Full 2012 Chevrolet Express Cargo Review
What's New for 2012
For 2012, the Chevrolet Express Cargo van returns unchanged.
It wasn't so long ago that businesspeople looking for a solid no-nonsense work truck bought traditional vans like the 2012 Chevrolet Express Cargo without giving it a second thought. That decision is no longer quite such a slam-dunk, however, now that several newer entries have managed to out-innovate these old standbys.
To be sure, the full-size Express Cargo van retains all the same good qualities that have made it the go-to choice for everyone from plumbers to florists for more than a decade. Solid construction, heavy-duty towing capacity, a choice of different engines and available driver-side side doors make it a vehicle that's still ready, willing and able to put in a hard day's work.
The Express Cargo van's real problem stems from the fact that it hasn't undergone a substantial redesign since the early days of the Clinton administration. To fully understand why this is such an issue, we'd recommend checking out alternatives like the more flexible and better-handling Mercedes Sprinter, which is offered in three different lengths and two different roof heights. The new Nissan NV is another strong contender, with two roof heights of its own, a V8 engine pushed out front for easier servicing, more modern features and clever details like water-resistant upholstery. Finally, there's the smaller and cheaper Ford Transit Connect, which offers a large cargo hold in a relatively compact and substantially more fuel-efficient package. More traditional choices include the virtually identical Ford E-Series Econoline and GMC Savana cargo vans, but they don't really offer much advantage over the Express.
Taking this all into consideration, the 2012 Chevrolet Express Cargo van remains a solid choice among work trucks, but one of the newer vans could likely suit your needs better.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2012 Chevrolet Express Cargo is a full-size van that's offered in two wheelbases and three load ratings. The standard-wheelbase model (135 inches) is available in a base 1500 version as well as heavy-duty 2500 and 3500 variants. The extended-wheelbase version (155 inches) is only offered on 2500 and 3500 models.
Standard equipment on the Express Cargo includes 16-inch steel wheels, 60/40-split swing-out right-side doors, air-conditioning, vinyl upholstery and a trip computer.
Major options include 17-inch steel wheels, heated power mirrors, 60/40-split swing-out driver-side doors, a sliding passenger-side door, a variety of rear door and window configurations, a towing package, keyless entry, cloth upholstery, a six-way power driver seat, front passenger seat delete, cruise control, full power accessories, a tilt-only steering wheel, remote ignition, Bluetooth, OnStar emergency communications, a simple two-speaker AM/FM sound system and an upgraded system with a CD player, satellite radio and a USB/iPod interface.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2012 Chevrolet Express Cargo van is offered with a choice of six different engines, starting with the 4.3-liter V6, which produces 195 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque and comes standard on rear-wheel-drive 1500 models. EPA-estimated fuel economy estimates are 15 mpg city/20 mpg highway and 17 mpg combined. A 5.3-liter V8 good for 310 hp and 334 lb-ft of torque is standard on all-wheel-drive 1500 models and is available as an option on rear-wheel-drive 1500 versions. Fuel economy with this engine and rear-wheel drive is 13/18/15.
The rear-drive-only 2500 and 3500 come standard with a 4.8-liter V8 that produces 280 hp and 296 lb-ft of torque. There are several optional engines. A gasoline-fueled 6.0-liter V8 puts out 323 hp and 373 lb-ft of torque. A version of the same 6.0-liter V8 runs on compressed natural gas (CNG) and produces 279 hp and 320 lb-ft of torque. Finally, a 6.6-liter turbodiesel V8 is rated at 260 hp and a robust 525 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy estimates for these models and engines were not available.
The 4.3-liter V6, 4.8-liter V8 and 5.3-liter V8 all come mated to a four-speed automatic transmission. The 6.0-liter V8 and 6.6-liter turbodiesel V8 are both coupled to a six-speed automatic.
The heavy-duty 3500-series has a maximum payload capacity of 4,490 pounds, and a maximum towing capacity for the same configuration is an impressive 9,700 pounds.
All 2012 Chevrolet Express Cargo vans have antilock brakes and stability control as standard equipment. Side curtain airbags and OnStar emergency communications are available as options.
Interior Design and Special Features
Inside, the 2012 Chevrolet Express Cargo van is all business. Gauges and controls are easy to use, and the hard plastic materials certainly have utility, not ambience, in mind. Legroom for the driver and front passenger is limited by the engine cover that juts out from the center of the dash. You'll also want to be aware that many of the features you'd expect on a modern vehicle, like power locks and even a simple stereo, are all extra-cost options here.
The optional driver-side swing-out cargo doors (in addition to the standard right-side doors) is a plus that will be appreciated by delivery drivers and others who need quick access to items in the cargo hold. Speaking of which, regular-wheelbase models offer a total of 204 feet of cargo room, while extended-wheelbase versions come in at 237 cubic feet. That's a lot, but the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter and Nissan NV can hold about 100 cubes or more thanks to the availability of high roof options. These also allow you to walk upright in the cargo area, something that's not realistic in the Express.
The 2012 Chevrolet Express Cargo van drives like the no-nonsense truck it is. Equipped with any of the larger V8 engines, there's more than enough power on tap for everyday driving and hauling heavy loads. In the past, we would've said that driving the Express is about what you'd expect from a full-size cargo van. It was better than a moving truck, and that's about all you could hope for. However, with modern, more maneuverable competitors like the Transit Connect, Nissan NV and Sprinter, buyers can now expect more.