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2012 GMC Savana

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2012 GMC Savana Review

A workhorse in every sense

Reviewed by Automotive on

If you've ever ridden in an airport shuttle or taken the church van to the Sunday School picnic, chances are you've been in a GMC Savana. That's right folks, GMC still builds the venerable Savana, and as one of the last honest workhorses in GM's fleet, it still sees regular updates in its drivetrain (if not design).

With a six -speed automatic transmission for 2500 and 3500 models, the Savana finally gets modern gearing, though a four-speed auto is standard for the 1500. Available Stabilitrak all-wheel drive for the 1500 is one of the Savana's top selling points, and a popular option. In longer wheelbase models, and 3500 models, the Savana can be configured for eight, 12 or 15 passengers. A variety of V-8 engines can be optioned, from a 6.6-liter Duramax turbodiesel to a 6.0-liter Vortec V-8 that features 324 horsepower and 373 lb-ft of torque.

It should come as no surprise that the lack of amenities, heavy-duty ride, mouse-fur upholstery, and variety of lengths relegate it to commercial duty. Sure, aspiring consumers can option an LT model to include Bluetooth, a remote starter, power doors and windows, and XM satellite radio. But for the plumbers, electricians, fleet managers, livery drivers, and church moms who make a living behind the wheel of a Savana, it's refreshing to see GMC keep on building them.

The Range

Bodystyle: Full-size van
Engines: 4.8-liter V-8, 5.3-liter V-8, 6.0-liter Vortec V-8, 6.6-liter Duramax turbodiesel V-8
Transmissions: four-speed automatic, six-speed automatic
Models: 1500, 2500, 3500, 3500 extended wheelbase (LS and LT trims)

What's New

The 5.3-liter V-8 has received a slight boost to 310 horsepower, and all engines are E85 capable. The 2500 and 3500 models now feature GM's six-speed Hydra-Matic transmission as standard equipment, and the vans have been revised to help improve torque and mileage. Remote start was also recently added as an option.


You're not going to mistake the Savana as anything more than a big, hulking van, with a massive front bumper and lots of glass. A chrome appearance package is available over the Spartan base model, and there's a choice of sliding or swinging passenger doors.


The Savana is built for toughness, not design--there are no soft-touch plastics or leather seats here. It's spacious and easy to navigate, however, and options including power recline cloth bucket seats are available. Options are available for commercial owners to haul equipment and tools in. The Savana has plenty of room overall, but lacks a tall-roof option like the Dodge Sprinter.

Performance & Handling

A 310-horsepower 5.3-liter V-8 is standard for 1500 models, while 2500 and 3500 Savanas get the 6.0-liter Vortec V-8 with 323 horsepower and 370 lb-ft of torque. While the 6.0-liter is mated to GM's solid six-speed automatic, the 1500s continue to be saddled with a four-speed auto. The Savana drives like a full-size, body-on-frame van would, but 1500's power rack-and-pinion steering helps to keep things pointed in the right direction.


The Savana has received a five-star crash rating from the government in frontal crash tests, and the van has side curtain airbags for the first three rows of passengers. All Savanas come with four-wheel discs with ABS and StabiliTrak electronic stability control as standard equipment.

EPA Fuel Economy

1500: 13 city/17mpg highway
2500 and 3500: Not rated

You'll Like

  • Available four-wheel drive
  • Multiple engine options
  • Gets the job done

You Won't Like

  • No tall roof option
  • Outdated cabin
  • Old

Sum Up

A workhorse in every sense

If You Like This Vehicle

  • Ford E-Series
  • Mercedes-Benz Sprinter
  • Nissan NV

See the New 2015 Savana.

Front & Driver Side View