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Old 01-19-2004, 04:49 PM   #1
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Info Request from Suburban Owners

I am getting ready to purchase a Suburban which will be used as a family vehicle, as well as tow my 29ft Excella (gvw 6800).

............I "Think" I have narrowed it down to:

1. 1/2 ton Suburban with Vortec 5300 and 4.10 rear-end, or

2. 3/4 ton Suburban with Vortec 6000 and 3.73 rear-end.

I'm interested in adequate performance of course,..but I'm looking at fuel economy as well, as most driving will be done around town.

Since I have a choice,....I want to choose the best "overall" configuration.

I don't want to have to use "Premium" fuel,..and I don't need that large Vortec 8100.

The Dealers I've talked to here in Denver, don't seem to know "Squat" or have a clue about "approximate" fuel comparisions of the two vehicles.

They say GM does'nt provide that information.

I'd prefer to Trust a Suburban "Owner's" opinion from this Forum
anyway, in helping me decide,..over that of a salesman who does'nt know anything about towing an RV.

Thank-you for taking the time and sharing your preference and opinion...


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Old 01-19-2004, 06:00 PM   #2
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Info Request from Suburban Owners

Greetings Rick!

I have owned my '99 GMC K2500 Suburban since April 24, 1998. It was special ordered for me by my local dealer - - it has served me well now for 122,000 miles and I am anticipating at least 300,000 miles before a replacement is even considered. It was ordered primarily as a tow vehicle for my '64 Overlander International (Gross Weight of 6,100 pounds with a hitch weight of 750 to 775 pounds).

The Suburban has the 7400 VORTEC and 4.10 differentials. My previous tow vehicle was a K1500 Z-71 club cab pickup with 5700 V8 and 3.73 gearing. The difference between the two vehicles is remarkable - - the Suburban achieves better MPG than the K1500 did under all conditions by at least 1 MPG, and it is a far superior tow vehicle in the mountains - - I frequently travel to the Rocky Mountains and have never been dissapointed by the Suburban - - unfortunately the K1500 Club Cab couldn't make the Eisenthower Tunnel grade -- it was down to under 20 MPH in low gear and obviously struggiling - - it was traded almost immediately upon return from that trip (at only 55,000 miles) on the Suburban.

If long-term durability is an issue, I would suggest getting the 2500 series with the largest motor (and numerically highest differential) that you feel comfortable with. My experience has been that the vehicle operated significantly below its maximum trailer tow rating offers much greater long-term durability - - my maintenance expense for 122,000 miles on the K2500 Suburban has actually been about equal to the maintenance expense for the K1500 Club Cab for 55,000 miles.

While I know my '99 Suburban has a slightly different engine/transmission combination, I can offer the following based upon the 7400 VORTEC, 4.10 differentials, and heavy duty overdrive automatic:

Solo fuel economy: 13-16 MPG
Towing fuel economy: 10-13 (Overlander) 12-14 (Minuet)

With my previous K1500 Club Cab with 5700 V8, 3,73 differentials, and standard overdrive automatic:

Solo fuel economy: 12-15 MPG
Towing fuel economy: 9-10 MPG (Overlander)

My daily drive is 7.5 miles of suburban highway, and MPG figures include twice monthly trips into the cities as well (120-150 miles of urban travel).

Good luck with your decision!


Kevin D. Allen
WBCCI (Lifetime Member)/VAC/Free Wheelers #6359
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1964 Overlander International/1999 GMC K2500 Suburban (7400 VORTEC/4.11 Differentials)
1978 Argosy Minuet 6.0 Metre/1975 Cadillac Eldorado Convertible (8.2 Liter V8/2.70 Final Drive)
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Old 01-19-2004, 06:27 PM   #3
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Get the 8100 or the Duramax.

5.3 does not have it where it counts for that size coach. The 6.0 is still marginal but if that's the only two you will concider then go with it. This is big time truce wit hthat thin air you got.

My 88 Suburban 454 gets the same MPG as my 79 Blazer with 350 and 1000lb less weight. There is a point were the weight is better served by a bigger more powerfull engine and since it has to ork less hard it will get better economy. I have pulled a 305 out of a Camaro one time that ran just fine with about 50k on it. It was replaced by a est 400hp 383. Car picked up 1.5 mpg when you kept your foot out of it and even with your foot in it it never got any worse MPG. It was running the same carb that had been rejeted and ran high 12 low 13's at the strip.

If MPG is that important then go to the Durmax. Empty you will be turning 20mpg. At some point that will make up for extra $3.5k puchace price.

When I toast the 7.4 if I have the 88 that long it's getting a Durmax and Alison. Prices will be down by them. Looking at a 87 wrecked 6.2 deisel for a DD right now. $100 and it's mine. About $400 more an it will be road worthy $100 to fix the A/C. hehehe. $50 for flat black paint to scare folks.
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Old 01-19-2004, 06:33 PM   #4
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Suburban Info

Thanks Kevin, for taking the time to respond.....

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Old 01-19-2004, 06:37 PM   #5
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The 6 litre engine really likes the 4.10 rear end according to those on who pull trailers. I think it would be a better choice for you if you can get that option.

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Old 01-19-2004, 06:44 PM   #6
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Suburban Trailering Comparison


The Suburban 5300/4.10/2WD combination is rated to pull a maximum trailer weight of 8800 lbs., whereas the 6000/3.72/2WD is trated to pull 8300 lbs.

I had a 5300/4.10/4 x 4 Silverado and liked it very much. I averaged (non-towing) about 17-19 mpg on the highway and got as much as 21 on occassion. The 5300 runs on standard 87 octane.

I currently have a Trailblazer L6/4.10/4 x 4 and the fuel mileage is rated the same as the 3.73 rear end so I doubt there is much difference in the rear end ratios as there is in the different engines.
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Old 01-19-2004, 07:28 PM   #7
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6.0 with 4.10

Get the 8100 or the Duramax.
toaster i have to disagree.


i also have a 29 foot excella (1992 model) and currently tow it with a 2000 chevrolet silverado 3/4 ton 4x4 truck with the 4l80E transmission and 6.0 motor.

it is far and away the best truck i have ever towed this trailer with! and i also toss my 1955 harley davidson in the back of the truck. it gets decent milage for a truck of it's size.

in the past i have towed the trailer with the following:

'88 1/2 ton chev 4x4, struggled

'89 1/2 ton chev 4x4, also struggled

'92 1/2 ton suburban 4x4, struggled but was comfortable

'96 1/2 ton chev 4x4, struggled but color matched trailer

'97 1/2 ton chev diesel (8600 gvr), towed great!

i would reccomend the suburban with the 6.0 and 4.10 gears if you can get it. 3.73's would work as well because you won't be tempted to haul anything as heavy as a harley in the back! the half tons did o.k. but felt overwhelmed by the trailer.

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Old 01-19-2004, 07:44 PM   #8
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I have an 03, 3/4 ton Suburban with the 6.0 and 3.73 rear. I pull a 25 ft Sovereign (about 6,000 lb).

I am very satisfied with this combination. I typically tow in 3rd gear at 60 mph. Fuel economy averages just under 12 mpg towing. Mountain grades are not a problem.

I use the Suburban for commuting, and average about 14 mpg. Traveling empty, fuel economy is 16 - 17 mpg.
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Old 01-19-2004, 07:49 PM   #9
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Dear mile high,
You've received many good suggestions. I would opt for the duramax 6.6 liter diesel with the incomparable allison transmission. You never want to travel underpowered. Even though you may not intend to pass a Kenworth hauling logs at 80 mph, it's comforting to know that you could if you wish.
The excess power is neither an unleashed endorphin nor latent testosterone envy, just good common sense. You may choose to buy a heavier unit some day, or be asked by friends to haul 10-12M lbs. Comes in handy, 20 mpg when traveling a capella, and 10-13 mpg with your AS in tow, depending on the wind.
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Old 01-19-2004, 08:01 PM   #10
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Based on your request . . .

The vehicle to choose would be the 2500HD w/6.0 and 4:10 gears. Its just going to pull that trailer a lot easier than the 5.3. The torque curve on the 5.3 is higher than on the 6.0. The 6.0 is much better suited to hauling than the 5.3. The fuel ecomomy difference between the 3.73 qnd 4.10 is miniscule but the reduction in pulling strain can be felt.

Your dealer HAS the charts and necessary information to assist you. Force the issue. He is trying to sell what he has already floor planned and does not want to order another truck. Moving inventory on the floor is his goal. Getting the best truck for your purpose is your goal. Don't lose sight of that!!!
Old trucks and old trailers . . . a comfortable combination!
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Old 01-21-2004, 07:53 AM   #11
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I think you should get the 3/4 ton suburban with the 8.1 or the 6.0. The more power you have, the better the mileage you will get.

The more power avaialbe means the less rpm's the gas engine has to produce to tow your trailer. If you got the 5.3, you would be eating fuel with the high rpm's needed to achieve maximum torque which would be about 330 pounds per foot at 4,000 rpm's

The 8.1 would produce more torque perhaps at a lower rpm thus saving some fuel and stress on the engine.

I tow my 31 foot excella with a 2001 dmax and love it. If I could get a dmax in a suburbabn, I would trade my wife's z71 tahoe in for it. The diesel is a pulling monster and I average consistently 15 mpg pulling the trailer and get 17 - 19.50 consistently without the trailer. Occassionally it will get over twenty if I keep my foot out of it.

Good luck to you. You will like the Suburban.
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Old 01-21-2004, 08:22 AM   #12
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Over 20 yrs. towing 'toys' around with 1/2 ton units, all gas with different engines, I have recently purchased a diesel for our heavy-but-not-full-time travelling. We are both recently retired. All of the three U.S. major manuf. produce excellant trucks.
If you have to have gas, IMHO, a GM large block V-8 would be my choice. BTY: I bought a Ford diesel.
One way or another Get the heavy-duty power! With over 25' trailers, you'll appreciate it.

-Good Luck
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Old 01-25-2004, 10:12 AM   #13
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Since you asked

This is not a gasser but, rather a diesel..Just another option..

With my Burb 2500, 6.5td diesel, 4x4 with a 3.73..Towing a 29' A/S.
  • 1.While towing: Average is between 14 to 16 mpg.(depends on terra firma)
    2.Without the A/S in tow: Hiway driving: 19 to 20mpg.
    3. Stop and go around town: 15 to 16 mpg.

Since I have the larger tank (42 gallons), the refill cycles are fewer on long trips.


Good luck on your choice~

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Old 01-25-2004, 10:31 AM   #14
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According to my calculations, and assuming that the price of diesel is the same as gas, and you get 7 mpg more out of diesel, then you have to drive 64K miles to break even, at the incremental cost of a diesel engine.

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