Full 2011 Chevrolet Express Review
What's New for 2011
The Chevrolet Express passenger van receives a few updates for 2011, the most notable being a new 6.6-liter "Duramax" turbodiesel V8. Also arriving this year are 4.8-liter V8 engine availability for the 2500 series van, OnStar upgrades and optional satellite radio, Bluetooth, a USB port and a heavy-duty locking rear differential.
One of the most capable and versatile vehicles on the road has to be the full-size van. In addition to today's uses as people shuttles, cargo haulers and commercial vehicles, a continuous run since the 1960s has seen these vans through the eras of mobile hippie flop-pad and living-room-on-wheels conversion vans. Cutaway versions continue to form the basis for box vans, ambulances, campers and transit vehicles.
Large passenger vans are overkill for most folks, of course, and, like minivans, their nonexistent hip factor further removes them from others' consideration. But that still leaves a large contingent of consumers for whom they're the ideal choice. Together with its GMC Savana twin, the 2011 Chevrolet Express and its predecessors represent a substantial presence on the road and nearly half of the full-size van market in the United States.
Now in its 16th year, the current generation Chevrolet Express passenger van continues to evolve with even more capability than before. The most notable change for 2011 is a new and more powerful 6.6-liter turbodiesel V8 that's available for both passenger and cargo versions of the Express. It's rated at 260 horsepower and 525 pound-feet of torque and is said to provide better fuel economy and reduced emissions compared to the previous turbodiesel. A 4.8-liter V8, which last year was only available on the cargo van, is also available for the passenger variant this year.
For hauling lots of people, lots of cargo or a combination of the two, the 2011 Chevrolet Express is a terrific solution. Joining the Express and its Savana twin in the segment are a couple other competitors: the 2011 Ford E-Series and the 2011 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter. The Sprinter (formerly sold under the Dodge brand) is more expensive but also the most modern, with better fuel economy, driving dynamics, interior volume and build quality. The current E-Series is now in its 19th year (and celebrating its 50th anniversary overall), and is the most closely matched competitor in terms of layout, features and function.
For power fans, the Chevy Express offers the highest-output gas and diesel engines in the segment. Taking that into consideration along with its other updates this year, we strongly recommend that you consider the 2011 Express for your personal or business needs.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2011 Chevrolet Express full-size passenger van is offered in basic LS and well-equipped LT trim levels. There are several wheelbase configurations: regular length in 1500, heavier-duty 2500 and the heaviest-duty 3500 series with seating for eight to 12 passengers. Extended length is only available in the 3500 series, which seats up to 15. Base LS models are modestly equipped and fleet-oriented, with 16- or 17-inch steel wheels, 12-passenger seating, passenger-side swing-out doors, front air-conditioning, vinyl upholstery, rubber floor covering and an AM/FM stereo.
The LT trim adds more style, comforts and conveniences including chrome exterior trim, remote keyless entry, rear air-conditioning and heating, full power accessories, tilt steering wheel, cruise control, cloth upholstery, full-length carpeting, visor vanity mirrors and auxiliary lighting. Many of these features are also available on the LS model. Other Express options include aluminum alloy wheels, heated sideview mirrors (with turn-signal repeaters), a trailering package, eight- and 15-passenger seating, a sliding side door, remote vehicle starting, power front seats, cold-climate package, Bluetooth, and CD/MP3 audio with a USB port and satellite radio.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2011 Chevy Express offers four different powertrains depending on payload rating. The 1500 series features a 5.3-liter V8 with 310 hp and 334 lb-ft of torque, backed by a four-speed automatic transmission and standard rear-wheel drive or available all-wheel drive.
The rear-drive-only 2500 gets a standard 4.8-liter V8 with 280 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque, or an optional 6.0-liter V8 generating 323 hp and 373 lb-ft of torque. Both engines are mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. The 6.0-liter V8 is standard on rear-drive-only 3500 series models. Optional for the 3500 is a 6.6-liter turbodiesel V8 putting out 260 hp and 525 lb-ft of torque. Both 3500 series engines are also connected to a six-speed automatic. Properly equipped 3500s can tow a maximum of 9,900 pounds.
Chevrolet Express passenger vans feature standard antilock disc brakes, stability control, traction control, OnStar communications and head curtain side-impact airbags for the first three rows of seating.
The 2011 Chevrolet Express has not been rated using the government's new, more strenuous 2011 crash-testing procedures; however, its 2010 ratings (which aren't comparable to the new tests) were a perfect five stars for both driver and passenger in frontal-impact testing.
Interior Design and Special Features
As with its exterior design, the Chevrolet Express' interior is all about function over form. With a design ethic straight out of the utilitarian school, the controls are intuitive to use and their layout is straightforward. A welcome update is the enhanced technology offered this year. Updated OnStar features and available Bluetooth, a USB port and satellite radio thrust the Express into the modern era. One gripe: the cramped front footwells continue to restrict foot placement, a condition likely familiar to those who have spent time in similar vehicles.
Eight-passenger seating is standard on 1500 models, 12-passenger seating is included on 2500 and 3500 series vans and a 15-passenger configuration is available on the extended-wheelbase 3500. The Express offers only one standard roof height, limiting headroom as you enter or exit the rear of the vehicle. The rival Sprinter offers a high-roof option that eliminates this drawback.
The 2011 Chevy Express manages to hold its own with respectable on-road behavior: Its standard stability control system helps keep you out of trouble, while the rack-and-pinion steering and coil-spring front suspension on many models offer a perfectly acceptable ride and handling trade-off. A wide range of engine choices lets you tailor power to your particular needs, and acceleration with even the smaller V8s is spirited and inspires confidence with or without a heavy load. The Express' performance is generally pleasant, which is saying a lot for a full-size van.