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Automotive Intelligence News

News of  March 13, 2002
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Chevy Express/GMC Savana Full-Size Vans Redesigned For 2003

Left-hand door, all-wheel drive, unique side access, and Vortec power deliver more work efficiency

2003 Chevy Express

Fresh off its first major redesign in seven years, the 2003 Chevy Express and GMC Savana full-size van lineup offers an all-new look, upgraded powertrains and enhanced safety and reliability - plus exclusive new features designed to deliver more for the commercial user.

"These commercial features are what our customers said they wanted, and we delivered," said David A. Hansen, general manager of GM Fleet and Commercial Operations. "More power, more doors, more drive wheels, more braking power, more features that customers need to manage their fleets."
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GMC Savana Pro

Photos: GM

Highlighting a long list of what's new and improved for the model year are three "industry firsts" for the full-size van segment: all-wheel drive models, left-hand-side 60/40 entry/load door availability, and unique side access panels on Express Access and Savana Pro models. Plus, sharing heavily with proven componentry developed for the Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra full-size pickups, the Express and Savana vans can now work or play stronger and smarter than ever before.

New all-wheel-drive "H-model" vans have been added to the 2WD "G-model" lineup, employing a full-time viscous-coupled transfer case to offer the best on-road, wet- or dry-pavement handling traction ever engineered into full-size van. The industry's first 60/40 left-hand-side entry/load door, available on regular-length passenger and cargo vans, provides the segment's most flexible passenger entry/cargo loading capability. And the new side access doors with remote release on work-oriented Savana Pro and Express Access models allow access to tools and parts from both sides of the vehicle to save time and steps.

What's more, Express and Savana have put even more distance between themselves and competitors by adding more "best-in-class" features, such as the segment's most powerful V8 (with the Vortec 6000), the fastest light-duty acceleration (with the Vortec 5300), and the highest maximum payload rating (2,430 pounds) of any light-duty, base-model van (with the 6200-pound GVW G1500 Series). The G-vans also continue to offer other previous best-in-class features, such as the widest rear cargo-door openings and lowest step-in heights. And in early testing, GM's new full-size vans outperform their rivals in critical areas like stopping distances and ride-and-handling dynamics.

An all-new lineup of Gen III V8 engines - the 275 horsepower Vortec 4800, 285-horse Vortec 5300 and the segment-challenging Vortec 6000 (with some 300 hp) - provide the Express and Savana with more power and better performance, economy, reliability and durability than the previous small-block V8s, and top comparable rivals in either horsepower or acceleration capability - or both. A new 200-hp version of the Vortec 4300 V6 is now the base engine for light-duty G-Series vans.

For 2003, all Gen III engines feature state-of-the-art catalytic converter systems and oxygen sensors to reduce emissions during engine warm-ups and provide longer component life. Better still, new air filter and oil life monitors take the guesswork out of routine engine service intervals. All models come standard with a four-speed automatic transmission with overdrive - and for the first time GM's unique Tow/Haul Mode feature is now available.

Underneath it all are new, stiffer box frames that deliver more torsional rigidity and a solid foundation on which to mount new front and rear suspensions, which are modified versions of those used on GM's highly successful full-size pickups. (Except for its new cast-iron lower control arms, the independent front short/long arm (SLA) coil-spring suspension on G-Series models is essentially the same as that of 2WD full-size pickups, and the H-Series front suspension system is practically identical to that of K1500 full-size pickups.) All rear suspensions use a solid axle, with semi-elliptic variable-rate, two-stage multileaf springs and gas-charged shocks.

Many other important features have made the "What's New For 2003" list. For example, the redesigned front-end - including grille, bumper, fascia, fenders and hood - not only lends a strong family resemblance to other GM trucks, but its underlying structure also improves occupant protection and crashworthiness and reduces repair costs. Uplevel reflector-type headlamps and revamped taillamps enhance safety visibility, while Daytime Running Lamps (DRLs) add an extra measure of visibility.

An upgrade to standard 16-inch wheels puts the Express and Savana vans in step with other full-size truck families, while more efficient and durable HydroBoost(r) hydraulic four-wheel-disc ABS brake systems improve stopping distance and. Light-duty models now benefit from standard power rack-and-pinion steering, providing more nimble performance.

Quieter, higher-quality rear axles, improved prop shafts and revised engine mounts help contribute to a smoother, quieter ride. Full-bodied passenger/cargo vans get composite fuel tanks, and all models have more robust turbine fuel pumps and greater vapor-leak detection capability, as well as expanded Alternative Fuel option for fleet and commercial use.

Inside there are restyled, more comfy interiors with upgraded HVAC operation and OnStar(r) as well as RDS Radio System availability. All models also tout an advanced Class II electrical system, which allows for the addition of battery run-down protection, delayed accessory power, lock-out protection and an expanded number of driver alerts. Convenience improvements include more cupholders, an additional power point and storage options. There are even new interior and exterior colors from which to choose.

Overall, Express/Savana passenger vans continue to be available in regular (135-inch) and extended (155-inch) wheelbase lengths and provide eight-, 12- or 15-person carrying capability. Cargo vans, available in the same wheelbase lengths, offer seating for two. The cutaways, which can be converted to various commercial and RV requirements, are available in 139-inch, 159-inch and 177-inch wheelbase lengths.

The 1500 Series vans include models rated at 6,200 and 7,200 pounds GVW (an increase of 100 pounds). The 2500 Series includes models rated at 7,300 and 8,500 GVW and models, rated at 8,600 pounds GVW. The heavy-duty 3500 Series includes full-bodied cargo/passenger vans rated at 9,600 pounds GVW, and commercial and RV cutaway chassis, with GVW ratings of 8,600-12,300 pounds.

Buyers who use their full-size Chevrolet Express or GMC Savana van for work duty will be surprised to find smart, new features right from the factory to help make the job go smoother and faster. The side access panels on Savana Pro and Express Access models are sure to leave contractors wondering how they ever worked without them. And with other time-saving features such as the new left-hand-door and a myriad of innovative interior storage systems available, it's plain to see that GM is serious about helping professional tradesmen increase their work efficiency. From the personal-use passenger van to the commercial cargo workhorse, from conversion van capability to keeping upfitters happy with a functional and dependable cutaway chassis, the 2003 Chevy Express and GMC Savana are clearly poised to capture full-size van sales lead.

(March 6, 2002)

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