By KBB.com Editors
Delivery services and airport shuttles and contracting businesses understand there is nothing more capable and versatile than a big box on wheels. But so will a family with kids and dogs and dirt bikes to carry around. The 2013 GMC Savana has the size and strength to do the duty, and it also rides and drives with a smoothness and civility that may surprise you. It shares lots of basic hardware with GM's well-engineered full-size pickup trucks, and has a model lineup nearly as extensive: 1500, 2500 and 3500 Series (distinguished by payload capacity); 135- and 155-inch wheelbases; LS and LT trim levels; a V6 and five V8s; rear- or all-wheel drive... you can have it your way.
Don't plan to use it as a daily commuter, but when you need to accommodate lots of people or stuff, and you want it all safely contained inside, there is simply nothing like a big van. The GMC Savana drives easily and doesn't cost a lot.
Unless you're actually going to use the available hauling capability on a regular basis, a vehicle of this size (and carbon footprint) makes no sense. If it's not for you, you likely know that already. The Yukon or a similar large SUV could be a good alternative.
For 2013, the GMC Savana, in both Passenger and Cargo Van forms, just adds three new options: a rearview camera, sonar-based parking assist and an audio system that includes navigation.
Driving Impressions Like GMC's other full-size, body-on-frame vehicles with which it shares engineering (the Sierra pickup and Yukon SUV), the 2013 Savana's ride and handling characteristics may come as a welcome surprise....You won't confuse this big van with a sports car, but steering and braking are nicely responsive and everything feels refined and reassuring. It's best to look well up the road and plan ahead, since vehicles this large need time and room to react. But driving the Savana is easy, and the high seating position and (in Passenger versions) the all-around window glass provide a great view out. You want to have one of the Savana's available V8 engines under the hood, as the base V6 is not suitable for anything beyond light-duty work.
Lots of choices here: The standard passenger-side double swing-out doors can be replaced by a sliding door, there's a GM-exclusive swing-out-doors arrangement available on the driver's side, and lift-up panels can provide access to side storage bins.
Few vehicles can offer the versatility of 15-passenger seating, a tow rating of 9,900 pounds, and a cargo area measuring 284 cubic feet behind the front seats. And the view out over traffic is terrific.
The dash and door panels are pretty plain, but they are functional and sturdy as required of a passenger van's interior. Gauges in the instrument panel are large and easy to read, and the heating controls and radio are in reasonable reach for the driver. In Cargo Van form, the 2013 GMC Savana is a 2-passenger vehicle with the world's largest trunk. At the opposite end of the spectrum is the Savana Passenger Van that allows for such luxuries as bench seating, power windows, rear air conditioning and Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity.
If the GMC Savana's exterior styling looks familiar, that may be because the basic box shape hasn't evolved much in 30 years. It's a van, after all, so the rolling breadbox shape is what is needed for the interior to be so roomy and versatile. Of course, there are some distinctions, such as the rounded corners, flush headlights and high taillights. Available door configurations include sliding or split swing-out passenger-side doors and GM-exclusive swing-out doors on the driver's side. Useful exterior accessories include a roof-mounted ladder rack, roof-rack cross-rail system and mudflaps.
These are often work vehicles, remember, so the base specification is quite Spartan. The 2013 GMC Savana Cargo Van starts with a V6 engine (4.3 liters, 195 horsepower), air conditioning, manual exterior mirrors, and vinyl upholstery and floor covering. The basic Passenger Van takes one step up with a 4.8-liter, 280-horsepower V8 and cloth seat fabric. Full instrumentation and a Driver Information Center (trip computer) are included across the line. Standard safety features include 4-wheel antilock disc brakes, StabiliTrak electronic stability control and dual front airbags (plus head/side-curtain airbags for the first three rows in the Passenger Van).
Since standard fare is lean on the GMC Savana, the options list provides a lot of creature comforts and equipment upgrades. There's a selection of V8 engines (including the 6.6-liter Duramax turbodiesel), an all-wheel-drive system, a towing package, plus such items as cruise control, upgraded audio systems and power windows and locks. Also available are rear-area heating and air conditioning, leather-wrapped steering wheel and six months of OnStar "directions and connections." Note that the aftermarket offers all manner of specialty equipment, including tool racks and work benches and special-needs mobility provisions, and GM actively cooperates.
With one V6 and five V8s on its roster, the 2013 GMC Savana offers buyers an engine for most any need. On the low end of the range is a 195-horsepower 6-cylinder mated to a 4-speed automatic transmission, which is suitable for light-duty applications but not heavy-duty hauling. For big burdens, the optional 6.6-liter turbocharged diesel V8 is hard to beat, with its massive 525 lb-ft of torque. Between those extremes are 4.8-, 5.3- and 6.0-liter gasoline V8s, and also a CNG (compressed natural gas) conversion for the 6.0 that includes hardened valve seats and a special 3-tank fuel-storage configuration. All of the Savana's 8-cylinder engines are paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission.
195 horsepower @ 4,600 rpm
260 lb-ft of torque @ 2,800 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 15/20 mpg
280 horsepower @ 5,200 rpm
296 lb-ft of torque @ 4,600 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 11/17 mpg
310 horsepower @ 5,200 rpm
334 lb-ft of torque @ 4,500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 13/17 mpg
323 horsepower @ 4,600 rpm
373 lb-ft of torque @ 4,400 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 11/16 mpg
6.0-liter V8 CNG
279 horsepower @ 4,700 rpm
320 lb-ft or torque @ 4,400 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: N/A
6.6-liter turbodiesel V8
260 horsepower @ 3,100 rpm
525 lb-ft of torque @ 1,600 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: N/A
By Gitchydan on Monday, September 15, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 345,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "Very durable and reliable."
Cons: "Fuel economy and fit and finish."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"No complaints other than it's a gas guzzler. Very reliable, even more so then the past 5.7 liter Express vans that i have owned. I haven't had to do much other than the routine oil changes, tune-ups, and a brake job. I never had to replace the fuel pump like i have on the others. I bought this van with 213000 and have put almost another 150000. Great van, even with the 15 mpg."
17 people out of 36 found this review helpful
By Tom Brokaw on Saturday, May 10, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 60,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I've owned several full size conversion vans. The AWD is the difference between this one and the rest. Simply put, it's wonderful. It's great in snow. I pull a bass boat and it is so beneficial for launching or pulling out. Many of the boat ramps are sand and gravel. No problem. I was concerned that the AWD would be harder on tires. Not true! It drives nice and by sitting up higher, you have a good view of what's going on ahead and around you. GM isn't producing the AWD full size vans right now. I sure hope they are back when it's time to buy a new one."
58 people out of 122 found this review helpful
By RehabDoc on Friday, February 28, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 50,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Great on the open road."
Cons: "Critical parts exposed to corrosion"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"Great on the open road, trucky and bumpy in the city. 50,000 care free miles on the engine. Expensive to fix design flaws: 1. Anti-slip sensors in wheels get corroded and fire even on dry pavement. Need to be removed and blasted clean every few years. 2. Air conditioning lines going to rear condenser run right at the bottom of the vehicle where they are very vulnerable to corrosion. I had to replace both (right and left) at $1,000 - $1,200 each after 5 years due to freon leaking through rusted areas. These should have been rustproofed. I'm selling the rig before I have to do this again. 3. Door hinges are exterior and they seize up. I had to have the doors taken off and the hinges cleaned up so they work three times in 9 years -- the first time after only 3 years of ownership."
6 people out of 8 found this review helpful
By Smitty82 on Thursday, February 27, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 28,000overall rating 7 of 10rating details
Pros: "Good van."
Cons: "16 inch Wheels too small for off road or holes"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 7
"Conversion van not listed in model for price. Top of instrument panel not shaped for GPS or rear view camera."
2 people out of 3 found this review helpful
By Karlajustme on Tuesday, November 12, 2013
I owned and sold this car
Pros: "Space, easy to drive, dependability"
Cons: "Gas mileage"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I had this vehicle for almost 5 years. Bought in on 206 with 6,500 miles. Everything always worked perfect. Space inside with the shelves and rubberized throughout mat was a must have for spills and debris. Never towed anything. Gas mileage was about 12 mpg because the weight we carried. Nothing ever went bad. Great work beast!"
3 people out of 4 found this review helpful
By Kitty on Wednesday, October 30, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 54,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "excellent space inside, pulls trailers very well"
Cons: "poor gas milage. fuel pump replaced at 53,000 mile"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 6
"A great space to turn into a living space (as I did) Had a builder put in two lenth wise shelves on either side plus two closets. I live inside with my 7 cats. Should have insulated more, but holds an enormous amount of belongings. I like using the easy downshift to slow down. Do not let gas tank fall below half. My fuel pump burnt out at 53000 miles. eats gas, but ok otherwise. No problems except fuel pump."
7 people out of 9 found this review helpful