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2009 GMC Savana ReviewThe Good
The 2009 GMC Savana may just represent the best of the full-size van market, with great engines and standard-setting ride quality.The Bad
The '09 Savana is a big van, and that means big-van issues with parking, maneuverability, and fuel efficiency.
The CarGurus View
The 2009 GMC Savana and its model brethren hold almost 45% of the van market, and it’s easy to see why. Its ride is possibly the best in the class, the engines are all stellar, and the options mean you can create a van that fits exactly what you need. Check off what you need, and start haulin’.
At a Glance
GMC’s carryover entry in the full-size passenger-van segment, the GMC Savana is available in 10 trims with one of two engines, with either rear- or all-wheel drive. Half-ton 1500 versions come in the standard 135-inch wheelbase, while three-quarter and full-ton 2500 and 3500 versions are available in the extended 155-inch wheelbase and can carry up to fifteen people, as opposed to a twelve-passenger capacity for the standard.
With a 31-gallon fuel tank, the Savana can go almost 500 miles between stops, perfect for the long haul. Dual rear swinging cargo doors and the choice of either sliding or 60/40 doors on the passenger side make for easy entry and exit, and regular-wheelbase trims have the option of additional 60/40 doors on the driver’s side as well. Rear bench seats can be removed for customization.
A wealth of optional equipment is available to customize this passenger van to your needs, including air-conditioning, remote release access panels to replace side windows, a CD player, powered and heated mirrors with embedded turn signals, a limited-slip differential, a fuel-operated auxiliary heater, and a heavy-duty alternator.
Savana 1500s feature a 301-hp, 5.3-liter V8, while 2500s and 3500s also offer the option of a 6.0-liter, 319-hp V8, with both engines mated to a four-speed automatic transmission. The 5.3-liter is E85 friendly and has an EPA mileage rating of 13/16 mpg. No estimates have yet been released for the 6.0-liter engine. Additionally, the 1500 is available in an all-wheel-drive configuration, which doesn’t negatively affect mpg ratings.
While the 5.3-liter has adequate power for all but maximum loads, the 6.0-liter really shines in all situations, even when taxed, with enough in reserve for passing and climbing.
Ride & Handling
For a large van, the Savana's ride & handling are actually better than most competitors'. Expect the usual lean in corners, and practice your K turns, but these are givens. Testers have rated the ride of the Savana as better than the class average, and some have called it best in class, with less float and wallow than other entries. However, as these vans are made to be heavily laden, drivers can expect some abrupt responses to rough road when it's not full.
Cabin & Comfort
The word here is “huge.” The Savana is huge, the inside is huge, the door openings are huge, and the gauges are huge and easy to read. There’s plenty of leg- and headroom front and back as well. You have plenty of options to create a van that’s anything from sparse to special.
Standard options are front air-conditioning, vinyl upholstery, front bucket seats, a center console, an integrated trip computer, and black vinyl floor covering, which makes cleaning much easier and also serves to keep cargo in place. A theft-deterrent system is standard as well. Passenger seating is covered by two rows of bench seats.
The LT option package adds rear air-conditioning and a rear heater to regular-length trims, a tilt steering wheel and cruise control for 1500 and 2500 trims, custom cloth upholstery, heated power mirrors, power windows and door locks, remote keyless entry, illuminated visor mirrors, a compass, deluxe console, auxiliary lighting, carpeting, floormats, a chrome grille and bumpers, and chrome wheel center caps.
All Savana trims come with antilock brakes and antiskid, as well as dual front and side curtain airbags. Additional standard safety features include a tire-pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights. NHTSA ratings show five stars, excepting rollover and rollover resistance with three stars.
What Owners Think
Owners have been especially pleased with the versatility and superior ride of the Savana. As the model has changed relatively little over the years, refinements have had to count. Since the model refresh in 2003, owners have been very pleased with the update, both inside and out, with the gauges and controls gaining special attention.
A CarGurus contributor since 2008, Michael started his career writing about cars with the SCCA - winning awards during his time as editor of Top End magazine. Since then, his journalistic travels have taken him from NY to Boston to CA, completing a cross-country tour on a restored vintage Suzuki. While his preference is for fine German automobiles - and the extra leg room they so often afford - his first automobile memories center around impromptu Mustang vs. Corvette races down the local highway, in the backseat of his father's latest acquisition.