The 30-Year-Old GMC Savana and Chevy Express Never Graduated From the 1st Generation
Over the years full-size vans have been excellent work and passenger vehicles on both the new and used van market. The most popular ones being the GMC Savana and Chevrolet Express vans. However, these two vehicles are pretty stuck in the past. When did both vans enter the market and what is the biggest drawback to them? Also, will the brands continue producing them going forward? Let’s take a look.
The history of the GMC Savana and Chevy Express
GMC’s Savana and the Chevy Express are pretty much twins in regards to what each offers consumers and have been that way since both were introduced into the market. Chevrolet released its Express in 1995 to replace the G-Series vans and offered a standard and long-wheelbase version, according to AutoEvolution.
The Savana came out for the 1998 model year, which replaced the GMC Vandura, best known for its portrayal in the old 80s A-Team TV series. Just like the Express, you could get it in 1500, 2500, and a 3500 version.
In 2003, GMC gave the Savana a refresh, which added a rear passenger entry door on the driver’s side, a 4-wheel disc braking system, and gave consumers the option to upgrade to all-wheel drive. A diesel engine option, which was offered at the beginning was discontinued this year.
In 2008, the models were being sold with flex fuel compatibility for E85 gasoline on the 5.3-liter V8 engine. A couple of years later, the brand added the flex-fuel feature to all of its power plant units. You also got a six-speed automatic transmission with this refresh. In 2011, the diesel engine came back.
Not many more changes have been made since then. All in all, the vans never made it out of the first generation.
What was the biggest drawback of these two vans?
By far the biggest drawback to these two vans is the fact that neither has moved out of the first generation of models in nearly 30 years. The brand made a few minor tweaks during the three decades each has been on the market, though.
After being introduced in 1998, the Savana 1500 offered 15-inch steel wheels, and a 4.3-liter V6 engine producing 190hp and 250 lb-ft of torque (a 6.5-liter diesel was available). You could also get a 7.4-liter V8, which would be replaced in 2001 with an 8.1-liter V8 engine.
According to J.D. Power, It also came with dual airbags, an anti-lock braking system, and front air conditioning. As for body configuration, you got a three-door model with rear sliding doors for entry to the cargo area.
Fast forward to the 2023 Savana model and you still have a 4.3-liter V6 engine, but its output is now 276 hp and 298 lb-ft of torque. There’s now a 6.6-liter V8 offering 401 hp and 464 lb-ft. You will now only get it in 2500 and 3500 configurations.
While vans haven’t received significant updates since each one was released, both have been good candidates for modifications as you see with camper vans.
Are the GMC Savana and Chevy Express getting discontinued?
According to Autoweek, both the Savana and the Express will be discontinued after the 2025 model year. In the place of each van will be an electric model built on GM’s ‘skateboard’ chassis and will sport an Ulitium Modular Battery Pack and will be introduced for 2026.
It’s speculated that it could mimic the design of Brightdrop’s Zevo 600 model, which offers over 300 cubic feet more of cargo space than what the Savana and Express currently offer. However, the new van will not likely be quite as big as the Zevo 600, but again it’s only speculation since no official word has been released concerning the new van’s offerings.
What we do know is that it will be going up against Ford’s E-Transit dedicated battery-electric full-size van expected to hit markets around 2027. Ram is also planning an electric version of its popular ProMaster model.
With little changes to the Savana and Express models, these outdated vans will be discontinued as of 2025. Both will be replaced by a new electric van that should show up in time for the 2026 model year.