New name, new van -- that's the story on GMC Truck Division's Savanna.

As a full-size van, its predecessors roamed the highway under the name Rally/Vandura. For 1996, it's been changed to Savana.

When they offer a new van at GMC, the division does more than just change the name. The makers of Savana, which begins production in January, decided the vehicle that was introduced as a maxivan 25 years ago needed an overhaul for 1996.

One thing that hasn't changed is that the Savana is big. Available in wheelbase lengths of 135 inches and 155 inches, this vehicle will not only carry Mom, Pop, the kids and a large dog, but most of the neighborhood as well.

Its construction is a true truck design. The van features a separate, rugged steel ladder frame that provides a rigid backbone for the body. The body itself is an equally rigid, welded steel structure.

The Savana's styling is about as aerodynamic as you can get in a vehicle such as this. Fender corners are rounded, the windshield raked, solar glass and door handles are flush-mounted.

Admittedly, it isn't going to fly with the ease of a sports car. But then, you can't carry up to 15 people in a sports car, either.

For those who just want to haul cargo, there is a maximum of 267 cubic feet of volume in the short wheelbase van. The extended version has 317 cubic feet.

Savana comes in three series -- G1500, G2500, and G3500 -- with the 2500 and 3500 series available in both wheelbases. As might be expected, gross vehicle weight ratings go up with size and power increases.

The weight rating ranges from 6,100 pounds for the G1500 to 9,500 pounds for the G3500. For really heavy hauling, a 454-cubic-inch (7.4- liters) Vortec V-8 engine or a 385-cubic-inch turbo diesel has a towing capacity of 10,000 pounds in a G3500 van.

Along with a new design, the Savana gets a 262-cubic-inch (4.3-liter) Vortec V-6 base engine that's good for 195 horsepower. Renamed the Vortec 4300, it features a number of improvements for 1996.

The V-6's fuel injection system has been upgraded to a sequential delivery design that uses six micro injectors to replace the one injector that was centrally located within the intake manifold.

The intake manifold also is a new design. Other changes include a more efficient air flow, more rigid mounting for engine driven accessories, a stiffer cylinder block, and improved engine cooling.

The Savana isn't meant to be an engineering exercise in powerplant design. It is meant to be a people mover and, in that respect, the van is going to earn pretty high grades.

With that in mind, designers made the front wheelhouses and engine covers smaller to improve vehicle access and legroom.

The front seats slide through a greater range of fore and aft travel. A handy dash-mounted entrance and exit assist handle is provided for the front seat passengers. Middle and rear bench-type seats slide on a built-in track for easy adjustment or removal.

Rear-mounted heat and air-conditioni ng systems are available as options. In addition, swing-out side windows enhance the Savana's ventilation.

For the rear, the designers created a pair of hinged doors that swing open a full 180 degrees. This provides unrestricted access to the cargo hold. When the doors are shut, the hinges are hidden behind close out panels.