Growing up with the A-Team on TV it was hard not to lust after a Chevrolet VanDura just like the one Mr. T drove. The VanDura no longer exists, but its replacement, the GMC Savana bears familiar looks and continues the legacy of practicality. Sharing underpinnings with its Chevrolet Express sibling, the Savana faces tough competition in the form of the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter and Ford Transit. Packing choices between V8 engines and a torque diesel motor, and available in two wheelbases, there's plenty of towing capacity and a high payload capacity. But unlike other competitors, the Savana doesn't offer multiple roof heights.
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As is the standard in this class, the dash and interior are filled with hard plastics along with vinyl upholstery – built for durability rather than comfort. The engines have a tendency to intrude into the cabin, cramping space in the foot well where other manufacturers have resolved this issue in their current models. There's decent comfort on offer though, with air conditioning, power windows, and two-speaker radio standard.
In standard wheelbase, there are 124.6 inches behind the driver's seat, with that figure growing to 146.2in in extended wheelbase guise. The shorter of the two can fit 239.7 cubic feet worth of cargo in the hold, and the extended wheelbase a total of 284.4 cubes – decent, but lacking behind what others can offer with their available high roof options. The lack of a high roof also limits movement in the cargo bay – you'll likely knock your head on the roof several times a day when loading and offloading the Savana.
The GMC Savana does nothing really out of the ordinary when driving. It drives like a van, an honest true to type cargo hauler. The suspension is firm in order to accommodate a high payload (a maximum 3 234lbs in the 2500 SWB, and 4 192lbs in the 3500 SWB), with the 3500 firming things up further still. Unladen, the ride is a bit choppy, but as the pounds pile in, so the ride settles and becomes more pliant. Noise, vibration, and harshness levels are decently impressive with few rattles making their way through the cabin. But handling isn't a word you'd associate freely with the Savana – steering is slow and indirect, and lacks any feeling of precision. Combine that with its sheer size, even in standard wheelbase version, and maneuverability takes a serious knock – making it problematic to handle in tight loading zones or parking lots.
The standard engine available is a 4.8-liter gasoline V8 offering 285 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. For those requiring higher towing capacity, there's also an available 6.0-liter V8 with 342hp and 373 lb-ft. In addition, the 6.0 can run on an E85 ethanol mixture too. For those concerned about consumption, a Duramax 2.8-liter turbo-diesel 4 cylinder packs a 181hp and 369 lb-ft punch. All models are rear-wheel drive and feature a 6-speed automatic gearbox as standard. With the FlexFuel V8 equipped, maximum towing capacity is rated at 10 000 pounds, while the diesel hauls up to 6 800.
The GMC Savana van is available in one trim only, but several options and feature packages can improve the equipment list. A Convenience Package features cruise control and steering wheel tilt adjustment, while other options include rear air conditioning, an 8-point digital compass, and an IntelliLink infotainment system with navigation. In terms of safety, airbags are standard, along with stability control and tire pressure monitoring. Optionally, you can equip rear park assist and a rear vision camera. 4 wheel disc brakes are standard, and all are equipped with individual antilock braking.
The GMC Savana can get expensive and fast, so unless you really need to haul massive payloads, it's best to stick to the diesel 2500 in extended wheelbase. But the Savana is dated and feels outgunned by modern rivals. It needs a refresh, and soon.
The most popular competitors of 2017 GMC Savana Cargo Van: