If your job requires hauling cargo, towing trailers, or shuttling large groups of people, few vehicles meet those requirements quite like a full-size van such as the 2021 GMC Savana. Available with an interior set up either for cargo or passengers, the Savana is an honest workhorse with few frills. Buyers can choose from a gasoline-powered V-6 or V-8 engine or opt for a diesel four-cylinder. All versions offer plentiful towing and payload capacities and either a standard- or extended-wheelbase body style. The Savana—and it’s twin, the Chevrolet Express—is one of the last old-school full-size vans, built atop a ladder-frame chassis just like a full-size pickup truck, which gives it extra durability. The downside to going with this old-school hauler is that it lacks the contemporary styling, modern technology, and fuel-saving powertrains of its key rivals, the Ford Transit, Ram ProMaster, and Mercedes-Benz Sprinter.
What’s New for 2021?
GMC has replaced the Savana’s available 6.0-liter V-8 with a new 6.6-liter unit for 2021. The change has increased the Savana’s maximum payload and towing capacities; models with the base V-6 engine also see an increase in their gross combined weight ratings (GCWR) to 15,000 pounds.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
GMC offers the Savana with a wide range of powertrains. Both the passenger and the cargo versions of the van come standard with a 276-hp 4.3-liter V-6, but we recommend the optional 401-hp 6.6-liter V-8. The most expensive and most complex engine available is a 2.8-liter Duramax turbo-diesel making 181 horsepower. It’s only a four-cylinder, but it pumps out an impressive 369 lb-ft of torque. Still, vans with the V-8 can pull and haul more weight. While the V-6 and the diesel engines get a more modern eight-speed automatic transmission, the V-8s are still paired with an antiquated but durable six-speed automatic. A 2500 or 3500 standard-wheelbase version of the GMC Savana passenger van offers the highest tow rating when equipped with the 6.6-liter V-8 and the optional trailering equipment package.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
Because the GMC Savana is a commercial vehicle, it is not issued fuel-economy ratings or estimates by the Environmental Protection Agency. This is also the case with GMC’s heavy-duty 2500 and 3500 pickup trucks.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
Inside, the 2021 GMC Savana is all about function. Its interior offers large, comfortable seats and a basic dashboard design with durable black plastics and ergonomic control placement. The passenger van comes with seating for 12 standard but extended-wheelbase models can transport 15. Base LS models get front and rear air conditioning, power windows, power locks, an AM/FM audio system with MP3, cruise control, and a tilt steering wheel. The upper LT trim level adds a few luxuries such as keyless entry. Cargo versions of the Savana offer as much as 286.6 cubic feet of cargo space; however, unlike high-roof versions of some competitors, tall users cannot stand up inside the Savana comfortably. Cargo vans come raw, with bare cargo areas for easy customization to fit your needs. GMC does offer some shelving and other storage solutions, as well as a sliding side door or two doors that swing out. Unlike modern minivans, all GMC Savanas only have a cargo or loading door on the passenger side.