Similar to the GMC Savana, the Express is Chevrolets full-size, rear-wheel-drive van, which is mounted on a full-frame chassis and is available in two sizes. Like its rivals from Dodge and Ford, the Express van has been around for decades since 1964, to be precise.
Models with the gasoline engine receive a more efficient starter for 2002, and outside mirrors with a thermometer and compass are now available. The cargo van can now be fitted with a CD player, and power seat risers are newly available on conversion-van models.
Marketed in cargo-van form and as a passenger-carrying model, the Express comes in three capacity ratings: G1500 (half-ton), G2500 (three-quarter-ton) and G3500 (one-ton). Built on an extended wheelbase, the G2500/G3500 vans can seat as many as 15 occupants. Among the five engine choices are an 8.1-liter gasoline V-8 and a 6.5-liter diesel V-8.
Chevrolet relies on a modestly sized but avid group of buyers who like the big, traditional-type vans. Quite a few of these large vans go to conversion companies to be transformed into posh highway cruisers or as transportation for the differently abled. Total Express van sales dipped appreciably in 2001, down to 98,014 units, vs. more than 113,000 units in the previous year, according to Automotive News.
In July 2000, GM announced that it would produce a pair of luxury passenger vans in a partnership venture with the Lear Corp. Production began in January 2001, and the Chevrolet Express LT and similar GMC Savana SLT began to reach dealerships in March of that year. Base and LS trim levels are also available. Chevrolet also offers the front-wheel-drive Venture minivan and the midsize, rear-wheel-drive Astro van.
Regular-length Express vans ride a 135-inch wheelbase and measure 218.8 inches long. Extended-length models are precisely 20 inches longer in each dimension. These vans rank as full-size, and they are considerably taller than any minivan by standing 79.6 inches to 83.9 inches tall.
Two swing-out, passenger-side doors are standard, but these can be replaced with a single sliding door as a no-cost option. At the rear, two doors open a full 180 degrees to ease cargo loading.
Features that are exclusive to the top-of-the-line LT model include body cladding, a front fascia with integral fog lamps and polished-aluminum wheels.
Base-model G1500 vans contain reclining vinyl front buckets and a pair of rear bench seats, which allow for an eight-passenger capacity. Space is provided in the G2500 series for a dozen people on twin three-passenger benches and a four-passenger bench far to the rear. Room for 15 passengers is an option for the extended-length G3500 van. The cargo van has only two front bucket seats, but the passenger seat can be removed.
Cargo volume varies in these vans, and this depends on the specific model and the presence of the seats. In the cargo model, as well as the passenger model with all of the rear seats removed, cargo volume is 267.3 cubic feet in the regular-length van or 316.8 cubic feet in the full-length van thats more than twice the capacity of the Venture minivan.
The Express may be fitted with radios that use Radio Data System (RDS) technology. This technology permits the selection of stations by program type and may include a provision for the reception of traffic and weather reports. Extra features on the upscale LT van include a Bose premium stereo with an in-dash six-CD changer, GMs OnStar communication system, rear air conditioning and two flip-down video screens with a video player for backseat entertainment.
Under the Hood
To accommodate a variety of user requirements, General Motors offers a selection of five engines for the Express van and its GMC counterpart. Choices begin with a 200-horsepower, 4.3-liter V-6 for the G1500 model. Depending on the exact model, a 220-hp, 5.0-liter V-8 or a 255-hp, 5.7-liter V-8 may be the standard power plant for G2500/G3500 vans. Options for heavy-duty models include a 195-hp, 6.5-liter diesel V-8 engine and a 340-hp, 8.1-liter Vortec 8100 gasoline V-8.
All engines mate with a four-speed-automatic transmission. A G1500 passenger van can tow 6,600 pounds, while heavier-duty models are capable of hauling as much as 10,000 pounds, depending on the engine. Four-wheel antilock brakes are standard, and side-impact airbags are not available.
Next to a bountiful interior and comfortable seats, the ease of driving is high on the list of Express van attributes. Despite its abundant length and width, the Express van isnt especially difficult to judge on the road or even while parking.
Ride comfort is also a pleasant surprise. Soft suspension settings yield a moderately gentle experience, but without excessive wallowing. Overall, the Express van is pretty well controlled on the road.
That doesnt mean its handling is carlike; its far from it. The Express van is stable on expressways and maneuvers with a passable degree of ease in around-town driving. But if you push too hard on the gas in a curve or an on-ramp, the vehicle quickly starts to feel insecure.
Acceleration with the 5.7-liter V-8 is reasonably energetic from a standstill, but when you try to pass, you can expect more noise than action. The LT model has a satisfying complement of creature comforts, including leather upholstery and a VCR. Climbing aboard takes some effort, but the inside step helps.