What's New for 2008
Stability control and side curtain airbags are now standard on all 2008 GMC Savana vans. The interior has also been significantly upgraded, with a new steering wheel, switchgear, instrument cluster and materials. There are also some minor feature changes within equipment groups.
Full-size vans like the 2008 GMC Savana are redesigned so infrequently, a redo date of 1996 is practically fresh. Having been around for more than four decades, GMC's full-size van lived through the 1970s, '80s and half of the '90s via sheet metal changes and updates to the running gear. It assumed today's shape 12 years ago and to celebrate the rebirth, the van's name was changed from Rally Wagon to Savana.
A number of important under-the-skin changes took place for 2003, including a wider selection of V8 engines, the first-time availability of all-wheel drive, upgraded brakes, a stronger frame and various interior improvements -- all of which went a long way toward making the Savana safer and more capable than ever before. For 2008, the interior has been updated again with improved interior materials and switchgear.
The 2008 GMC Savana still outpaces the even older Ford Econoline and certainly warrants consideration for those who need to ferry a small platoon (up to 15 people can ride in an Savana 3500) and require the cargo volume only a large van can provide. Naturally, these attributes are most often needed by small businesses and fleet operators. The European-designed and dramatically more modern Dodge Sprinter is pricier than the Savana, but with its much taller interior and better road manners, it makes a much better shuttle.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The standard-wheelbase (135-inch) 2008 GMC Savana full-size van comes in half-ton (1500) and 1-ton (3500) configurations. The extended-wheelbase version (155-inch) is available only on the 3500. There are two trim levels: LS and LT. LS models are geared toward fleet service, so standard equipment is limited to air-conditioning, an AM/FM stereo and a theft-deterrent system. The more livable LT models include auxiliary rear air-conditioning and heating, power windows and door locks, cloth upholstery, cruise control, a tilt steering wheel and keyless entry. Optional equipment includes power driver and front passenger seats, alloy wheels and an upgraded audio system with an in-dash six-disc CD changer.
Powertrains and Performance
The standard engine on Savana 1500 models is a 5.3-liter V8 making 301 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque. A 6.0-liter V8 rated at 323 hp and 373 lb-ft of torque is standard on 3500s. All 1500 models use a four-speed automatic that sends power to the rear wheels, while 3500s get a heavy-duty version of that transmission. An all-wheel-drive configuration is also available for the 1500. The maximum trailer-towing capacity on 1500 models is 6,300 pounds, while the heavy-duty 3500 can pull up to 7,600 pounds when properly equipped.
All models have antilock disc brakes, stability control and side curtain airbags (for the first three rows) as standard equipment. In frontal-impact crash tests conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the 2008 GMC Savana scored five stars (the highest possible).
Interior Design and Special Features
The Savana's interior is built for pure functionality, and while it may not be pretty, it 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. Unlike the Dodge Sprinter, there is no tall roof option that allows a normal-sized person to walk upright in this full-size GMC van. Savana buyers can opt for 60/40-split driver-side doors for easier passenger access to the rear seats. The standard configuration seats 12, with eight- or 15-passenger arrangements also available, depending on which model you choose.
A robust frame, rack-and-pinion steering (half-ton models only) and standard four-wheel antilock disc brakes give the 2008 GMC Savana respectable ride and handling characteristics. Although GMC's van is still far from nimble, it fares reasonably well in day-to-day driving. And with a pair of V8 engines to choose from, merging and passing maneuvers come easily, even when you're hauling a heavy load of passengers and cargo.