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2016 GMC Savana 3500: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader December 2015

The 2016 GMC Savana 3500 packs the biggest punch for both the commercial user or as the basis for a weekend RV, offering roughly 800 additional pounds of payload over its 2500 sibling. Like all GMC vans, the Savana 3500 employs a fully boxed frame, available locking rear differential and powerful engine choices -- the result being that it can tow up to 10,000 pounds in the right configuration.

Capable as it may be, the platform underpinning the Savana, which dates back to 1996, is aging rapidly. The market for full-size domestic vans has remained relatively static until recently, when several new vans joined in, including the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, the Nissan NV, the RAM ProMaster and the Ford Transit. As a result, the Savana is now the oldest -- and the least configurable -- full-size van on the market.

What's New for 2016?

The Savana sees only minor changes for 2016. Last year's 8-passenger seating configuration is dropped, while the van's OnStar system is updated to include a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot. The van's optional infotainment system is also updated.

What We Like

Maximum capability to truck customers who need it; up to 15 passenger accommodations on extended-wheelbase chassis

What We Don't

Platform is showing its age; new competition is much better; not as configurable or maneuverable as rivals

How Much?

$34,900-$51,400

Fuel Economy

The Savana 3500 offers three engines. The standard Vortec 4.8-liter V8 makes 279 horsepower and 294 lb-ft of torque, while the optional 6.0-liter V8 puts out 323 hp and 373 lb-ft. For drivers who really need to haul or tow, there's the 6.6-liter DuraMax diesel. Although that powerplant offers only 260 hp, it boasts a whopping 525 lb-ft of torque. All engines are mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission.

Regardless of engine choice, fuel economy is poor. The 4.8-liter V8 returns up to 11 miles per gallon in the city and 17 mpg on the highway, while the 6.0-liter V8 offers 11 mpg city/16 mpg hwy. While the Environmental Protection Agency doesn't rate the Savana 3500 with its optional diesel powerplant, expect roughly the same fuel economy as you'll get with the gasoline engines.

Standard Features & Options

The Savana 3500 comes in three trim levels: a base-level cargo model for hauling large items, and LS or LT trims for carrying passengers. All three are offered in short- or long-wheelbase with mandatory rear-wheel drive.

Opt for the Savana Cargo ($34,900) and you shouldn'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 music port. There's no CD player and no power locks, power windows or power mirrors.

Choose the Savana LS ($38,200) and you get a few more features. The most important one is seats: The Savana 3500 Passenger Van is offered in two wheelbases; regular models have a 12-person seating capacity, while the extended-length Savana can carry up to 15 people. The Savana LS also includes power door locks, cruise control, rear air conditioning and GM's OnStar system with built-in Wi-Fi.

Drivers who opt for the upscale Savana LT ($38,500) get cloth upholstery, a compass, remote keyless entry and exterior chrome accents.

Shoppers who want the Savana's diesel engine will pay big money for the privilege. The engine costs around $10,000 extra on all Savana models, meaning you shouldn't choose it unless you plan on hauling and towing extensively.

In addition to the Savana's standard equipment, many options are available. Extras range from items like power mirrors and windows to high-end features like a reversing camera, a newly updated version of GMC's IntelliLink infotainment system and rear park assist.

Safety

All Savana models come standard with anti-lock brakes and GM's StabiliTrak stability control program. Available head side-curtain airbags and standard lap and shoulder belts for center-seat passengers bolster safety in the event of an accident. Your ability to avoid an accident is enhanced by sweeping visibility in the 3500 Passenger Van, plus an optional backup camera and parking sensors.

The 2016 GMC Savana 3500 is not rated in government crash tests. The Savana's mechanical twin, the Chevrolet Express, received a 3-star rollover rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, though the group didn't rate the van's front- and side-impact protection. The Savana 3500 is also unrated in tests from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety.

Behind the Wheel

No one buys a Savana Cargo or Passenger Van with the idea of driving pleasure. Whether intended for work or recreation, the Savana is a means to an end. Ponderous proportions typically make for ponderous handling, and in this regard, the Savana 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 Savana 3500 goes about its business with a surprising degree of eagerness, regardless of engine choice.

Still, the arrival of recent competitors like the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, the Ford Transit and the Nissan NV means GM will need to modernize the GMC Savana and its sister model, the Chevrolet Express, to keep pace.

Other Cars to Consider

2016 Ford Transit -- The all-new Ford Transit offers better gas mileage than the Savana, and improved capabilities. It also offers a more attractive starting price for budget-conscious van shoppers.

2016 Nissan NV -- Most like the Savana in purpose, the truck-based Express offers better driving dynamics, more body style choices and a more modern design.

2016 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.

Used Mercedes-Benz Sprinter -- The Sprinter offers impressive capability and efficiency in a considerably more modern package than the Savana 3500. But it's also more expensive, so you may want to consider a used model.

Autotrader's Advice

Given the Savana 3500's age compared to its rivals, we'd shop the competition. But if we had to pick a Savana, we'd get a fairly basic cargo or LS model with virtually no options. After all, the Savana's primary virtue compared to rivals is its relatively low pricing.

Find a GMC Savana for sale

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2016 GMC Savana 3500: New Car Review - Autotrader