Full 2012 GMC Savana Review
What's New for 2012
For 2012, the GMC Savana passenger van returns unchanged.
Whether it's your family, soccer team or employees, if you've got a large group to move you'll find the 2012 GMC Savana full-size passenger van to be a good way to do it.
The standard-wheelbase Savana van offers seating for up to 12 passengers, while an extended-wheelbase version seats as many as 15 people. Savana buyers can also match their van to the job at hand with one of four different powertrains, including a gutsy 6.6-liter turbodiesel engine and a choice of rear- or all-wheel drive. As if that weren't enough, a properly equipped Savana will tow nearly 10,000 pounds.
Truth be told, however, this isn't exactly a crowded vehicle segment. Besides the virtually identical Chevrolet Express, competitors include the Ford E-Series (a.k.a. Econoline), and that's about it. Buyers with deeper pockets, however, should at least check out the more modern Mercedes Sprinter, which earns extra points for better maneuverability and fuel economy. Its unique high-roof version also provides enough room for 6-foot-tall occupants to walk upright inside. You'd have to be 4 feet tall to do that in a Savana.
Yet even if the 2012 GMC Savana passenger van isn't the most modern of conveyances, it remains one of the scant few ways to carry a big group of people from Point A to Point B.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2012 GMC Savana is a full-size passenger van that's offered in basic LS and well-equipped LT trim levels. There are three different load ratings available, including the 1500 and heavy-duty 2500 and 3500. All three are offered in a standard-wheelbase (135 inches) configuration that seats between eight and 12 passengers. The extended-wheelbase (155 inches) model, which can seat up to 15 passengers, is only available in the 3500 series.
Base LS models are modestly equipped and fleet-oriented, with 16- or 17-inch steel wheels, rear privacy glass, 12-passenger seating, passenger-side swing-out doors, front air-conditioning, vinyl upholstery, rubber floor covering and an AM/FM sound system.
The LT model adds chrome exterior trim, keyless entry, rear air-conditioning and heating, cloth upholstery, full-length carpeting, cruise control, full power accessories, a trip computer, a tilt-only steering wheel, visor vanity mirrors and OnStar emergency communications.
Many of the LT's standard features are also available as options on the LS model. Other major options include 17-inch alloy wheels, heated mirrors, a sliding side door, a towing package, six-way power front seats, remote ignition, Bluetooth and an upgraded sound system with a CD player, a USB/iPod interface and satellite radio.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2012 GMC Savana offers four different powertrains. The 1500 series features a 5.3-liter V8 with 310 horsepower and 334 pound-feet of torque, backed by a four-speed automatic transmission and standard rear-wheel drive. All-wheel drive is optional. EPA-estimated fuel economy with either drivetrain is 13 mpg city/17 mpg highway and 14 mpg combined.
The rear-drive-only 2500 series gets a standard 4.8-liter V8 with 280 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque, or an optional 6.0-liter V8 generating 323 hp and 373 lb-ft of torque. Both engines are mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy with the 4.8-liter is 11/17/13, while the 6.0-liter is 11/16/13.
The rear-wheel-drive-only 3500 series comes with the 6.0-liter V8 standard. A 6.6-liter turbodiesel V8 that puts out 260 hp and 525 lb-ft of torque is optional. Both 3500 series engines come connected to a six-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy is the same as the 2500 with the 6.0-liter, but the turbodiesel's estimates were not available. Properly equipped, a Savana 3500 can tow up to 9,900 pounds.
All 2012 GMC Savana passenger vans come fitted with antilock brakes and stability control as standard equipment. Side curtain airbags and OnStar emergency communications are available as options.
Interior Design and Special Features
Compared to most vehicles on the road these days, the 2012 GMC Savana is pretty basic inside. Gauges and controls are clear and easy to operate. The materials used are nothing fancy, especially the vinyl upholstery and rubber flooring that come standard on entry-level LS models. Legroom for the driver and front passenger is a bit tight thanks to the engine cover that protrudes from the center of the dash. Another thing to keep in mind is that many of the features you'd expect to see on a modern vehicle, things like power-adjustable locks and carpeting, aren't included on the base model.
Eight-passenger seating is standard on 1500 series vans, while 2500 and 3500 models seat 12. The 3500 long-wheelbase model can also be fitted with an extra row of seats that bumps capacity to 15. Perhaps the biggest weakness in the Savana's cabin is the fact that a high roof -- an important extra that makes for easier entry and exit -- isn't even offered.
The 2012 GMC Savana is pretty much a large commercial van fitted with seats, so your expectations behind the wheel should be limited to "better than a city bus." Importantly, its standard stability control system should help keep you out of trouble, while the ride is comfortable enough. That's really all you can ask for unless you're willing to pay more for the more maneuverable and refined Mercedes-Benz Sprinter.
Even the smaller two V8 engines deliver good performance, at least on regular-wheelbase eight- and 12-passenger models. That said, anyone who plans to regularly carry a full load of passengers, tow a trailer or both will no doubt come to appreciate the extra power offered by the more robust 6.0-liter gasoline V8 or the 6.6-liter turbodiesel engine.