What's New for 2001
GMC's full-size van gets a bigger, more powerful Big Block V8 engine, the Vortec 8100. There are also more advanced powertrain control modules for the other gas engines in the Savana line, and an improved torque converter for the 4L80-E four-speed automatic transmission. Other changes for 2001 include more robust door and ignition locks, upgraded audio systems, quieter alternators and longer-lasting brake pads.
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 still groovy), and sold steadily until they were finally discontinued. Competition and safety regulations had forced GM to redo the big vans for '96, but by then Ford had already re-engineered its Econoline and Club Wagon twice! To help distinguish GM's all-new, rounded-off design, GMC rebadged its new van Savana.
Savana is available in 135- and 155-inch wheelbases, three weight series (1500, 2500 or 3500) and as either a passenger van for retail customers or as a cargo van for commercial use. Cargo vans come with stripped-down interiors, ready for upfitting with tool racks or parts bins. Passenger vans are available with seating for eight, 12 or 15 people, depending on wheelbase, and in two different trim levels (base SL and luxury SLE). There's even a choice of side-entry doors: a slider or a set of 60/40 hinged doors. GM's full-size vans feature 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. The center console contains two cupholders, an auxiliary power outlet and storage for items like CDs and cassettes. 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 with the rear seats removed. Rear hinged doors open a full 180 degrees for easy loading and do not conceal high-mounted taillights when opened. For hauling, 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. Optional motors include a 220-horse Vortec 5000 V8, the venerable 255-horse Vortec 5700 V8, and GM's new Vortec 8100 Big Block V8 that makes 340 ponies and a whopping 455 foot-pounds of torque. Also available is a robust 6.5-liter turbodiesel V8 good for 195 horsepower and 430 foot-pounds of torque. GM's heavy-duty 4L80-E transmission handles all the shifting chores.
Savana's styling is rounded and bulbous, with a broad front end that mimics GM's truck family and a high-arched rear with tall, thin taillights mounted up along the D-pillars. Easily as odd-looking as the old Lumina minivan's high-mounted rear lamps, the round-topped rear end and sheer size of this van make it seem as if you are looking at the back end of some sort of commuter train car. But since most retail buyers have moved to minivans and much of the full-size van business has centered on converters and fleet use, Savana's styling takes a back seat to its modern mechanicals and long service life.