Used 2002 GMC Savana Cargo Review

How to you choose between a Chevrolet or a GMC full-size van? Which dealer is closest to your house? They're basically the same vehicle. And these GM vans stack up well against the formidable Ford Econoline and ancient has-been Dodge Ram Van. As long as the Savana provides what you need in this kind of vehicle, it's tough to go wrong here.




what's new

GMC's full-size van gets only minor improvements, such as a more efficient starter and a stronger steering gear housing. Models with an 8,600-pound or above GVWR and either the 8100 V8 or 6.5-liter diesel engine are newly certified as Low Emissions Vehicles in California.

vehicle overview

When the then-new Savana arrived in small numbers for 1996, it had been 25 years since GM redesigned its full-size van. The old GMC Rally Van and Vandura were introduced way back in 1971 (when vans were still groovy) and sold steadily until they were finally discontinued. Competition and safety regulations had forced GM to redo the big vans for '96, but by then Ford had already re-engineered its Econoline twice! To help distinguish GM's all-new rounded-off design, GMC rebadged its new van Savana.

The Savana cargo van is available in 135- and 155-inch wheelbases and three weight series (1500, 2500 or 3500). Their stripped down interiors are ready for upfitting with tool racks, parts bins or whatever it is you need to haul in the comfort and security of an enclosed cabin. Two trim levels are available, SL and SLT (the latter only for fleet buyers looking to create conversion vans)

GM's full-size vans feature flush glass and door handles, hidden door hinges, standard four-wheel antilock brakes and dual airbags. Front foot- and legroom is adequate, and front seats offer a wide range of travel. Front air conditioning and rear heat ducts are standard. The center console contains two cupholders, an auxiliary power outlet and storage for items like CDs and cassettes. Inside the short-wheelbase Savana, you'll find 267 cubic feet of cargo area, while the extended version provides a whopping 317 cubic feet of volume. Rear hinged doors open a full 180 degrees for easy loading and do not conceal high-mounted taillights when opened. For hauling, gross vehicle weight ratings of up to 9,500 pounds are available on either wheelbase.

The base engine is a 200-horsepower Vortec 4300 V6. Optional motors include a 220-horse Vortec 5000 V8, the venerable 255-horse Vortec 5700 V8, and a powerful Vortec 8100 big block V8 that makes 340 ponies and a whopping 455 pound-feet of torque. Also available is a robust 6.5-liter turbodiesel V8 good for 195 horsepower and 430 lb-ft of torque. All Savana 1500 and 2500 cargo vans use GM's 4L60-E transmission, while 3500 models get the heavier-duty 4L80-E.Savana's styling is rounded and bulbous, with a broad front end that mimics GM's truck family and a high-arched rear with tall, thin taillights mounted up along the D-pillars. The round-topped rear end and sheer size of this van make it seem as if you are looking at the back end of some sort of commuter train car. But since most retail buyers have moved to minivans and much of the full-size van business has centered on converters and fleet use, Savana's styling takes a back seat to its modern mechanicals and long service life.






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.