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Powerful Vortec engines and some unique features make the 2006 GMC Savana 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.
Strong powertrains, dual-passenger access doors, multiple wheelbase and passenger configurations, optional all-wheel drive.
Low-grade interior plastics, awkward handling.
Available Savana Van Models
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Other than some shuffling of the trim levels (last year's base model becomes the LS, and the former LS is now the LT) and the removal of OnStar from the options list, the GMC Savana is unchanged.
Originally introduced in 1965, GMC's full-size 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 GMC van become a legitimately modern vehicle. A new exterior look, new engines, extended body styles and improved ergonomics made the previous GMC Savana hard to overlook when compared with the aging Econoline from Ford. The current version incorporates some significant improvements like electronic stability control and powerful V8 engines that make the 2006 GMC Savana safer and more capable than ever before.
The standard wheelbase (135-inch) GMC Savana passenger van comes in half-ton (1500), three-quarter-ton (2500) and one-ton (3500) configurations, while the extended-wheelbase version (155-inch) comes as a 3500 only. There are two trim levels: LS and LT. LS models feature air conditioning, an AM/FM stereo and a theft-deterrent system. The more livable LT models include rear-seat climate controls, power windows and door locks, cloth upholstery, cruise control, a tilt steering wheel and keyless entry. Optional equipment, depending on the model, includes driver-side swing-out doors, a passenger-side sliding door, power driver and front-passenger seats, alloy wheels and an upgraded audio system with an in-dash six-disc CD changer.
Savana vans offer a choice of four power plants and either rear- or all-wheel drive. 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 all-wheel-drive 1500s and optional on rear-drive versions. The 2500 models come standard with a 4.8-liter V8 rated at 285 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. The 3500 models come standard with a 6.0-liter V8 rated at 300 hp and 360 lb-ft of torque; this engine is optional on the 2500. All GMC Savanas come standard with a four-speed automatic transmission. The maximum trailer towing capacity for 1500s is 6,600 pounds. Standard-wheelbase 2500s can tow up to 8,000 pounds, while the 3500 can lug 10,000 pounds, properly equipped.
All Savana models have four-wheel antilock disc brakes standard. Light-duty models (GVW less than 8,600 pounds) feature a front-passenger sensing system that will deactivate the front airbag if it senses a small adult or child sitting up front. Heavy-duty models use a manual airbag deactivation switch for the front passenger. StabiliTrak stability control is standard on 3500 vans but isn't available on any other Savana.
The interior is built for pure functionality, and while it may not be pretty, it sure gets the job done. All controls are simple to use and well within reach of the driver, but the footwells remain as cramped as ever. The standard configuration seats 12, with 8- or 15-passenger arrangements also available, depending on which model you choose.
A reinforced frame, larger stabilizer bars, rack-and-pinion steering (half-ton models only) and a recently upgraded brake system give the GMC van a leg up on the Econoline when it comes to ride and handling. Although the 2006 GMC Savana is still far from nimble, it's a better choice for day-to-day driving than the aged competition. And with three strong V8 engines to choose from, merging and passing maneuvers come easily, even when you're hauling a heavy load.
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