Powerful engines and some unique features make the Savana (and its twin, the Chevrolet Express) pretty much the only game in town if you're looking for a full-size van that doesn't look and drive like it was designed two decades ago.
The GMC Savana cargo van heads into 2006 with a new 6.6-liter diesel V8 engine option. Otherwise, the van is unchanged save for the AM/FM sound system now being optional instead of standard.
Originally introduced in 1965, Chevrolet's full-size cargo 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 Savana become a legitimately modern vehicle. A new exterior look, new engines, extended-length body styles and improved ergonomics made the Savana hard to overlook when compared with the aging Econoline from Ford. The latest version incorporates some significant improvements like four-wheel antilock disc brakes and powerful V8 engines that make the Savana safer and more capable than ever before.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The standard wheelbase (135-inch) Savana cargo comes in half-ton (1500), three-quarter-ton (2500) and one-ton (3500) configurations, while the extended-wheelbase version (155-inch) is available as a 2500 or a 3500 only. Not much comes standard on the Savana cargo; the options list includes typical items like a rear air conditioner and heater, power windows and door locks, cloth upholstery, cruise control, a tilt steering wheel, keyless entry and a CD stereo. Also included on the options list is a host of job-specific cargo configurations, as well as swing-out access doors.
Powertrains and Performance
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 AWD 1500 and optional on two-wheel-drive 1500-series vans. Heavy-duty 2500s come standard with a 4.8-liter V8 rated at 285 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. A 6.0-liter V8 rated at 300 hp and 360 lb-ft of torque is optional on the 2500 and standard on 3500s. Also available on 2500 and 3500 series vans is a Duramax 6600 turbodiesel with 250 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque. All GMC Savanas come standard with a four-speed automatic. Trailer capacities range from 6,100 to a 10,000 pounds, depending on the model.
Four-wheel antilock disc brakes are standard on all models. 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 child sitting up front. Heavy-duty models use a manual airbag deactivation switch for the front passenger.
Interior Design and Special Features
The interior is built for functionality, and while it may not be pretty, it sure gets the job done. The controls are simple to use and well within reach of the driver. Available 60/40-split driver-side access doors make it easier for the whole crew to get in and out of the van.
A reinforced frame, larger stabilizer bars, rack and pinion steering (half-ton models only) and an upgraded brake system give the Savana a leg up on Ford's Econoline when it comes to ride and handling. Although the Savana is still far from nimble, its modern running gear makes day-to-day driving a much more enjoyable experience. The brakes require less effort than most full-size vans and its powerful V8 engines really make a difference when it comes to merging and passing.