2008 Chevrolet Express Passenger Review

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The Car Connection
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Martin Padgett Martin Padgett Editorial Director
July 23, 2008

Buying tip

Vehicles such as the 2008 Chevrolet Express are chosen based on capabilities and purchased based on price, so do your homework at TheCarConnection.com

The 2008 Chevrolet Express 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 Chevrolet Express to write this comprehensive review. Experts from TheCarConnection.com also drove some versions of the Chevy Express (there are so many configurations, we haven’t driven them all, however). These experiences enable this team to offer you a definitive opinion on this full-size van. This review also compares the 2008 Chevrolet Express with other vehicles in its class to give you the best advice even when other reviews present conflicting opinions.

Chevrolet's full-size van continues on into 2008 as a workhorse, able to serve as either a commercial hauler, a 15-passenger mini-bus, or a powerful tow vehicle. It comes in either short- or long-wheelbase lengths and offers a variety of load capacities and engines. For drivers in northern climes, all-wheel drive is available.

The current Express 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 as is. But they know how to get the job done.

For Chevrolet, 2008 is the year the company updated the interior on the Express. Important improvements and changes 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 make for better rearward vision. Curtain airbags are now standard, and tougher glass is fitted on 12- and 15-passenger versions. All center seats get shoulder belts this year as well.

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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 Chevy Express.

For 2008, 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. A four-speed automatic is standard with either engine. While most versions of the Express are rear-wheel drive, all-wheel drive remains an available option.

The Chevy Express reminds everyone why minivans are called minivans. Just park any minivan next to a 2008 Chevrolet Express to see what we mean. Also, one turn behind the wheel of an Express full-size van will help you understand why minivans are popular; they drive "smaller" than this big bread loaf. Not that the Chevrolet Express 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 Express 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 Chevrolet Express offers all-wheel drive from the factory.


2008 Chevrolet Express Passenger


The 2008 Chevrolet Express is handy in accommodating large numbers of passengers; beyond that, there are certainly better solutions available.

Most of the 2008 Chevrolet Express reviews read by TheCarConnection.com team agree: The time for this full-size van’s styling is gone, if it ever was here in the first place.

To its credit, "the 2008 Chevrolet Express van is about as contemporary as possible for a rolling box...[with] rounded edges, high-mounted side taillights and flush side glass," reports Kelley Blue Book. According to Edmunds, "New body styling that featured high-mounted taillights...[and] a new exterior look [makes] the [2008] Chevrolet Express hard to overlook when compared with Ford's dated Econoline." This is largely because "a 2003 redesign included revamped taillamps and upscale reflector-type headlights," states Cars.com.

The Chevrolet Express 2008's interior is designed more for utility than beauty; Edmunds notes the 2008 Chevy Express has "low-grade interior plastics, bland cabin design," adding that the Chevrolet Express 2008 "interior is built for pure functionality, and while it may not be pretty, it gets the job done." Kelley Blue Book details "a makeover this year," in which the 2008 Chevy Express replaced its "aged steering wheel [and] dash controls," while receiving "new fabrics for the seats." Motor Trend suggests that the 2008 Chevrolet Express' interior is "ideal for peewee football and florists."

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2008 Chevrolet Express Passenger


The 2008 Chevrolet Express is expressly a box that can be accelerated; handling is decent and towing capacity is good.

TheCarConnection.com notes only lackluster performance from this 2008 Chevrolet Express.

According to Car and Driver, "Chevrolet offers five gasoline engines in the 2008 Chevy Express and one diesel engine...a 4.3-liter V-6 with 190 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque, two versions of a 4.8-liter V-8 are also exclusive to the commercial set -- one with 258 horsepower and another with 279 horsepower. a 5.3-liter V-8 with 301 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque, [and a] a 6.0-liter V-8 with 323 horsepower and 373 pound-feet of torque...heavy-duty cargo vans can also be equipped with a 6.6-liter turbo-diesel V-8 with 250 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque."

Comparing the low- and high-end 2008 Chevy Express engines, Edmunds reports that "the maximum trailer-towing capacity on 1500 models is 6300 pounds, while the heavy-duty 3500 can pull up to 9800 pounds when properly equipped." Kelley Blue Book warns that while "the V6 can handle light loads, if you plan on hauling heavier cargo or towing a trailer, you should choose the Vortec 5.3-liter V-8," noting that the "potent Vortec 6.0-liter V8 offers the most powerful V8 engine in its class."

Car and Driver divulges that the Chevrolet Express 2008 is equipped with a "4-speed automatic with lockup torque converter." Edmunds comments that 2008 Chevy Express "3500s get a heavy-duty version of that transmission." According to Cars.com, these transmissions have a "Tow/Haul mode."

Kelley Blue Book reminds us "gasoline V8 models can be thirsty, especially when loaded with passengers." Chevrolet Express 2008 mileage estimates from the EPA are 12/16 mpg for the 2008 Chevrolet Express 2500 and 13/17 mpg for the 1500. ConsumerGuide finds that "2WD test models have averaged 12.7-14.3 mpg."

When it comes to handling, ConsumerGuide says that while "even the passenger models lack the ride comfort of most minivans, these GM rigs display little rough-road harshness and only minor float over crests and dips...they're also surprisingly refined." Edmunds reports that "a robust frame, rack-and-pinion steering (half-ton models only) and standard four-wheel antilock disc brakes give the 2008 Chevrolet Express a leg up on Ford's Econoline when it comes to ride and handling." Car and Driver notes that "the four-wheel-drive system isn't like the hard-core setups offered on Chevy pickups," with "a full-time transfer case that employs a center differential with viscous limited slip," which "did make a difference when extracting a loaded trailer from [a] slippery paddock."

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2008 Chevrolet Express Passenger

Comfort & Quality

The 2008 Chevrolet Express has plenty of room for anything you want to put in it, but it doesn’t provide luxury-car comfort.

The 2008 Chevrolet Express has more potential for commercial applications than as a family van.

Car and Driver reports that the 2008 Chevy Express is "useful for carrying lots of stuff or people...with passenger capacities ranging from 8 to 15, they're of little interest for private use except in conversion-van configurations."

TheCarConnection.com sees a fair amount of consensus on this issue: Kelley Blue Book contends that "available seating for 15 makes the [2008 Chevy] Express Van the ultimate commuter vehicle," while Cars.com notes "seating layouts in the passenger van [that] provide space for eight, 12 or 15 occupants." Nonetheless, Edmunds insists "footwells remain as cramped as ever."

Being essentially a large box on wheels, the Express has no shortage of storage or hauling space. Car and Driver reports that their Chevrolet Express 2008 "had three rows of seats, which still left plenty of space for racing cargo, including two sets of spare wheels, a toolbox, a floor jack, jack stands, a cooler, chairs, and an air tank." ConsumerGuide says "maximum available cargo volume is a whopping 237.3 cubic feet on extended models."

Interior materials and construction are good, but not great, according to ConsumerGuide: the Chevrolet Express 2008's "dashboard features legible round gauges and simple, mostly handy controls, though the driver's power seat switches on the front of the cushion are tough to reach." Nonetheless, an "updated cabin with improved ergonomics gave the Chevy the edge compared to its Ford and Dodge competition," according to Edmunds.

The 2008 Chevrolet Express is not built for peace, quiet, and luxury. Still, noise levels aboard the 2008 Chevy Express are acceptable, according to ConsumerGuide: "mechanical ruckus is noticed because engines protrude into the front-seat area, but wind and road noise are acceptably low up to 65 mph."

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2008 Chevrolet Express Passenger


The 2008 Chevrolet Express is still top-heavy, but less prone to rollovers than before.

The 2008 Chevrolet Express provides reasonable, if not outstanding safety for its occupants.

Car and Driver reports "dual front airbags, curtain side-impact airbags for the first three rows, three-point seatbelts for all positions, stability control, anti-lock brakes, and traction control are standard across the Chevrolet Express [2008] lineup." Cars.com also had positive things to say, as noted by TheCarConnection.com's team of experts. Large passenger vans such as the 2008 Chevrolet Express have long been notorious for top-heaviness and instability, but this 2008 Chevy Express "12 or 15 occupant configurations also include an electronic stability system with rollover mitigation, a feature General Motors added in recent years in response to criticism about rollover risk."

Nonetheless, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gave the Chevrolet Express only a middling score for rollover resistance: three stars. Front impact protection, however, is an area of strength; the 2008 Chevy Express received five stars in that category. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has not tested the 2008 Express.

As far as 2008 Chevy Express safety equipment is concerned, "all models have four-wheel antilock disc brakes standard," according to Edmunds, which also reports that different 2008 Chevy Express trim levels offer different types of safety equipment: "3500 models use a manual airbag deactivation switch for the front passenger. A stability control system is standard on the 3500 but not available on the 1500."

Visibility is definitely not an issue with the 2008 Chevrolet Express, according to Kelley Blue Book; the Chevrolet Express 2008's "big glass side panels make it easy to see what's around you."

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2008 Chevrolet Express Passenger


The 2008 Chevrolet Express offers mix-and-match features made for commercial users; everyday drivers will be confused--and  better served by a minivan anyway.

The 2008 Chevrolet Express has standard and optional equipment that is adequate, if not outstanding.

TheCarConnection.com notes a plethora of Chevrolet Express 2008 trims and packages that would confound Stephen Hawking himself. The beauty—for commercial customers at least—is that the Express can be configured closely to the needs of the driver.

Car and Driver reports (for starters) that the base 2008 Chevrolet Express is "the Express LS," with rear- and all-wheel–drive options. The 2008 Chevy Express LS "comes standard with air conditioning, four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, stability control, traction control, vinyl seats, eight-passenger seating, a 60/40 swing-out side door, power steering, daytime running lights, automatic headlights, light tinted glass, intermittent wipers, 16-inch steel wheels, curtain airbags, rubberized vinyl floors, a two-speaker AM/FM stereo, and a 301-hp, 5.3-liter V-8 with a four-speed automatic transmission."

ConsumerGuide adds that all 2008 Chevy Express trims come with a "black vinyl floor covering [and] theft-deterrent system."

Some of the options for higher-level Chevrolet Express 2008 trims as reported by Car and Driver include "metallic paint ($150), cloth upholstery ($175), a tilting-steering-column and cruise-control package ($395), a heavy-duty battery ($60), an engine-block heater ($75), a heavy-duty alternator ($75), a dual-note horn ($15), a trailer hitch and connections ($265), a trailer wiring harness ($65), rear air conditioning ($870), carpeted floor ($185), a rear-window defogger ($155), a rear heater ($295), power door locks ($250), a CD player ($205), a smoker's package ($35), a deluxe swing-out console ($20), chrome front and rear bumpers ($65), gray painted wheel covers ($60), and 16-inch chrome-styled steel wheels ($310)."

Moving up to the top-of-the-line 2008 Chevy Express LT trim, additional 2008 Chevrolet Express options include "six-way power-adjustable driver's seat ($275), a six-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo with MP3 capability ($355; $555 with a six-CD changer), a sliding side door ($150), and heated external mirrors ($115 without power; $155 with power)."

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