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2018 GMC Savana 3500: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by AutoTrader June 2018

Engineered for heavy-duty hauling and towing, the 2018 GMC Savana 3500 provides a solid platform for commercial work or multi-passenger transport. When appropriately outfitted, this GMC can tow up to 10,000 lb. That's very good for this class. Truck-based, it has a boxed frame and some powerful engine choices.

Conversely, because it was launched during the Clinton administration and hasn't had a major overhaul since, it's behind its few competitors in most areas. Perhaps the most glaring shortfall is that it doesn't offer a high-roof cargo area, as do its key competitors. This translates into less cargo room, and makes it a poor choice for tradesmen who need to actually perform tasks in the cargo area. Anyone over four feet tall simply can't stand up straight in the cargo box.

What's New for 2018?

A 4.3-liter V6 mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission, a version of the 6-liter V8 engine for CNG and LPG conversion, backup camera standard, hill-start assist standard and OnStar standard.

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

How Much?

$37,005-$38,435

Fuel Economy

GMC provides four engine choices. Replacing last year's 4.8-liter V8 as the base engine is a new 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 lb. Returning optional engines are a 341-horsepower 6-liter V8, delivering 373 lb-ft of torque with a towing capacity of up to 10,000 lb. 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 lb. New for this year 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 their classification, GMC isn't required to provide Savana fuel-economy estimates to the Environmental Protection Agency. Don't expect anything great.

Standard Features & Options

The 2018 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. Opting for long adds $885 to the bottom line. The cargo van is short wheelbase only.

Choose the Savana 3500 Cargo ($37,005), 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 ($38,200), 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 ($38,435), 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.

Safety

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 and rear parking sensors are options.

The Savana has not undergone third-party crash testing.

Behind the Wheel

With a 135-inch wheelbase and 2-stage, multileaf rear springs, the Savana is not designed for maneuverability or 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

2018 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, fuel economy is also much better than the Savana's figures.

2018 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 2500, but it's also more expensive. You can consider a used model, keeping in mind that it was also sold as the Freightliner Sprinter.

Autotrader's Advice

Beyond price and decent towing capability, there's not much to recommend 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. 

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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.
2018 GMC Savana 3500: New Car Review - Autotrader