For the first time in seven seasons, Chevrolet’s full-size rear-wheel-drive Express van underwent a major redesign in 2003. The freshening included upgraded powertrains, revised features and an all-new look. Chevrolet said the vans had three industry firsts: optional all-wheel drive, an optional left-side door and unique side access panels for commercial vans. Its front-end styling was revised to give a greater family resemblance to General Motors’ other trucks.
During the 2004 model year, 15-passenger vans gain GM’s StabiliTrak electronic stability system as a standard feature. An assist handle also has been installed.
The GMC Savana is closely related to the Express. The Express outsells its GMC counterpart by a considerable margin, but sales of both have been stagnant. Both rear- and all-wheel-drive models come in 1500, 2500 and 3500 duty levels. Light-duty rear-drive vans have the Vortec 4300 V-6 as their base engine, but three Gen III Vortec V-8s are available.
Express vans are built on a separate box frame. The 2003 redesign included revamped taillamps and upscale reflector-type headlights. Light-duty vans have rack-and-pinion steering.
The front and rear suspensions are modified from those used on GM’s full-size pickup trucks. The rear suspensions use a solid axle with semielliptic variable-rate multileaf springs and gas shocks. The tires measure 16 inches in diameter, and the fuel tanks are made of composite material.
Express passenger vans come with a regular-length (135-inch) or extended-length (155-inch) wheelbase and measure 224 and 244 inches long overall, respectively. These vans are 79.4 inches wide and at least 81.6 inches tall.
Chevrolet’s 1500 Series vans have gross vehicle weight ratings (GVWRs) of 6,200 or 7,200 pounds (cargo and passenger models, respectively), while the GVWRs for 2500 Series vans are 7,300 or 8,600 pounds. Full-bodied vans in the 3500 Series are rated at 9,600 pounds GVWR.
Full-size Express passenger vans can carry eight, 12 or 15 occupants, while Express cargo vans seat only two people up front. Regular-length passenger and cargo vans may be equipped with a 60/40-split left-side entry/load door. Side access doors with remote releases are limited to work-oriented Express Access models and permit easier accessibility to tools and parts from either side of the van.
Options include Radio Data System technology and GM’s OnStar communication system. The use of an advanced Class II electrical system allows for battery run-down protection, retained accessory power, lockout protection and a substantial number of driver alerts.
Under the Hood
Four engines are available. Light-duty G-Series vans have a 195-horsepower, 4.3-liter V-6 as the base engine. Three V-8s are offered: a 275-hp 4.8-liter, a 285-hp 5.3-liter and the 6.0-liter Vortec 6000 that generates 300 hp. All engines have air-filter and oil-life monitors. Each power plant mates with a four-speed-automatic transmission that incorporates a Tow/Haul mode. Equipped with a viscous-coupled transfer case, the all-wheel-drive van functions on wet or dry pavement without driver intervention.
All-disc antilock brakes and daytime running lights are standard, but side-impact airbags are not available.