Last year's base model becomes the LS, and the former LS is now the LT. OnStar has been removed from the options list.
Originally introduced in 1965, Chevrolet's full-size van has since undergone only one complete redesign. Constant improvements throughout the '70s, '80s and '90s kept it somewhat up to date, but not until a full redesign in 1995 did the Chevy Express become a legitimately modern vehicle.
A new exterior look, new engines, extended body styles and improved ergonomics soon made the Chevrolet Express hard to overlook when compared with Ford's aging Econoline. Changes in 2003 to Chevy's full-size van didn't constitute a complete redesign, but the Express did benefit from a wider selection of V8 engines, the first-time availability of all-wheel drive, upgraded brakes, a stronger frame and various interior improvements -- all of which went a long way toward making this Chevy van safer and more capable than ever before.
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Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The standard-wheelbase (135-inch) Chevrolet Express comes in half-ton (1500), three-quarter-ton (2500) and one-ton (3500) configurations, while the extended-wheelbase version (155-inch) requires one-ton running gear. There are two trim levels: LS and LT. LS models are geared toward fleet service so standard equipment is limited to air conditioning, an AM/FM stereo and a theft-deterrent system. The more livable LT models include rear-seat climate controls, power windows and door locks, cloth upholstery, cruise control, a tilt steering wheel and keyless entry. Optional equipment includes power driver and front-passenger seats, alloy wheels and an upgraded audio system with an in-dash six-disc CD changer.
Powertrains and Performance
Chevrolet Express vans offer a choice of four power plants and either rear- or all-wheel drive. The standard engine on two-wheel-drive 1500 models is a 4.3-liter V6 rated at 195 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. A 5.3-liter V8 with 295 hp and 335 lb-ft of torque is standard on all-wheel-drive 1500s and optional on rear-drive versions. The 2500 models come standard with a 4.8-liter V8 rated at 285 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque and can be ordered with a 6.0-liter V8 rated at 300 hp and 360 lb-ft of torque. The 6.0-liter is standard on 3500s. All 1500 models use a four-speed automatic, while 2500 and 3500 get a heavy-duty version of that transmission. The maximum trailer towing capacity on 1500 models is 6,600 pounds, while the heavy-duty 2500 and 3500 can pull 10,000 pounds, properly equipped.
All Chevy Express vans have four-wheel antilock disc brakes standard. Light-duty models (GVWR less than 8,600 pounds) feature a front-passenger sensing system that will deactivate the front airbag if it senses a small adult or child sitting up front. Heavy-duty models use a manual airbag deactivation switch for the front passenger. A stability control system is standard on one-ton regular-wheelbase vans only.
Interior Design and Special Features
The interior of the Chevy Express is built for pure functionality, and while it may not be pretty, it sure gets the job done. All controls are simple to use and well within reach of the driver, but the footwells remain as cramped as ever. Buyers can opt for 60/40-split driver-side doors for easier passenger access to the rear seats. The standard configuration seats 12, with 8- or 15-passenger arrangements also available, depending on which model you choose.
A reinforced frame, larger sway bars, rack and pinion steering (half-ton models only) and standard four-wheel antilock disc brakes give the 2006 Chevrolet Express a leg up on the competition when it comes to ride and handling. Although this Chevy van is still far from nimble, it's a better choice for day-to-day driving than the competition. And with three strong V8 engines to choose from, merging and passing maneuvers come easily, even when you're hauling a heavy load.
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