Vehicle Overview

GMC has redesigned its full-size rear-wheel-drive (RWD) vans for the first time in seven years. The 2003 Savanas get upgraded powertrains, fresh features and an updated appearance. Three industry firsts are available: all-wheel drive (AWD), an optional left-side door and unique side access panels for use on commercial vans. The Savana’s front-end styling has been revised to give a greater family resemblance to other General Motors trucks.

The Chevrolet Express is closely related to the Savana, and it also received a redesign and offers comparable features. Sales of the Savana declined in 2001, dropping to 36,674 units, according to Automotive News.

New H-Series vans with full-time AWD join the existing two-wheel-drive G-Series lineup. Equipped with a viscous-coupled transfer case, the AWD vans can travel on both wet and dry pavement, with no driver attention or intervention needed. Regular-length passenger and cargo vans can be fitted with a 60/40-split left-side entry/load door. The new side access doors feature remote releases and are limited to work-oriented Savana Pro models. They permit easier accessibility for tools and parts from either side of the van.

GM’s new line of Gen III V-8 engines is available: a 270-horsepower Vortec 4800, a 285-hp Vortec 5300 and a Vortec 6000 that generates approximately 300 hp and leads its segment, according to GM. Each engine promises greater performance and economy than the previous small-block V-8s. The base engine in light-duty G-Series vans is a 4.3-liter V-6. The Savana’s four-speed-automatic transmission gains a Tow/Haul mode. The new front and rear suspensions are modified from those used on GM’s full-size pickup trucks, and the new box frame offers greater torsional rigidity than its predecessor.

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