GM Quadrasteer’s Oh My? 2003 GMC HD 1500 Crew Cab and Chevy Suburban 2500
When I first crawled under the 2002 "All-Wheel Steer" Denali GMC to see the latest technology, I was thinking who can afford a $46,000 Extended cab 1/2 ton with a gas engine? Now in the 2003 model year with GM HD 1500 crew cabs, Suburban and Yukon XL 2500’s available with Quadrasteer, it’s starting to make sense with higher people and trailer capacity.
I had these Quadrasteer’s for a couple of weeks to pull trailers on dirt roads, winding mountain roads and a blizzard. I’m putting both the GMC HD1500 truck and Chevrolet Suburban SUV together in this article. They both have the 6.0L engine, all-wheel drive 4x4, 10-ply E rated tires, automatic transmission, rear defrost, dual zone temp control, running boards, four doors, Quadrasteer, 8600# GVWR and HD towing. The difference in price was tough to figure out. The Chevy Suburban LS 2500 was around $5000 more then the GMC SLT HD 1500 crew cab short bed. And the GMC crew cab truck had leather, DVD player in the roof, XM radio, ON-STAR and phone, All-Terrain tires, automatic temp control and the Suburban didn’t. Go figure.
The Suburban, (just shy of 18 ft. long), has the same beautiful lines as last year. The GMC HD 1500 crew cab (close to 19 1/2 ft. long) has well defined lines with a bolder grill not as exotic as the Chevy truck cousin. I suspect GMC has a plan to increase their truck numbers in the GM family. The 8600 GVWR puts both of these trucks in the Heavy Duty class, not getting a fuel mileage rating by the EPA because of this commercial weight rating. The Delhi rear steer and Dana axle of a Quadrasteer, to have steering capability can’t be a full floating axle. So you have CV joints on both ends. The Quadrasteer unit looks similar to rack and pinion steering. It does have a skid plate under it attaching it to the back of the rear differential.
On with the good stuff and it’s some very fun good stuff! I may have to turn down the week I get the Hummer2 just so I can get a Quadrasteer again. The GMC HD 1500 was a pleasure to drive in traffic with the added driving control that the Quadrasteer system hands you. I’ve not in my many decades driven a better trailering vehicle. Quadrasteer is designed to turn the rear axle in the opposite direction as the front axle when driving under 40 mph and it turns the rear axle the same direction as the front axle above 40 mph. And in tow mode in All-Wheel-Steer the rear axle turns less under 25 mph and more above 25 mph for that great highway speed control.
Driving in the Colorado Mountains on curvy CO State Highway 36 into Estes Park pulling a 2 horse slant 7’ high and 7’ wide aluminum Hart trailer (supplied by Transwest Trailers of Longmont), I took the curves as fast as possible and couldn’t get the Suburban to even lean. 6% grades were no problem for the 6.0L Vortec V-8. I did finally get the horse trailer to whip a little without a WD hitch. The Suburban LS had Autoride, a $925 option. I’m sure that helped the handling characteristics by equalizing the trucks corners.
I turned complete circles on my street with the Suburban as I would with my wife’s Ford Escort. A complete circle is around 9 feet smaller with Quadrasteer on the Suburban verses no Quadrasteer. Turning in a tight circle with the Suburban and the Hart 2 horse trailer left only 30 inches between rear Suburban tire track and the front trailer tire track. Now you know that’s got to be easier on your trailer tires and bearings not bending turning corners.
For an extreme test I hooked the Suburban to a car trailer supplied by CountryHay.com, with three big round bales. I loaded it on purpose heavy to the rear for the test to provide some sway action. I also used a Weight Distributing hitch for more testing. So somewhere close to 5000#’s of trailer cruising down the old highways of Eastern Colorado at near 80 MPH. I performed evasive maneuvers, (you know swerving between the white dashes in the middle of the road). I couldn’t get the trailer to move, sway, buck, or even give a little! It was like the trailer and truck were one unit. The trailer realigned itself behind the Suburban quickly as the Quadrasteer walked sideways as I swerved back and forth trying to find a weakness.
Click to enlarge. Click back button to return here.
I’ve never seen anything like it. Yes I’m in love! I did this on loose gravel roads also and it handled more than superbly. My test with the Quadrasteer turned off, scared me to death on pavement and gravel! It reminded me of my safe driving speeches to my sons, which came before the drugs, sex and alcohol speeches. I don’t suggest you pull a trailer 80 mph, but I know with 75 mph speed limits on Colorado primary highways, there are some of you that do pull this speed and I want to be able to report on this trucks ability to pull in the real world.
Now for the GMC HD 1500 Quadrasteer truck, I pulled a 16 foot steel stock trailer from Parker Trailers of Parker Colorado. We learned how much faster the Quadrasteer moved while trying to backup to a trailer in the mud. It takes some practice. And backing up in general has a whole new meaning. You can get into trouble by jack knifing faster with Quadrasteer but when you get adjusted to it you can correct faster, then it’s as easy as a gooseneck to back up or easier. Turning corners is cool, instead of pivoting on the rear axle; the rear axle turns more of a square corner pulling the trailer farther ahead before turning. This tighter corner lets you turn circles with a closer track of the trailer to the truck. You could barrel race or sort cattle with Quadrasteer! In tow mode, the all wheel steer turning angle lessens under 25 mph to not turn too sharply and bump your trailer on a turn.
As I cruised up Colo. Highway 83 south of Parker Colorado with the GMC crew cab, taking on the 5% grades and a few curves, it took very minimal steering effort to drive the Quadrasteer. Using the tow mode on the automatic transmission holds the rpm’s longer just like you would with a manual transmission.
In tow mode and in 4-wheel steer, it turns more. So when you turn to switch lanes or avoid the deer, instead of the truck and trailer articulating, (bending in middle) they move sideways, with less pivot between truck and trailer thus less whip. Tracking and handling is just unbelievable with Quadrasteer. If you can test drive one with a trailer and some open roads, you’ll see why I’m so excited about them.
I like all the buttons in the steering wheel, like radio, instant fuel mileage, hour meter, On Star, etc. But I would like to see cruise control there some day instead of still on the turn signal lever where I have to look around the steering wheel to see what I’m pushing. My last drive in the GMC HD 1500 crew cab was of course 100 miles of snowstorm. Driving in the slush and ice was fun and stable. I think the combination of Quadrasteer control and a wider rear axle has a degree of safety we all want in a truck.
The Suburban had two latch hooks for the rear liftgate/liftglass and instead of putting them in the corners out of the way, they are on the bottom of the floor I guess to tie the horse to. The Suburban had Power Vision heated mirrors with turn signal, (see picture below.) The power mirrors power telescoped, which comes in handy to check the rear trailer tires on the 7’ wide Hart trailer. The Power Adjustable Pedals were handy to bring the brake and gas pedal closer to you.
A Suburban is I think the bright spot with Quadrasteer, with the ease of parking, handling, and trailering for someone who is intimidated by a large SUV. This particular Suburban with Autoride was a pleasure to drive, which is a characteristic of GM trucks. GM has gone to the Japanese style push buttons for the windows and locks. The LS Suburban I drove had side air bags and the passenger air bag automatically turns on or off sensing if a child or adult was on the seat. Suburban was the first SUV and still a good choice for towing. More GM vehicles are scheduled to receive the Quadrasteer option.
The GMC crew cab SLT has a larger lower front fascia this year, tucking the tow hooks in farther. The bold black grill is an excellent contrast to the chrome border. The rear seat folds forward and down making it useable as a sleeper. I needed one of these when I baled hay all night. The rear defrost in a truck never seamed like an option I would ask for. I did end up using it on Halloween in another snowstorm along with the heated trailer mirrors. The outside temperature reading in the rearview mirror was handy on those cold nights looking for the slick spots. It really only snows in Denver when the Broncos play Monday night football or I’m test-driving a truck. This truck had a ride control option that did help when loaded with soft and firm choices going to the shock absorbers.
It’s amazing to have an Auto 4x4 option on this heavy duty of truck. This is the third choice beyond 4x4 Hi that engages the 4x4 when needed and you can leave it on while on dry pavement and not hop around the corners. Power can be divided between the front and rear axles automatically in the auto mode. The CD player is off the floor and in the dash where it’s supposed to be finally. Having a tranny temp gauge is always a welcome addition if you pull a trailer. The dash is well laid out. The steering wheel as with the Suburban has the On Star option buttons in it as well as the control buttons for the new digital dash read out which tells you when to change the oil, what gas mileage you’re getting and I like the hour meter like the big rigs.
I’m not a seatbelt in the seat fan. I’d rather have them in the “B” pillar and be adjustable but those are getting harder to find in a truck. Between the XM (satellite) radio, On Star and the new digital systems readout, you will want to read your owners manual with this truck. Maybe a couple of times. You will find the car wash instructions about 13” conveyers and which car washes you can use with the wider rear track.
GM trucks have a small windshield compared to a Ford or Dodge and the bigger than usual rearview mirror because of the On Star buttons under it, make intersections a little more cautious looking to the right. I’ve got broad shoulders; actually everything’s pretty broad now, so I didn’t fit very well in the leather bucket seats in the GMC 1500. The folding arm rest fits in the inside bolster that is bigger than the outside bolster. With the armrest folded, the seat makes you twist sideways. The Suburban had cloth buckets and the armrest bolster wasn’t as big so the seat was more comfortable. The HD1500 and Suburban interior was very quiet. The large rubber door gasket takes a little more shove to close but the quiet is worth the effort.
No full floating axle in the HD, it has to pivot like the front, so CV joint. Below is the Quadrasteer unit on the rear axle.
The GMC crew cab short bed at 19.5 feet long, maneuvers like a midsize car through parking lots as did the Suburban at 18 feet. When parking the Suburban in a parking slot, I had the tendency to miss the lines by a couple of feet. When you normally park a large vehicle like the Suburban you usually drive a little past the middle before turning in to the parking slot. But not with Quadrasteer, you park it like a small car.
The GMC HD 1500 only comes in a crew cab short bed with a 6.0L gas engine, having a beefier frame than a standard ½ ton, I’m surprised that it too has the lower slung cross member necessitated by the Allison 1000 behind the Duramax diesel.
Both vehicles have rear fender extensions to accommodate the over 5 inch wider rear axles. The HD 1500 looks like a mini dually fender and you may not even notice the larger rear finder on the Suburban if they didn’t have clearance lights. Normally a GM 4x4 HD has a 2-inch narrower rear axle. With Quadrasteer the rear axle is 3.5 inches wider than the front. This made a noticeable difference when I drove the truck in a snowstorm. It was the most control I remember having on slick highways!
You really don’t need running boards on the HD 1500 or the Suburban 2500; it feels like you’re climbing into a ½ ton 4x2. The On Star system could come in handy. The HD 1500 On Star system had hands free cell phone built in to the radio. I called into the customer service center to find out that a 1000 hours of cell time for two months would equate to $.24 a minute. Which is cheaper than the roaming cost on my cell phone. Convenience should be worth something. The GMC HD 1500 with a 4.10 rear axle ratio in ALL Wheel Drive averaged 12.2 mpg combined driving. That would be normal. I did get up to 15 mpg cruising down the highway.
GM’s ABS brakes are dramatically improved over the hydraulic ABS in the nineties. The GMC SLT HD 1500 crew cab came with Dynamic Brake Proportioning. This brake system senses speed and load to balance braking from the front and back for smooth controllable stopping. You can feel the extra control with weight on the rear axle.
The question I started with is how practical is the Quadrasteer option price tag. Because of configuration combinations, the Quadrasteer option on the GMC HD 1500 SLT is $5525 and on the Chevy Suburban 2500 LS it’s $4495. This puts it in the category of a diesel engine option price, though not available on ether of these two trucks.
That would be a tough choice depending on what size of trailer you pull. I waited until a powerful laptop computer was under $1000 before buying it. But what is the price break that we would buy the Quadrasteer? Now here’s a thought with $45,000 plus trucks and $900 monthly payments, my dad’s only new pickup truck was a 1972 GMC 25 4x2 which cost him $3200. So lets see every 30 years if trucks go up 1400% to get to $45,000 in 2002, another 30 years a 2032 model will cost around $630,000! Wow even a 30-year truck payment would be hard!
On the Suburban, middle seats fold, the rear seats fold or pull out. On the passenger side the seat slides forward to access the third row. Here are the inside pictures of the 2003 LS Suburban. With all the seat configurations in a Suburban, you can create room for a load of people or cargo. Click to enlarge the pictures and click the back button to return back here.
Here is the seat track when you fold the passenger side middle row seat to get to the third row.
The handle on the dash of the passenger side is something every truck should have.
A special thanks to EnKay Rocktamer
mudflaps for supplying the adjustable hitch mudflaps to protect these new GM trucks, Transwest Trailers
for the use of the Hart 2 horse slant trailer, Parker Trailers
for the use of the 16 foot steel stock trailer, CountryHay.com
for the 16’ car trailer and Equal-i-zer
weight distributing hitch for the weight distributing hitch that I didn’t have to drill holes in the borrowed trailers.
MrTruck should be driving a $50,000 Suburban don't you think? Stop by my website and visit sometime www.mrtruck.net
. Kent Sundling (MrTruck)
© Copyright 2002 H. Kent Sundling and MrTruck.net. All rights reserved including digital rights.
Till next time, Good Truck'n.
Kent Sundling (MrTruck)
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