Used 2016 GMC Savana Diesel Review
The full-size 2016 GMC Savana van is one of the more versatile and functional passenger vehicles on the road. But other rival vans are roomier, more fuel-efficient and more pleasant to drive.
GMC has been a popular provider of full-size vans through the years. In particular, the Savana has appealed to families, community groups and tradespeople needing to transport large numbers of passengers or tow substantial loads. It has all the traditional attributes you'd expect that give it the ability to haul just about anything you need, including eight to 15 passengers and payloads of nearly 3,500 pounds. It can also tow cargo weighing up to 10,000 pounds.
None of these are small tasks, and the 2016 GMC Savana is one of the few remaining multipurpose vans based on the tough, body-on-frame mechanicals of a pickup truck. The Savana also comes exclusively with V8 engine choices (two gasoline, one diesel), which give it plenty of pulling power. General Motors also offers the nearly identical Chevrolet Express. But most other full-size vans for 2016 are newer, and follow the European model of a tall-roof layout. These vans provide enhanced headroom for those moving around inside, yet still have substantial payload and towing capacities. These newer vans also use smaller engines, which reduces fuel consumption.
Among this new-age breed of work vans, you'll find the 2016 Ford Transit, 2016 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter and 2016 Ram ProMaster. They offer multiple roof height configurations (though for the Ram, only on the cargo version) and provide a superior foundation for commercial upfits. Another desirable pick for a full-size van is the 2016 Nissan NV, which also offers a space-efficient interior but not a diesel engine option.
If you compare the choices, the 2016 GMC Savana is undoubtedly going to look and feel behind the times. On the upside, the rugged underpinnings of the Savana have stood the test of time. The Ford Transit is the best van of the bunch in our opinion, but the Savana represents a potential bargain if you need a workhorse van and aren't picky about details and amenities.
trim levels & features
The 2016 GMC Savana is a full-size passenger van offered in two trim levels: LS and LT. There are two heavy-duty load ratings offered, the Savana 2500 and 3500. The standard wheelbase of 135 inches is available for both the 2500 and 3500, while the 155-inch wheelbase is reserved only for the 3500 series Savana. Twelve-passenger seating is standard across the board, but eight- and 15-passenger configurations are also available.
Base LS models come with 16-inch steel wheels, rear privacy glass, passenger-side swing-out doors, power windows and locks, a trip computer, front air-conditioning, a 120-volt power outlet, vinyl upholstery, rubber floor covering, GM's OnStar telematics service and a two-speaker AM/FM radio with the ability to play MP3 files.
The LT adds chrome exterior trim, keyless entry, rear air-conditioning and heating, cloth upholstery, full-length carpeting, cruise control, a tilt-only steering wheel and visor vanity mirrors. Many of the LT's standard features are also available as options on the LS model.
Other major options include heated mirrors, rear parking sensors, a sliding side door, six-way power front seats, remote ignition, Bluetooth phone connectivity, upgraded OnStar functionality (4G LTE), a USB port and a 6.5-inch touchscreen with navigation and satellite radio. Also available are an engine block heater, a heavy-duty trailering package and a rearview camera (with a display mounted either on the rearview mirror or on the navigation system's screen).
performance & mpg
Both the 2500 and the 3500 series versions of the 2016 GMC Savana get a standard 4.8-liter V8 engine with 285 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. A 6.0-liter V8 engine generating 329 hp and 373 lb-ft is optional, as is a compressed natural gas (CNG)-fueled variant of the 6.0-liter V8 that makes 282 hp and 320 lb-ft. All three are paired to a six-speed automatic transmission that sends power to the rear wheels.
Available only in the Savana 3500 series is a turbocharged 6.6-liter diesel V8 (also matched to a six-speed automatic) that generates 260 hp and 525 lb-ft of torque. The diesel engine is likely the more fuel-efficient of the two big V8s, but given the diesel's added weight, mpg estimates are not available because the EPA doesn't rate vehicles that weigh more than 6,000 pounds.
Properly equipped, a Savana 3500 can tow a maximum of 10,000 pounds.
All 2016 GMC Savana passenger vans come fitted with antilock brakes, side curtain airbags (for the first three rows of seating), front seat side airbags, traction and stability control and a six-month subscription to OnStar's emergency communications service as standard equipment. A rearview camera and rear parking sensors are available as options.
Even the standard-wheelbase 2016 GMC Savana is a large vehicle, and it drives like one. Thanks to the van's blunt nose, though, the grille is usefully close to the driver, and this helps in positioning the front of the van and seeing the front wheels. Still, tidy handling and accurate steering are not top priorities for the Savana, so it's more work to drive than some of the newer vans you might consider. All of the V8 engines are responsive, though, and easily deliver the van to highway speeds even with a full load of passengers or heavy cargo onboard.
If carrying passengers is the chief priority, the standard-length 2016 GMC Savana accommodates a minimum of eight and up to 12 passengers. The long-wheelbase version of the 3500 can be fitted with an extra bench that seats three more, for a total of 15 riders.
Driver controls are simple and easy to use, but cabin comfort suffers due to a dated design and a focus on functionality rather than comfort. 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. Cloth upholstery and carpeting are available on all versions, but you won't find luxuries like leather upholstery or heated seats.
Rear passengers will find the bench seats at a comfortable height, and there's enough space between them to make for decent legroom, but the Savana's low roof necessitates hunching over to move between front and rear, and using the seatbelts can be a hassle.
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.