Full 2013 GMC Savana Review
What's New for 2013
For 2013, the GMC Savana passenger van adds an optional navigation radio, rearview camera and rear park assist.
The 2013 GMC Savana is well-suited for moving large groups of people in relative comfort and convenience. With various wheelbases and equipment levels, the Savana can carry eight, 12 or 15 passengers and it does so with a choice of four powertrains and optional all-wheel drive. The Savana can also tow nearly 10,000 pounds, which is simply astounding for a passenger van. However, GMC has left its full-size passenger van virtually untouched for the last 18 years, and newer rivals in this class have significant advantages over the Savana.
The virtually identical Chevy Express and the Ford E-Series Wagon are the 2013 GMC Savana's main rivals. Differences are small, but the General Motors vans have more engine options, including a stout 6.6-liter diesel V8 on the 3500 models.
For buyers seeking increased maneuverability, refinement and fuel economy, though, the 2013 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter is worth a hard look. Prices for the Sprinter are higher, but its high-roof option allows for significantly more cargo space and makes it much easier for passengers to get in and out. Moreover, the Sprinter's standard diesel V6 is more fuel-efficient than any of the engines on the Savana. We'd also suggest taking a look at the new 2013 Nissan NV Passenger van, as it also offers a high-roof option and is newer in design overall.
Although it needs an overhaul to bring it into the modern era, the 2013 GMC Savana can still get the job done. It's not our top pick for a full-size van, but if cost considerations are driving your buying decision, it's a relatively affordable option for transporting church groups and large families.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2013 GMC Savana is a full-size passenger van that's offered in basic LS and well-equipped LT trim levels. Three load ratings are available: the 1500 and the heavy-duty 2500 and 3500. All three are offered in a standard-wheelbase (135 inches) configuration that seats eight to 12 passengers. The extended-wheelbase (155 inches) model, which can seat up to 15 passengers, is available only 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, OnStar and a two-speaker 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 and visor vanity mirrors.
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, rear parking sensors, a sliding side door, a towing package, six-way power front seats, remote ignition, Bluetooth, a navigation system and an upgraded sound system with a CD player, a USB/iPod interface and satellite radio. Also available is a back-up camera with a display mounted either inside the rearview mirror or on the navigation system's screen (if equipped).
Powertrains and Performance
The 2013 GMC Savana offers four 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 324 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. The turbodiesel V8 is the more efficient engine of these two, but mpg estimates are not available because the EPA doesn't rate vehicles that weigh more than 6,000 pounds. Properly equipped, a Savana 3500 can tow up to 9,900 pounds.
All 2013 GMC Savana passenger vans come fitted with antilock brakes, side curtain airbags and stability control as standard equipment. A rearview camera, rear parking sensors and OnStar emergency communications are available as options.
Interior Design and Special Features
The biggest issues for the 2013 GMC Savana are its unadorned interior and the limited vertical clearance inside the van. There's industrial-grade hard plastic everywhere, and basic features such as power locks and carpet are optional. As is typical in traditional full-size vans, front-seat legroom is tight, as the packaging of the engine in the van's short nose results in a very large and intrusive center console. Rear legroom is acceptable, but getting in and out of the rear rows of seating isn't as easy or comfortable as in a Sprinter or NV with a high-roof option.
Eight passengers can sit in the standard 1500-series GMC Savana vans, while 12 people can fit in the standard 2500 and 3500 models. The long-wheelbase version of the 3500 can be fitted with an extra seat, which gives it room for 15 people.
Although its engines are strong, the 2013 GMC Savana doesn't quite meet the current standard for passenger vans. It's certainly capable of moving about large groups of people, but it's not as easy or comfortable to maneuver as the Sprinter and the NV, both of which ride, handle and steer better. The GMC Savana is still worth considering if you want a diesel V8 or need to keep costs down, but there's no obscuring the reality that it feels outdated, especially in crowded urban environments.