The Savana is the true workhorse in the GMC lineup. Big, bold, with plenty of cabin room, this is the vehicle for the construction worker requiring lots of space for materials, and the builder room for his tools. Do not expect a vehicle that is extremely comfortable and fancy. This is a brass tack. This is steel and plastic.
Body Styles: standard 135-inch wheelbase, half-ton (the Savana 1500) or one ton (3500); extended 155-inch wheelbase (3500).
Engines: 5.3-liter V-8 engine, 6.0-liter V-8 engine
Transmissions: four-speed automatic transmission
Models: the LS and the LT
The Savana did not receive in major changes from the previous model year except for the fast idle option on the V-8 engine that allows the driver and passenger to use accessories in the vehicle while the van is idling.
Not much can be said about the Savana exterior; it is truly a no-frills affair. The big body is a box made for storage and hauling. The Savana is available in two wheelbase sizes, the 135-inch and the 155-inch.
The interior is a workers dream and the suburbanite’s nightmare. The surface materials are a landscape of hard plastic. The controls are functional and well within reach of the driver but no style were implemented into the design. You’d think the vehicle would have plenty of legroom in the front, but the wheel wells are cramped.
The front doors feature a 60/40-split that allows easy access to the back of the vehicle. The Savana seats 12 comfortably on the standard models. An eight-passenger and 15-passenger variety is also available.
The interior could benefit greatly from a redesign and extra available features.
The LS is built for fleet service, so the features are at the bare minimum. Available features include air conditioning, AM/FM stereo and an anti-theft system.
The LT models have a few extras including a rear AC and heating system, power windows and doors, cloth upholstery, cruise control, tilt steering, and keyless entry.
Extra options are available in accessory groups including power driver and passenger seats, alloy wheels, six-CD changer, and an upgraded speaker system.
Performance & Handling
The half-ton GMC Savana runs on a 5.3-liter, V-8 engine that produces 301 horsepower with 325 pound-feet of torque. The 1500 uses a four-speed automatic transmission that sends all the power to the back wheels. An all-wheel drive version of the 1500 is also available.
The 3500 version of the vehicle uses a 6.0-liter, V-8 engine that produces 323 horsepower with 373 pound-feet of torque.
The towing power on the Savana is incredible. The 1500 can pull up to 6,300 pounds, and the 3500 can pull up to 7,600 pounds with the proper configuration.
On the road the Savana has a good feel, especially for being such a large vehicle. You would expect such a monster to be unwieldy, but the steering is spot on. The big V-8 engine means maintaining speed and passing is a breeze even when carrying a large load. As long as you do not have car-like expectations, the Savana works beautifully.
The Savana is included with four-wheel anti-lock brakes, stability control and side curtain airbags for the first three rows of seating. The Savana performed fairly well in government crash tests receiving the top five star marks for driver and passenger.
EPA Fuel Economy
Base: 13/16 mpg city/highway
The GMC is a big workhorse. The towing capacity will make it appealing to workers. The big engine also makes this van a comfort to drive, especially for those purchasing the van to carry multiple passengers. The different wheelbase options and passenger configurations are also a bonus. All-wheel drive also makes the Savana a versatile vehicle.
You Won't Like
The interior quality is a bit poor. All that plastic is a bit uninspiring. The features available for the Savana are also as bare-boned as possible. The cramped wheel well can be a pain, especially on long trips. Headroom is also a bit cramped when getting in and out of the vehicle.
If you are looking for a towing machine or a passenger wagon, you can’t really go wrong with the Savana. There are other options available with a bit more space in the cabin that may be worth a look if you find the leg space a bit too cramped. The Dodge Sprinter is a bigger, updated model that shames the Savana a bit. Shop around but keep the Savana in mind.
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