By on March 4, 2020

gm

Kurt Cobain had only been dead a year when General Motors launched the Chevrolet Express family of commercial and passenger vans. Two and a half decades later, the Express is still in its first generation, with the model’s sole facelift now 17 years distant.

Despite facing ever stiffer competition from the likes of Ford, the Express and its GMC twin, the Savana, remain an important product for GM, with the Express selling over 77,000 units in 2019. It’s far less refined than the Ford Transit, but it’s tough. GM ditched the half-ton chassis after 2015, focusing on three-quarter and 1-ton variants ever since.

The model, paid off by the time Y2K became a concern, isn’t being completely taken for granted by its parent. For 2021, the Express family sees moar power.

Announced late Tuesday, the Express line gains an uplevel 6.6-liter gasoline V8 for the coming model year, replacing the old Vortec 6.0-liter V8 and its gaseous fuel sibling. The engine comes by way of the Silverado HD, which gained both a new generation and gas engine for MY2020.

GM’s 6.0L offered 341 horsepower and 373 lb-ft of torque for buyers who weren’t interested in settling for the base 4.3-liter V6. The new engine sees available power rise to 401 hp and 464 lb-ft in the Express line, a significant boost, with 350 hp/425 lb-ft on offer in the Low Cab Forward commercial truck.

While GM doesn’t specify, it looks like the pre-existing six-speed automatic carries over, just as it did in the new Silverado HD. Express models equipped with either the 4.3L V6 or Duramax 2.8-liter diesel carry an eight-speed. GM makes no mention of the Savana.

“Approximately 70 percent of current Express owners opted for the 6.0L V8 option, and Chevrolet expects this new engine to garner the same or increased take rate,” the automaker stated.

The newly muscular 2021 Express should reach customers in late summer.

[Image: General Motors]

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35 Comments on “Ancient Model Gains New Engine...”


  • avatar
    Hummer

    Trusty old steed, likely the only vehicle still in GMs portfolio that doesn’t have the Barra stank. Don’t fix what ain’t broken; without a doubt if a cargo van was needed I wouldn’t look elsewhere.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    From the rear, these always remind me of a toaster.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    I’m glad that GM is continuing to make hot rod engine swap donors for generations to come.

    These really are terrible vehicles compared to the competition, but they’re cheap.

  • avatar
    dont.fit.in.cars

    Ergonomics of the Nissan NV series (extended nose) moving engine and transmission forward would be a welcomed change.

  • avatar
    JimC2

    The math comes out to 399.8 cubic inches displacement for this engine. I know it’s just a number but soooooo close!

    • 0 avatar
      jack4x

      4.065″ bore squared * 3.1416/4 * 3.86″ stroke * 8 cylinders = 400.76 CID

      Just made it.

      • 0 avatar
        JimC2

        GMauthority dot com has it at 4.06″ bore. (I don’t know which one is right or wrong, just curious where you got 4.065″.)

        • 0 avatar
          jack4x

          Found it here.

          https://www.hagerty.com/articles-videos/articles/2019/02/11/new-gas-v8-for-silverado-hd

          Now we are really splitting hairs, but the GM provided sign in that article’s photo calls out a bore of 103.25 mm, which is 4.06496″.

          • 0 avatar
            JimC2

            I think you’re right. One source rounded up and the other rounded down. I bet the metric bore and stroke are the actual dimensions and the inches are just conversions… which puts it just over 400cid.

            Speaking of splitting hairs, I get 6564.26cc or 400.58cid :D

            Hehehehe, all in good fun.

            (But seriously- thanks for the link.)

  • avatar
    JimZ

    have they fixed the wiring issues in the rear? I’d say the vast majority of these things I’ve seen on the road have taillights which are malfunctioning in various and amusing ways.

    • 0 avatar
      87 Morgan

      While you are not wrong, I respectfully submit the wiring issues are due to the varying # of people who have tried to DIY trailer light repairs and inevitably Eff up the factory wiring.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Interesting that they do a 4.3L/8A combo on the vans, but only a 4.3L/6A on the trucks.

    Although the 8A hasn’t had a good reliability track record compared to the 6A, so maybe that’s a win for the truck side. 4.3L/10A could be nice.

  • avatar

    It isn’t glamorous, but it’s a steady market, and at this point, prints money for GM. Toss in two generation old climate controls-the user isn’t usually the owner or buyer. It allows GM to come up with V8 engines they don’t use, or buy Real Estate in NYC…

    • 0 avatar
      1500cc

      I believe these are made in the same plant as the Colorado/Canyon, which is already maxed out. So I wonder if GM isn’t terribly motivated to put too much money into these vans since they realistically can’t make any more to sell anyhow.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      I have no doubt they make *some* money for the company, but GM fleet sells these brutally cheap. The margins are small.

  • avatar
    MiataReallyIsTheAnswer

    This will be a nice additional option for LS swaps going forward.

  • avatar
    bullnuke

    Here in Western Ohio, these things rust almost as fast and almost as badly as the MB-Sprinter’s. There are quite a few running around.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    Laugh all you want about the”ancient-ness” of this van, but according to several websites I’ve seen, ordering a GM van today will result in a six-month wait for your van to be delivered.

    Certain fleet buyers hate change. They love the Express and Savanna. And if one’s vanning needs include towing, the GM twins can’t be beat, even more so with this new engine.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    It amazes me that they still sell any of these, even “brutally cheap,” when the Ford Transit exists. Just a vastly superior vehicle in every way except possibly this new engine.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      Love the one you’re with.

    • 0 avatar
      jack4x

      No version of the Transit can tow even 6,000 lb and this is rated for 10,000.

      I realize these aren’t typically tow vehicles but there’s a lot of virtue in a truck based chassis over the lighter built Transit, Sprinter, etc.

      • 0 avatar
        JimC2

        There is virtue in it. It all depends on what the customer prefers- something that is like a big car or something else that is like a small truck.

        Funny thing about where a lot of these end up in passenger service, speaking as someone who stays in hotels a lot and rides in the shuttle between the hotel and the airport, I can’t say I personally care either way (I just care if the hotel shuttle is on time and that the seatbelts aren’t broken).

      • 0 avatar
        scott25

        They’re almost never buying new ones, but the Express and Econolines are sacred amongst touring bands, and that requires a trailer since the van is full of people.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      Transit doesn’t have near as much available upfitter equipment compared to these.

      • 0 avatar
        Hummer

        This, the auto show this year must have had 5 brand new modern conversion vans all based on these Savana vans. I hadn’t (knowingly) seen a new one of them in well over a decade.

  • avatar
    zach

    I drive a couple of these for work (2017 Savannahs) , a couple of 2016 Ram Promaster 2500s, and a 2019 Ford Transit 250. The GMC is definitely the dinosaur, I honestly thought it was model year 2010 . The RAM actually has the best packaging and MPG, it simply fits more, is easier to drive, much more nimble and gets the same or better MPG than the Chevy and Ford. Back to the GM, Good drivetrain horrible everything else, by 30k miles the door hinges are all sloppy, broken seat frames, and numerous electrical problems.

    • 0 avatar
      Robotdawn

      I imagine the GM twins are like the panther Fords that everyone loves here for some god-forsaken reason. I drove more than a few panthers and they were all the same way. Total crap after you put any miles on them. Transmissions last around 75k miles, engines burn oil like crazy and you can buy electric window motors by the box. That’s just to start.
      But they were cheap and easy to fix. Parts have been made for those BOF vehicles for 20 years. Every junkyard has dozens of them on their lot. Add in they are basically assembled like lego cars, and are easy to repair.

    • 0 avatar
      HotPotato

      The Ram is a real pleasure to drive, though I hear its reliability record is not-a so hot. The Ford apparently gives you the same Euro-van driving experience but without the FWD maintenance costs (yay) or the amusing Peterbilt seating position (boo), but I haven’t had the opportunity to drive one.

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