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2003 GMC Savana

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2003 GMC Savana Review

The 2003 GMC Savana, with its slew of improvements, is one of the best full-size vans available on the market.

Reviewed by Automotive on


The 2003 GMC Savana is a far cry from its predecessors. This is the first time the large carrier van has received a redesign in seven years. New features include an upgraded powertrain, new standard features, and an updated appearance. There are a few firsts for this large of a van as well: all-wheel drive, optional left-side door, and commercial van side panels.

So how did the redesign change the vehicle? After flagging sales of the vehicle, the inclusion of the new features helped improve sales, if only briefly. The engines were a large pull. Included with the van are a slew of new Generation III model V-8s that promise better on-road performance and better fuel economy than previous vehicles.

Another pull is the sheer variety of Savanas available. There are several wheelbase sizes, feature configurations, and drive styles to choose from.

Even with the improvements there are still a few worrisome details. There is a lot of terrible interior plastic. Even with the mechanical upgrades, the handling of the vehicle is still pretty poor.

Overall, the changes have been a success. If you’re looking for a decent van with lots of passenger space, the Savana may be for you.

The Range

Body Styles: carrier van
Engines: 4.3-liter V-6, 4.8-liter V-8, 5.3-liter V-8, 6.0-liter V-8
Transmissions: four-speed automatic
Models: GMC Savana

What's New

The 2003 GMC Savana is completely redesigned for 2003. Two new Vortec V-8 engines are available. All-wheel drive models are also made available this year. The driver-side door now has a 60/40 access as well as swing-up access panels, such as you’d find on a commercial van.


The 2003 GMC Savana has a new grille, bumper, fascia, hood, and fenders as part of its upgrade. These changes make it resemble other GMC vehicles available. The regular-length passenger van has a 135-inch wheelbase. An extended wheelbase that measures 115 inches is also available. Standard exterior features include sliding doors, access panels, 16-inch steel wheels, intermittent wipers, rear barn doors, mast antennae, and an under-body spare tire.


The interior of the 2003 GMC Savana can carry between eight and fifteen passengers depending on the wheelbase and the configuration of the seats. The large cargo vans only carry two people up front and lack any second or third-row seating. The revamped interior has more head and legroom than previous versions of the vehicle. A new Class II electrical system is also installed, meaning that a battery run-down protection system is now installed, as well as lockout protections, driver’s warnings, and delayed accessory power when the engine is shut off.

Even though the vehicle has received an overhaul, there are still a lot of cheap plastic parts that look brittle and feel even worse.

Standard features on the interior of the van include a lock, instrument warnings, air conditioning, front cup holders, 12V outlets, bucket front seats, vinyl upholstery, power steering, cargo area light, and more.

Performance & Handling

The 2003 GMC Savana with a standard 4.3-liter V-6 engine that produces 200 horsepower. This engine is only available on the lightweight vehicles. Three V-8 engines are available as well, a part of the redesign. A 4.8-liter engine is available that produces 270 horsepower. The next up is a 5.3-liter V-8 engine that produces 285 horsepower. Last, but not least, is the 6.0-liter V-8 that produces a whopping 300 horsepower. All of the engines are paired with a four-speed automatic transmission. The transmission comes with a Tow/Haul switch that tells the engine when you are hauling a load and to shift accordingly. The engines have an air-filter and oil-life monitor for your convenience.

The new engines give the vehicle a lot of power for hauling cargo and pulling loads. Although a lot of improvements have been made, there are still problems with the ride. The worst is the handling, which feels awkward even with the all-wheel drive.


The GMC Savana comes with four-wheel anti-lock brakes, all-wheel drive, child seat anchors, front and rear ventilated disc brakes, rear-door child safety locks, engine immobilizer, daytime running lights, front seatbelt pretensioners, and electronic brake force distribution. Due to the size of the vehicle, it has not been tested by the NHTSA or the IIHS.

EPA Fuel Economy

2003 GMC Savana Base: 13/18 mpg city/highway

You'll Like

  • Lots of new engines
  • Powerful V-8
  • Large cargo and towing capacity
  • Access panels
  • New design

You Won't Like

  • Terrible fuel economy
  • Plastic interior pieces
  • Poor handling

Sum Up

The 2003 GMC Savana, with its slew of improvements, is one of the best full-size vans available on the market.

If You Like This Vehicle

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See the New 2015 Savana.

Front & Driver Side View

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