For the first time in seven seasons, Chevrolet's full-size Express van underwent a major redesign in 2003. Chevrolet added optional all-wheel drive, an optional left-side door and unique side access panels for commercial vans. Its front-end styling was revised to give a greater family resemblance to General Motors' other trucks.
During the 2004 model year, 15-passenger vans gained GM's StabiliTrak electronic stability system as a standard feature in a response to criticism about rollover dangers in 15-passenger vans. For 2005, StabiliTrak is also installed on regular-length 12-passenger vans.
Both rear- and all-wheel-drive models come in 1500, 2500 and 3500 duty levels. Light-duty rear-drive vans have the Vortec 4300 V-6 as their base engine, but three Vortec V-8s are available. The GMC Savana is closely related to the Express, but the Express outsells its GMC counterpart by a considerable margin.
Express vans are built on a separate box frame. The 2003 redesign included revamped taillamps and upscale reflector-type headlights. Light-duty vans have rack-and-pinion steering.
Front and rear suspensions are modified from those used on GM's full-size pickup trucks. The rear suspensions use a solid axle with semielliptic variable-rate multileaf springs and gas shocks. All tires are 16 inches in diameter, and the fuel tanks are made of composite material.
Express passenger vans come with a regular-length (135-inch) wheelbase, but the heavier-duty 2500 and 3500 Series are also available in extended-wheelbase (155-inch) form. The two versions measure 224 and 244 inches long overall. Each van is 79.4 inches wide and at least 81.6 inches tall.
The gross vehicle weight rating is the sum of the weight of the vehicle plus the weight of the passengers and cargo it can carry. Chevrolet's 1500 Series vans have GVWRs of 6,200 or 7,200 pounds (cargo and passenger models, respectively), while the GVWRs for 2500 Series vans are 7,300 or 8,600 pounds. Full-bodied vans in the 3500 Series are rated at 9,600 pounds GVWR.
Full-size Express passenger vans can carry eight, 12 or 15 occupants, while Express cargo vans seat only two people up front. Regular-length passenger and cargo vans can be equipped with a 60/40-split left-side entry/load door. Side access doors with remote releases are limited to work-oriented Express Access models.
Options include GM's OnStar communication system, which has newly upgraded hands-free capabilities. The use of an advanced Class II electrical system allows for battery run-down protection, retained accessory power, lockout protection and a substantial number of driver alerts.
Under the Hood
Four engines are available. Light-duty G-Series vans have a 195-horsepower, 4.3-liter V-6 as the base engine. Three V-8s are offered: a 285-hp 4.8-liter, a 295-hp 5.3-liter and the 6.0-liter Vortec 6000 V-8 that generates 300 hp and 360 pounds-feet of torque. The 6.0-liter V-8 is also available as a bi-fuel or dedicated compressed natural gas engine.
All engines have air-filter and oil-life monitors and mate with a four-speed-automatic transmission that incorporates a Tow/Haul mode. Equipped with a viscous-coupled transfer case, the all-wheel-drive vans function on wet or dry pavement without driver intervention.
All-disc antilock brakes and daytime running lights are standard, but side-impact airbags are not available.