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2011 Chevrolet Express Cargo Overview
Now in the sixteenth year of its current generation, the 2011 Chevrolet Express Cargo van keeps on keepin’ on. Utilitarian and with available all-wheel drive, this two-passenger full-size work van comes in three trim levels, the quarter-ton 1500, half-ton 2500 and one-ton 3500. While rear-wheel drive (RWD) is standard across the lineup, the 1500 trim level is available with all-wheel drive (AWD), and the heavier trims can be delivered in an EXT (extended) edition that stretches the wheelbase from the regular 135 inches to 155 inches and overall length from 224 inches to 244 inches. Cargo capacity, which is, after all, why people buy this type of van in the first place, remains 270 cubic feet in regular-length 2500 and 3500 trims and a whopping 284 cubic feet in EXT variations. Payload capacities, meantime, range from 2,470 to 4,500 pounds, depending on the trim level. New stuff for 2011 includes a reworked 6.6-liter turbodiesel V8 that offers more power, better gas mileage, and lower emissions, as well as standard stability control, available Bluetooth technology and a USB connection. All of this is functional rather than decorative, since exterior redesigns in this big Chevy van’s market segment are few and far between.
While it doesn’t have the lofty profile nor quite the cargo area of Mercedes-Benz’s Sprinter, the 2011 Express Cargo’s price is right, and a choice of six powerplants, including a compressed natural gas (CNG) V8 engine, beats even Ford’s venerable Econoline trim lineup with its paltry pair of drivetrain choices.
And speaking of drivetrains, the 2011 Chevy Express Cargo engine lineup starts with a 195-hp, 260-lb-ft/torque 4.3-liter V6. This smallish V6 is standard in the RWD 1500 and is paired with the standard 4-speed automatic transmission for 15/20 mpg and 6,700 pounds of towing capacity. The next engine up, meanwhile, is a 5.3-liter Flex Fuel (FFV) V8 that’s standard in the 1500 AWD trim and available for the 1500 RWD version. This hefty V8 again mates with the 4-speed automatic for 310 hp and 334 lb-ft of torque, 6,500 pounds of trailering capacity, and, with variable valve timing (VVT), 13/17 mpg.
Standard in the 2500 and 3500 trims is a 4.8-liter Flex Fuel V8 with its accompanying 6-speed automatic transmission. This potent combo throws down 280 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque, but is estimated to get only 10/16 despite its variable valve timing. The 2500 and 3500 editions are also eligible for a 6.0-liter FFV V8, again with the 6-speed automatic, that puts out 323 hp and 373 lb-ft of torque. This engine, incidentally, is also offered in CNG form for the especially green-leaning among us. An external oil cooler is standard with the regular gasoline version of the big V8, as is variable valve timing.
Finally, the recently upgraded 6.6-liter turbodiesel V8 is the true heavy hauler of the group. Paired with a standard 6-speed automatic transmission, this big diesel pounds out 260 hp and a massive 525 lb-ft of torque. Those ponies are good to haul some 10,000 pounds of trailer if the optional heavy-duty trailer-towing package is selected. Unfortunately, mileage figures are, at present, unavailable for the turbodiesel V8.
Ride and handling with the 2011 Express Cargo are about what one would expect in a dedicated work van. Though not as agile as the lighter Sprinter, Chevy’s dedicated worker will deliver passengers and cargo to their destination with confidence and at least a modicum of comfort. The V8s are described by reviewers as well-suited to heavy hauling on the highway, and even the 1500’s standard V6 is noted as adequate under a normal load.
As a dedicated work van, the 2011 Express Cargo is delivered with a minimum of creature comforts. Outside, the 1500 trims roll on 17-inch steel wheels, and the 2500 and 3500 trims mount 16-inch steel wheels, while on the inside, only vinyl front bucket seats, a couple of speakers (but no radio) and air conditioning are delivered with all three trims. Options, however, are plentiful and include alloy wheels, power windows, door locks, and heated outside mirrors, various sliding and swing-out door and window configurations, cruise control, tilt-wheel steering and a power-adjustable driver’s seat. A heavy-duty trailer-towing package is also available, as are remote engine start, Bluetooth technology, GMC’s popular OnStar Directions and Connections navigation and communications system, rear air conditioning and remote keyless entry. For those needing some tunes during the drive, AM/FM radio and a single-CD player are optional, as are satellite radio and a USB connection. A nifty dealer-installed WiFi system might come in handy on the job, while, utility-wise, auto-locking rear differentials as well as a number of beefier axle ratios are available for all three trims.
Four-wheel antilock brakes (ABS), traction and stability control, daytime running lights and a vehicle antitheft system are all standard safety equipment across the 2011 Express Cargo lineup. The 1500 trim level is also delivered with standard side-mounted head airbags that are optional for the 2500 and 3500 trim levels, while OnStar Emergency Services, Roadside Assistance and Stolen Vehicle Recovery are additionally available with all three trims.
Owners of the Express Cargo purchase these vehicles for work, not for bragging, thus owner reviews of this capable van are all but nonexistent. Suffice to say that Chevy’s work vans have been hauling stuff around since 1964 and just keep getting better.
Have Laptop, Will Travel. I'm retired and travelling the country in a 34' motor home. I'm really digging meeting people . . and sometimes their cars . . . getting a sense of what makes this nation tick. The plan is to visit all the national parks in the continental US, then cruise to Alaska to visit Denali, and to Hawaii to check out Haleakala and the Hawaii Volcano's national parks. Anyhow, when I'm not horsing the motor home around the roadways, I'm tooting around in the 2012 Ford Focus that we tow behind, or making runs to Home Depot and various malls with the 2004 F-150 that just won't die.