GM to Put Baby Duramax in Full-Size Vans

2016-Chevrolet-Express-013 II

GM, maker of the oldest commercial vans on the market, will put the new, torque-biased four-cylinder Duramax diesel engine into both the E-Series Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana for the 2017 model year.

According to Automotive News, the lightly modified global diesel engine currently used in the Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon midsize pickup trucks will be offered as an option in the long- and short-wheelbase 2500 and 3500 2017 full-size GM vans.

Some might argue this was not a difficult decision for GM because the midsize pickups and large work vans are built at the same Missouri plant near St. Louis. Ordering more diesel engines for the same location should be simple, assuming that demand for the diesel engines doesn't outpace production capabilities given that it offers as much as 31 mpg highway when optioned in the midsize pickup. The diesel is likely to be paired with GM's new eight-speed transmission used in Chevy and GMC half-ton V-8 pickups.

The Express and Savana are the oldest commercial vans sold in the U.S. They haven't been significantly redesigned in almost 20 years, yet they sell in strong numbers: more than 100,000 in 2014 and 85,000 in 2015. Despite the proliferation of new, Euro-styled vans such as the full-size Ram ProMaster and Ford Transit, and smaller Ford Transit Connect, Nissan NV200 and Mercedes-Benz Metro, GM is finding unique ways to keep its old-school vans alive and generate customer interest.

GM's high-tech 2.8-liter turbo-diesel uses a cast-iron block and aluminum cylinder heads along with a dual overhead cam 16-valve setup that produces 181 horsepower at 3,400 rpm and 369 pounds-feet of torque at 2,000 rpms in the midsize pickups. It's possible, for the sake of greater longevity, that GM could decide to "de-rate" the engine since it will be put into a vehicle with a heavier curb weight, higher gross vehicle weight rating, and more payload and towing capacity.

Given the EPA fuel-economy numbers for the midsize pickup with the small diesel — 22/31/25 mpg city/highway/combined — and that GM's most-popular engine for full-size vans is the 6.0-liter V-8 (11/16/13 mpg), it's possible that ownership cost savings based on fuel consumption alone could mean the higher price of the little Duramax could be one of those rare instances where the vehicle could pay for the engine upgrade in the first year of operation.

Model-year 2017 vans will be available for ordering through select dealerships later this fall.

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2016 Express Cargo Van II

2016-Chevrolet-Colorado-Duramax-TurboDiesel-052 II



Somebody's pulling my leg. Lower ownership cost?

This van with a diesel will cost MORE to buy, MORE to maintain and--should the price of gasoline maintain its current floor--be much more expensive to fuel up when equipped with the oil burner.

That said, it will be a winner if commercial buyers perceive that GM's fleet vehicles have improved their record for durability.

The market for diesel vans is super competitive and this will be an expensive rig equipped with a diesel.

Too little too late. Ford is killing it with the new Transit which has been out for a couple years now.

The 2017 Transit will be in its 4th year now. When the year closed for 2015, it sold 117,577 units. This is nearly twice the number of Express vans that Chevrolet sold over the same period. GM is dropping the ball bigtime.

The real test in commercial vans is how many commercial buyers they have. Given that commercial buyers are a demanding group with specific needs, wants, price consideration, etc., it’s a safe bet that the manufacturer who sells the most, makes the better van. Commercial buyers, like most other buyers, vote with their checkbooks. Ford does a much better job of understanding the truck market.

I sell a lot of Transit, some fleet. The individuals trading in Dodge/Chevy typically opt for the 3.5 Ecoboost or diesel. Both of these engines sell well with these vans. From customer perspective as well, they say the pep of the engine and smooth ride sold them when cross shopping. Yes I sell them, but I am just giving you my own customers feedback,,…

GM has a bigger duramax about to debut. They might be holding it back testing market with these. No info has been released but the 1500 pickup will also have a diesel in the next 2 years.

So is the 6.6L out then? That engine has been offered in the full size van for some time now. Unless it was discontinued recently in vans and i never noticed. When Ford dropped the 6.0L in the E-van in 2011 some local public transit companies switched over to the GM van with the 6.6L because they wanted to keep a diesel and not go over to gas. What GM needs to do is stretch out the front seating area a little to make them more comfortable to drive. They seriously suck to drive long distance in. The transit van and even the sprinter is worlds a head of the chevy van in driver comfort.

As a school bus or city delivery van this combo could sell ok with the eight speed. 181 or less HP just isn't going to make many tradesmen happy unless they are doing mostly local work. I would have lost a bit of money betting on this combo making it market. I's rather have this rig with the DI 4.3, the savings math seems dubious.

The DI 4.3 would be a great engine for these vans as it has great low end torque. I hear that the 4.5 liter Dmax is on again. Maybe that's the engine B H D mentioned above.

Is GM really this clueless? This is like putting a bandaid on a GSW. They're getting KILLED by the Transit and-to a lesser extent-Sprinter. They need a competitive van to put this motor in.

Agreed, the Savannah is pretty ancient and lacks the dynamic qualities of the newer vans. Still the US Van scene is starting to mirror the European one.

Ford should put the Lion V6 diesel in the Transit

Another imported engine for GM.

GM should use the 4.3 V6 "LV3" connected to the new 10 speed automatic.

The 4.3 is the motor that should be in this can till it's death.

These vans are only used for short trips. Cheap solid work horse. These get abused by roofer laborers that are low forms. Easy to fix, parts are readily available at scrap yards. The diesel is a test. If they sell more than target a few vehicles will be getting a smaller than 6 liter diesel.

the 4.3 that is lazy?

connected to a ten speed that isn't out?

once GM and Ford start playing with 10 speeds, they will have to learn a few things.

Thanks for buying VM Motori diesels, please come again!

Putting the 2.8L Duramax in a 9600 GVW 1 ton van. Can the 7300 GVW Tahoe be far behind? I think not.

GM still offers the 6.6 in their chassis models. Quite a few of them end up in ambulances.

"Ford is killing it with the new Transit which has been out for a couple years now...."
Posted by: CT | Mar 13, 2016 11:44:30 AM

Ford is "killing it" alright, especially if you are riding in the rear of this lemon...

Ford is "killing it" with their rear axle shafts as well...

Ford is "killing it" with their gauge cluster and dashboard warning lights on the transit....

Ford is "killing it" alright, they are killing their

didn't chevy just issue a no sale issue on there new Colorado due to air bags and didn't gm have one of the biggest recalls on there ignition switch's.

didn't chevy just issue a no sale issue on there new Colorado due to air bags and didn't gm have one of the biggest recalls on there ignition switch's.

GM sure did!! They are the recall kings and many people lost there lives driving one. Need to clean up your own backyard before worrying about someone else.

Why wouldn't they use the 6.2? 450 hp and better fuel economy that just about anything else?

GM sure did!! They are the recall kings and many people lost there lives driving one. Need to clean up your own backyard before worrying about someone else.
Posted by: Fed up. | Mar 14, 2016 3:34:16 AM

The pot calling the kettle black....what a joke!

To name a few!

My father has one of these with the 6.6 Duramax and he hates it. When loaded it has NO power, it drinks fuel (14 MPGs on the highway), and it's very expensive to work on.

I can't imagine an even smaller diesel in this huge van. What a joke this is going to be. But... it's GM afterall.


Its a smart move.

Once again GM is late to the party with the Transit basically OWNING this market and Fiat offering some good alternatives but if they are serious about not giving up its along with a COMPLETE redesign are steps in the right direction.

@ rodando lata de cerveza

Steering column defect:

"The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says the vehicles may have been built with a "fractured park lock cable or a malformed steering column lock actuator gear in the lock module assembly."

This defect could allow the vehicle to roll away unexpectedly because it can be shifted out of park after the key has been removed from the ignition or without the driver pushing on the brake pedal."

@ rodando lata de cerveza

All of the above within the last 3 years.

The current Transit is a newly-launched vehicle.

The Express and Savana are TWO DECADES old and have had PLENTY of time to work any kinks out. What's THEIR excuse?

So, do you really want to go there?

Do you?

You people are unbelievable. You complain about lack of choices but, when GM offers another diesel option, something you guys screamed and begged for for years, suddenly it's the biggest mistake ever. Nevermind that GM is the only one that still makes a traditional fullsize van instead of one of those rinky dink eurovans that not even the Europeans want.

You don't want a baby duramax in your van or truck? Then don't buy one, you can always check the anemic V6 box when you order your next Fiat Deucecado. I on the other hand love having choices.

I say why not it's good for everybody. GM gets the volume up on the 2.8 and the full-size van gets another engine options.

The 2.8 specs are not bad at all. Consider that the Isuzu Cab overs offer a 3.0 four cylinder diesel with 150 hp and 282 ft/lbs and a GVWR of 13,000#. Even the biggest 5.2 diesel in those only make 215 HP and 452 ft/lbs with as much as 19,500 GVWR.

It's obvious, the vast majority of commenters on this site are just a bunch of clueless school kids. Why don't you read, listen, and learn before voicing your pointless points?

So, do you really want to go there? Do you?
Posted by: Rick | Mar 14, 2016 8:15:14 AM

Sure why not bonehead! I think GM is a POS but Ford isn't any better. I guess you need examples....

That's right a f$$'n Crown Victoria and Mercury Grand Marquis Ford has had PLENTY of time to work any kinks out. What's THEIR excuse?

How about this piece of work....

The last model Ford Escape....Ford had been producing them for years PLENTY of time to work any kinks out. What's THEIR excuse?

Want to keep going?

Stupid move,
4 banger in a fully loaded One Ton Van will be total slug and not fuel efficient unless they use 20 speed

I sure hope they keep V8 as an option

4 banger in a fully loaded One Ton Van will be total slug and not fuel efficient unless they use 20 speed

I sure hope they keep V8 as an option

Posted by: Chevrolet builds a better way to see the USA | Mar 14, 2016 7:22:37 PM
It may not be that bad. As mentioned above smaller diesels have been used before in larger vans. You are correct they will not set any stop light to stop light speed records but it may be ok. I think for the heavier loads the 6.6L would still be wanted. Sprinter offered a smaller diesel like this and it was ok. The V6 was stronger though. The only thing that helped the sprinters is they got lighter every month. That improved performance. When all your exterior sheet metal rust away you gain cargo capacity. LOL. Some fleets do not care about speed but want FE. This may be ok with that with the low power output. But that is just speculation on my side.

It would be interesting to see what the difference is between the performance between this combo and the Ford Transit. When i was purchasing 10 Transit vans I did drive the diesel version. That thing was surprising for performance. Very nice to drive.

Robert Ryan -
I've heard the claim "it's pretty ancient and lacks the dynamic qualities of [the competition]" used to describe the ancient Ford Super Duty, especially the TTB used on the 2WD trucks. I said bull**** to that too. Dynamic qualities takes a backseat to reliability and durability.


Ah an article posted on Jan 23, 2013 about a recall GM had just announced for: "All vehicles are 2013 models and were manufactured between Nov. 7 and Dec. 18, 2012."

Looks like GM is showing that they're being proactive and fixing the issues. Thanks for the info.

Rick- The Express and Savanna are 20+ years old as platforms (GMT6xx), but the 'trucks', as Ford now refers to them as, are updated from time to time. The current model sold is based on the GMT610 and will be getting an updated version of the platform as GMT620. Toyota has demonstrated that platforms don't need to be updated and avoiding updates means avoiding changes in the process that could impact quality.

Best van on the Market..

Ford and RAM vans are all European, import junk...

I am of a GM fan, but their vans are the best, the 6.0 in these are a sleeper lol...

**** I am not a GM fan ....but their vans are the best...

My last post was hacked by ford European man girls with manpurses..

I've been in vans for 25 years..both panels and cut-aways. The Ford is a good all around van with it's growing pains. MB is the Cadillac of work vans but expensive with up front purchase and expensive repairs after warranty. GM is the current king of cut-aways period! they handle the wide cube bodies better and are wide enough to allow a decent walk thru passage fro the cab to the back(the new ford transit are awful) E-series chassis cabs make GM look luxurious and that Ford V10 is junk. GM vans have been around for so long and parts are easy to find and this small diesel will work well for those that don't max out the GVW and get better fuel economy than the 6.0, and those who do need power...the 6.6 diesel will move anything you need to haul.

At my dealership we have used gm vans 1500 and 2500 for years. Several have gone well over 300k w/o allot of work. We switched last year to the nissan nv1500 because of the height (we could fit more body parts for wholesale deliveries). They have been reliable but both were bought with low miles used and both needed brakes at low miles and one needed a caliper( the gm vans would go 100-150k on brakes) not sure how they will hold up but the gm vans were great. we used to put young drivers in them that beat them stop light to stop light and few time they came back w/o coolant in them with the temp gauge buried in the red and we fix the leak and they keep running.

I like the old style van not that new euro trash

Nitro, I would so take a Kia over an Italian manufacturer like Fiat or a Mexican manufacturer like Ford. LMAO rented one on vacation and even the rental unit was pretty nice. What more evidence do you need?

I love how the GM fans criticize Fiat, when that's who makes the "baby Duramax!" Bloody hell, Chevy fanboys are some of the dumbest idiots.

Baby Duramax 4 cylinder has comparable horsepower and torque numbers to the diesel in the full sized Ford Transit. I don't hear anyone complaining about the Transit diesel's performance.

This engine and the new 8 speed automatic should put up some decent fuel economy numbers for a full sized van. Whether or not the choice makes sense to a particular buyer is up to that buyer, but at least GM has provided an extra option.

If you are over 5', working in the cargo compartment in that kind of trucks is an absolute nightmare. The Sprinter on the other hand is much more practical, I think it has more interior volume too. The way it drives is better too, but I'm not sure the Transit or ProMaster drive the same.

Since the Mercedes V6 diesel seems adequate for the loaded 2500 Sprinter, I would say the 2.8 diesel should do fine in the 1500 GM's. The Sprinter nowadays comes standard with the 2.1 diesel and 7-speed automatic, even the 3500. Only 4x4 Sprinters require the V6 3.0 diesel.

Okay so GM claims that they sell more Express and Savana Vans than the Nissan NV200, the Mercedes Metro and the RAM Pro- Master, but that should not give them room to remain complacent based on it going nearly 20 years with no ongoing improvements mechanically and even to include a well past due refresh if not a major redesign, though I have to admit, these are quite sturdy vans, but other than a baby diesel, it's well overdue for more noticeable package update options to come onboard!!!

I have owned vans for 40 yrs. 65 chevy was my first. owned a few ford econolines along the way. Current is 07 3500 express 6.0 165k. Its my daily driver ,work van. ultra reliable.Still operates like day one. You guys can have your big UGLY euro van and keep it. Thank god chevy is staying with the current platform for a while. Do some research, the promaster is a huge POS. Transit has some issues also.. will see how they perform over the next few yrs ..I predict not nearly as reliable as the express.

I have always been a fan of the econoline vans. I looked at these transits and wouldn't want one of those ugly things in my driveway. No V8 available and only an inline 5 diesel available. I work my vans hard. A turbo charged V6 or even an inline 5 diesel can easily make the same power a V8 will make but it comes at a price, longevity. Does any one boasting about these Ford transit eyesores with these V6's in them remember in the 80's when nascar ran V6's for a little while? They stopped doing it because they wouldn't last when they were making the same power as their V8 competitors. I bought me a 2016 3500 express diesel because it is the only decent looking van available with a V8. It even has glass headlights that won't fade. As for it being weak, Ill go up against any of new Ford or Ram vans. I owned an econoline with a 7.3 in it for years. I was very very dissapointed in Fords new van lineup. Ford lost me when I couldn't get a V8 3500 van. I hope chevy never folds to the haters and starts making ugly weak vans.

The Ford Transit has all kinds of problems. People are having problems because its a unibody design. Steering problems, drive shaft problems, its all there. Just head over to the Ford Transit forums.

The GMC on the other hand, now that is a real work truck! If you want quality and dependability, go with the GMC Savana. If you want something that is noisy, hard to handle just going down the road (I test drove both, the GMC was quite and did not drift left and right like the Ford, the Ford sounded like a door was open in the back), then go with the Ford Transit.


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