Full 2010 GMC Savana Review
What's New for 2010
For 2010, the GMC Savana 2500 and 3500 models receive a six-speed automatic transmission and revised rear axles for added low-end torque and improved highway fuel economy. Also new for this year are remote vehicle start and flex-fuel E85 compatibility. In addition, the base 5.3-liter engine receives a slight increase in horsepower.
As the GMC Savana enters its 14th year since its last redesign, the staid platform is beginning to show its age. Not so much for style and design, which are generally afterthoughts for such large utilitarian workhorses, but more in terms of available options, fuel economy and road manners. In these areas, recent full-size-van offerings from Ford and Dodge have outshined the aging Savana.
Progress for the 2010 GMC Savana has been slow, but over the course of its history, it has seen numerous upgrades in terms of engines, available all-wheel drive, brakes, chassis and assorted interior improvements. This year, the Savana takes a few more baby steps forward with a new six-speed transmission, E85 flex-fuel compatibility and a slight bump in power for the 5.3-liter V8.
What have managed to remain intact are the 2010 Savana's core strengths -- most notably, its voluminous interior that can accommodate up to 15 passengers. This makes it ideal for companies, churches and schools that need to transport plenty of passengers and cargo -- short of buying a bus.
Unfortunately for the Savana, though, these strengths are also shared with its heady competition. The Ford E-Series is even longer in the tooth than the Savana but offers modern conveniences like navigation, satellite radio and a rearview camera. The Dodge Sprinter (soon to be sold under the Mercedes-Benz banner) exhibits better fuel economy and more refined driving dynamics and offers a tall-roof option. While the Dodge/Mercedes Sprinter has its advantages, the 2010 GMC Savana will cost a whopping $14,000 less, broadening its appeal to those on a tighter budget.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The standard-wheelbase (135-inch) 2010 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 features such as air-conditioning, an AM/FM stereo, vinyl floor covering and a theft-deterrent system. The more livable LT models include a chrome grille, 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-adjustable front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, alloy wheels, remote vehicle start and an upgraded audio system with an in-dash six-CD changer.
Powertrains and Performance
The standard engine in Savana 1500 models is a 5.3-liter V8 making 310 horsepower and 344 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 2500s and 3500s get a heavy-duty six-speed transmission. An all-wheel-drive configuration is also available for the 1500. The maximum towing capacity on 1500 models is 6,300 pounds, while the heavy-duty 3500 can pull up to 7,600 pounds when properly equipped.
Fuel economy is understandably poor for such large vehicles. The EPA estimates only 13 mpg city/17 mpg highway and 14 mpg in combined driving for the Savana 1500. Running on E85 will drop those figures by about 3 mpg across the board.
All Savana models feature four-wheel antilock disc brakes, stability control and side curtain airbags (for the first three rows of seating). In government crash tests, the 2010 GMC Savana 1500 scored a perfect five-out-of-five stars for frontal impact protection of the driver and front passenger.
Interior Design and Special Features
The GMC Savana's cabin is definitely geared for function over form. Controls are well placed and easily operated, but they'll never win an award for style. Because of the forward placement of the front seats, the front wheel humps intrude on the footwells, reducing space and comfort. Rear passengers fare better, with the optional 60/40-split driver-side doors making access to the rear seats much easier. The standard configuration seats 12, and depending on the model, eight- and 15-passenger layouts are also available.
A robust frame, rack-and-pinion steering (half-ton models only) and standard four-wheel antilock disc brakes give the 2010 GMC Savana a respectable ride and decent handling characteristics. Either of the powerful V8 engines endows the big van with adequate merging and passing abilities, even when laden with passengers and cargo. Among full-size vans, the Savana is pleasant to drive but still can't match the European-style driving dynamics of the Sprinter.