New for 2015
The GMC Savana remains largely the same for the 2015 model year but adds a number of standard features, including a USB and auxiliary port to the sound system, a 110-volt power outlet, standard OnStar with navigation, standard side-cut keys, and Emerald Green as an available exterior color.
The GMC Savana — and its mechanical twin the Chevrolet Express — is a full-size rear-drive van offered in passenger and cargo van variants. The Savana is the largest people mover in the GMC lineup, with seating for up to 15 passengers. The GMC Savana and mechanically identical Chevrolet Express are the last remaining long-running full-size American vans, as Ram now sells the ProMaster and Ford the Transit, both versions of foreign vans.
The 2015 GMC Savana, which hasn’t changed significantly since a 2004 update, is now available with three powertrain choices, all paired with a six-speed automatic, and although all-wheel drive used to be an option, rear-wheel drive is now the only one. The standard engine for most trim levels is a 4.8-liter V-8 that makes 285 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. The passenger variants achieve an EPA rating of 11/17 mpg city/highway, and although cargo variants are not officially rated, similar economy can be expected.
The largest gasoline engine available is a 329-hp 6.0-liter V-8 that makes 373 lb-ft of torque, which is EPA-rated for 11/16 mpg and can be outfitted with a compressed natural gas system to burn alternative fuel, but it is only rated at 282 hp and 320 lb-ft of torque when doing so. For buyers needing extra towing capacity, perhaps with plans for lots of distance driving, a turbodiesel 6.6-liter V-8, which makes 260 hp and 525 lb-ft of torque, is the heavy-duty option. The EPA doesn’t rate commercial diesel engines. Towing capacity for the Savana passenger van is between 6,700 pounds (2,500 with the 4.8-liter V-8) and 10,000 pounds (3,500 with the turbodiesel 6.6-liter V-8). The Savana cargo pulls up to 7,400 pounds (4.8-liter V-8) and 10,000 pounds (turbodiesel 6.6-liter V-8 equipped models), and the 6.0-liter V-8 falls in between the capacity of both engines. Cargo capacity is 239.7 cubic feet on regular-length cargo vans, and 284.4 cubic feet on extended-length models, which is better than the smallest Transit (medium wheelbase, low roof) but lags behind many of the Ford’s other variants.
The 2015 GMC Savana can be customized with aftermarket upfitting services and offers seating for up to 15 passengers. Flex fuel and natural gas options exist, and a heavy-duty turbodiesel can tow up to 10,000 pounds. Other available features include rear air conditioning on the extended wheelbase model and remote start.
The 2015 GMC Savana has not been rated by the IIHS but received a three-star rollover safety rating from the NHTSA (out of a possible five stars).
What We Think
If the 2015 GMC Savana seems a little like a time capsule, it’s because the big van hasn’t seen a redesign in more than 10 years. In the past few years all of the competition to the Savana (and Chevrolet’s twin, the Express) has moved on from the ubiquitous full-size van. Ford has replaced the E-Series with the Transit, and Dodge (which has long since abandoned the Ram Van) now sells the Ram ProMaster. These Euro-vans offer numerous lengths, roof heights, and efficient turbodiesel engines. Why is the Savana still around in a compete-or-die market?
In a 2006 review of a Chevrolet Express, we said, “The  Express offers remarkable value for the money. It’s relatively cheap to buy, easy to configure for your specific needs, and has a good value history, factoring resale, maintenance, insurance, and repairs.” Like the Express, upfitters already have hardware for these vans and years of experience turning them into industry-specific work vans. Chevrolet, and in turn GMC, has said it has no plans to replace the Savana/Express, saying that it meets the needs of the people who use them. Indeed, few new vans can meet the towing capacity of the big turbodiesel V-8, instead tuning their engines for fuel efficiency. The Savana/Express is a proven platform, and mechanics will no doubt be familiar with them by now. The downside is that the Savana is massive (the competition offers a small van for businesses that stay in the city), is hard to park, and gets awful fuel economy. GMC has a point, though; if you own a business and want a proven (albeit thirsty) work van with reasonably projectable maintenance costs over the unproven (to our market) Dodge and Ford options, the Savana might be for you.
- 10,000-pound trailer towing capacity
- Proven platform
- Many different ways to outfit and configure the van
You Won’t Like
- Huge van is hard to maneuver
- Poor fuel economy
- Climbing all the way to the fourth row
- Ford Transit
- Mercedes-Benz Sprinter
- Nissan NV
- Ram ProMaster