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1996 GMC Safari Review
A front-drive van with muscle.
Reviewed by Automotive on
The 1996 GMC Safari is a rear-drive midsize van manufactured by General Motors. It was launched along with its sibling, the Chevrolet Astro, in 1985 in order to compete with the Dodge Caravan, Plymouth Voyager, and the Toyota Van. Like the Ford Aerostar, it uses powertrain components from other GM light trucks. This use of a truck powertrain makes it incredibly strong and capable of loading a large amount of cargo. It's also accompanied by its traditional full-frame construction and the rear-drive layout.
Engines: 4.3-liter V-6
Transmissions: four-speed automatic
Models: GMC Safari, GMC Safari SLX, GMC Safari SLE, GMC Safari SLT
The 1996 GMC Safari comes with a completely new interior that is more spacious than previous models and comes with dual airbags and a number of other features. Some of these features include important ones like the availability of dual-integrated child seats, and childproof lock for the sliding door. A heat duct is fitted under the rear passenger bench to warm it up during the winter, and a newly-installed audio system has a radio that can be tuned separately by the rear passengers without disturbing the front passengers.
The 1996 GMC Safari continues with the extended nose that was introduced at the beginning of the second generation. The extended nose gives it a resemblance to the full-sized Express vans. It has a wheelbase of 111 inches, a length of 189.8 inches, and a total width of 77.5 inches.
The 1996 GMC Safari has a spacious interior with the regular and extended length bodies. The eight-passenger configuration passenger van is the maximum that it can hold. With this configuration, it suffers from a serious lack of cargo space at the rear. The interior is all new with dual airbags housed in a well-designed dashboard. The dash is now fitted with improved switchgear and analog gauges that are easy to see and read. The center bench seat comes with integrated child safety seats, and the sliding door is childproof. Storage compartments have been improved, and the new audio system makes it more modern and livable than ever before. The rear uses swing-out doors, which suffer from a large blind spot at the center because of the thick vertical bar.
Performance & Handling
The 1996 GMC Safari comes in a single combination. The 4.3-liter V-6 engine delivers 190 horsepower and is mated to a four-speed overdrive automatic transmission. One of the best advantages is it is a rear drive, making it ideal for hauling. Armed with the right equipment, it can pull up to 5500 pounds. However, the truck-based suspension also results in a truck-like ride. It tends to get jolted a lot on a bumpy track, making it difficult to keep it on course. The standard V-6 engine is quite capable of handling the heavy-hauling capabilities of the Safari. It offers plenty of torque and power, but the van’s performance is still not very brisk.
The 1996 GMC Safari gets a three-star rating for driver safety and a four-star rating for passenger safety during frontal impact tests conducted by the NHTSA.
EPA Fuel Economy
GMC Safari AWD, passenger: 14/17 mpg city/highway
GMC Safari 2WD, passenger: 15/19 mpg city/highway
- Adequate cargo space
- Good hauling capacity
- Lots of passenger room
You Won't Like
- Restricted visibility
- Poor ride quality
A front-drive van with muscle.
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