Overview & Reviews
Though ostensibly anachronistic in today's world of SUVs, minivans and crossovers, the GMC Savana full-size passenger van still has its place for those who need to transport really large groups or lots of cargo. With maximum capacities that are double that of even the most commodious minivan, vans like the Savana are the vehicles of choice for large families, small-business owners and fleet operators.
Like every GMC product, the Savana is related to another General Motors product; in this case, it's the more well known and popular Chevrolet Express van. Both vans are a rolling testament to the "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" school of vehicle design, as they have been soldiering on for decades with only occasional updates.
Originally known as the "Rally wagon," GMC's full-size passenger van was renamed the Savanna in the mid-1990s. Interested shoppers will find that the current model's numerous wheelbase, powertrain and passenger configurations allow an appealing amount of customization.
If you're looking for a new or used van that's rugged, spacious and competent, the GMC Savana is a very good choice. However, those looking at new or late-model vans should also consider the Nissan NV and Mercedes-Benz/Freightliner Sprinter, as they offer several advantages over traditional American full-size vans.
Current GMC Savana
The standard-wheelbase GMC Savana passenger van is available in half-ton (1500) and 1-ton (3500) configurations. The extended-wheelbase version (155-inch) is available only on the 3500. There are two trim levels: LS and LT. LS models are geared toward fleet service, while LT models come with more features and options (such as rear park assist and a rearview camera) to make them a little easier to live with. Passenger capacities range from eight to 15 people, depending on the model.
For motivation, the 1500 series comes with a 5.3-liter V8 (310 horsepower and 334 pound-feet of torque) matched to a four-speed automatic transmission. The 2500 and 3500 series come with a 4.8-liter V8 (280 hp and 295 lb-ft) but offer a conventional 6.0-liter V8 (324 hp and 373 lb-ft) and a CNG (compressed natural gas)-powered 6.0-liter V8 (282 hp and 320 lb-ft) as options. The 3500 series further offers a 6.6-liter turbodiesel V8 (260 hp and 525 lb-ft) as an option. All engines come with a six-speed automatic, and all Savanas are rear-wheel drive except the 1500, which also offers the option of all-wheel drive. Stability control is standard across the board.
The Savana's cabin won't win any beauty contests, but it does offer efficiency. Ergonomics are good, with controls that are intuitive and easy to access. Despite the overall spaciousness of these vans, though, footwells are rather tight. Rear access can be enhanced with a sliding passenger-side door or a 60/40-split driver-side rear door. In reviews, we've found the GMC Savana's big V8 engines provide ample power, and its ride and handling characteristics are superior to its main Blue Oval rival, but inferior to the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter and Nissan NV.
Used GMC Savana Models
The GMC Savana is a single-generation vehicle, but current models have evolved relative to earlier versions. The last major update occurred in 1996, but there have been notable, mostly powertrain-related changes since. The biggest happened in 2003, when an enhanced lineup of powerhouse engines debuted (a 200-hp V6, 295-hp 5.3-liter V8 and 300-horse 6.0-liter V8) and all-wheel drive was offered for the first time. The standard transmission was a four-speed automatic. During this time, there was also a 3/4-ton 2500 version offered, as well as a luxury-themed Savana SLT trim.
For 2007, the V6 was dropped, while the V8s were upgraded to 301 hp and 323 hp, respectively. Used van shoppers should know that 2008 brought significant upgrades in the form of a refreshed interior and the standard fitment of stability control and side curtain airbags. For 2010 the 5.3-liter was bumped up to its current output and the 6.0-liter V8 got its current six-speed auto. The following year GMC introduced the 4.8-liter V8 engine for the 2500 series van and the optional 6.6-liter V8 turbodiesel for the 3500. For 2013, a couple of new options debuted, namely a navigation system, rear park assist and a rearview camera. Other than lacking the option of the CNG-fueled V8, these latter Savanas are identical to today's version.
User Reviews:Showing 1 through 10 of 31.00
3500 GMC Savana - a Workhorse - 2006 GMC Savana
By Lars - December 21 - 1:50 pm
Have owned this from when it was new and I really like everything about it.
Great van - 1999 GMC Savana
By Terry Derian - December 15 - 5:53 pm
bought this van new in 2005. The only repairs beside the normal (oil, tires, brakes, fluids) was a water pump at 185000 miles. Put 191,000 on this and was still going strong until i t was in a wreck. This was one of the most dependable vehicles i have ever owned.
exterior mirrors - 2011 GMC Savana
By rickman1 - April 24 - 9:20 am
After owning 6 gm vans previously I am disappointed in the configuration of the split mirrors. Driving down the highway the upper mirror gives an accurate view although smaller then previous years, however the lower mirror (installed for backup purposes) gives a distorted view that causes vison nausea. This makes for an uncomfortable driving experience
GMC Savana Explorer Conversion - 2003 GMC Savana
By Alexstaar - June 5 - 7:25 pm
We purchased our van at the beginning of 2004. Our van has pretty much seen it all. The first trip we took it on it was hit by Hurricane Charley. It now gets 14 mpg city and 16 mpg hwy. The 5.3 liter engine 0-60 is about 8 sec. though its only RWD, it does excellent in rain, snow, and ice. It is very fun to drive. I will definitely consider buying another one of these vans!
2005 GMC Savana - 2005 GMC Savana
By Tom - October 14 - 4:46 pm
Great vehicle for past 4 years. AWD has worked flawlesly and as good as a previous 4wd vehicle with a transfer case, and certainly more convenient. Two problems...AC will not hold a charge more than one season...side swinging door hits front passenger door when both open and dents rear door on edge of front door, really poor design (where were the engineers???)
Fuel sucker & poor quality - 2008 GMC Savana
By Bruno661 - May 18 - 11:23 pm
Ive always been a GM guy, but this van has really been a disappointment. The first day off the lot the windshield was hit by two separate SMALL stones causing the windshield to CRACK. Very poor quality glass. AC also went bad within 6 months. We struggle to get 10mpg city or highway. I think ONE time I got 12mpg on the highway. Towing my trailer I was lucky to get 6mpg. Probably wouldnt buy again.
A Great Cross Country Trooper - 1996 GMC Savana
By Martin - December 11 - 9:41 pm
We have owned this vehicle for three years now and it has been great transportation. We had purchased it to make regular back and forth trips from Texas To California but wound up moving to Pennsylvania. It was a great ride in the cross country expeditions. We have used to haul machines, lumber, water purifiers and just plain traveling. We like the capacity as we carry people to church on Sunday and have had as many as 15 on the run. We would buy it again. The only real problem we have had was with a engine sensor that only happened while traveling in the California Desert and that was only once. Havent had any other issues. Would recommend this baby to anyone who wanted a roomy ride.
Great Van - 1999 GMC Savana
By Great Van - October 26 - 10:45 pm
I purchased this van to replace my 3rd Astro Van. I needed something that could tow with confidence and not give up comfort. I landed on a GMC Savana with the 5.7 and an Explorer low top conversion. I purchased the van with 94,000 miles. The van runs and drive great and now has 107,000 miles. Only problem to date was the A/C went at about 105,000 miles. I love the van, although the gas milage is about 3-5 miles less on average than the Astro, but it makes up for it in overall comfort and the ability to tow my 14 foot enclosed trailer and motorcycle through the mountains of North Carolina with ease.
5 Door Explorer Conversion Flexibility - 2007 GMC Savana
By A 5 Door Best - October 17 - 3:03 pm
Good looks abound with chrome wheels, ground effects package and special fade paint exterior with standard roof to enable city garage parking. Easy pop-out center captain seats and electric rear seat converts to queen bed. In this position, with appropriate protection on leather upholstery, its a real work horse to haul 4 X 8 materials, ladders, etc. Excellent towing ability. Best of all, a real comfortable 7 person touring vehicle with ample luggage storage and 22 mpg.
Excellent Family Alternative to SUVs - 2001 GMC Savana
By hurstcastle - August 4 - 12:20 pm
Vehicle has proven very reliable over the past 6+ years, rides exceptionally and served our family very well. Would pick this vehicle any day over a SUV. Tons of features in SLT package!