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A silver 2022 Chevy Suburban LT is shown driving on a highway through the mountains.

Chevy Suburban Goes Heavy-Duty

The 2022 Chevy Suburban is the largest SUV in Chevy’s lineup. In fact, starting with last year’s model, it got even bigger and now boasts truly incredible amounts of space inside for passengers and cargo alike. And yet, that’s not good enough for some people, people like the Federal government–specifically the US Department of State. GM’s Defense division recently announced that they had sealed a $36.4 million deal with the State Department that includes the development of a new, Heavy-Duty (HD) Suburban model designed for use by government agencies, starting with the Diplomatic Security Service.

While GM Defense LLC (GM’s defense-focused arm) might not be on your radar, since you’re probably not going to drive or ride in one of their vehicles, this is still an interesting bit of information. Details on this new vehicle are still pretty scarce, and some will likely remain under wraps even once development is complete, but there are a few things we know. Let’s take a look at what this deal means and how our tax dollars are being used to develop a vehicle for use by government officials and visiting dignitaries.

A close up shows the grille of a grey 2022 Chevy Suburban Z71.

The Chevy Suburban

Before digging into the details of this deal and speculating wildly about what the Heavy-Duty Suburban might include (don’t worry, I’ll do that down below), let’s have a quick glance at what the Suburban you and I can buy looks like. First off, the Suburban is a large SUV–not just large, but this is the biggest SUV in Chevy’s lineup. It measures a stout 81 inches wide, stands more than 75 inches tall, and runs more than 225 inches in length (that’s more than 18 feet long). It has a wheelbase more than 134 inches long, with 8 inches of ground clearance and nearly 145 cubic feet of interior cargo space.

Seriously, this thing is an absolute beast, and Chevy offers three different engines on it, including a diesel option that puts out 277 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque. One of these engines is their monster of a 6.2L V8 that delivers 420 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque – this is the same engine that lets the Chevy Silverado top out at more than 13,000 lbs of towing capacity, though the Suburban gets a max of 8,200 lbs with it. So there’s plenty of power inside the Suburban, which is good when we consider the size of this thing. Last year’s update for the Suburban also included the addition of an available four-corner air ride adaptive suspension with magnetic ride control for an incredibly smooth driving experience even on rough terrain – plus the ability to adjust the vehicle’s height and clearance for boosted aerodynamics or improved efficiency.

There are also a bunch of nice interior features and options for the 2022 Chevy Suburban, like a 10.2-inch infotainment display, a 12-inch driver information center, and much more. Of course, there’s no telling if the government models covered by this deal will include these kinds of features, but it’s possible. You can also get a pair of 12.6-inch LCD touch screens mounted to the front seatbacks to keep kids in the rear entertained (something that could be very handy when driving around government officials).

The $36.4 Million Deal

So what’s the deal? The US Department of State has awarded GM Defense LLC, which is part of General Motors, with a development deal valued at $36.4 million. This deal is for GM Defense LLC to develop a next-generation HD Suburban for future fleet production to be used by the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service. The current development contract covers the actual design and production of 10 vehicles over the course of the next two years.

GM hasn’t released too many details about what this HD Suburban will include (in part, I assume, because they don’t entirely know yet), but they have said that it will include some commercial-level parts and some purpose-built components. For example, the HD Suburban will include off-the-shelf parts, including the body, exterior, propulsion, interior, and brakes for this new vehicle. In addition to this, it will feature a new body-on-frame chassis and suspension that are both being designed specifically for this new version of the Suburban in order to meet the requirements for a government vehicle with a higher payload capacity.

This is the first part of a two-part deal: this development deal includes designing, prototyping, and manufacturing 10 HD Suburban vehicles to be delivered starting next spring and finishing throughout the next two years. If this goes well and meets the standards expected of GM Defense LLC, then they will be eligible for a production contract (for more money), including the completion of a fleet consisting of 200 vehicles per year for nine years, resulting in 1,800 total HD Suburban models (or maybe 1,810 including this original batch).

A tan 2022 Chevy Suburban Premier is shown at a rear angle driving down an empty road.

The HD Suburban

From the limited information in GM’s press release, we can pretty safely speculate at a few options or features the HD Suburban will likely have. They’ve said they are making a new chassis and suspension specifically for this model, but I’d be surprised if the suspension didn’t in some way draw upon the new four-corner air ride adaptive suspension that GM is so proud of. My guess is they need it to be an even stronger version to support the greater weight of this commercial model, perhaps with an eye toward being able to utilize such an advanced suspension in their Silverado HD models.

GM stated that they will be using off-the-shelf “propulsion,” which to me sounds like they’re going to use one of the engines already available on the Suburban. Since the State Department is footing the bill, why not go all out on the 6.2L V8 engine and get the most power possible? These vehicles are being built for us by the Diplomatic Security Service, so they want something with power and speed to get out of a sticky situation if necessary. They might go for the diesel engine, or perhaps even a more powerful V8 from their commercial trucks, but we’ll have to see.

Fun With Wild Speculation

What other sorts of fun things might be included in a government-funded HD Suburban? For starters, I’m guessing that the purpose-built suspension that needs to compensate for greater weight means the vehicle will be armored. Probably armor plating along the exterior and bulletproof glass for the windows and windshields – not to mention armoring to protect the gas tank and the engine. That’s what I’d want, at least.

Beyond that, why not slap some pop-out machine guns and maybe some rocket launchers into this thing? If my tax dollars are paying for a massive luxury SUV for use by dignitaries and diplomats, then I say they should be protected with all the firepower our government has to offer. The Suburban has more than 41 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third row of seats; let’s fill it with some military drones that can be deployed in an emergency. If we’re not able to use killer robots to protect diplomats and ambassadors who are visiting from other countries, then what are we even doing here?

My only hope is that some of these impressive features will eventually trickle down to the rest of us. Who wouldn’t spring for an advanced security package that includes armor plating and bulletproof glass these days? At the very least, I want to be able to transport my own heavily-armed drones without needing to look at aftermarket additions for my family SUV. That’s all I’m asking for, Chevy.

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