Sitting in the middle of the Chevy full-size van lineup, the 2014 Chevrolet Express 2500 hits the sweet spot in both capability and affordability. Chevy provides a 4.8-liter FlexFuel V8 as standard, eschewing the standard V6 of the 1500. A 6.0-liter FlexFuel V8 is optional for 2500 passenger and cargo vans, and a 6.6-liter DuraMax diesel is available for the 2500 cargo van. All three engine choices use a 6-speed automatic transmission. Braking is beefed up with large-diameter front rotors. Together, the front and rear axles can accommodate some 2,500 additional pounds of cargo or passenger load.
If comparing the Express family of vans to the Chevrolet Silverado family of pickups, consider that the vans provide a level of security for your cargo that a pickup never will. It will also keep your cargo dry, which is especially important if your residence or business is in the snowbelt rather than the sunbelt. Finally, most pickups are limited to six passengers, while the Express passenger van can accommodate up to 15. If cargo protection is the most significant consideration, that's a valid argument for the Express. However, Chevy's lineup of pickups and SUVs is typically more engaging to drive and has enjoyed more updates over many years of production.
What's New for 2014?
The Express 2500 is unchanged for the 2014 model year.
What We Like
Just-right capability; spaciousness; affordability
What We Don't
Outdated design; inefficient engines; extremely Spartan base model
The engine choices available on the Express 2500 should fit most needs. A Hydra-matic 6-speed automatic transmission is paired with all three engine options. Standard is a Vortec 4.8 liter V8, delivering 279 horsepower and 294 lb-ft of torque. With it, the Express 2500 can tow up to 7,400 pounds as a cargo van and 6,700 pounds as a passenger van (allowing for the higher weight of a fully equipped interior). Next up is a 6.0-liter FlexFuel V8 good for 324 hp and 373 lb-ft of torque, which lets the Express 2500 tow up to 10,000 pounds in cargo form and up to 9,800 pounds as a passenger van. Opt for the 6.6-liter DuraMax diesel and you'll enjoy diesel efficiency and longevity with up to 10,000 pounds of towing capability.
Given that all 2500s enjoy a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of more than 8,500 pounds, the Environmental Protection Agency doesn't provide fuel economy figures. You can, however, estimate 11 to 12 miles per gallon in stop-and-go driving and between 15 and 17 mpg in highway driving.
Standard Features & Options
The 2014 Chevrolet Express 2500 is offered in two trim levels: base-level LS and upscale LT.
The base-level Express 2500 LS ($29,000) is modestly equipped. Features include only an AM/FM stereo with no CD player or auxiliary jack, steel wheels, vinyl seats and a rubber floor covering. The Express LS doesn't include power windows, keyless entry or power mirrors as standard equipment.
Many more comfort and convenience features are standard on the Express 2500 LT ($32,000). Added items include keyless entry, cloth upholstery, cruise control, power mirrors, power windows, power locks, a tilt steering wheel and interior carpeting.
Shoppers can also choose options on the Express LS. Drivers who want a CD player, for instance, can add one -- and the same goes for the van's available power accessories. For shoppers interested in more luxury, Chevrolet also offers the Express with a navigation system, a rearview camera and an iPod/USB interface.
Four-wheel disc braking with ABS and dynamic rear proportioning reduces the drama inherent in stopping a loaded truck. Also standard on all Express vans is StabiliTrak, GM's electronic take on stability control. Available head curtain side airbags and standard lap and shoulder belts for center-seat passengers wrap up the safety menu. In the passenger van version, your ability to avoid an accident is enhanced by sweeping visibility, and drivers can now choose options such as a backup camera and rear parking sensors to aid in low-speed maneuvering.
Neither the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety nor the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has crash tested the Express 2500.
Behind the Wheel
Ponderous proportions typically make for ponderous handling, and in this regard, the Express 2500 delivers as expected. To their credit, GM engineers have done an admirable job of providing the aging platform with a range of powerful V8 engine choices.
As a result, the Express 2500 goes about its business with a surprising degree of eagerness, regardless of engine choice. But despite the Express's ability to navigate highways and byways, the arrival of recent competitors such as the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter has moved the needle regarding customer expectations. The industry has moved forward and, ultimately, GM will need to modernize the Express to keep pace.
The Express 2500 sacrifices some comfort for utility. The suspension is less compliant and the tire choices typically more rugged than on the 1500. On the other hand, the 2500's handling and powertrain are less affected by load. Whereas the 1500 Express is limited to less than 7,000 pounds of towing capability with its 5.3-liter V8, the 2500 can pull up to 10,000 pounds with the 6.0-liter V8 or the 6.6-liter DuraMax diesel.
If space can be construed as a luxury, the Express delivers it in spades. Considering that it's a passenger van from Chevrolet, you'll find the level of comfort serviceable. A visit to a van converter can provide all the additional luxury or decadence you're inclined to purchase.
Other Cars to Consider
Chevrolet Suburban -- Yes, the most obvious competitor to the Chevrolet Express 2500 is in the same showroom. A Suburban will seat up to eight, and while it doesn't deliver the sheer cubic volume of the Express, it tops the van in comfort and over-the-road demeanor.
Ford E-250 -- The E-250 is just as dated as the Express, but the next-generation full-size Transit arrived in the fall of 2013. Given the positive reception of its smaller sibling, the Transit Connect, Ford could have a winner on its hands, which would add pressure for Chevrolet to modernize the Express.
Mercedes-Benz Sprinter -- The Sprinter offers impressive capability and efficiency in a considerably more modern package than the Express 3500. But it's also more expensive.
For those who can wait, Chrysler's upcoming FIAT-based full-size commercial van, the RAM ProMaster, will reach showrooms soon.
We'd equip an 8-passenger 2014 Chevrolet Express 2500 LT with the optional 6.0-liter V8 and just enough comfort and convenience accessories to make it livable for a 3-week grand tour. It has room for everything a family of four could possibly carry, along with bike storage inside rather than on top of the vehicle. The Express would make an excellent base camp or a great tow vehicle for, say, a 25-foot Airstream. And even with navigation, Bluetooth and a backup camera, the price stays under $37,000.