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2017 Chevrolet Express Van 3500: New Car Review

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Used 2017 Chevrolet Express 3500 LT Extended Passenger
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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader March 2017

Chevrolet's strongest full-size van may not be up to the standards set by many of its newer rivals, but the 2017 Chevrolet Express Van 3500 is still a heavy hitter. When equipped with the 6.0-liter V8, the 3500 adds 958 additional pounds of payload over its smaller 2500 sibling. Later in the 2017 model year, a smaller 4-cylinder Duramax turbodiesel will join the lineup, although it's not as powerful as the outgoing 6.6-liter diesel V8.

Although the capability of the Express is unquestioned, prospective buyers should remember that its platform dates to 1996. The market for domestic full-size vans has remained relatively static until very recently. Now both Ford and RAM have released new vans derived from European platforms, joining the big cargo and passenger vans from Mercedes-Benz and Nissan. For GM to retain its position as a close second to Ford in the full-size sales race, it's time for Chevrolet to bring to the table something conceived in this century.

What's New for 2017?

The big 6.6-liter diesel engine is dropped this year, replaced by a smaller, less powerful 2.8-liter turbodiesel expected to be offered later in the 2017 model year. Passenger vans lose some equipment packages, and the third and fourth fuel tank configurations are dropped. A spray-in cargo liner is new this year.

What We Like

Maximum capability for demanding truck customers; up to a 9,600 gross vehicle weight rating on V8 versions.

What We Don't

Old platform; old switchgear; driving dynamics from another era.

How Much?

$35,260-$39,000

Fuel Economy

Engine choices available on the Express 3500 should fit most needs. Standard is the Vortec 4.8-liter V8, which delivers 285 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. Two engines are optional: a 6.0-liter gasoline V8 that makes 342 hp and 373 lb-ft of torque and a 2.8-liter Duramax 4-cylinder turbodiesel puts out 181 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque. All gasoline engines are mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission, while the diesel is mated to a new 8-speed unit.

Given the van's large engines and large size, fuel economy is decidedly poor. The standard 4.8-liter V8 returns 11 miles per gallon in the city and 17 mpg on the highway, while upgrading to the 6.0-liter engine gets you 11 mpg city/16 mpg hwy. The diesel-powered 2.8-liter engine has not yet been rated by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Standard Features & Options

The 2017 Chevrolet Express Van 3500 is offered in three trim levels: a base-level Cargo model for hauling and LS or LT trims for carrying passengers.

Opt for the Express Cargo ($35,260), 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 plug. There's no CD player, no OnStar telematics system and no power locks, power windows or power mirrors. However, each of those features and more can be added as options.

Choose the Express LS ($34,335), and you get a few more features. The most important one is seats, as the Express LS comes standard with 12 seats and offers 15-passenger seating capacity as an option. The Express LS also includes power door locks and cruise control.

Drivers who opt for the upscale Express LT ($36,160) get even more standard equipment. 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 basic items such as power mirrors, power windows and a USB port for music to high-end features including a backup camera, a newly updated Chevrolet MyLink infotainment system, a navigation system and rear park assist. Unfortunately, the Express' diesel powertrain carries a big premium over gasoline models: about $4,000.

Safety

All Chevrolet Express models include side-curtain airbags, front-side airbags, anti-lock brakes and stability control. Options include a backup camera and rear parking sensors, while passenger models feature GM's OnStar system as standard equipment.

Neither the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety nor the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration crash-tested the Express 3500.

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 GM will need to modernize the Chevrolet Express and its sister model, the GMC Savana, to keep pace.

Other Cars to Consider

2017 Ford Transit -- The 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 and better handling.

2017 Nissan NV -- The truck-based Nissan NV feels like an updated version of the Express, touting a more modern cabin, newer features and additional capabilities thanks to multiple wheelbases and an available high-roof body style, but no diesel option.

2017 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 Express 3500, but it's also more expensive, so you may want to consider a used model.

Autotrader's Advice

We'd probably buy a competitor's van before we chose the Express, but if we had to get the Chevy, we'd go for an entry-level LS model or a fairly basic Cargo version with sparse options. Given the improvement rival vans have made, we think affordability is essentially the Express' only trump card.

Find a Chevrolet Express 3500 for sale

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New 2017 Chevrolet Express 3500
New 2017 Chevrolet Express 3500
MSRP $52,645
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Used 2017 Chevrolet Express 3500 LT Extended Passenger
Used 2017 Chevrolet Express 3500
$24,988
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Used 2017 Chevrolet Express 3500 LT Extended Passenger
Used 2017 Chevrolet Express 3500
$25,243
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.
2017 Chevrolet Express Van 3500: New Car Review - Autotrader