2011 Chevrolet Express


$9,980 - $20,621

2011 Chevrolet Express Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2011 Chevrolet Express was new.


Performance: 7.2

Overall, the Chevrolet Express’ performance is on par with the other work vans in its class. Reviewers feel that while its V6 engine is underpowered, the remaining V8s provide enough oomph for most tasks. The auto press thinks that the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter is a bit more maneuverable, and the Ford E-350’s towing capacity is the same as the Chevrolet Express 3500’s 10,000-pound maximum. Still, the Express is the only large van that offers all-wheel drive, so if you need a heavy-duty van to haul people or gear, reviewers say it’s a good choice. The Express 1500 models offer all-wheel drive, but it will add about $3,500 to the price tag.

  • "No matter what the mission, Chevrolet provides not just the platform, but the hardware to back it up. From its powerful engine lineup to its optional heavy-duty transmission oil cooler, the Express Van is designed to be a hard-working vehicle.” -- Kelley Blue Book
  • “Big vans are never close to being frugal, and the Express is no exception.” -- Consumer Guide

Acceleration and Power

The Chevrolet Express offers a choice between four gas engines and a diesel engine, so you can customize your van to emphasize fuel economy or power, depending on the body style. In general, reviewers feel that the V6 is fuel-efficient but not powerful enough to handle heavy loads, while the V8 engines are up to most tasks. The auto press especially likes the diesel, which is the same one used in the Chevrolet Silverado HD. Writers say it’s competent for almost any job.

The two-wheel drive Cargo 1500 model comes with a 4.3-liter V6 and makes 195 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. This engine gets an EPA-rated fuel economy of 15/20 mpg city/highway, making it the most fuel-efficient choice. All other 1500 models, including all-wheel drive Passenger and Cargo trims, Upfitter models and two-wheel drive Passenger trims, come standard with a  5.3-liter V8 that puts 310 horsepower and 334 pound-feet of torque to the ground. The EPA estimates this V8 will get 13/17 mpg city/highway. This engine is also flex-fuel capable, but you’ll pay an additional price if you want to use ethanol. This engine only gets 10/13 mpg city/highway using E85 fuel.

Stepping up to any 2500 model or a Cargo 3500 model will get you a standard 4.8-liter V8 that’s rated for 10/16 mpg city/highway and makes 280 horsepower. Models like the Upfitter 2500, Passenger 3500 and Upfitter 3500 get a 6.0-liter V8 that makes 323 horsepower and gets a dismal 11/16 mpg city/highway. Finally, shoppers considering a Passenger 3500, Cargo 2500 or Cargo 3500 have the option to upgrade to a Duramax 6.6-liter V8 turbodiesel engine that puts only 260 horsepower to the ground, but makes up for its lack of acceleration with a generous 525 pound-feet of torque. The EPA estimates that models with this engine will get 10/16 mpg city/highway, making it the worst engine choice for around-town driving, but on par with the rest of the lineup on the highway.

All 1500 models come standard with a four-speed automatic transmission, while 2500 and 3500 models get a six-speed automatic.

  • "A wide range of engine choices lets you tailor power to your particular needs, and acceleration with even the smaller V8s is spirited and inspires confidence with or without a heavy load.” -- Edmunds
  • "The 6.0-liter V8 provides sufficient power for merging and passing even with a heavy load. The transmission shifts smoothly." -- Consumer Guide
  • "The Express Van's V6 may be a fuel-efficient choice but, if you need to haul heavy loads, this engine will probably not be enough.  For most uses, one of the three gasoline V8s works best, providing sufficient torque and horsepower for hauling heavy loads or towing. The ultimate towing machine will be had with the Duramax turbo-diesel, which produces a whopping 460 pound-feet of torque, more than enough for tackling the biggest jobs - and then some." --  Kelley Blue Book
  • "The 6.0-liter V-8 has a fast-idle option that makes it easier to run accessories while the vehicle is idling. Vans equipped with the turbo-diesel 6.6-liter V-8 have a standard 3.73 axle ratio and an optional locking rear limited-slip differential." -- Cars.com

Handling and Braking

Reviewers say that the Chevrolet Express handles reasonably well for such a large van. One writer mentions that the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter may be a bit more agile, although it is significantly larger. Still, as long as shoppers don’t expect the Chevrolet Express to drive like a luxury sports car, reviewers say it works just fine.

  • "The 2011 Chevy Express manages to hold its own with respectable on-road behavior: Its standard stability control system helps keep you out of trouble, while the rack-and-pinion steering and coil-spring front suspension on many models offer a perfectly acceptable ride and handling trade-off.” -- Edmunds
  • "Like all big vans, these are clumsy to drive, with a wide turning radius, copious cornering lean, and modest grip. Steering is less-overboosted than on previous test vehicles, but still feels numb. All of GM's big vans respond with reasonable confidence in quick maneuvers." -- Consumer Guide
  • "Every move is deliberate, and maneuverability is low on the absolute scale.” -- Car and Driver

Hauling and Towing

The Chevrolet Express ties the Ford E-Series for the highest tow ratings in the class, able to pull trailers weighing up to 10,000 pounds behind Cargo 3500 models. The base Passenger 1500 vans can tow at least 6,200 pounds, which is still more than enough to tow an 18-foot boat or a loaded 6-by-12 U-Haul trailer. The Express can also haul a maximum payload of 4,187 pounds in Cargo 3500 models and a maximum of 1,722 pounds in Express Passenger 1500 models.

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