It won’t win a beauty contest, but the 2019 GMC Savana 3500 will get that hauling or towing job done. Engineered for work, the truck-based Savana 3500 can tow up to 10,000 pounds when properly equipped. That’s very good for the big-van segment. Its wide variety of engine choices permits a range of commercial applications.
GMC hasn’t done much in the way of updates since launching the Savana in the mid-1990s. Because it is decades old, several competitors offer more comfort and superior handling. Moreover, the Savana isn’t available in a high-roof version. This is a big minus for tradesmen performing tasks in the cargo area. If price and brute power are your main goals in choosing a big van, the Savana checks the boxes. Otherwise, there are more modern choices like the Ram ProMaster and the Nissan NV.
What’s New for 2019?
Available forward-collision warning with lane-departure warning; available theft-alert notification (with OnStar). See the 2019 GMC Savana 3500 models for sale near you
What We Like
Affordability; large covered cargo area; available 4-cylinder turbodiesel; impressive towing capacity
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. It can tow up to 7,200 pounds. Returning optional engines are 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 and can tow 6,800 pounds. The fourth power choice is a version of the same 6-liter V8 that can be converted to natural gas. The turbodiesel also gets the 8-speed automatic tranny, while both versions of the V8 change the cogs with a 6-speed automatic.
Because of its classification, GMC isn’t required to provide the Savana’s fuel-economy estimates to the Environmental Protection Agency. Don’t expect anything great.
Standard Features & Options
The 2019 GMC Savana 3500 comes in three trim levels: A base-level cargo model for hauling large items, and LS or LT trims for carrying passengers. GMC offers the passenger van in short (12 passenger) or long (15 passenger) wheelbase forms with mandatory rear-wheel drive. Likewise, the cargo van is available in short and extended wheelbase versions. Opting for the extended edition of either cargo or passenger van adds $800 to the total.
Choose the Savana 3500 Cargo ($36,195), 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 LS ($38,650), and you add a few more items, including 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 3500 Savana can seat 15.
Topping the Savana range is the LT ($39,595), 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, blind spot monitoring and rear park assist. For 2019, forward-collision warning with lane-departure warning is 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 nor comfort. Pony up for the extended 155-in wheelbase and it’s even a bigger issue. 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 negotiate 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. 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 350 — 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.
2019 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, fuel economy is also much better than the Savana’s figures.
2019 Nissan NV — Most like the Savana in purpose, the 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 3500, but it’s also more expensive. You can consider a used model, keeping in mind that it was also sold as the Freightliner Sprinter.
Beyond price and decent towing capability, there’s not much to recommend the Savana. 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 3500 for sale