Used 1997 GMC Savana Van Review

Edmunds expert review

What's new for 1997

G3500 models get dual airbags, while daytime running lights are a new standard feature. Speed-sensitive steering reduces effort at low speeds. Chrome-plated wheels are a new option. Remote keyless entry key fobs are redesigned, and automatic transmissions provide better fuel economy and smoother shifts.

Vehicle overview

Believe it or not, it had been 25 years since GM redesigned its full-size van lineup when the Savana arrived in small numbers for 1996. The GMC Rally Van and Vandura were introduced in 1971, and sold steadily until recently. Competition and safety regulations forced GM to redo the big vans -- heck, since 1971 Ford had re-engineered the Club Wagon and Econoline twice! To distinguish the new design, GMC rebadged the van Savana.

Savana features flush glass and door handles, hidden door hinges, standard antilock brakes and dual airbags. Doors contain side impact guard beams, though they do not meet 1999 safety standards yet. Front foot and legroom is adequate, and front seats offer a wide range of fore and aft travel. Rear heat ducts are standard, but for better warming (and cooling) an optional rear heating and air conditioning unit is available. Front air conditioning is standard. The center console contains two cupholders, an auxiliary power outlet, and storage for items like CDs and cassettes. Five sound systems are offered. Savana is available in base SL or luxury SLE trim levels.

New for 1997 is speed-sensitive power steering that lowers parking effort at low speeds. G3500 models receive dual front airbags, and daytime running lights make this huge hauler even more conspicuous to other motorists. Chrome-plated wheels are newly optional, and remote keyless entry fobs are redesigned for easier use. Automatic transmission refinements result in better fuel economy and smoother shifts.

Buyers may select either a 135-inch or a 155-inch wheelbase. There is a choice of side-entry doors as well; a sliding door or a pair of 60/40 hinged doors. Inside the short-wheelbase Savana you'll find 267 cubic feet of cargo area, while the longer wheelbase model provides a whopping 317 cubic feet of volume. Up to 15 passengers can be seated within, on as many as five bench seats. Hinged rear doors open 180 degrees for easy loading, and do not conceal high-mounted taillights when opened up. Gross vehicle weight ratings of up 9500 pounds are available on either wheelbase.

The base engine is a Vortec 4300 V6 making 200 horsepower. Optional motors include the new GM family of V8's, ranging from the popular Vortec 5000 to the monster Vortec 7400. Also available is a turbodiesel V8 good for 190 horsepower and 385 stump-pulling foot-pounds of torque.

Like most new product in showrooms these days, the Savana's styling is rounded and bulbous, with a front end that mimics the corporate look carried by most of GM's truck family. This design should wear well into the next century.

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.