Yup, you read that right: GM is giving its aging Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana full-size vans a new base engine and transmission for the 2018 model year (according to order guides supplied by our dealer friends).
For as long as we can remember, the base powertrain of the Express/Savana twins was the 4.8L Vortec V-8 L20 mated to a GM Hydra-Matic six-speed heavy-duty automatic transmission (MYD). The combo was good for 285 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque.
Those who aren’t directly familiar with the 4.8L L20 should know that the motor is part of the GM Gen IV Small Block generation of engines and did duty as the base engine in the GMT900 generation Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra. It was fed via sequential fuel injection (SFI), so it wasn’t direct injected. Variable Valve Timing (VVT) was added on in 2009.
|Power hp / kW @ RPM
|Torque lb-ft / Nm @ RPM
|4.3L V-8 LV1 (new)
|265 / 198 @ 5200
|295 / 400 @ 4000
|4.8L V-8 L20 (old)
|285 / 212.5 @ 5400
|295 / 398.3 @ 4600
The engine that’s replacing it is the 4.3L V-6 LV1. Part of the GM Gen V family of engines, the aluminum block motor is essentially a variant of the EcoTec3 4.3L V-6 LV3 that serves as the base powerplant for the GMT-K2 generation of the Silverado and Sierra.
In the 2018 Express and Savana, the LV1 makes 265 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. And unlike the L20 it replaces, the mill features the latest and greatest combustion technology like spark ignition direct injection (SIDI), Variable Valve Timing (VVT) that wasn’t added on as an afterthought like in the L20, and high-pressure fuel pumps.
And since the newer, more efficient engine will be mated to a transmission with two more forward gears (the GM 8-speed 8L90 M5U), we expect the Express and Savana to see a bump in fuel economy for the 2018 model year as well.
The introduction of the new LV1 V-6 engine coincides with other changes and updates for the 2018 Express and Savana — which you can find using the links at the end of this article.
The GM Authority Take
There’s no denying that the Express and Savana are downright archaic. depending on how you count it, the duo is either 23 years old (since the launch of the first-generation Express in 1996) or 16 years old (after the original van was updated in 2003). But despite their age, the vehicles are trusted by thousands of fleet owners and are selling very well in the marketplace, often occupying first or second places in their competitive set.
As such, it’s great to see GM give the these workhorses some attention with a modern base powertrain along with other updates for the 2018 model year. This should bring some modernity to the vehicles, thereby making them more competitive in the marketplace, while meeting the looming fuel economy regulations. And delivering the same (power/torque) with less displacement and two fewer cylinders is always a welcome change.
In fact, GM has been slowly modernizing the vans. Last year, the automaker introduced a new turbo-diesel engine – the 2.8L I-4 Duramax LWN engine (aka “baby Duramax”) to replace the outmoded 6.6L LGH Duramax.
But what would be even better is if GM were working on a completely new and modern van lineup to compete with the likes of the Ford Transit and Ram ProMaster.
More Information & Reporting
Chevy Express information
GMC Savana information
About Chevrolet Express & GMC Savana
The Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana are full-size vans offered in cargo, passenger, and cutaway configurations. Outside of the logos, the vehicles are identical.
The first-generation Express/Savana ran from the 1996-2002 model years and was based on the GMT 600 platform. In 2003, an updated model was launched on what is known as the GMT 610 platform. This updated model remains on sale today, albeit the range has undergone a few updates to powertrain and minor styling changes.
The Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana are built primarily at the GM Wentzville factory in Missouri operated by GM USA. In early 2017, Navistar began contract assembly of the Express Cutaway and Savana Cutaway models in its factory in Ohio, as part of an initiative to increase the supply of both models.