With all the activity happening lately in the fullsize van market, we were wondering when we'd hear something from General Motors about its future plans in the segment. Well, as of today, April 1, we have to wonder no more. Following its earlier announcement of partnering with Nissan to sell a version of the NV200 compact cargo van through Chevrolet dealers as the Chevrolet City Express, GM has announced that the next generation of the Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana fullsize vans will share a platform with the Nissan NV fullsize vans.
A source at GM, who asked to remain anonymous, told us the current van platform was getting dated and was no longer competitive against newer entrants in the segment, but that the company got feedback from current owners that they still like V-8 power and would like something a little more "macho looking" than a Sprinter or even Ford Transit. "We kept hearing from our current van owners 'Why can't you build something like that Nissan NV?' so we figured instead of beating 'em, we'd join 'em."
Although final details have yet to be determined, there will be some differences between the GM version and the Nissan versions. The GM-badged models will use GM's EcoTec 3 V-6 and V-8 engines mated to GM's new 10-speed automatic for optimal fuel economy. The standard engine will be the 4.3L EcoTec 3 V-6, producing the same 285 hp and 305 lb-ft as in the trucks.
Expected to power the majority of models will be the 5.3L EcoTec3 V-8 with 355 hp and 383 lb-ft of torque. The heavy-duty 3500-series models will offer the proven Vortec 6000 6.0L port-injected V-8 mated to a 6L90 six-speed automatic, with an optional upfit package for natural gas or propane.
Finally, and most exciting to us, was that the van's expected 2017 introduction would see the production debut of the long-awaited 4.5L Duramax diesel V-8 on 3500 models that was originally supposed to debut in the 2010 Silverado before the engine was shelved. Five years ago, initial power ratings for that engine were announced at 310 hp and 520 lb-ft. GM has been doing some work on it since then, and the new numbers, according to our source, are around 350 hp and 600 lb-ft. "It's going to kick some major ass," our source said. Behind the stout "baby" Duramax will be a significantly strengthened 6L90 six-speed automatic. When asked why not the 10-speed, our source replied, "The 4.5L Duramax makes stupid torque, and in the mules we tested, we kept breaking the 10-speeds, and frankly, we didn't see that big of a difference in fuel economy. The 6L90 is proven and tough."
The new GM vans will be built at Nissan's Canton, Mississippi, plant, with the engines and transmissions shipped together to the plant for installation.