Vehicle Overview from Kelley Blue Book
KBB.com 2003 GMC Safari Overview
Heart of a Lion
The aptly-named GMC Safari is fast becoming an endangered species. As a rear-wheel drive minivan, it competes only with its own sister-vehicle, the Chevrolet Astro. Rear-wheel drive has many advantages for a minivan, but the most important feature for most people is that it can tow much heavier loads than can a front-wheel-drive vehicle. In the case of the Safari, its tow rating tops out at just over 5400-pounds; the Safari also offers the option of all-wheel drive, making it the perfect choice for large families who live in snowy regions.
For those seeking a spacious and comfortable interior but prefer a vehicle that does not require a special license to pilot it, the Safari is well worth a look. Its boxy styling provides maximum interior room and with seating for up to 8 people. Your kids will find they can stake out their space without fear of sibling invasion.
The Safari can be outfitted in a number of seating configurations, including two rear bench seats or a set of second-row captain's chairs and third-row bench. Even with the standard bench seat setup, a wide folding-center section on both the center and third-row seats provides passengers with a place to rest their arms, soda's and whatever small items they need to stow. Standard interiors on the base and SLE models are covered in a soft, stain-resistant cloth while the top-of-the-line SLT trim which can be outfitted with supple leather on all seating surfaces. The Safari's roomy wide cargo area is another plus; with the third-row seat removed, you can load in a weeks worth of gear, beach umbrellas and coolers without affecting the second-row seat in the least. Oddly, the only place that doesn't offer loads of legroom is the front passenger seat; this is because the front wheel well intrudes into the footwell, creating a narrow perch to rest one's feet.
You'll like the way GMC has laid out the Safari's inner sanctum, its designed to provide maximum comfort and flexibility. New this year are softer plastics backed by foam padding that surround the windows and doors; their purpose is to protect your passenger's heads in the event of an accident. The Safari offers only one sliding side passenger door which makes it ideal for conversion shops that like to place small refrigerators, stoves and sinks against the opposing solid wall. The rear doors are cargo style, which means they open opposite of each other; you can opt for a unique set of dutch doors that feature a full-length flip-up window on top and two pint-size cargo doors below. We like this setup as it offers the best traits of both a hatchback and the swing out doors. If you are in business for yourself, the Safari also makes a great work truck; GMC offers the base model for just this purpose, minus the side window glass and interior furnishing.
No matter which model you decide on, be it two-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, the Safari offers only one engine choice: a 4.3-liter V6 that produces a respectable 190-horsepower. One might think that a van of this size and weight would require a V8, but the Safari's V6 is surprisingly strong and loaded with torque. GM's excellent four-speed automatic transmission is programmed to make the most of the engine's power, holding off shifts until every last drop of torque has been milked. The AWD models do lag a bit behind their two-wheel drive counterparts, but that's only because of the added weight of the extra components and the additional need to drive the front wheels. The Safari's AWD system is not permanently engaged, it only comes online when slippage is detected at the rear.
To sweeten the pot for 2003, GMC has reduced the base price of the entry-level trim by removing some features and making them stand alone options. In this way, you can pick and choose the features you want without having to pay for additional equipment. For most families, the base model plus a few options should probably suffice as the family transport; base Safari's offer such standard features as air conditioning, ABS brakes, AM/FM stereo, illuminated entry, dual power mirrors and a rear window wiper/washer. The SLE trim adds power windows and door locks, AM/FM stereo with CD, brushed aluminum wheels, lower body cladding, six-way power driver's seat and rear air conditioning. SLT models get optional leather seats, upgraded audio and premium wheels.