1998 GMC Safari Review
Pros & Cons
- Big inside but small outside. Torquey V-6 engine. Dual airbags. Standard ABS. Available all-wheel drive.
- Fuel economy. Aging design. Intrusive engine cover.
Edmunds' Expert Review
Choosing between a Chevrolet Astro and a GMC Safari is more a matter of image than necessity. Do you want to see Chevrolet's badge every time you approach? Or would it be viscerally satisfying to face those bold "GMC" block letters, with their implication, as brand managers hope, of upscale luxury?
Tangible differences between the two are modest--a fact that's true of most Chevrolet and GMC cousins. Once you've decided that a rear drive (or all wheel drive) General Motors midsize van is the rational choice, you'll likely be satisfied with either one.
Because of their traditional-type full-frame construction and rear-drive layout, Safaris are most adept at heavy hauling and burly trailer towing. Not everyone will relish the truck-like ride over harsh surfaces, but it's not bad at all when the highway smoothes out. Don't expect top-notch fuel mileage, though.
Dual airbags are housed in an artfully styled dashboard, and antilock brakes are standard. For added safety and visibility, daytime running lights blaze the trail. Integrated child safety seats are available for the center bench seat, and the sliding door has a child safety lock. Rear seat heat ducts direct warm air to freezing rear passengers. For 1998, a PassLock theft deterrent system has been added to the Safari.
One slick feature sure to be appreciated by the parents of teenagers is the middle radio option. The driver and front passenger can listen to Casey Kasem up front, or nothing at all, while Junior blasts the local alternative music station into his eardrums via a set of headphone jacks that plug into a separate radio unit in the center row. This option alone is worth the savings in family therapy, don't you think?
GM's 4300 Vortec V6 is standard, sending 190 horsepower to an electronically controlled four-speed automatic transmission. Long-life engine coolant and 100,000-mile spark plugs help keep maintenance costs to a minimum. This year brings transmission refinements that result in improved fuel economy, better shift quality and increased reliability.
Safaris come in three trim levels. The FE2 touring suspension option has stiffer shocks, a rear stabilizer bar and grabby Goodyear rubber for a firmer, controlled ride. Eight-passenger seating is standard in Safaris with SLE or SLT trim, and available in the base SLX rendition. Several new colors are available for 1997.
Whether rear drive or running full-time all-wheel drive, Safaris serve the muscular tasks that a front-drive minivan just cannot handle--yet transport a family in a fashion that won't produce pangs of pain.