The_Jed PowerDork
4/2/24 1:08 p.m.

   For the sake of discussion, let's say you're looking for an "older" (up to MY 2017) American, three-row SUV for roadtrips, camping, and such with two adults and up to four kids. In the interest of familiarity and cost, the options have been limited to the Chevy Suburban with the 5.3 (and it's variants) and the Ford Expedition EL 5.4 or 3.5 (I think there may have been a Navigator version but, I'm not sure.).

   Right off the bat, the DoD/AFM of the Chevy and the VVT/Timing chain(s) of the Ford are going to need attention. The question I pose to you is, all else being equal-ish, which would you choose and why?

   As far as I know most of the other major components of either SUV are pretty solid and reliable. In the past I (we) have owned an '01 Suburban (no AFM on that one, I know) and absolutely loved it, and the same could be said for the '17 Expedition we had, aside from an unsettling timing chain rattle at start up, it drove great and returned decent fuel economy all while being fast. Like berkeleying FAST! At the moment it's a toss up between these two or veering off in a completely different direction and getting another Caravan and dealing with the eventual demise of the Pentastar 3.6 when it decides to E36 M3 the bed along with all of the other nagging little issues that come with low-quality, cheap, people movers built to appease the bean counters. 


Chris Tropea
Chris Tropea Associate Editor
4/2/24 1:18 p.m.

I can not speak for the Suburban but I have spent a good amount of time in an Expedition with the 3.5 in it and it was an awesome road trip car. Comfortable, easy to drive, tons of space in the back for people and stuff and it was not slow.  

Byrneon27 HalfDork
4/2/24 1:19 p.m.

Suburban. I love them and I've never been inside a Ford truck I really liked. AFM issues are well understood and very solvable bonus points because solving it well gets you a solid power/torque bump. 

Spearfishin Reader
4/2/24 1:26 p.m.

Chevy transmissions of the era you're likely looking at are not my favorite for longevity. 

We recently had a rental Expedition with 40k miles that had a super super loose, wandering front end/steering. It was weird. But that's also a rental, real takeaways, just an anecdote from my 3 days in an Expedition. 

1988RedT2 MegaDork
4/2/24 1:46 p.m.

Probably yet another situation where the decision boils down to the particular example in front of you.  Condition, mileage, price, service history. 

Tom_Spangler (Forum Supporter)
Tom_Spangler (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltimaDork
4/2/24 1:53 p.m.

Budget matters a lot. If you're talking Expeditions, the 2017 you drove had the 3.5 Ecoboost, not the old 5.4 with the VVT issues. Of course, the Ecoboost has it's own issues with things like carbon buildup. But they are quick. The last Expedition to get the 5.4 was the 2014.

I always beat this same drum, but I'll do it again. Compared to a Tahoe/Suburban, a similar year Expedition gives you more towing capacity, more torque (in the Ecoboost), an IRS (which gives better handling and a lower rear load floor with a third seat that folds completely flat), and they are generally cheaper on the used market. Also, mine (2015 long wheelbase) has a 33-gallon fuel tank, which is awfully nice for towing. And I can either haul 8 people in relative comfort, or fold all the seats flat and put 4x8 sheets back there with the hatch closed. I love this big, stupid thing. It's the most practical vehicle I've ever owned. 

The fuel mileage sucks, though. No getting around that with either option.

Toyman! GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
4/2/24 2:00 p.m.

I would buy a pre-2007 Suburban every day of the week and 3 times on Sunday. 

Mine has a bazillion miles on it and is still going strong. It also still looks good.

If I had to go newer, I'd spend a little extra on the credits and use HP Tuners to turn off the DOD. 

gearheadE30 Dork
4/2/24 3:00 p.m.

I bought the suburban, so clearly I've got some bias. GMT800>GMT900 in terms of durability, but the GMT900 tends to be quieter and the interiors do look nicer until they get heavily worn or the dash cracks to pieces. I've got an '04 burb so not quite what you're looking at. 

6L80E has some known issues. 6L90Es seem to hold up a bit better in the 2500s. Suburbans have 36 gallon gas tanks, Tahoes have 24ish I think. 

Do first gen Ford ecoboosts have issues? I keep hearing people being generally afraid of the first ones, but I haven't heard anything too specific. When I was shopping, Ecoboost expeditions were out of my price range so I didn't really consider them at all. They are definitely tempting now, but aside from economy I love my GMT800.

Gas mileage isn't great on any of them. My 8.1 burb averages 12.5 mpg. My parents have a GMT800 5.3 1500 burb that averages about 14. A friend has a GMT900 denali with the 6.2 and the 6L80E with DoD disabled in software and he gets more like 15-16 average.

Olemiss540 Dork
4/2/24 10:09 p.m.

Escalade is the answer. 6.0L. Loved my 2002 and 2004. Lived.

Now in a Armada and can't understand why anyone would spend the extra coin for a less reliable, less capable American SUV :-)

ShawnG MegaDork
4/2/24 10:16 p.m.

In reply to Olemiss540 :

They don't make a 3/4 ton armada.

Olemiss540 Dork
4/2/24 10:29 p.m.

In reply to ShawnG :

Missed that part in the OP.

Floating Doc (Forum Supporter)
Floating Doc (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltimaDork
4/3/24 12:06 a.m.

Looked at Suburbans and Expeditions recently settled on the latter. 2021 Max. I've gotten 22 MPG on the highway, but that's an anomaly. I won't see anything close to that towing. 

Lots more truck for the money compared to the Suburban. We'll see how it goes. 

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