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How do you choose between a Chevrolet or GMC full-size van? Which dealer is closest to your house? They're basically the same vehicle. And these GM vans stack up well against the formidable Ford Econoline and ancient has-been Dodge Ram Van. As long as the Savana provides what you need in this kind of vehicle, it's tough to go wrong here.
Modern architecture, powerful V8 engine choices, cavernous interior.
Cheap interior materials, mushy brake pedal, numb steering.
Available Savana Cargo Van Models
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GMC's full-size cargo van gets improved powertrains, increased trailer ratings, and an optional rear-window defogger.
When the then-new Savana arrived in small numbers for 1996, it had been 25 years since GM redesigned its full-size van. The GMC Rally Van and Vandura were introduced way back in 1971 (when vans were groovy), and sold steadily until they were discontinued. Competition and safety regulations had forced GM to redo the big vans for '96, but by then Ford had already re-engineered the Club Wagon and Econoline twice! To help distinguish the all-new design, GMC rebadged its new van Savana.
Savana features flush glass and door handles, hidden door hinges, standard four-wheel antilock brakes and dual airbags. Front foot- and legroom is adequate, and front seats offer a wide range of travel. Front air conditioning and rear heat ducts are standard, but for better warming (and cooling), an optional rear heating and air-conditioning unit is available. The center console contains two cupholders, an auxiliary power outlet and storage for items like CDs and cassettes. Savana is available in 135- and 155-inch wheelbases and three weight series (1500, 2500 or 3500). There is a choice of side-entry doors as well: a sliding door or a pair of 60/40 hinged doors.
Inside the short-wheelbase Savana, you'll find 267 cubic feet of cargo area, while the extended version provides a whopping 317 cubic feet of volume. Rear hinged doors open a full 180 degrees for easy loading and do not conceal high-mounted taillights when opened. Gross vehicle weight ratings of up to 9,500 pounds are available on either wheelbase.
The base engine is a 200-horsepower Vortec 4300 V6 that is quieter and more durable this year, thanks to a new roller timing chain and rocker arms. Optional motors include the GM family of V8s, from the popular Vortec 5000, to the venerable 5700, to the monster Vortec 7400. Also available is a robust 6.5-liter turbodiesel V8 good for 195 horsepower and 430 stump-pulling pound-feet of torque. A new exhaust system with specially designed catalytic converters help all but the biggest engines meet California low-emission vehicle (LEV) standards. GM's heavy-duty 4L80-E transmission handles all the shifting chores, featuring a more efficient torque converter.
Savana's styling is rounded and bulbous, with a front end that mimics GM's truck family and a high-arched rear with D-pillar mounted taillights. Easily as odd-looking as the old Lumina minivan's high-mounted rear lamps, the round-topped rear and sheer size of this van make it seem as if you were looking at the rear of a commuter train car. Like it or not, this design is different enough to wear well into the next century.
Laura's old car was costing her a small fortune every month for gas and repairs. She didn't even want to drive her kids to the park any more. But buying a new Kia Soul changed all that.