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Avg. Price Paid:$15,630 - $27,972
Original MSRP: $24,985 - $46,500
MPG: 15 City / 20 Hwy
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2011 GMC Savana Review

This review was written when the 2011 GMC Savana was new.

With the 2011 GMC Savana, buyers can find a diesel engine, lots of space for cargo or passengers and all-wheel drive, but not much in the way of performance or luxury.

The 2011 GMC Savana is a willing work van tailored to transport lots of people or cargo, but won’t do either in luxury or style. The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter is larger and the Ford Transit Connect is more maneuverable, but the auto press concedes that the classic no-frills, box-on-wheels work van design works well for the GMC Savana and its corporate twin, the Chevrolet Express. "If you want more passenger capacity than any other mainstream vehicle, brute muscle on par with a hard-working pickup truck, and the ability to carry all of your tools of the trade in a secure space away from the elements, the 2011 GMC Savana is ready to serve," writes Kelley Blue Book.

Reviewers are impressed with the Savana’s new-for-2011 Duramax diesel engine, its cavernous cargo space and its available seating for 15. Only the Chevrolet Express, the Savana’s sibling, offers as many seatbelts and the option for all-wheel drive, and the Sprinter joins the pair in offering a diesel engine. The Savana ties the Express and the Ford E-Series for best-in-class towing capacity at 10,000 pounds when properly configured, and leads the class in maximum payload capacity, with the ability to haul up to 4,187 pounds. Reviewers say that while it’s hard to make a bad choice in this class of capable work horses, the GMC Savana’s utility helps it stand out from the pack.

Though practical, this van definitely won’t win any awards in a beauty pageant or around the racetrack. Though it’s the most fuel-efficient option in the lineup, reviewers say the 4.3-liter V6 is underpowered and should only be on your shopping list if you don’t intend to tow or haul much. Plus, it follows the same basic boxy exterior design pattern it’s had since the model’s introduction in 1996. When all its options boxes are checked, its price can skyrocket to more than $50,000, so if you value comfort over utility, you may want to check out a minivan instead.

Other Vans to Consider

The Savana used to be one of the only contenders in the work van market, but the class is expanding, and buyers have choices that are more city-friendly, bigger than the Savanna or equipped with more interior tech. If you need a van that’s big on interior space but small enough for city streets, take a look at the Ford Transit Connect. It’s built on the last-generation Ford Focus’ platform, so it only takes up the space of an affordable small car, though its cargo hold can carry about as much as a Chevrolet Suburban. This shows through in its roughly $21,300 asking price, which is about $3,700 less than the Savana Cargo’s $25,000 MSRP. Plus, the Transit Connect is available with Ford’s Work Solutions system, which can include a fleet management system, a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot and even an invoice printer.

If you need a van that’s bigger than the Savana, take a look at the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter. Its high-roof, extended-wheelbase Cargo 3500 models can hold up to 547 cubic feet of cargo, which is more than twice the maximum cargo capacity of extended-wheelbase Savana models can hold. The base Sprinter costs a bit less than $36,000, which is about $11,000 more than the base Savana, but reviewers say its price premium is worth the increased maneuverability, utility and build quality.

Details: The GMC Savana

Buyers can opt for the GMC Savana in 1500, 2500 or 3500 trim, with a choice between five different engines, a regular or extended wheelbase and the option for all-wheel drive. For 2011, the Savana gets GM’s 6.6-liter Duramax turbodiesel V8 to top off its lineup, as well as standard StabiliTrak electronic stability control and an upgrade to the standard OnStar telematics system.

  • "GM's full-size vans have long toiled in the shadow of Ford's E-series, but a broad range of powertrain choices and equip-to-suit cargo accessories keep them in the hunt. Primarily designed for commercial use, they're also available in passenger capacities ranging from 8 to 15." -- Car and Driver
  • "For hauling lots of people, lots of cargo or a combination of the two, the 2011 GMC Savana is tough to beat.” -- Edmunds
Review Last Updated: 7/28/11

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