2002 GMC Safari Review
Pros & Cons
- Standard eight-passenger seating, 5,400-pound trailer rating, torquey V6.
- Boxy design, poor fuel economy, intrusive engine cover makes for small footwells.
Edmunds' Expert Review
A minivan with truck capabilities ... and refinement ... and ride quality.
Because of their traditional-type full-frame construction and standard rear-drive layout, Safaris are most adept at heavy hauling and trailer towing. This is one of the very few minivans (GMC calls it a midsize) on the market that can combine more than 5,000 pounds of trailering capacity with room for eight people. Not everyone will relish the truck-like ride over harsh road surfaces, but it's not bad when the highway smoothes out. Don't expect top-notch fuel mileage, though, despite a continually improved powertrain.
GM's 4300 Vortec V6 is standard, sporting a new multi-point fuel injection system for improved overall performance. The 4.3-liter powerplant sends 190 horsepower and a healthy 250 pound-feet of torque to an electronically controlled four-speed automatic overdrive transmission equipped with a tow/haul mode for improved performance under loads. Long-life engine coolant and spark plugs help keep maintenance costs to a minimum. All-wheel-drive versions have GM's AutoTrac transfer case, which automatically transfers power to the front axle when rear-wheel slippage is detected.
Safari passenger vans come in just two trim levels, a well-equipped SLE and top-of-the line SLT, with a third-row bench and eight-passenger seating standard (though opting for center-row buckets cuts seating to seven). Instead of the typical minivan lift-up rear door, GMC offers right- and left-hand rear load doors, with the option of choosing ''dutch'' doors (standard on SLT), which feature a liftglass and a split tailgate. Three different preferred equipment groups now contain 34 distinct features as standard or optional equipment, helping make the long-aging Safari a solid value.
Safety is provided by standard dual airbags and four-wheel antilock brakes. Additional standard features include keyless entry, an overhead storage console, speed-sensitive power steering, various built-in cupholders and storage bins and three power outlets.
Insiders say that the Safari's days (and those of its Chevy Astro sister) are numbered. But for now, whether your choice is simple rear-drive or full-time all-wheel drive, Safaris still enjoy the rare ability to handle the kinds of towing/hauling tasks that pose serious problems for modern front-drive minivans. It may not be pretty, but if you need to transport the whole family and tow the boat all in one load, the Safari is almost the only choice in town.