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2012 GMC Savana Overview

Venerable and dependable, the 2012 GMC Savana full-size passenger van still looks right at home hauling loads of passengers hither and yon. It certainly doesn’t change much either, with the 2012 version essentially a carryover from 2011, though features and options may get juggled a bit. In any case, this capable people-moving machine can seat from 8 to 15 occupants, offers the traditional fully opening rear doors and can be delivered with a choice of four V8 engines, including a turbodiesel that kicks 525 lbs-ft of torque into hauling a good-size trailer. Again, Jimmy’s Savana is available in the base LS or higher-end LT trims, with both offered in either half-ton G1500, three-quarter-ton G2500 or one-ton G3500 variants. The G1500 can be delivered in either the standard rear-wheel-drive (RWD) configuration or in the traction-heavy all-wheel-drive (AWD) setup, while the G3500 LS and LT trims can again be stretched from the standard 224 inches to 244 inches of overall length, with the wheelbase jumping from the standard 135 inches to 155 inches, thereby becoming the G3500 Ext. variation. Finally, should luggage space become an issue, regular-length Savana vans can carry up to 216 cubic feet of cargo, with the Ext. trims able to tote up to 252 cubic feet of stuff, all with the rear seats removed. The Savana G1500 trims are configured with three rows of seating for eight passengers, while the G2500 and G3500 regular-length trims carry four rows and can seat 12 passengers. The G3500 LS and LT Ext. trims can seat a maximum of 15 passengers in five rows of seating.

As is traditional these days, Ford’s E-Series and Mercedes-Benz’s Sprinter vans represent the major competition for Jimmy’s 2012 Savana lineup, with GM/Chevy’s own Express also carving out its share of the market. Ford’s E-Series vans need a much-deserved makeover soon if they hope to battle GM’s various offerings, while the Sprinter offers a roofline that the Savana can’t hope to equal, as well as a more refined ride and cabin. Alas, the Sprinter also comes at a much steeper MSRP than does the $29,000 base Savana G1500 LS.

Leading the parade of engines for the 2012 Savana lineup is a 5.3-liter ethanol-capable Flex Fuel (FFV) V8 that comes standard with both the G1500 LS and LT trims. Paired with a standard 4-speed automatic transmission, this confident V8 will put out 310 hp and 334 lb-ft of torque and will tow 6,300 pounds of trailer, when properly equipped. Expect, however, an abysmal 13 mpg city/17 highway, even with variable valve timing (VVT). Topping things off, the G1500 AWD trims sport a viscous, limited-slip center differential that provides power to all four wheels all the time.

Next in line is the 280-hp 4.8-liter FFV V8 that comes standard in the 2500 LS and LT. With the standard 6-speed automatic transmission, this downsized V8 throws down 295 lb-ft of torque and, therefore, a tad less towing power, while mileage is an even worse 11/17, again despite VVT.

Standard in the G3500 LS and LT trims is a 6.0-liter FFV V8, again with the 6-speed automatic that manages 324 hp and 373 lb-ft of torque. Though packing VVT, expect only 11/16 from this hefty V8, but towing is boosted to just over 9,000 pounds, when properly equipped. The 6.0-liter V8 is available for the Savana 2500 trims as well.

Wrapping things up is a wickedly potent 6.6-liter turbodiesel V8 that’s optional for the Savana G3500 LS and LT trims in both the Ext. and regular-length versions. Once more equipped with the 6-speed automatic transmission, this monster will pound out 260 hp and a whopping 525 lb-ft of torque, allowing a maximum towing capacity of 9,900 pounds with the proper equipment. EPA mileage estimates are, alas, unavailable for the turbodiesel.

Due to its commercial nature, the 2012 Savana Passenger Van dispenses with most of the traditional, family-oriented appearance goodies and creature comforts. The base LS versions in all three weight classes, for instance, will likely again be delivered with standard 17-inch steel wheels, with rear privacy glass with swing-out rear quarter windows as their only noteworthy exterior features. Vinyl upholstery, air conditioning, a trip computer and OnStar Directions and Connections service will remain in place as grudging nods toward basic occupant comfort and convenience, while entertainment is expected to be the traditional AM/FM radio with two speakers. Phone pre-wiring is once again expected to be the only nod toward standard telecommunications equipment.

The 2012 Savana LT Passenger Van lineup, meantime, should add cloth upholstery, full-length carpeting and auxiliary lighting as mincing concessions to posh. Standard remote keyless entry, as well as tilt-wheel steering, cruise control, power front windows and remote power door locks, meanwhile, will likely remain as comfort and convenience extras in the top-shelf trim.

Options across the 2012 Savana lineup are expected to include 17-inch alloy wheels, heated power-adjustable outside mirrors, a single-CD player, Bluetooth hands-free communications technology, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, remote engine start and a sliding passenger-side door. Additionally, a heavy-duty locking rear differential and heavy-duty trailer-towing package should also be available to both trims, with further options in the LT trims to include custom cloth upholstery, power-adjustable front seats, satellite radio and a USB connection.

Safety-wise, the 2012 Savana will once more sport four-wheel antilock brakes, traction and stability control, and three-row head airbags for starters. Standard daytime running lights, meantime, as well as dusk-sensing headlights and a post-collision safety system should again complement the traditional OnStar emergency response, collision notification and stolen vehicle tracking systems. Also look for the LT trims to once more offer available turn-signal-integrated mirrors.

A dated look, as well as a voracious appetite for gas and the distracting two-piece outside mirrors are major sources of owner complaints with the 2011 versions of the Savana lineup. Owners are, however, pleased at the availability of AWD in the 1500 sub-trims, not to mention the option of turbodiesel power. All four engine choices garner high praise for their reliability and effectiveness, and the Savana G3500 Ext., of course, remains especially lauded for its 15-passenger capacity.


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.

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