What's New for 1998
All vans equipped with airbags switch to mini-module bag designs for the driver, but they still deploy with more force than second-generation types. A theft-deterrent system is standard, and three new colors debut.
For the first time in 25 years, Chevy dealers received a brand new, completely re-designed, full-size van to sell in 1996. The Chevy Van (the cargo hauler) and the Express Van (the people hauler) come equipped with powerful optional engines, lots of cargo space, dual airbags and four-wheel anti-lock brakes. With this modern new design, Chevrolet is stealing some of Ford's thunder in the full-size van market.
Converters prefer rugged full-frame construction, because it allows for improved stability, ride and handling. Since most full-size vans are bought for conversion into rolling motel rooms, the new van employs this type of platform. Regular-length models carry 267 cubic feet of cargo, and extended-length vans can haul 317 cubic feet of stuff. Trick rear doors open 180 degrees to make loading and unloading the van easier. Up to 15 passengers can ride in the extended-length Express, making it perfect for use as an airport shuttle. Other seating options include five-, eight- and twelve-passenger arrangements. G3500s can tow up to 10,000 pounds when properly equipped.
For convenience, the full-size spare is stored underneath the cargo floor. A 31-gallon fuel tank keeps this thirsty vehicle from frequent fill-ups, but topping off an empty tank will quickly empty your wallet. Engine choices are sourced from the Chevrolet family of Vortec gasoline motors, and a turbocharged diesel can be installed in under the hood. Available are the Vortec 4300 V6, the 5000, 5700, and 7400 V8s, and a 6.5-liter Turbo-diesel V8. Standard side cargo doors are a 60/40 panel arrangement, but a traditional slider is a no-cost option on 135-inch wheelbase vans.
Child safety locks are standard on the rear and side doors of the Express. Assist handles help passengers into and out of the van. Front and rear air conditioning is optional. For 1998, all vans have a standard theft deterrent system, and Express models get new seat belt comfort guides. Airbags switch to a new mini-module design.
Exterior styling is an interesting mix of corporate Chevrolet and Astro Van, with cues lifted from the defunct Lumina Minivan. The high, pillar-mounted taillights are odd, but functional. They can easily be seen if the van is operated with the rear doors open. Low-mounted bumpers and moldings make the Express look taller than it is. An attractively sculpted body side gives the van's smooth, slab-sided flanks a dose of character. Three new colors arrive for 1998, in shades of gray, blue and copper.
Overall, Chevrolet's thoughtful rendition of the traditional full-size van appears to be right on target, giving Ford's Econoline/Club Wagon the first real competition it has faced in years.