Editor’s note: If you’re looking for information on a newer Chevrolet Express 3500, we’ve published an updated review: 2019 Chevrolet Express 3500 Review.
Sitting at the top of Chevy’s full-size-van lineup, the 2015 Chevrolet Express 3500 packs a huge punch for the commercial user. With a gasoline powertrain, it has 965 additional pounds of payload over its smaller 2500 sibling. When it’s equipped with a diesel engine, the payload comparison is even greater. In all, heavy-duty applications are the reason for the Express 3500’s existence.
Although the capability of the Express shouldn’t be questioned, prospective buyers should remember that its platform dates back to 1996. The market for domestic full-size vans has remained relatively static until very recently. Now, both Ford and Chrysler (through its RAM brand) have new vans derived from European platforms on the way, while Mercedes-Benz and Nissan recently released all-new full-size vans. For GM to retain its position as a close second to Ford in the full-size van sales race, Chevrolet will need to bring something new to the table. See the 2015 Chevrolet Express 3500 models for sale near you
What’s New for 2015?
The Express 3500 sees only minor changes this year, adding a standard auxiliary port for music and an optional USB port for music.
What We Like
Maximum capability for demanding truck customers; up to 9,900 gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) on diesel versions
What We Don’t
Old platform; old switchgear; driving dynamics are from another era
Engine choices available for the Express 3500 should fit most needs. The Vortec 4.8-liter V8, delivering 279 horsepower and 294 lb-ft of torque, is standard. Two engines are optional: a 6.0-liter gasoline V8 that makes 323 hp and 373 lb-ft of torque and a 6.6-liter DuraMax V8 diesel that puts out 260 hp and a whopping 525 lb-ft of torque. All engines are mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission.
Given that all 3500s enjoy a GVWR of more than 8,500 pounds, the Environmental Protection Agency doesn’t provide fuel economy figures. You can, however, estimate about 11 to 12 miles per gallon with stop-and-go driving and between 15 and 17 mpg in highway driving, regardless of engine choice.
Standard Features & Options
The Express 3500 is offered in three trim levels: a base-level cargo model for hauling, and LS or LT trims for carrying passengers.
If you opt for the Express Cargo ($33,300), don’t expect many standard features. The van includes only the basics, such as vinyl seating, manual air conditioning and an AM/FM stereo with an auxiliary plug. There’s no CD player, no OnStar system and no power locks, power windows or power mirrors. However, each of those features — and more — are optional.
Choose the Express LS ($35,000), and you’ll have a few more features. The most important one is seating. The Express 3500 passenger van is offered in two wheelbases: Regular models have a 12-person seating capacity, while the extended-length Express can carry up to 15 people. The Express LS also includes power door locks and cruise control.
Drivers who opt for the upscale Express LT ($37,000) will have even more standard equipment at their fingertips. Such features include cloth upholstery, a compass, remote keyless entry, rear air conditioning and exterior chrome accents.
In addition to the vans’ standard equipment, many options are available. They range from items like power mirrors, power windows and a USB port for music, to high-end features like a reversing camera, a navigation system and rear park assist.
Four-wheel disc braking with anti-lock brakes and dynamic rear proportioning can reduce the drama that comes with stopping a loaded truck. Also standard on all Express vans is StabiliTrak, GM’s electronic stability control program. Available head-curtain side airbags and standard lap and shoulder belts for center-seat passengers provide safety in the event of an accident. The ability to avoid an accident is enhanced by sweeping visibility in the 3500 passenger van, a newly available backup camera and parking sensors.
The Express 3500 is not fully rated in government crash tests. Front- and side-impact scores aren’t available, but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration did give the Express a 3-star rollover rating. The Express 3500 is also unrated in tests by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety.
Behind the Wheel
No one buys an Express cargo or passenger van with the idea of excellent driving characteristics. Whether intended for work or recreation, the Express is a means to an end. 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 range of powerful V8 engine choices. As a result, the Express 3500 goes about its business with a surprising degree of eagerness, regardless of engine choice.
Still, the arrival of recent competitors such as the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter and the Nissan NV — not to mention new full-size van models from Ford and Chrysler’s RAM brand — means that GM will need to modernize the Chevrolet Express and its sister model, the GMC Savana, to keep up the pace.
Other Cars to Consider
Ford Transit — The all-new Ford Transit offers better gas mileage than the Express and stronger capabilities. It also offers a more attractive starting price for budget-conscious van shoppers as well as better handling.
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.
RAM ProMaster — With fuel-efficient V6 engines and a low-load floor, RAM’s latest take on the full-size van boasts especially extensive capabilities, whether you’re hauling people or large items.
We’d equip an 8-passenger 2015 Chevrolet Express 3500 with the optional 6.6-liter DuraMax diesel, hook it up to a 27-foot Airstream and add just enough comfort and convenience accessories to make the Chevy livable for a 3-week grand tour. With room for everything a family of four could carry, along with bike storage inside rather than on top of the van, the Express/Airstream combo would make an excellent base camp for an extended road trip. Find a Chevrolet Express 3500 for sale