2008 GMC Savana Performance
This performance review was written when the 2008 GMC Savana was new.
The 2008 GMC Savana has an excellent choice of engines and decent handling for a van. Referring to the van's 2003 redesign, Motor Trend reports that "it didn't take more than a single lap around the test track to see that the '03 vans accelerate smoother, handle tighter, ride quieter, and steer more precisely than the current models, which had already enjoyed a ride advantage over their Ford counterparts." And Edmunds says, "Driving this 5,062-pound, 219-inch long behemoth is surprisingly easy."
Acceleration and Power
There are five different Vortec engines for the 2008 GMC Savana, all of which are available for the Cargo trims but only two of which are available for Passenger models. Motor Trend says that these engines give the "Savana more juice and better performance, economy, reliability, and durability." The low-end engine, available only for the rear-wheel-drive Cargo trims, is a 4.3-liter V6 with 195 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. This engine is a bit weak for the Savana's weight. Consumer Guide says that "we'd avoid the base V6; it's not powerful enough for a van this heavy." The Environmental Protection Agency rates this engine at 15 miles per gallon in the city and 20 mpg on the highway. The next engine, also only available for the Cargo trims, is a 4.8-liter V8 that can produce 279 horsepower and 294 pound-feet of torque. No EPA ratings are available for this engine.
The first of the two engines for the Passenger trims, which is standard on all-wheel-drive models of both the Passenger and Cargo trims, is a 5.3-liter V8 with 301 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque. (This engine is also available in a FlexFuel version that runs on 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline). This engine is rated by the EPA at 14 mpg in the city and 18 on the highway. The second engine for the Passenger trims is a powerful 6.0-liter V8 that can generate 323 horsepower and 373 pound-feet of torque. No EPA ratings are available for this engine. The most powerful engine in the Savana lineup (though not offered for the Passenger trims) is a 6.6-liter turbo diesel. It produces only 250 horsepower but can grind out an impressive 460 pound-feet of torque.
All engines come with a four-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission with overdrive, tow-haul mode and an internal oil cooler, with a heavy-duty model of this transmission standard with the 4.8-liter, the 6.0-liter and the 6.6-liter V8s.
Handling and Braking
For a van, the Savana's handling is quite good. "Although hardly the vehicle you'd want for running laps at the race track," says Kelley Blue Book, "the big Savana is not as truck-like to drive as one might expect. GM has paid due diligence to the steering and brakes, giving them a firm feel that instills confidence even when fully loaded." Edmunds agrees: "With the van's unobstructed outward view and a pleasantly small turning radius, we found the SLT simple to drive and more maneuverable than you'd expect for a vehicle this size."
The Savana's ride is smooth suspension for a passenger van receives good reviews, with Edmunds saying that it "offers a compliant yet controlled ride, and the rear leaf springs are well tuned to handle bumps, even with a bevy of passengers." Consumer Guide also likes the ride: "Though even the passenger models lack the ride comfort of most minivans, these GM rigs display little rough-road harshness and only minor float over crests and dips. They're also surprisingly refined."
The power steering, however, is not as well reviewed as the ride. Says Consumer Guide, "Like other big vans, these are clumsy to drive, with a wide turning radius, copious cornering lean, and modest grip. Overassisted steering doesn't help, but Savana and Express respond with reasonable confidence in quick maneuvers." The front and rear four-wheel anti-lock ventilated disc brakes do a little better in reviews. "The brakes felt somewhat soft with light effort and took some getting used to," says Edmunds, "but the pedal was easy to modulate and even hard stops were surefooted."