Full 2011 GMC Savana Cargo Review
What's New for 2011
For 2011, the GMC Savana Cargo receives a number of functional upgrades that add to the workhorse's comfort and safety, including available Bluetooth and a USB port and standard stability control. There is also a revised and more powerful turbodiesel V8 engine.
This year, the GMC Savana van turns 16. Obviously, full-size cargo (and passenger) vans don't go through the vanity of a full redesign every five years as with most cars. As such, the 2011 Savana Cargo sees only minor changes this year that nonetheless add a bit more functionality and comfort to this reliable workhorse.
Most notable is a new and more powerful 6.6-liter turbodiesel V8. It's rated at 260 horsepower and 525 pound-feet of torque -- noticeable upgrades compared to last year's 250 hp and 460 lb-ft. GMC says the new engine also provides better fuel economy and reduced tailpipe emissions. An optionally available compressed-natural-gas (CNG) engine offers green-minded business owners another powerful engine choice.
The 2011 GMC Savana Cargo competes in a segment with but a trio of other entries. Those rival work vans include the Chevy Express (the Savana's GM twin), the Ford Econoline and the 2011 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter. The Sprinter is the most modern, offering superior maneuverability, fuel economy, cargo space and quality. But it also costs the most and has only its lower-output diesel V6 for an engine choice.
The 2011 Ford E-Series Van is similar in size to its American rival and offers a useful collection of "Work Solutions" features. But neither of the Ford's two engine choices matches the Chevy's muscle. For something smaller, the 2011 Ford Transit Connect might be worth a look. Yet thanks to its strong engine lineup and multiple configurations, we think most contractors or business owners will be quite pleased if they choose a 2011 GMC Savana for their full-size cargo van needs.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2011 GMC Savana Cargo comes in a standard wheelbase of 135 inches, and three different trims are available: the base 1500 version as well as heavy-duty 2500 and 3500 variants. The extended-wheelbase Savana Cargo has a wheelbase of 155 inches and is available only as heavy-duty 2500 and 3500 versions.
Standard equipment on the Savana Cargo includes 16-inch steel wheels, swing-out doors from the right side of the cargo box, air-conditioning, front bucket seats, vinyl upholstery and a trip computer.
Options include alloy wheels, power windows and locks, towing features, heated power mirrors, swing-out driver-side cargo box doors, a sliding right-side door, a tilt steering wheel, cruise control, cloth upholstery, a six-way power driver seat, a driver-only front seat, a variety of rear door and window configurations, keyless entry, remote engine start, Bluetooth connectivity, OnStar (with Directions and Connections), a simple two-speaker AM/FM stereo and an upgraded stereo with a CD player and USB port.
Powertrains and Performance
The rear-drive GMC Savana 1500 cargo van comes with a 4.3-liter V6 that produces 195 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. Standard on all-wheel-drive 1500s and optional on rear-drive 1500s is a 5.3-liter V8 good for 310 hp and 334 lb-ft of torque. These engines are coupled to a four-speed automatic.
The rear-drive-only 2500 and 3500 come standard with a 4.8-liter V8 that produces 280 hp and 296 lb-ft of torque. Optional engines include a gasoline-fueled 6.0-liter V8 capable of 323 hp and 373 lb-ft of torque, a CNG 6.0-liter V8 and a 6.6-liter turbodiesel V8 good for 260 hp and 525 lb-ft of torque. These engines are coupled to a six-speed automatic.
Maximum payload capacity for a 3500-series van is 4,490 pounds while maximum towing capacity for the same is an impressive 9,700 pounds.
All 2011 GMC Savana Cargo vans have antilock brakes and stability control as standard equipment. Side curtain airbags are standard on the 1500 and optional on the others.
The GMC Savana Cargo 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 methodology) in frontal-impact crash tests were a perfect five stars for driver and front-passenger protection.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Savana's interior is built for functionality, not fashion. All controls are simple to use and well within reach of the driver, but they're far from stylish. The front footwells remain as cramped as ever. Unlike the Sprinter, the Savana Cargo lacks a tall-roof option that allows a normal-size person to walk upright in the cargo area.
Savana Cargo buyers can opt for 60/40-split driver-side doors or a passenger-side sliding door for easy access to the rear compartment (60/40-split passenger-side doors are standard). Standard-length vans have a maximum cargo capacity of 204 cubic feet, while extended-length vans check in with a voluminous 237 cubic feet of space.
A robust frame, rack-and-pinion steering (half-ton models only) and standard four-wheel antilock disc brakes give the 2011 GMC Savana Cargo respectable ride, handling and braking characteristics. With its various powerhouse engines to choose from, merging and passing maneuvers are easily accomplished, even when you're hauling a heavy load of cargo. As full-size vans go, the Savana is pleasant to pilot -- just don't expect it to match the more nimble Sprinter for maneuverability.