2018 GMC Savana Cargo

2018 GMC Savana Cargo Review

The aging Savana isn't as desirable as its newer rivals, all of which offer more cargo space.
by Cameron Rogers
Edmunds Editor

Edmunds expert review

Full-size vans have a longer shelf life than other vehicles, but even these utilitarian workhorses have an expiration date. Case in point: the 2018 GMC Savana Cargo Van. Although it was heavily refreshed for the 2003 model year, its bones date back to a time when voters were still trying to decide between Clinton and Dole. While it's capable enough on its own merits, business owners have the pick of several competing vans that are more versatile and up-to-date.

The GMC Savana and its nearly identical corporate cousin, the Chevrolet Express, are among the last of the truck-based, body-on-frame cargos vans. Most in the segment have adopted a unibody construction, giving rivals a more comfortable ride and less mass for their smaller, more fuel-efficient engines to haul around. Nearly all offer a range of cargo roof heights, so you can put in taller shelves or simply give yourself more room to move around the cabin.

These competitors can't tow or haul as much as the Savana, but unless you are packing the back to the top with equipment, nearly every other cargo van is a better choice.

What's new for 2018

Last year's base 4.8-liter V8 has been replaced by a 4.3-liter V6 with similar horsepower and torque ratings. The 6.0-liter V8 again supports compressed natural gas (CNG) conversion. A rearview camera and a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot are now standard, and blind-spot monitoring has been added to the options list. Several new packages, including the Safety, Cargo and Communications packages, are now available.

We recommend

The 2018 GMC Savana is sold in a single trim: the Work Van. From there, you choose between two load ratings — 2500 and 3500 — and a standard or an extended wheelbase. Three engines are on tap; the V8 has the highest towing and payload capabilities, while the diesel is undoubtedly the most fuel-efficient. Several packages are available, and we'd start with the Convenience package, which adds cruise control and a tilt steering wheel. Several stand-alone options are also worth pursuing, including a USB port and blind-spot monitoring, which is invaluable for those who don't opt for side glass.

Trim levels & features

The 2018 GMC Savana Cargo is a full-size van with an expansive, boxy cargo area behind two front seats. (Its Savana Passenger sibling fills this space with additional rows of seating.) It's available in two load ratings: 2500 (max payload: 3,353 pounds) and 3500 (max payload: 4,311 pounds). Each can be ordered in an extended wheelbase, which increases cargo volume from 239.7 cubic feet in the standard version to 284.4 cubic feet. Regardless of starting configuration, the Savana only comes in the modestly equipped Work Van trim level. A few packages and numerous stand-alone options are available.

By default, the rear-wheel-drive Savana Cargo is powered by a 4.3-liter V6 (276 horsepower, 298 pound-feet of torque) paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Alternate powertrains are available if the standard V6 doesn't meet your requirements, including a 6.0-liter V8 (341 hp, 373 lb-ft) matched to a six-speed automatic and a 2.8-liter four-cylinder diesel engine (181 hp, 369 lb-ft) with an eight-speed auto.

The Work Van's standard features include 16-inch steel wheels, 60/40-split opening doors on the right side, a rearview camera, a driver information display, air conditioning, power windows and locks, vinyl upholstery and floor covering, LED cargo lighting, six D-ring cargo tie-downs, a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot, GM's OnStar emergency communications, a 120-volt outlet, and a two-speaker audio system with AM/FM radio and an auxiliary jack.

Major equipment packages include the Convenience, which adds a tilt-adjustable steering wheel and cruise control; the Chrome Appearance, which brings chrome bumpers and grille; the Cargo, which adds the V8 engine and a spray-in bedliner; the Communications, which adds the contents of the Convenience package, plus the V8 engine, leather-wrapped steering wheel, Bluetooth, a CD player and satellite radio; and Safety, which adds the contents of the Convenience package, plus the V8 engine, power-adjustable mirrors, rear parking sensors with backup alarm and blind-spot monitoring. There's also an Enhanced Convenience package that brings the V8, remote locking and unlocking, remote engine start, heated and power-adjustable mirrors, a trailer hitch and a seven-pin connector.

Packages aimed at commercial customers include the Hotel Shuttle package, which adds the contents of the Chrome Appearance and Driver Convenience packages, the V8, a sliding rear passenger door, heated power mirrors, a second row of seating, tinted glass and rear cargo windows, and the Ambulance package, which is available for the 3500 and extended wheelbase only and adds the Chrome Appearance package, a heavy-duty locking differential, and a more powerful battery and alternator. A separate bundle adds a 6.5-inch touchscreen, navigation, Bluetooth, a CD player and a USB port.

Some of the above features can be added as stand-alone options. Other options include an engine block heater, cloth upholstery, power-adjustable front seats, and rear air conditioning and heating.

Trim tested

Edmunds has not yet driven any version of this vehicle. The following is our first take on what's significant about it and what you can expect.


Even the standard-wheelbase van is a large vehicle, and it drives like one. Tidy handling and accurate steering are not among the big GMC's marching orders. The upgraded V8 engine is responsive, though, and easily gets the van up to highway speeds, even with a full load of cargo.


The driver and front passenger are divided by an enormous center bulge covering some of the engine and transmission, the width of which causes the driver to feel squeezed even in this large vehicle. The basic controls are easy to find and simple to use, but comforts are few.


As in other cargo vans, the Savana's interior makes liberal use of hard plastics. The engine protrudes into the front footwells, a characteristic of old-school vans that rivals have long since abandoned. A low roof and no door behind the driver make it difficult to enter and move around the back.


The cargo area measures 239.7 cubic feet in the short-wheelbase Savana, a few cubes smaller than the class average. Space expands to 284.4 cubic feet in the long-wheelbase version. Competitors offer much more storage room because they can be ordered with even longer cargo floors and higher roofs.


The Savana fails to impress on the tech front, with just a two-speaker stereo with AM/FM radio and an auxiliary jack listed as standard equipment. Optional extras include a CD player, satellite radio, and a touchscreen interface that's older than what you'll find in newer GMC vehicles.

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.