GMC has redesigned its full-size rear-wheel-drive (RWD) vans for the first time in seven years. The 2003 Savanas get upgraded powertrains, fresh features and an updated appearance. Three industry firsts are available: all-wheel drive (AWD), an optional left-side door and unique side access panels for use on commercial vans. The Savanas front-end styling has been revised to give a greater family resemblance to other General Motors trucks.
The Chevrolet Express is closely related to the Savana, and it also received a redesign and offers comparable features. Sales of the Savana declined in 2001, dropping to 36,674 units, according to Automotive News.
New H-Series vans with full-time AWD join the existing two-wheel-drive G-Series lineup. Equipped with a viscous-coupled transfer case, the AWD vans can travel on both wet and dry pavement, with no driver attention or intervention needed. Regular-length passenger and cargo vans can be fitted with a 60/40-split left-side entry/load door. The new side access doors feature remote releases and are limited to work-oriented Savana Pro models. They permit easier accessibility for tools and parts from either side of the van.
GMs new line of Gen III V-8 engines is available: a 270-horsepower Vortec 4800, a 285-hp Vortec 5300 and a Vortec 6000 that generates approximately 300 hp and leads its segment, according to GM. Each engine promises greater performance and economy than the previous small-block V-8s. The base engine in light-duty G-Series vans is a 4.3-liter V-6. The Savanas four-speed-automatic transmission gains a Tow/Haul mode. The new front and rear suspensions are modified from those used on GMs full-size pickup trucks, and the new box frame offers greater torsional rigidity than its predecessor.
The 2003 Savanas front end displays a new grille, bumper, fascia, hood and fenders. GMs designers sought to create a stronger family resemblance to other members of the companys truck family. Upscale reflector-type headlights are installed, and the taillamps have been revamped.
Light-duty vans now have rack-and-pinion steering, which promises greater agility. The rear suspensions use a solid axle with semielliptic, variable-rate multileaf springs and gas shocks. The tires now measure 16 inches in diameter, and the fuel tanks are made of composite material.
Passenger vans come in either regular or 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. The vans are 79.4 inches wide and at least 81.6 inches tall. Cutaway models can be specially converted for commercial applications and may have 139- , 159- or 177-inch wheelbases.
GMCs 1500 Series vans are rated with gross vehicle weight ratings (GVWRs) of 6,200 and 7,200 pounds, while the 2500 Series GVWRs rank at 7,300 or 8,500 pounds. Full-bodied 3500 Series vans are rated at 9,600 pounds GVWR.
Depending on their configurations, Savana passenger vans can carry eight, 12 or 15 occupants. Cargo vans seat only two people up front. The restyled interiors feature an upgraded climate-control system. Both Radio Data System (RDS) technology and GMs OnStar communication system will be available. The use of an advanced Class II electrical system permits the addition of such features as battery run-down protection, delayed accessory power, lockout protection and an expanded number of driver alerts. Passengers also get an additional power outlet and more cupholders in the 2003 model.
Under the Hood
The Savana may be equipped with one of four engines. Light-duty, RWD G-Series vans have a 200-hp, 4.3-liter V-6 as the base engine. Three V-8s are available: a 270-hp 4.8-liter, a 285-hp 5.3-liter and a 300-hp Vortec 6000 (6.0-liter). Each engine mates with a four-speed-automatic transmission that incorporates a Tow/Haul mode. All engines have new air-filter and oil-life monitors.
All-disc antilock brakes and daytime running lights are standard, but side-impact airbags are not available.