Shoppers for cargo vans typically do not have long lists of requirements: powerful engines and space, space and?space. They can find those all in abundance in the Chevy Express Cargo. Thanks to its 317 cubic feet of maximum cargo capacity, the Express Cargo is often used by delivery companies or people with service-oriented jobs who need a mobile workshop. Upfitters (companies that modify vans for commercial use) offer plenty of configurations for the Express.
In the past couple decades, not much has changed for the Chevy Express Cargo. Despite this, it has enjoyed a healthy share of the full-size van segment. Its main competition has usually been the equally aged Ford Econoline, though there are more modern vans also vying for commercial users these days. The big Chevy still offers plenty of brawn and the price will usually be right, but one of these newer vans may be a better fit for your business.
Current Chevrolet Express Cargo Van
The Chevrolet Express Cargo is available in 1500, 2500 and 3500 versions. The 2500 and 3500 are also available in extended-wheelbase versions, which allow up to 317 cubic feet of maximum cargo capacity. As expected, these work vans are not exactly luxurious -- you won't get much more than air-conditioning as standard. Major options include powered accessories, cloth upholstery, cruise control, different side door designs, keyless entry, Bluetooth and a CD stereo. Stability control and antilock brakes are standard, and side airbags are optional.
A 4.3-liter V6 that produces 195 horsepower powers the rear-drive Express 1500 Cargo. Standard on all-wheel-drive 1500s and optional on rear-drive 1500s is a 5.3-liter V8 good for 310 hp. These engines are coupled to a four-speed automatic. The rear-drive-only 2500 and 3500 come standard with a 4.8-liter V8 that produces 280 hp. Optional engines include a gasoline-fueled 323-hp 6.0-liter V8, a CNG 6.0-liter V8 and a revised 6.6-liter turbodiesel V8 good for 260 hp and 525 pound-feet of torque.
As it has for years, the big Chevy should handle whatever folks throw at it. Furthermore, in a two-horse race against the Econoline, the Chevy Express Cargo boasts superior driving dynamics and cargo space. Compared to the newer Nissan NV and Mercedes-Benz/Freightliner Sprinter, however, the Express trails on both counts. In particular, both come with high roof options that allow full-size adults to walk upright in the cargo area. Businesses might also want to consider Ford's smaller, cheaper and more fuel-efficient Transit Connect, which could be all the van some folks really need.
Used Chevrolet Express Cargo Van Models
Chevrolet's cargo van last received a complete redesign back in 1996. To mark this rebirth it got a proper name: "Express." Prior to this, it went by the generic moniker Chevy van, which was immortalized in a 1970s song by the same name. This new generation brought modernized body styling with high-mounted taillights, new power plants and an updated cabin with improved ergonomics that gave the Chevy the edge compared to its Ford and Dodge competition.
The biggest change during this generation happened in 2003, when an enhanced lineup of engines debuted (a 200-hp V6, 295-hp 5.3-liter V8, 285-hp 4.8-liter V8 and 300-horse 6.0-liter V8) and all-wheel drive was offered for the first time. The standard transmission was a four-speed automatic. For 2006, an available 6.6-liter turbodiesel V8 with 250 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque debuted.
In 2004, the 4.8-liter's output was downgraded to 280 hp. For 2008, the 5.3-liter and 6.0-liter V8s were upgraded to 301 hp and 323 hp, respectively. That year also saw an interior redesign. For 2010, the 5.3-liter was bumped to 310 hp and the heavy-duty models got a six-speed automatic transmission. The turbodiesel engine was upgraded to its current output (260 hp and 525 lb-ft) in 2011.
Prior to the '96 reincarnation, the van rode the same basic platform for nearly three decades and the sheet metal barely changed in a quarter century. Engine choices ranged from an inline-6 all the way up to 6.2-liter diesel and 7.4-liter gasoline V8s. The most popular engine was Chevy's tried-and-true 5.7-liter (350-cubic-inch for the older vans) V8. Model designations consisted of G10, G20 and G30.
Visual updates through the '70s, '80s and early '90s consisted chiefly of grille and headlight changes. Periodic hardware updates, such as the adoption of a four-speed automatic and fuel injection in the mid-'80s and dual airbags in the mid-'90s, kept the Chevrolet Express Cargo viable in this niche market segment.
Read the most recent 2013 Chevrolet Express Cargo review.
If you are looking for older years, visit our used Chevrolet Express Cargo page.