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2012 GMC Savana Cargo Overview
It’s not flashy, nimble or quick, nor is it any spring chicken. What the full-size 2012 GMC Savana Cargo van does, however, it does well. For the service or business person in need of a reliable, capacious and powerful truck-based workhorse van, this heavy hauler again is available in three trims, the half-ton 1500, the three-quarter-ton 2500 and the 1-ton 3500. The 1500 is offered in either the standard rear-wheel-drive (RWD) version or an available all-wheel-drive (AWD) configuration, while the 2500 and 3500 are eligible for extended-length variations. Those extended length Savana trims feature a 155-inch wheelbase, as opposed to the standard 135 inches, and an overall length of 244 inches, as compared to the standard 224 inches. Extended-length trims can tote up to 313.9 cubic feet of cargo, with the regular-length trims capable of 270.4 cubic feet. Additionally, the two heavier trims boast an available turbodiesel engine, while the three gasoline-burning V8 engines available to the lineup are each capable of burning E85 ethanol-based fuel. All this adds up to a lineup that’s heavy on horsepower and utility. Of course, the traditional work van is not overly endowed with makeovers, thus what one sees today styling- and equipment-wise in the Savana has been and will likely remain in vogue far longer than with the more glitz-oriented pickups, sedans, SUVs and roadsters.
As is traditional, Ford’s E-Series cargo vans, as well as the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter and GM’s own Chevy Express line are major rivals to the 2012 Savana, with each having its own strengths and weaknesses. All are decent choices, but, with the exception of the Express, none offers the horsepower bang for the buck that Jimmy’s solid entry can claim.
The standard engine in the Savana’s (RWD) 1500 trim is a 195-hp 4.3-liter V6 that combines with a 4-speed automatic transmission for 260 lb-ft of torque. Expect mileage in the vicinity of 15 mpg city/20 highway. For the 1500 AWD trim, an E85-capable (FFV) 5.3-liter V8 is standard, with the 4-speed automatic transmission managing 310 hp and 334 lb-ft of torque. The AWD system boasts a viscous center-mounted limited-slip differential, while its V8's ponies are good to tow up to 6,700 pounds and payload is maxed out at about 1,505 pounds. Look for mileage estimated at 13/17 from the Savana 1500 AWD’s variable-valve-timed (VVT) V8 powerplant.
The 2012 Savana 2500 and 3500 trims both come with a 4.8-liter VVT FFV V8 engine as standard equipment. With the accompanying 6-speed automatic transmission, this engine puts out 280 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque, though current mileage figures are unavailable. Both the heavier trims are additionally eligible for a 6.0-liter VVT FFV V8 powerplant that again combines with the 6-speed automatic for 324 hp and 373 lb-ft of torque. Again, EPA mileage estimates are unavailable for this hefty V8. Finally, a 260-hp V8 turbodiesel is also available for the Savana 2500 and 3500 trims and mates with the 6-speed automatic for a jaw-dropping 525 lb-ft of torque. Towing is maxed out at a respectable 10,000 pounds with the turbodiesel, but once more, mileage figures are unavailable.
Topping off this impressive list of powerplants is an eco-friendly 6.0-liter compressed natural gas (CNG) V8 engine that once again combines with the 6-speed automatic transmission for horsepower and torque numbers similar to the 6.0-liter gasoline engine.
Standard creature comforts are sparse, lineup-wide, in this dedicated work van. The basic amenities include two vinyl-upholstered seats, air conditioning, a trip computer, and two speakers, as well as audio and phone pre-wiring. Optional features abound, however, with some of the most popular being the OnStar Directions and Connections system, remote engine start, a locking rear differential, trailer-towing equipment, AM/FM radio with or without a single-CD player, remote keyless entry, power-adjustable driver’s seat, Bluetooth hands-free communications and/or cloth upholstery.
Optional packages include the self-explanatory Tilt-Wheel and Cruise Package and the Power Window and Door Package, as well as a pair of Power packages offering power windows and door locks along with heated, turn-signal-integrated outside mirrors. Assorted Window and Chrome Appearance packages are also available, as is a driver’s side swing-open cargo door.
Standard safety features in the 2012 Savana lineup include 4-wheel antilock brakes (ABS), traction and stability control, front head airbags, daytime running lights and dusk-sensing headlights. If the OnStar Directions and Connections option is selected, emergency service and airbag deployment alerts are part and parcel of the system.
Owners of work vans are generally close-mouthed about their vehicles, and those driving the 2012 Savana lineup are no exception. As long as these workhorses do their various jobs, looks and performance, as well as comfort, convenience and kudos, are all secondary.
by Eric Tallberg
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