For the 2003 model year, GMC redesigned its full-size rear-wheel-drive vans for the first time in seven years. The 2003 Savanas got upgraded powertrains, fresh features and an updated appearance. Three industry firsts in full-size vans were available: all-wheel drive, an optional left-side door and unique side access panels for use on commercial vans. Front-end styling was revised to give the Savana a greater family resemblance to other General Motors trucks.
GM’s StabiliTrak electronic stability system has been added to 15-passenger models for 2004. Chevrolet’s Express is closely related to the Savana and sells far better.
GMC uses the H-Series designation for vans with full-time all-wheel drive, while two-wheel-drive models make up the G-Series. All-wheel-drive vans are equipped with a viscous-coupled transfer case and function on both wet and dry pavement without driver intervention.
GM’s line of Gen III V-8 engines is available: a 275-horsepower Vortec 4800, a 285-hp Vortec 5300 and a 300-hp Vortec 6000. The base engine in light-duty G-Series vans is a 4.3-liter V-6.
As part of last year’s redesign, the Savana’s front end gained a new grille, bumper, fascia, hood and fenders. Upscale reflector-type headlights were installed, and the taillamps were revamped.
Light-duty vans have rack-and-pinion steering, which promises greater agility. 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. The tires measure 16 inches in diameter, and the fuel tanks are made of composite material.
Passenger vans come in regular and extended lengths. The regular-length model has a 135-inch wheelbase and measures 224.1 inches long overall, while the extended-length van is equipped with a 155-inch wheelbase and stretches 244.1 inches long overall. These vans are 79.4 inches wide and at least 81.6 inches tall.
Regular-length passenger and Cargo Vans can be fitted with a 60/40-split left-side entry and loading door. The side access doors feature remote releases and are limited to work-oriented models. They permit easier accessibility to tools and parts from either side of the van.
GMC’s 1500 Series vans have gross vehicle weight ratings (GVWRs) of 6,200 or 7,200 pounds (for passenger and cargo models, respectively), while the 2500 Series vans have GVWRs of 7,300 or 8,500 pounds. Full-bodied 3500 Series vans are rated at 9,600 pounds GVWR.
Depending on the configuration, Savana passenger vans can carry eight, 12 or 15 occupants. Cargo Vans seat only two people. Both Radio Data System (RDS) technology and GM’s OnStar communication system are available.
Under the Hood
The base engine in light-duty, rear-drive G-Series vans is a 195-hp, 4.3-liter V-6. Three V-8s are available: a 275-hp 4.8-liter, a 285-hp 5.3-liter and a 300-hp 6.0-liter. Each engine mates with a four-speed-automatic transmission that incorporates a Tow/Haul mode. All engines have air-filter and oil-life monitors.
All-disc antilock brakes and daytime running lights are standard, but side-impact airbags are not available.