2008 GMC Savana Passenger Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
July 24, 2008

The 2008 GMC Savana is a basic workhorse that is capable of getting the big, unglamorous jobs done.

TheCarConnection.com's editors read the latest reviews on the new 2008 GMC Savana to write this comprehensive review. Experts from TheCarConnection.com also drove some versions of the GMC Savana, but there are so many configurations, we haven't driven them all. These experiences enable this team to offer you a definitive opinion on this full-size van. This review also compares the 2008 GMC Savana with other vehicles in its class to give you the best advice even when other reviews present conflicting opinions.

The 2008 GMC Savana is still built on the GMT800 truck platform, introduced in 2003. While GM's full-size trucks have been updated to GMT900 specifications, these vans soldier on, but they know how to get the job done as a commercial hauler, a 15-passenger minibus, or a powerful tow vehicle. It comes in either short- or long-wheelbase lengths and offers a variety of load capacities and engines.

For GMC, 2008 is the year that its full-size vans get a serious makeover under their hoods and in front of the drivers. As far as powertrains go, a 301-horsepower 5.3-liter V-8 is standard on 1500 Passenger Van models, with a 323-horsepower, 6.0-liter V-8 available optionally. The smaller V-8 is now E85/flex-fuel capable. The torque-rich 6.6-liter Duramax diesel engine is another possibility. A four-speed automatic is standard with all engines. While most versions of the GMC are rear-wheel drive, all-wheel drive remains an available option.

If you're shopping for a cargo van, base models can be outfitted with a 4.3-liter V-6 or a 4.8-liter V-8.

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The interior of the 2008 GMC Savana also receives significant upgrades this year. Important improvements include a new instrument cluster featuring new major controls for the audio and climate control systems, plus a revised passenger-side airbag. Importantly, tire pressure monitors have been made standard, and new flat and convex exterior mirrors provide better rearward vision. Curtain airbags are now standard, and tougher glass is fitted on the 12- and 15-passenger versions. All center seats get shoulder belts this year as well.

Cargo loading and unloading are aided by rear cargo doors that open almost a full 180 degrees, providing excellent access. Twin cargo doors or a sliding door are available on the passenger side of the GMC Savana.

The 2008 GMC Savana reminds everyone why minivans are called minivans; just park any minivan next to a Savana to see for yourself. One turn behind the wheel of a Savana full-size van will help you understand why minivans are popular; they drive "smaller" than this big bread loaf. Not that the GMC Savana drives badly--it's just big, and drives like it.

Acceleration is more than acceptable with any engine except the economy-minded V-6. The 2008 Savana weighs a lot and carries its weight up high, so there is solid logic to GM making its stability enhancement system standard.

For special applications, work and cutaway van editions await your special duties and/or conversion to school busses or other commercial iteration.

The Dodge Sprinter is a more expensive full-size van alternative. The Dodge is based on the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter and was completely overhauled for the 2008 model year. The Dodge Sprinter approaches cargo and people hauling with a European attitude, so two V-6 engines are the only powertrain options.

Only the 2008 GMC Savana offers all-wheel drive from the factory.

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