As some of the largest people-movers on the road, the GMC Yukon and the Chevrolet Suburban and Tahoe can benefit from the countless upgrades that are available for them. Whether you want a subtle improvement in audio system performance with a custom-fit subwoofer solution or you want to shake the paint off the walls with an all-out SPL system, the Suburban and its little brothers, the Tahoe and Yukon, have become popular with people who want big sound combined with space and comfort. Let’s dive into what your local specialty mobile enhancement retailer offers to personalize your full-size General Motors SUV.
Stereo System Upgrades for Full-Size General Motors SUVs
Every great mobile audio system needs to start with a premium source. Companies like Sony, Kenwood, Pioneer and Alpine have amazing multimedia receivers that include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. These smartphone integration technologies allow the driver or passenger to use simple voice commands to make phone calls, send text messages or choose from dozens of entertainment options.
Even cooler, navigation applications like Google Maps, Apple Maps and Waze provide detailed turn-by-turn navigation instructions to almost any address in North America. These nav apps use real-time traffic flow information in major urban areas to plot the most efficient route possible to your destination to help save you time.
If you want to add smartphone integration to a vehicle with an existing touchscreen, a few companies offer add-on interfaces that work with the existing hardware. Many of these solutions add CarPlay and Android Auto and include additional video inputs for backup and parking cameras.
Once you’ve established a source solution for your mobile sound system, it’s time to choose great amplifiers and speakers to convert your digital audio collection into something you can listen to. We’ve talked at length about the importance of selecting amplifiers and speakers that add as little distortion as possible to the audio signal. For amplifiers, the signal-to-noise (S/N or SNR) ratio and the total harmonic distortion (THD) specifications will be the telltale numbers to look at to determine quality. When possible, look for brands that offer specifications that comply with the CTA-2006 standards for S/N. This standard makes comparing specs from one brand to another easy and accurate. Companies that post specs citing maximum power output simply try to inflate numbers to make themselves look better than their competitors. Look for S/N ratio numbers around 80 dB or better referenced to 1 watt of output and THD numbers under 0.03%. It should go without saying that outrageous claims from bargain-basement and internet-only brands are worth ignoring.
You’ll notice that we didn’t talk about the power production capabilities of the amplifiers you choose first. That wasn’t an oversight. Power production has little or nothing to do with the quality of the amp you choose. There are subwoofer amps that produce thousands of watts for only a few hundred dollars. Sadly, they are often inefficient, electrically noisy and add a lot of distortion to the audio signal. Sticking with top-quality brands found at specialty mobile enhancement retailers is a good first step in picking a solution that will sound great and last for years. The Product Specialist you are working with can recommend an appropriately powerful amplifier for your audio system upgrade.
Just as with the selection of a car audio amplifier, choosing speakers for your SUV should be based on quality and accuracy. When executed correctly, technologies like aluminum shorting rings, copper magnet caps and XBL^2 motor geometry can dramatically reduce the amount of distortion a speaker adds, especially at higher volume levels. You also want to choose speakers that offer the flattest frequency response possible. Any peaks, dips or bumps in their response is a sign of unwanted resonance in the cone, dust cap, surround or suspension. A well-engineered speaker will sound excellent with any type of music.
You’ll want to work with your local specialty mobile enhancement retailer to choose solutions that work with your vehicle and will deliver smooth and natural balance throughout the entire listening environment. This type of upgrade may require creating a three-way front stage speaker system with a dedicated mid-woofer, midrange driver and tweeter on each side of the vehicle. Depending on the year and trim level of your big SUV, the option for custom fabrication of dash, A-pillar and sail-panel mounts will increase your speaker upgrade options.
Audio System Calibration Is Crucial
If you’re a car guy or girl, you know that an engine needs to be tuned to function smoothly and reliably. Having new speakers integrated into your vehicle requires the same amount of calibration to ensure that what you hear sounds amazing. If you’re planning an audio system upgrade, make sure the retailer you are working with has included a high-quality digital signal processor in the system design and an appropriate amount of time allotted to its configuration.
A digital signal processor will take care of crossovers, level control between different size and efficiency drivers, equalization and signal delay. If you want your music to sound like it did in the recording studio, then proper system design, installation and adjustments are crucial.
Subwoofers – The Ultimate Car Audio Upgrade
If you thought we were going to forget to talk about car audio subwoofers, you were mistaken. Often considered one of the best car audio upgrades for your money, adding a subwoofer to your big SUV will not only improve the reproduction of low-frequency audio information, but it also allows the midrange speakers in your vehicle to sound better and lets them play more loudly.
Subwoofers for your Suburban, Tahoe or Yukon come in two flavors. For those seeking realism, a solution that blends with the cosmetic styling of the vehicle is a wise choice. If you want to make the most bass possible and rattle your fillings, well, that’s most certainly an option as well. Fitting an off-the-shelf subwoofer solution in the cargo area or having something built specifically for your vehicle are great options. Talk with your salesperson about the subwoofer enclosure options for your vehicle and your listening preferences, as well as how much space it will take up in the back.
Remote Start and Secure Your Vehicle
Adding a remote starter to your SUV isn’t just a great way to warm it up in the winter. You can use one to run the air conditioning for a few minutes on a hot summer today to cool it off. Just as with audio system upgrades, the company and technician you choose to integrate a starter into your vehicle is as crucial as the products you select. You want to find a shop that will take their time with the project. Every wire should be tested for functionality before making an electrically and mechanically secure connection. Components should, of course, be adequately secured, and all cabling and wiring should be routed away from moving parts or sources of heat.
When shopping for a starter, you have a few options. First, the Product Specialist should begin the conversation by asking you where you park your vehicle at home and work. This information will help them choose a remote solution that has enough range capability to communicate with the vehicle. Remotes are available with range capabilities from a few hundred feet to over 3 miles. Keep in mind that extra transmitting power is needed when you’re in a building, even if you’re only a few hundred feet from your vehicle. Next, they’ll likely ask to see the vehicle key to help determine what features you may want to control from the remote.
Another option you’ll have is choosing between a one- or two-way remote control. A one-way remote sends a signal to the vehicle. If the signal is strong enough, the vehicle executes the function. In a two-way system, the remote sends a command to the controller in the vehicle. The controller transmits a confirmation message back to the remote so you know the doors are locked or the engine is running. Many two-way remotes will also work with security systems to let you know if the alarm system has been triggered.
Finally, you have the option of a telematics system. Telematics use an app on your smartphone to communicate to a cellular radio module connected to your remote starter system. You can send commands to the starter or security controller in your vehicle using the app and your wireless internet connection. Likewise, the controller will respond when the command has been received and executed. Most telematics systems have the option to add GPS-based functionality such as vehicle locating, curfew alerts, towing warnings and much more. These location-based options usually cost a few extra dollars a month, but they are a great investment for business owners or families that need to keep track of a vehicle.
Once you’ve got the electronics on your SUV sorted, it’s time for some accessories. A set of vehicle-specific floor mats from a company like WeatherTech is a great way to protect your investment and keep it clean. These mats are constructed from a durable rubber that’s contoured to match the vehicle’s floor and extend up the firewall to contain sand, mud, dirt and slush.
Other popular upgrades include side steps or running boards that make it easier to get in and out of a tall vehicle. Bug and wind deflectors made from high-strength acrylic will protect your vehicle from damage. Mudflaps as well as trailer hitch and bumper upgrades are also popular.
If your SUV didn’t come with a backup camera, you might want to ask about adding one. With a rear window that’s several feet off the ground, seeing objects or people when parking can be difficult. Backup cameras can be integrated into a new multimedia receiver or, in many cases, into a factory-installed display screen in the dash.
Another safety upgrade is to add dedicated left and right cameras to the side-view mirrors to act as a blind-spot monitoring solution. Many new Kenwood radios include multiple camera inputs, and some modules will work with the factory-installed MyLink screen to display a camera image when the turn signal is activated.
Window Tint and Paint Film Add Premium Protection
It’s hard to deny that a black Suburban with tinted windows isn’t a classic piece of kit. Window tint not only looks great, but it can block as much as 99% of the ultraviolet energy from the sun to protect the occupants. This UV rejection also helps to prevent plastics, leather and vinyl from drying out and fading. Premium nanotechnology and ceramic window films can block as much as 70% of the infrared heat energy from the sun to help keep your SUV cool. If you live somewhere with hot summers, then a heat-rejecting window film is a great upgrade. High-quality films have a lifetime warranty against fading, turning purple, peeling or bubbling.
Another upgrade available from many mobile enhancement retailers is paint protection film. These transparent films are constructed from a durable urethane that absorbs impacts from gravel and stones to prevent paint chips. Paint film is also a great upgrade around door handles, the rear bumper and the rocker panels where there’s a lot of contact. Most high-quality films are backed by a 10-year warranty against peeling or yellowing.
If you have an older Tahoe, Yukon or Suburban, you may want to ask about upgrading the headlights with new LED bulbs. Compared to incandescent halogen bulbs, LED designs can deliver up to four times as much output. Just as with audio equipment, there are good bulbs, and there are low-quality solutions. Look for a retailer that can install the bulbs and check their alignment and cut-off pattern to ensure that you won’t blind oncoming drivers. You’ll also want to ask about the new bulbs’ warranty as they can be quite expensive to replace frequently.
If you are adventuring off the pavement or use your SUV for work, then auxiliary lighting is a good investment. Spot, driving and floodlights on the front of the vehicle can help improve long-distance visibility. Safety and emergency lighting that includes a roof-mounted light bar or beacon and flashing light pods in the grille can help alert oncoming drivers to the presence of your vehicle when working by the side of the road at night.
Radar Detectors and Laser Defense Systems
If you have a heavy right foot, you might want to consider purchasing a radar detector for your SUV. Most new models on the market offer excellent X, K and Ka-band sensitivity while rejecting false alarms from adaptive cruise control and blind-spot monitoring systems. As more and more police forces move to lidar, a portable detector will only alert you to its presence. By then, it’s often too late. A custom-installed radar detector and laser defense system can transmit a scrambled light signal to prevent law enforcement officers from measuring your speed. Once you know your speed is legal, you can cancel the signal transmission and let the officer take a reading.
Upgrade Your Full-Size Chevy or GMC SUV Today
These are just a few of the options available to personalize and enhance your Tahoe, Suburban, Escalade or Yukon. Your local specialty mobile enhancement retailer has hundreds of additional upgrades and accessories to make your big SUV more comfortable, functional or enjoyable.