The GMC Safari is a rear-wheel drive mid-sized van produced under the GMC division of General Motors. Mechanically and stylistically similar to the Chevrolet Astro, the Safari was intended to compete with the Dodge Caravan, although it ended up competing with the similarly-designed Ford Aerostar mid-sized van. The Safari differs from the Caravan by using a rear-wheel drive platform, giving it a distinct advantage in towing capacity while making it popular with camping enthusiasts. The Safari was also available with all-wheel drive.
Earlier versions of the GMC Safari used a variety of different engines and transmissions. Near the end of the Safari's lifespan, the lone powerplant offered was the 4.3-liter Vortec V6 engine. The Vortec put out 190 horsepower at 4,400 rpm and 250 pound-feet of torque at 2,800 rpm. The 4.3-liter V6 was linked to a 4-speed automatic transmission with overdrive. No manual transmission were offered at this time.
Like the Chevrolet Astro, the GMC Safari was introduced in 1985 as a response to the Dodge Caravan, Plymouth Voyage, and Chrysler Town and Country. A desire to reduce costs and uncertainty over developing a front-wheel drive platform led General Motors to use the Chevrolet S-10 compact pickup truck as the Astro and Safari's underpinnings. While the decision harmed the two vans by giving them a higher floor, poorer fuel economy, and truck-like handling, the Astro and Safari gained an advantage when it came to towing capacity. The Astro and Safari remained in their respective brands' product lineup as a smaller alternative to the larger G-series full-size vans, after the Lumina APV, Oldsmobile Silhouette, Pontiac Trans Sport, and later Chevrolet Venture took over as competitors to the Chrysler vans.
Like the Astro, the Safari was available as a 8-seater passenger van with various trim levels and as a commercial grade cargo van with only 2 seats and a rubber cargo floor. Standard equipment included anti-lock brakes, cruise control, tilt steering, and air conditioning. Optional equipment included a multi-adjustable power seat, second-row sound controls, CD player, and leather seats. All-wheel drive models received a locking differential. Child safety door locks and dual air bags were provided as standard safety equipment. With a maximum towing capacity of 5,300 pounds on some models, the Safari was able to pull most trailers and campers with relative ease.
The Safari's drivetrain configuration and overall high weight resulted in a relatively poor fuel economy compared to other minivans. EPA estimates ranged from 14 miles per gallon city and 17 miles per gallon highway to 16 miles per gallon city and 22 miles per gallon highway. Prices for the Safari started at $23,000 for the Safari Cargo Van, with a loaded all-wheel drive Safari commanding a $26,430 price tag. Cash rebates and incentives often helped bring these prices below MSRP
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