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For over three decades, buyers adapted the Chevrolet G-Series chassis for a variety of uses: ambulances, small RVs, box trucks, passenger vans and cargo vans. In 1996, Chevy replaced the aging do-it-all van with the more modern Express -- although it was new, it looked like a restyled G-Series van.
The big boy of the Express lineup – the 3500 model – is relatively unchanged for 2013, having only a few extra optional features: a rearview camera, rear parking assist and navigation.
With a focus on versatility, the Express 3500 can be configured as a passenger van or cargo van, and in two wheelbases: 135 inches and 155 inches. The passenger van comes standard with seating for 12 people; buyers can opt for eight- or 15-passenger seating. The cargo van maximizes utility with two seats up front and a large cargo area in the rear.
The Express 3500 features a standard 4.8-liter V8 that cranks out 280 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. If that’s not enough for you, Chevrolet also offers a 6-liter V8 with 324 horsepower and 373 pound-feet of torque available, as well as a biodiesel-ready 6.6-liter Duramax V8 diesel engine with 260 horsepower and a tow-happy 525 pound-feet of torque.
That these vans are built to haul some serious cargo is made evident by the Express 3500’s max GVWR of 9,900 pounds; maximum conventional towing rating of 10,000 pounds; and 4,394-pound maximum payload rating.
The big van is not without its flaws, however. As customers who need family haulers have turned away from full-size vans, General Motors has whittled the 3500 lineup to a few no-frills trim levels. Sure, you can still get plenty of amenities, but they're now expensive options, rather than part of value-oriented trim level packages.
The base Work Van is only available only as a cargo van. Features include a 4.8-liter V8 producing 280 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque; a six-speed automatic transmission; black bumpers with a step pad; daytime running lights; light-tinted glass; a black grille and side-view mirrors; 16-inch steel wheels; air conditioning; two front speakers and the provision required to install your own radio; dual-dome lighting setup; a pair of auxiliary 12-volt power outlets; and vinyl seating.
The Express 3500 Diesel features a 6.6-liter V8 turbo-diesel unit that produces 260 horsepower and 525 pound-feet of torque. It shares a standard equipment list with the Work Van.
The 2013 Express 3500 LS is the base version of the 12-passenger model. Standard features include: a 4.8-liter V8; a six-speed automatic transmission; a black bumper with a rubber step; a black grille and side-view mirrors; 16-inch steel wheels; air conditioning; an AM/FM audio system with two speakers; vinyl flooring and seats; OnStar with six months of free service; a PASS-Key III theft-deterrent system; and a pair of 12-volt auxiliary power outlets.
Building on the LS, an Express 3500 2LS adds: a 6.6-liter V8 diesel engine that produces 260 horsepower and 525 pound-feet of torque.
The LT adapts the LS with comfort features that make it better suited for families: chrome bumpers, hubcaps and front grille; dual-composite headlights; remote keyless entry; rear heating and air conditioning; power windows and door locks; cloth seating; color-coded carpeting; a digital compass; and auxiliary lighting.
The 2LT adds a 6.6-liter turbo-diesel V8 to the LT, along with dual batteries and a 3.54-to-1 axle ratio.
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10,000-pound max towing, more base features and stouter looking, but slightly more money
Super-powerful base V8, standard cloth seats and nice base features, but looks very odd
Mercedes-Benz quality and similar max payload, but less towing capacity and massive price tag
Mechanically identical to the Express, but slightly more expensive and tougher to find GMC dealers