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By Jim Flammang
May 1, 2001
Vehicle Overview GMCs full-size van sells in fewer numbers than the similar Chevrolet Express but attracts a loyal clientele. Along with its full-size rivals from Dodge and Ford, the rear-drive truck-based van has been on the market for decades.
Like Chevrolet, GMC produces both a cargo van and a passenger model, in two sizes and three capacity ratings: G1500 (half-ton), G2500 (three-quarter-ton) and G3500 (one-ton). Two regular trim levels are offered, the base SL and upscale SLE. General Motors and the Lear Corp. have been working together on a Savana SLT luxury van, which would be comparable to the new Chevrolet Express LT.
Built on an extended, 155-inch wheelbase, the 2500/3500 vans can seat 12 to 15 occupants. A new 8.1-liter 8100 V-8 engine has replaced the 7400 V-8 for 2001. Otherwise, changes are primarily technical and are said to boost engine and transmission efficiency. Savana vans also are provided to conversion companies in unfinished form.
Exterior The regular-length Savana rides a 135-inch wheelbase and measures 218.8 inches long, and extended-length models have a 155-inch wheelbase and stretch to 238.8 inches overall. These vans are considerably taller than minivans, ranging from 79.4 to 83.9 inches above the ground. With the seats removed, cargo volume is 267.3 cubic feet in the regular-length van or 316.8 cubic feet in the full-length model.
Two swing-out passenger-side doors can be replaced by a single sliding door, if desired. At the rear, two doors open a full 180 degrees to ease loading. The new SLT luxury van gets some distinctive exterior additions, as well as a fancier interior. Locks have been improved for 200l.
Interior Base-model SL G1500 vans have vinyl high-back front buckets and a pair of rear bench seats for eight-passenger capacity. A dozen people fit into the G2500/3500 vans, seated on twin three-passenger benches in the middle two rows and a four-passenger bench in the way back. Seating for 15 is an option for the extended-length G3500 by adding another bench seat. Cargo vans come only with the two front bucket seats, and the passenger seat can also be removed. Cloth upholstery replaces vinyl in the SLE series, which also adds such extras as a tilt steering wheel and cruise control.
A new family of radios operates with Radio Data Systems (RDS) technology, which permits the selection of stations by program type and even the possibility of traffic and weather reports.
Special features on the new SLT luxury van include two 6.8-inch flip-down video screens for family entertainment, independent audio controls in each row, Bose 12-speaker premium sound and two wireless headphones. The exterior of this upscale model gets specific body-color components.
Under the Hood General Motors offers a selection of five engines to accommodate a variety of cargo- and passenger-hauling requirements. Choices begin with a 200-horsepower, 4.3-liter V-6 for the G1500 van. Depending on the model, a 220-hp, 5.0-liter V-8 or a 255-hp, 5.7-liter V-8 are the standard powerplants for G2500/3500 vans. Options for heavy-duty models include a new 340-hp, 8.1-liter Vortec 8100 V-8, replacing the 7400 engine. GMC claims that the new 8100 engine is more economical than its predecessor. A 195-hp, 6.5-liter diesel V-8 also is available.
All models have a four-speed-automatic transmission. When properly equipped, a G1500 van can tow as much as 7,300 pounds, while the G3500 diesel can pull as much as 10,000 pounds. This years engines have a new powertrain control module and a more efficient alternator, and automatic transmissions for heavier-duty models have received some internal enhancements.
Four-wheel antilock brakes are standard, and side-impact airbags are not available.