With the 1500 model canceled, the 2015 GMC Savana 2500 van -- formerly the middle child in the lineup -- takes over as the Savana's base model. It still slots below the heavy-duty 3500, however, with its payload and towing capacities not quite reaching those of the higher-level model.
If you're comparing GMC's full-size vans with, say, the Silverado family of pickups, you should know that the vans provide a level of security for your cargo that a pickup never will. And if your residence or business is in the snowbelt, a van will keep your cargo dry regardless of the weather. Finally, most pickups are limited to six passengers, while the Savana passenger van can accommodate up to twelve. If cargo and its protection are your most significant considerations, you can make a valid argument for the 2015 Savana. GMC's lineup of pickups and SUVs, however, is typically more engaging to drive and has enjoyed more updates over the years.
What's New for 2015?
The Savana 2500 receives only minor changes for 2015, including a newly standard OnStar telematics system, a standard auxiliary port for music and an optional USB port -- also for music.
What We Like
Just-right capability; huge interior; spacious and covered cargo area
What We Don't
Not the most contemporary or efficient van; dated compared to GMC's pickup, SUV and crossover lineups
The Savana 2500 offers three gasoline engines. A standard 4.8-liter V8 makes 280 horsepower and returns 11 miles per gallon in the city and 17 mpg on the highway. An optional 6.0-liter V8 makes 342 hp and returns 11 mpg city/16 mpg hwy, and an optional 6.6-liter Duramax diesel makes 260 hp and 525 lb-ft of torque. The Duramax diesel engine isn't rated for fuel consumption, but suffice it to say that it's probably about the same as the other powertrains.
Standard Features & Options
Like its Chevrolet Express mechanical twin, the 2015 GMC Savana 2500 is offered in two distinct models: a Cargo van with no rear seats and a Passenger van with seats. Cargo models come in only one trim, while the Savana Passenger is separated into LS and upscale LT models.
Choose the Savana 2500 Cargo ($30,500), and you should only expect the basics: vinyl seating, manual air conditioning, an AM/FM stereo with a new-for-2015 auxiliary port and little else. That's right: no CD player, no OnStar system and no power accessories. With that said, drivers who want those items can order them from the options list.
Step up to a Savana LS ($33,000), and you add a few more items: Most notably, the extra features include seats, but the Savana LS also adds power door locks and cruise control to the Cargo model's basic equipment list.
Topping the Savana range is the LT ($35,100), which adds cloth upholstery, a compass, remote keyless entry, rear air conditioning and exterior chrome accents.
In addition to the vans' standard equipment, GMC offers a long list of options. They range from simple items such as power mirrors and windows to upscale features such as a reversing camera, a navigation system and rear park assist. Shoppers can also choose between rear- and all-wheel drive and must decide which of the van's three engines they'd prefer.
The Savana's 4-wheel disc brakes with anti-lock capability and dynamic rear proportioning reduce the drama inherent in stopping a loaded truck. Helping you stay between the center stripe and the ditch is StabiliTrak, GM's stability-control program that comes standard on the Savana. Another safety benefit is the sweeping visibility in the 2500 passenger van. An available backup camera and rear parking sensors aid in low-speed maneuvering. Head curtain-side airbags and lap and shoulder belts for center-seat passengers wrap up the Savana's safety menu.
Likely owing to its narrow appeal and low-volume production, the Savana is unrated in overall crash tests by the federal government's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The NHTSA did rate the Savana for rollover protection, however, where it received three stars.
Behind the Wheel
With a 135-inch wheelbase and 2-stage, multileaf rear springs, the Savana is not designed for quickness. Ponderous proportions typically make for ponderous handling, and in this regard, the Savana delivers as expected. Within the context of a people or cargo carrier, GM engineers have done an admirable job of massaging the beast out of this beefy ride; the Savana delivers competent capability within its mission. When equipped with any of the V8s, it goes about its business with a degree of eagerness that you wouldn't have found in a similar vehicle 20 years ago.
With available room for 12 passengers or a couple of tons of cargo, you can configure a GMC Savana in dozens of ways. In cargo form, as marketed to many fleets, the Savana can serve roles as diverse as plumbing, carpentry or flower delivery. As a passenger van, the Savana is frequently used in shuttle or limousine services. And as an RV, the Savana can capably serve as a donor vehicle for getaway-vehicle modifications. Passenger comfort, however, is determined in large part by the Savana's fleet specification. There's no pretense here of matching the luxury or appointments available in GMC's trucks or sport utilities. Rather, this is get-me-to-the-airport spec, with an interior designed to satisfy for no more than an hour at a time.
Other Cars to Consider
GMC Yukon XL -- If you're looking for a large vehicle with a lot of seats, the most obvious competitor to the full-size Savana is in the same showroom. A Yukon XL will seat up to eight, and although it doesn't deliver the Savana's sheer volume, it tops the van in comfort and over-the-road demeanor.
Ford Transit -- Ford's all-new full-size van is also offered in cargo and passenger configurations, but unlike the Savana, it boasts several fuel-efficient engine choices, modern driving dynamics and high-tech optional extras.
Mercedes-Benz Sprinter -- The Sprinter offers impressive capability and efficiency in a considerably more modern package than the Savana 2500, but it's also more expensive.
RAM ProMaster -- RAM's latest take on the full-size van offers huge capability, whether you're hauling people or large items. With diesel engines and European design, fuel economy is also much better than the Savana's figures.
We'd equip the 8-passenger Savana 2500 with the optional 6.0-liter V8. We'd then add just enough comfort and convenience accessories (navigation, the convenience package with power windows and locks, the heavy-duty trailering package, parking sensors and a backup camera) to make it livable for a 3-week grand tour and beyond. With room for everything that a family of four or five could possibly carry, the Savana would make an excellent base camp or a great tow vehicle for that Boston Whaler. And you'd be out the door for well under $40,000.