Chevrolet’s most powerful passenger and cargo van is definitely a throwback to an earlier time, but the 2018 Chevrolet Express Van 3500 still has a few tricks up its sleeve to remain relevant. When equipped with the 6.0-liter V8, the 3500 adds 958 additional pounds of payload over its smaller 2500 sibling. Those seeking better fuel economy without giving up pulling power might find the 4-cylinder Duramax turbodiesel the perfect compromise.
Although the capability of the Express is unquestioned, prospective buyers should remember that its platform dates back to 1996. Both Ford and RAM have newer 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. But for now, the 2018 Express Van is the only choice.
What’s New for 2018?
The 2018 Chevrolet Express Van 3500 gets a new standard 4.3-liter V6 engine paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission. The Express van also gains a standard rear backup camera, while side blind spot monitoring is now optional. See the 2018 Chevrolet Express 3500 models for sale near you
What We Like
Maximum capability for demanding truck customers; up to a 9,600 gross vehicle weight rating on V8 versions; 10,000-pound tow rating
What We Don’t
Old platform; old switchgear; driving dynamics from another era; no all-wheel-drive option; rear seats on passenger van lack proper head restraints
Three engines are offered. Standard is a 276-horsepower 4.3-liter V6. Towing capacity with the V6 is a respectable 7,200 pounds for the cargo van and 8,700 pounds for the passenger van.
Drivers who want more power can opt for an optional 341-hp 6.0-liter V8, which enables the van to tow up to 10,000 pounds in cargo form or 9,600 pounds as a passenger van. Finally, a 2.8-liter turbodiesel offering 181 hp and a whopping 369 lb-ft of torque is also optional. The V6 and diesel engine are mated to an 8-speed automatic while the V8 uses a more traditional 6-speed.
The EPA does not require fuel economy figures for vehicles of this size.
Standard Features & Options
The 2018 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 ($35,810), and it comes with only the basics. That means vinyl seating, air conditioning, a rear backup camera, standard auxiliary port for music and little else. There are also power locks, power windows and a 2-speaker AM/FM stereo.
Choose the Express LS ($34,835), 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 cruise control.
Drivers who opt for the upscale Express LT ($36,760) get even more standard equipment. Such features include cloth upholstery, a compass, remote keyless entry, rear air conditioning and exterior chrome accents.
Shoppers can also choose from various options — even on the stripped-down Work model. Drivers who want a CD player, for instance, can add one; the same goes for the van’s available power accessories. For shoppers interested in more luxury, Chevrolet also offers the Express with an updated MyLink infotainment system, blind spot monitoring, navigation, parking sensors and an iPod/USB interface. Also optional is a long-wheelbase version.
All Chevrolet Express models include side-curtain airbags, a rear backup camera, front-side airbags, antilock brakes and stability control. Options include side blind spot monitoring 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, V6 and diesel 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 competitors such as the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter and the Nissan NV — not to mention the full-size van models from Ford and RAM — means GM will need to modernize the Chevrolet Express and its sister model, the GMC Savana, to keep pace.
Other Cars to Consider
2018 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.
2018 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.
2018 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.
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.