1999 Chevrolet Express Review
Pros & Cons
- Modern design, powerful range of engines, lots of cargo hauling capacity.
- Odd arched-eyebrow look taillamps spoil otherwise clean design, not as refined as Ford Econoline.
Edmunds' Expert Review
When Chevy dealers received a brand-new, full-size van to sell in 1996, it marked the first time in 25 years that GM completely redesigned its big vans. The Express comes standard with lots of cargo space, dual airbags and four-wheel antilock brakes, and can be equipped with a variety of powerful engines. With this modern new design, Chevrolet is stealing some of Ford's thunder in the full-size van market.
Converters prefer the rugged full-frame construction of full-size vans, because they are easy to modify and can handle a lot of add-ons without degrading stability, ride and handling. Because most full-size vans are bought for conversion into rolling motel rooms, engineers decided to put the Chevy Express on this type of platform. Regular-length models carry 267 cubic feet of cargo, and extended-length vans can haul 317 cubic feet of stuff. Trick rear doors open 180 degrees to make loading and unloading easier. Up to 15 passengers can ride in the extended-length Express, making it perfect for use as an airport shuttle. Other seating options include five-, eight- and 12-passenger arrangements. And G3500s can tow up to 10,000 pounds when properly equipped.
For convenience, the full-size spare is stored underneath the cargo floor. A 31-gallon fuel tank keeps this thirsty vehicle from frequent fill-ups, but topping off an empty tank will quickly empty your wallet. Engine choices are sourced from the Chevrolet family of Vortec gasoline motors, or if you prefer, a turbocharged diesel. Available are the Vortec 4300 V6, the 5000, 5700, and 7400 V8s, and a 6.5-liter Turbo-diesel V8. Standard side cargo doors are a 60/40 panel arrangement, but a traditional slider is a no-cost option on 135-inch wheelbase vans.
Child safety locks are standard on the rear and side doors of the Express. Handy assist handles help folks climb in and out. Front and rear air conditioning is optional. Last year, all models got a standard theft deterrent system and depowered airbags.Exterior styling is an interesting mix of corporate Chevrolet, Astro Van and old Lumina Minivan. We'll admit the high, rear pillar-mounted taillights are odd-looking, but at least they're functional. They can easily be seen even if the van is operated with the rear doors open. Low-mounted bumpers and moldings make the Chevy Express look much taller than it is. An attractively sculpted body side gives the van's smooth, slab-sided flanks a dose of character, as does the quad-lamp grille arrangement. Two new Chevy Express paint choices arrive for 1999, and one new interior color.
Overall, Chevrolet's latest rendition of the traditional full-size van appears to be right on target, giving Ford's Econoline/Club Wagon the first real competition it has faced in years.