Used 1999 GMC Safari Review

Edmunds expert review

What's new for 1999

There are two new exterior paint and body-cladding colors, restyled wheels and outside mirrors, an overhead console and new optional integrated running boards. Additionally, all-wheel-drive Safari models get the new AutoTrac transfer case, and GM's OnStar communications system is now available.

Vehicle overview

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?

In reality, 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 standard rear-drive layout, Safaris are most adept at heavy hauling and burly trailer towing. This is one minivan that provides up to 5,500 pounds of trailering capacity and room for eight people. Not everyone will relish the trucklike ride over harsh surfaces, but it's not bad 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 rear passengers. Safari features GM's PassLock theft deterrent system and, for 1999, the OnStar mobile communications system is available.

One slick feature sure to be appreciated by the parents of teenagers is the middle seat 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 ears through headphones (a set of headphone jacks plugs into a separate radio unit in the center row). This option alone may be worth the savings in family therapy.

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 the new AutoTrac transfer case on all-wheel-drive models, which automatically transfers power to the front axle when rear-wheel slippage is detected.

Safaris come in three trim levels, SL, SLE and SLT, with eight-passenger seating standard on all three. There's an FE2 touring suspension option that has stiffer shocks, a rear stabilizer bar and grabby Goodyear rubber for a firmer, more controlled ride. Instead of the typical minivan lift-up rear door, right- and left-hand rear load doors are standard on Safari, with "dutch'' doors (a liftglass with split tailgate) optional.

Whether your choice is simple rear-drive or full-time all-wheel drive, Safaris can handle the muscular tasks that pose problems for most front-drive minivans and yet can transport up to eight people in comfort.

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.