If the 2014 Chevrolet Express 1500 had only the Ford E-150 to compete with in the full-size cargo and passenger van segment, its task would be simpler. The current-generation Express dates to 1996, but Ford's E-Series model is even older and thus why Ford has replaced the Econoline with the new Ford Transit full-size cargo van.
With this introduction from Ford, and vehicles from other automakers, full-size van shoppers are no longer limited to the Express and E-150. Mercedes-Benz offers the Sprinter, a far more refined van with a price to match. The Nissan NV is also more modern than the Express. The Nissan is available as a 1500, though only in cargo van form. On the horizon, Chrysler's new full-size RAM ProMaster arrives this year.
Still, the Chevrolet Express 1500 deserves a look, whether for work or play. The choices are many. The Express 1500 is available in both passenger and cargo trim, with a standard V8 in the 8-passenger version and a base V6 or optional V8 in the cargo van. The Express 1500 has a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 7,300 pounds, while the Express 2500 and 3500 offer more hauling capability, more engine choices (including a diesel option) and longer, extended wheelbase models. All-wheel drive is optional on both the Express 1500 cargo and passenger vans. There's also a compressed natural gas package for the cargo model.
What's New for 2014?
After adding several new features last year, the Express is largely unchanged for 2014.
What We Like
Big capability; proven reliability for carrying family or cargo
What We Don't
Current-generation Express dates back to 1996
Within the Express family (1500, 2500 and 3500), five gasoline powertrains are available along with the Duramax diesel. If you stick with the light-duty 1500 cargo van, however, you're limited to two: The 4.3-liter V6 with 195 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque is standard, and a 5.3-liter V8 is optional. We'd find the 4.3-liter V6 fine for in-town stop-and-go delivery, but any trips on a freeway or interstate call for more capability. That additional capability comes from the 5.3-liter V8, delivering 310 hp and 334 lb-ft of torque. The V8 comes standard on the Express 1500 passenger van.
The best fuel economy comes with the V6. So equipped, the Environmental Protection Agency rates the Express 1500 at 15 miles per gallon city/20 mpg hwy. With the V8 and all-wheel drive, economy dips to 13 mpg city/17 mpg hwy.
Standard Features & Options
The Express comes in two trim levels -- base-level LS and a higher-end LT.
The Express LS ($30,500) is sparsely equipped and primarily aimed at fleet buyers. Standard equipment includes steel wheels, air conditioning, vinyl upholstery and an AM/FM stereo. A CD player is omitted, as are power windows, power locks and power mirrors.
Shoppers who step up to the Express LT ($32,500) get several more features. Such items include keyless entry, cruise control, a trip computer, cloth upholstery and visor mirrors.
Options include a towing package, power seats, Bluetooth and a remote starter. Newly available last year are upscale features such as a reversing camera, rear park assist and a navigation system.
All Express passenger vans come with anti-lock brakes, side curtain airbags and stability control. An optional reversing camera and parking sensors make backing up easier than before. And all-wheel drive is available for drivers who often deal with difficult weather conditions. The Express has not been rated in National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash testing.
Behind the Wheel
Piloting an Express, or anything else within this full-size genre, is like steering a boat. Ponderous proportions typically make for ponderous handling, and in this regard the Express delivers as expected. To their credit, GM engineers have done an admirable job of providing the aging platform with a powerful optional V8. With the larger motor, the Express 1500 goes about its business with surprising eagerness.
With available room for eight people or a ton of cargo, the Express can be the ideal vehicle for your duties, whether work or play. In base form (as marketed to many fleets) the Express can serve roles as diverse as plumbing, carpentry or flower delivery. As a passenger van, the Express is frequently used in shuttle or limousine service. But it can also be an oversized family hauler, tow vehicle or road trip cruiser.
If space can be construed as a luxury, the Express would rival a Lexus; its seating comfort, however, would not. The factory seating supports you but does little else. Air conditioning is standard, and a rear unit is also available. You can equip your Express with enhanced interior lighting, remote keyless entry and a remote vehicle starter.
Other Cars to Consider
Ford Transit Connect -- If your duties don't demand the capabilities of a full-size van, the smaller and more efficient Ford Transit Connect may get the job done. It's also available in passenger and cargo configurations, though the passenger version seats only five. The full-size 2014 Transit arrives soon.
Ford Transit -- The Econoline is essentially dead, and the Ford Transit takes its place. The new full-size transit is thoroughly modern with many engine and cargo configurations. Its introduction signals a new era of full-size cargo van. Because of the Transit, we can't help but think the Express will get a serious update soon.
Mercedes-Benz Sprinter -- The Sprinter offers impressive capability and efficiency in a much more modern package than the Express 1500. With a standard diesel engine, it also comes in passenger and cargo versions. But it's much more expensive than the Express.
Nissan NV -- Only the NV3500 is offered as a passenger van, but Nissan's NV1500 cargo van is a close competitor to the Express 1500 cargo van. The Nissan also uses a standard V6, but all-wheel drive is not offered. The NV has a unique, more SUV-like body style than most full-size vans.
We'd equip an 8-passenger Express 1500 with the optional 5.3-liter V8, LT trim and just enough comfort and convenience accessories to make it livable for a 3-week grand tour. With room for everything a family of four could possibly carry, along with bike storage inside (rather than on top of) the van, the Express would make a great base camp for any weekend or weeks-long adventure. And even with extras such as navigation, Bluetooth and a backup camera, the price comes in under $35,000.