If you insist on a diesel V-8–powered van, your options are down to two: the GMC Savana and its Chevrolet Express mechanical twin.
Many of the benefits of the Savana lie with truck body builders who use machinery that’s accustomed to body-on-frame designs, and many of the Ford E-Series’ former customers are switching to General Motors to avoid paying for new tools to build the unit-body Transit van. Additionally, the Savana is available with the aforementioned Duramax V-8, as well as a series of reasonably powerful gasoline V-8s.
However, the heavy, old-school Savana is very inefficient. Although the EPA doesn’t rate the fuel economy of ¾- or 1-ton trucks, the old Savana ½-ton posted numbers far worse than its newer competition from Ford, Ram, and Mercedes-Benz. Its body-on-frame design and relatively low roof make for a smaller cargo opening and load area than its competitors.
However, for those who need a body-on-frame design or a big, torquey diesel engine, there’s something to be said for the distinctive, but dated Savana.