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A New Engine for the Chevrolet ... Express

Admit it, you thought the Chevrolet Express was no longer offered as part of the Chevrolet lineup. Same goes for its twin Savana at GMC.

In fact, both models are very much alive and well. The vans, originally introduced in the early 1990s, still have their place in the General Motors catalogue. Not only that, the automaker’s commercial van business has grown 67% since 2013. The Chevrolet Express, now in its 26th year in its current form, saw sales increase 12% across all configurations in 2019.

And since about 70% of Express buyers chose the 6.0L Vortec V8 engine (341 hp and 373 lb-ft of torque), GM decided to offer a more powerful V8 for 2021. Available as of this summer, the 2021 Express vans will offer a new 6.6L V8 that debuted with the 2020 Silverado HD trucks. The Express will benefit from the same output, 401 hp and 464 lb-ft of torque; these represent gains of 17% and 24% respectively over the former Vortec V8.

According to GM Authority, the 6.6L V8 will replace the two currently offered V8s, one of which is capable of running on compressed natural gas or liquefied petroleum gas. The new unit will use the same 6-speed automatic transmission as the current V8.

The base engine remains the 4.3-litre EcoTec V6, a mill that offers 276 hp and 296 pound-feet of torque. The third option is a 2.8L, 4-cylinder Duramax Diesel good for 181 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque. Both of those engines use an 8-speed automatic transmission.

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Photo: Chevrolet

The Silverado 4500 HD, 5500 HD and 6500 HD chassis-cab models are also part of the plan for these improvements. Fleet managers will be able to order longer bodies for the two shorter wheelbases. Engineers have increased the gross vehicle weight rating by 23% to 37,000 lb. They also added a mechanically controlled rear differential to increase traction, as well as an additional outlet on the left side so equipment can be plugged into either side of the trucks.

Other enhancements designed to make life easier for workers include longer outside mirror arms and an auxiliary switch cluster available with six outlets in the roof.

Nothing has been announced for the GMC Savana, but it is expected to benefit from the same improvements.

As for the Chevrolet Express, although it's outdated, its continued success is due in good part to the fact that it's cheaper than its rivals and is not expensive to maintain.