Far from the prettiest or most advanced van in its segment, the 2019 GMC Savana 2500 returns this year virtually unchanged, save for a couple of driver-assist technologies pumping up its options list. GMC hasn’t performed a radical update on the Savana since its mid-1990s launch. There have been mild refreshings and some powertrain improvements, but you would be safe thinking of it as the grandpa among today’s collection of young turks filling out the ranks of the van segment. Less refined, less nimble and less adaptable than its key competitors, the Savana continues to sell because it is an affordable workhorse.
Because of its low price and utility, the Savana is ideal for fleets. Lackluster driving dynamics and a dated interior won’t be off putting to fleet managers, but the fact the Savana doesn’t offer a high-roof version might be. In any event, there are much more modern choices out there like the Ram ProMaster, the Ford Transit and the Nissan NV.
What’s New for 2019?
What We Like
Affordability; large covered cargo area; available 4-cylinder turbodiesel
What We Don’t
Hasn’t been completely redesigned since the 1990s; low roof with no higher option; thirsty V8s; sloppy driving dynamics
GMC provides four engine choices. The base engine is a 276-horsepower 4.3-liter V6. It generates 289 lb-ft of torque ushered to the rear wheels by an 8-speed automatic transmission. Returning optional engines include a 341-hp 6.0-liter V8 delivering 373 lb-ft of torque, with a towing capacity of up to 10,000 pounds. Also making a return appearance is the 181-hp 2.8-liter Duramax 4-cylinder turbodiesel that generates 369 lb-ft of torque. Last, but not least is a version of the same 6.0-liter V8 that can be converted to natural gas. The turbodiesel also gets the 8-speed automatic transmission, while both versions of the V8 change the cogs with a 6-speed automatic.
Because of the Savana 2500’s classification, GMC isn’t required to provide fuel economy estimates to the Environmental Protection Agency. Don’t expect anything great.
Standard Features & Options
Like its Chevrolet Express mechanical twin, the 2019 GMC Savana 2500 is offered in two distinct models, including a cargo van (available with a regular or extended wheelbase) with no rear seats and a passenger van with seats. Opting for the extended wheelbase will set you back another $1,860. Cargo models come in only one trim, while the Savana Passenger van is separated into LS and LT models.
Choose the Savana 2500 Cargo ($32,390) and you shouldn’t expect much more than the basics. That means vinyl seating, manual air conditioning, an AM/FM stereo with an auxiliary port, hill-start assist, a backup camera, OnStar and little else. That’s right — no power accessories. With that said, drivers who want those items can order them from the options list.
Step up to a Savana Passenger LS ($36,095) and you add a few more items. Most notably, that includes 12-passenger seating, but the Savana LS also adds power door locks, cruise control, a 110-volt outlet and standard Wi-Fi to the Cargo model’s basic equipment list. Standard seating capacity is 12 in a 2-3-3-4 arrangement. The longer Savana 3500, reviewed separately, can seat 15.
Topping the 2019 GMC Savana 2500 range is the Passenger LT ($37,695), which adds cloth upholstery, a compass, remote keyless entry, rear air conditioning and exterior chrome accents.
In addition to 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 an IntelliLink touchscreen and rear park assist. For 2019, forward-collison warning with lane-departure warning are also available.
Standard safety equipment includes antilock disc brakes, stability control, a backup camera, front-side airbags and side-curtain airbags that cover the first three rows. Blind spot monitoring, forward-collision warning with lane-departure warning and rear parking sensors are options.
The Savana has not undergone third-party crash testing.
Behind the Wheel
With a 135-in wheelbase and 2-stage multileaf rear springs, the Savana is not designed for maneuverability or comfort. Ponderous proportions typically make for ponderous handling, and in this regard, the Savana delivers as expected. Perhaps you’d think this would be par for the course when it comes to cargo vans, but the Savana’s substantially more modern competitors are easier to park and better at negotiating tighter spaces.
The Savana’s ancient design is also a detriment in terms of interior space. It only has one roof height available, and it’s considerably lower than the majority of its competitors — unlike with those, there’s no way you’ll be standing upright in a Savana. Seat comfort and passenger space are also comparatively poor. In short, rival vans will make your job easier and/or your passenger’s trip nicer.
Other Cars to Consider
2019 Ford Transit — Ford’s new full-size van is offered in cargo and passenger configurations. Unlike the Savana, it boasts several fuel-efficient engine choices, modern driving dynamics, tall roof heights and high-tech optional extras.
2018 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, the ProMaster’s fuel economy is also much better than the Savana’s figures.
2018 Nissan NV — Most like the Savana in purpose, this truck-based van offers better driving dynamics, more body-style choices and a more modern design.
Used 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. You can consider a used model, keeping in mind it was also sold as the Freightliner Sprinter.
Beyond price and decent towing capability, there’s not much to recommend the 2019 GMC Savana 2500. Rival vans have simply surpassed it in design and engineering. If we did buy a Savana, we’d stick with basic models, adding a few options as needed. Find a GMC Savana 2500 for sale