehicle is safely within towing limits, a half-ton is easier to DD the 95% of miles which aren’t towing.

BUT, 6000 lbs is that point where folks do start considering a 3/4 ton, if stability is a thing. That’s a lot of trailer back there. I’d have no problem with that for a few trips per year in my f150, but if it was retirement and I was going out frequently, a 3/4 might be the right way to go.

don’t be afraid to let the engine rev all day long to make power. GM blocks see 80% throttle for hours in boats every weekend at 4000 rpm. Let it spin. DO lock it out of OD. However, for these reasons I’d push hard against exhaust and intake mods…. drone during towing is miserable; silence is golden.

pay attention to transmission fluid cooling, and good diff lube. Note, your diff might overheat before the trans does. (I own that t shirt). shorter gearing in the diff can really help towing authority, but shorter gears also generate a little more heat. It’s a trade off.

yeah, and nothing gets more than 11mpg with all that frontal area.
 
Joined
Dec 7, 2012
Messages
2,773
Location
WNY
This. Such a solid statement.

a 30 foot trailer *should* cause some struggle up the hills. This idea that everyone towing should have a divine right to hold 70 is nuts. I’ve seen stupid money spent on trucks because hills make us slow down.

the longer wheelbase is the way to go, especially with such a long trailer. There’s a lot of tail wagging the dog potential here. The stability is so important not only for safety, but to enjoy the drive. And, assuming the vehicle is safely within towing limits, a half-ton is easier to DD the 95% of miles which aren’t towing.

BUT, 6000 lbs is that point where folks do start considering a 3/4 ton, if stability is a thing. That’s a lot of trailer back there. I’d have no problem with that for a few trips per year in my f150, but if it was retirement and I was going out frequently, a 3/4 might be the right way to go.

don’t be afraid to let the engine rev all day long to make power. GM blocks see 80% throttle for hours in boats every weekend at 4000 rpm. Let it spin. DO lock it out of OD. However, for these reasons I’d push hard against exhaust and intake mods…. drone during towing is miserable; silence is golden.

pay attention to transmission fluid cooling, and good diff lube. Note, your diff might overheat before the trans does. (I own that t shirt). shorter gearing in the diff can really help towing authority, but shorter gears also generate a little more heat. It’s a trade off.

yeah, and nothing gets more than 11mpg with all that frontal area.
Another great post! This is spot on.
 
Joined
Apr 15, 2010
Messages
8,221
Location
Connecticut
This idea that everyone towing should have a divine right to hold 70 is nuts. I’ve seen stupid money spent on trucks because hills make us slow down.
This is so true. 😆 I know a few people who have bought diesel trucks "for towing" then haul a 5x8 utility trailer like I pull behind my Wrangler.
 

Fitz98

Thread starter
Joined
Mar 17, 2011
Messages
822
Location
Florida
Thanks for all the feedback.
I will search for the longer wheelbase Suburban or Yukon XL.
Any advice on what years to stay away from? I think there were issues in some years with AFM and lifters.
Rear ends? I think there were a few options over the years. I like my 4:10, but seems like they are not very popular.
I will probably look up to the 15-20k range.
 
Joined
Nov 9, 2008
Messages
21,328
Location
NH
Thanks for all the feedback.
I will search for the longer wheelbase Suburban or Yukon XL.
Any advice on what years to stay away from? I think there were issues in some years with AFM and lifters.
Rear ends? I think there were a few options over the years. I like my 4:10, but seems like they are not very popular.
I will probably look up to the 15-20k range.
Yeah I'd avoid AFM but it is possible to disable / remove. [I wonder if you could get a deal on a vehicle with bad AFM? then slide in a better cam. More work I know, but maybe you can get a good deal going this path.]

I think, and going off memory, when the 6AT came out, it became harder to get "good" rear gearing. Thing is, it became less important. The 4L60 and related had a 3.06:1 first gear. The 6AT's were like 4:1. That deeper first gear ratio "makes up" for the rear end being a bit taller. That said, I always thought 3.42 was a bit too tall, and 3.73 was better. I'm just not sure if you could get 3.73's.

Casual looking and I almost never see the build sheet / RPO codes given. A few sites will state what the rear gears are. If you can get the VIN though, there is a VIN lookup site that will tell what that truck got for rear gears. I think I usually find it under "GM VIN decoder". That's for if you are doing online shopping--if you are going in person, jot down the RPO codes for the rear gears and have that handy, and find the RPO sheet (is it still in the glovebox?).
 
Top