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Review: Big Fun! The 2015 Chevy Suburban: Kids, Carseats & Safety

suburban stockUsually I jump at the chance to do car reviews. I hesitated about the Suburban, though. For one thing, it’s so big. I’m already afraid of bumping into things with my minivan, and the Suburban is longer by almost two feet, not to mention generally more imposing. My real hesitation, though, was because of my husband. He wants a Suburban so badly, I worried that he’d fall in love with it and then sink into a depression once it was time to let it go.

But duty calls.

Our full review (including car seat compatibility!) follows, but if you want a quick video overview of some features, you can watch here:

Features

burb side viewThe 2015 Chevy Suburban is a behemoth—tons of room for passengers and cargo, tons of power for towing. But it has been redesigned to feel more like a luxury car, with a sleeker exterior and plush interior. It’s also available with an astounding array of safety features, plus lots of convenience features, too.

The model I had was a fully loaded LTZ 4-wheel drive version. Mine was a 7-passenger model, with captain’s chairs in the first and second rows, and a three-seat 60/40 bench in the third row. Depending on trim level, the Suburban is also available in an 8-passenger (two benches) and 9-passenger (bench in all three rows) version. We’ll discuss what that means for car seats later.

For comfort and convenience, the LTZ comes standard with leather seats, power-adjustable front seats with two programmable memory settings, heated and cooled front-row seats, heated second-row seats, power-adjust pedals and steering wheel, automatic folding second- and third-row seats, a heated steering wheel, push-button ignition, keyless entry, and remote start. That was enough to make me want to kiss my current vehicles good-bye.

Additional options include automatic retractable running boards, sunroof, navigation, two rear-entertainment screens, and adaptive cruise control.

But it’s the safety features that really win out. There are side-impact and head curtain airbags for all three rows, plus frontal airbags for the front seat AND an inboard seat-mounted airbag for the driver. That means that an airbag deploys in the center of the front seat to better protect in side-impacts. Other safety features standard on the LTZ model are:

  • Forward Collision Alert 
  • Lane Departure Warning 
  • Lane Change Alert
  • Backup camera with distance indicators and Parking Assist (Parking Assist is also available for the front of the car)
  • Rear Cross Traffic Alert

Mine also included Adaptive Cruise Control (more on this shortly), which meant it also had the Active Emergency Braking System and Automatic Collision Preparation System, meaning that the vehicle could brake automatically if it senses an imminent collision, to either avoid a crash or reduce the impact.

The IIHS has not crash tested the suburban but the 2015 model received average results in NHTSA crash testing.  It earned a 4-star rating overall.  While it earned 5-stars in the Driver and rear seat Passenger Side Barrier Ratings, it earned 4 out of 5 stars in both frontal brarrier crash ratings and also the Side Pole crash test rating.  It received only a 3-star rollover rating.  These safety ratings fall shy of minivan competition from the Honda Odyssey, Kia Sedona and Toyota Sienna.

Fuel economy isn’t going to be great on the Suburban. It averages 18 mpg (15 city, 22 highway), with the 2-wheel drive version getting one additional MPG.

Driving

So how was driving it?

How to Buy Non-Toxic Furniture

Old LabelBack in 2012, we wrote about the history of flame-retardant chemicals in furniture sold in the United States. It’s a long, sordid story, but the bottom line is that dousing cushions with pounds of chemicals is not only almost completely ineffective at preventing the spread of fire, the chemicals have been linked to adverse and serious health effects, including cancer, developmental deficits, and infertility.

For decades, consumer advocates had tried to get these dangerous chemicals removed from household products, with little success. Over the years, some of the “worst” chemicals were phased out, only to be replaced by other chemicals that were at best questionable, and at worst just as bad as their predecessors. The real problem was a California law (TB117) that required upholstered furniture to meet an open-flame test. Although this wasn’t a national standard, furniture companies implemented it across the board. Strong lobbying by the tobacco and chemical industries repeatedly blocked any real change from happening.

Then the Chicago Tribune ran a series of investigative pieces on the issue, and lawmakers started listening.

2016 Chicago Auto Show: What’s New

Darren and I just got back from a fun-filled day at the Chicago Auto Show. Top on our list of things to see was the redesigned 2016 Honda Pilot, which you can read about here.

There were a lot of other vehicles to examine, though.

sedonaRedesigned Kia Sedona: This is the vehicle I was most impressed with. Darren will have a review of the 7-passenger Sedona shortly, but neither of us had seen the 8-passenger model, and there was a lot to drool over.

The styling is sleek, and the interior (at least on the higher trim models we saw) was gorgeous, with two-toned leather. It looked and felt luxurious.

The middle seat in the second row appeared to be a decent width, although the contoured bolsters of the two outboard seats mean that it doesn’t provide for a typical flat “bench,” which could potentially cause issues when installing a child restraint that doesn’t fit within the footprint of that center position.

The 8-passenger Sedona has three LATCH positions (both captains chairs, plus the third-row passenger) plus a fourth tether anchor in the center of the third row.

The absolute coolest thing about the 8-passenger Sedona, though, was the effortless system for accessing the third row. Simply turn a lever, and the seat practically moves itself out of the way. Another turn and the seat moves back into position. It is by far the easiest method I’ve ever encountered. Watch how easy!

Chevy Volt

This popular plug-in Hybrid gets a big redesign for 2016. For starters, they removed a couple hundred pounds of weight to make the car lighter, and they increased both the electrical range and the fuel milage. All good stuff.

They also added a fifth seating position to make the car more appealing to families!

Now, Chevy admits the rear center seating position has “no legroom,” and that’s not an exaggeration. The battery runs right through the center of the car, so there’s no way around that. A small boostered or forward-facing child might be okay sitting there, but a rear-facing seat is probably going to be the best option for that position.

Chevy Double-Cab Trucks

Chevrolet’s trucks come in Single Cab, Double Cab, or Crew Cab body styles. The Double Cabs are the ones with the very small, fold-down back seats. As many people know, those can be notoriously difficult to install car seats on due to the shallowness of that fold-down seat. Chevy has come up with a solution, though: a removable headrest that can be inserted into the seat bottom, parallel to the ground, to extend the depth and make it more car-seat friendly. They didn’t have any available for us to see, but we’re intrigued by the possibility.

Mazda5

People asked us to take a look at the Mazda5, mainly to see if it still existed, as there were rumors it was being discontinued. It was there, so fans don’t need to fret. The 5 took some hits recently when it performed abysmally in the small overlap frontal crash test. The model at the show didn’t have crash test data listed, leading us to believe that something has changed. That could be good news for people who had been considering the 5 but were scared off by the previous crash-test results.Mazda5 sticker

Honda HR-V

HRVA few people asked us to take a look at this new crossover from Honda. We weren’t able to get too close to it since it was on a turntable, but it looked nice from what we could see—sort of a CR-V/Accord mashup.

 

 

VW Sportwagen

sportwagenThis is another one people asked us to look at. This 5-seater hatchback had a generous amount of cargo room, although the back seat (at least in the leather version we saw) had funky seatsportwagencargo bights with LATCH anchors located well above the bottom seat cushion.

 

Hyundai Santa Cruz

This is Hyundai’s foray into the truck-crossover market, a market that typically has not had much success. We couldn’t get a good look at the interior as the truck(ish) was up high on a turntable, but it does appear to have half-doors that presumably lead to some sort of back seat. All in all, it wasn’t the most attractive vehicle we saw all day. It reminded Darren of a Subaru Brat.

Hyundai Santa Cruz Subaru Brat

 

Random Fun Stuff

Toyota had a Sienna all decked out for the SpongeBob movie. The bright yellow van included a ship-like steering wheel, seats colored like SpongeBob characters, a bubble wand on the roof, and a flatscreen TV in the cargo area. Sorry, you can’t purchase it.

SpongeBobSienna

And in case you didn’t see it on our Facebook page, Darren and I got to dance with some Kia hamsters:

Gee Whiz! A Vintage High Chair!

IMG_3332I like vintage stuff. A lot. A couple years ago I wrote a post about vintage baby products, in which I mentioned that I wanted a 1950s high chair in aqua to match my retro kitchen.

Well, my dreams have come true. Actually, they came true about 18 months ago, but I had forgotten about it until recently.

One day around Halloween 2013, I was perusing eBay, something I rarely do because I wind up making impulse purchases when I should really know better. Then I saw it: A vintage aqua high chair in fantastic condition. Christmas was coming up, so I decided to buy it for myself and have my husband “give” it to me as my gift. When it arrived it looked amazing, but unfortunately it reeked heavily of cigarette smoke and there was no way we could put it in the house. So instead we put it in the rafters of our garage and promptly forgot about it.

I didn’t give it another thought until this past Christmas when my husband was getting some decorations out of the garage and asked what I wanted to do about the high chair. At first I didn’t even know what he was talking about, but then he said, “I think the cigarette smell is gone.” Oh yeah! My high chair!

IMG_3337I stuck my nose in it, and indeed, the odor had disappeared. I moved our spare aqua-colored vinyl kitchen chair out of its spot next to the counter and replaced it with the high chair. It matches my kitchen set almost perfectly—so well, in fact, that my 3-year-old came over and started yelling at us, “Fix it! Fix it!” apparently thinking that we had somehow altered the regular chair.

I emailed Dorel rep Ryan Hawker to see if it was a COSCO high chair. I told him the only information I could find was the name “Peterson” stamped into the front of the tray. He said that the companies COSCO and Peterson had merged to become “COSCO Peterson,” and then they dropped half the name to become just COSCO. He thinks the high chair is from the 1950s and was likely made in their plant in Columbus, Indiana. (Fun Fact: “COSCO” stands for “Columbus Specialty Company.”)

In case anyone out there is fretting over the potential dangers of using a 60-year-old seat that doesn’t meet current safety standards: Not to worry. It’s in my kitchen solely for decoration. We keep stubbing our toes on it, so I can’t guarantee it’ll be there much longer, but I’m holding out. Sometimes we need to sacrifice for beauty, or at least cool retro appeal.

iDrive You Crazy

Prank gift box - idriveWith Christmas nearly upon us, it’s time to finish the holiday shopping! If you’re anything like me, you have no idea what to get for that special someone in your life. With smart phones, e-readers, and tablets more popular than ever, a techy-type gift would be great, but where to start?

Well, how about something to take that iPad or Kindle to the next level?

We all know the dangers of texting and driving. Hold the device up above the steering wheel and you obstruct your view of the road. Hold it in your lap and you risk spilling your coffee on it. Who wants that? If only there were a way to make texting/browsing/emailing while driving more comfortable and convenient!

Enter the iDrive! I found it at locally but it’s available from Amazon too! This steering-wheel-mounted device can hold your tablet right at hands’ level! Your eyes will barely have to leave the road while you finish that novel or play Sudoku.

Prank gift box - idrive 2

Even better, the iDrive can be mounted on a motorcycle, bike, or even a jet-ski!

Prank gift box - idrive 4 Prank gift box - idrive 3

Before you have a heart attack or throw your computer/mobile device across the room in fury (or veer off the road if you’re using an iDrive): I’m sort-of kidding.

I really did buy this, but it’s just an empty gift box meant to fool your loved ones. I’m planning on giving it to my husband. I’m not sure what I’ll put inside, but whatever it is, I’m sure it will be far less likely to result in a vehicular manslaughter charge than a real iDrive would.

I can’t wait until Christmas morning, when I can witness the look of horror on my husband’s face. Ah, ’tis the season!

Not interested in an iDrive? Perhaps a NapSack would be the perfect gift for that special loved one or work colleague? Or a Family Blankeez for your sister-in-law or your child’s teacher. Maybe you know a new or expecting mom who could really use a Crib Dribbler Feeding System – it would certainly make a memorable shower gift! For the carnivores on your holiday list – how about bacon scented dryer sheets? Let’s be honest, there’s nothing like warm, bacon-scented clothes right out of the dryer on a cold winter morning! And there are plenty of other prank boxes to choose from – truly something for everyone on your list. 

Prank gift box - NapSack Prank gift box - family blankeez Prank gift box - Crib Dribbler Prank gift box - bacon dryer sheets Prank Bath and Brew  Prank Pet Sweep