2004 GMC Envoy XUV
This 2004 review is representative of model years 1998 to 2000.
By Ann Job of MSN Autos
In the early months, consumers were slow to snap up the newest version of GMC Envoy.
Maybe it's the difficulty of understanding all that this new sport-utility vehicle with hidden pickup bed can do.
Maybe it's the fact consumers don't know that such a novel vehicle, with retractable rear roof and a cargo area that can be washed clean with a hose, exists.
Perhaps it's the Envoy XUV's premium pricing, which starts at more than $31,000 and can go to more than $40,000.
Or maybe it's just that consumers aren't likely to be looking for a single vehicle that combines an SUV interior and with a cargo area akin to that of a pickup truck bed.
Based on Envoy XL
The Envoy itself is a worthy midsize SUV with pleasing styling, good engine power and comfortable interior. As a "regular" wheelbase model, it has seats for five riders. In its longer-wheelbase configuration known as the XL, it adds a third-row seat and capacity for seven passengers.
It's this longer-wheelbase model that the XUV is based on. But the XUV comes with only two rows of seats, because the back area is devoted to an innovative cargo space not found on any other SUV.
What's so innovative? The XUV's rearmost roof retracts, exposing an all-weather cargo area that can carry a tall shrub, grandfather clock or other furniture upright. Try doing this in any other SUV.
The XUV is, in fact, the first SUV to carry a concealed cargo area that has a power, sliding roof.
Studebaker offered a sliding roof in the 1960s, but it was on cars, not SUVs. And the only factory vehicles today with all-weather, open-roof cargo areas have traditional pickup beds exposed at the rear.
The XUV looks like an SUV and doesn't outwardly give a hint of its truck characteristics. Indeed, consumers can't tell from looking that the XUV offers two ways to open the rear: A truck-like tailgate, for hauling long loads, and an SUV-like door that swings to the side to help people my height—5 feet 4—get access to items inside.
The retractable roof, for example, can be operated with a key in the rear door or via a button in the overhead console. I preferred the latter because from the front seat I could watch a display in the instrument panel that told me when the "roof is closed" fully.
The Midgate that separates the seating area from the cargo area is another feature that gets easier with practice, as several steps are involved.
The power window in the top part of the Midgate must be retracted. Then the rear seats that are split into one-third and two-third sections can be folded down and flipped forward. This requires walking from one side of the XUV to the other. Lastly, a button is pushed to unlatch the Midgate, and then it can be laid down to expand the load floor to 76 inches in length from its previous 44 inches. This also expands cargo room from the 49 cubic feet behind the rear seat to, well, the sky's the limit when it comes to carrying tall items.
Some consumers may know that the Midgate also is on other General Motors Corp. vehicles, such as the Chevrolet Avalanche and Cadillac Escalade EXT. These are full-size vehicles with exposed pickup beds at the rear. The XUV is the first midsize SUV to use the Midgate.
The XUV's 208.4-inch length is just a smidgen over the 207.6 inches of the Envoy XL, and both the XUV and XL are 74.7 inches wide. Seats are the same as those in the Envoys, and the pleasant interior with circular vents on the dashboard is the same as that in the other Envoys. Headroom, legroom and shoulder room for the two rows of seats is identical to that of regular Envoy SUVs.
The XUV also uses the same four-wheel-drive system as the Envoy SUV and the same engines and four-speed automatic transmission as the Envoy XL.
The base power plant is a 4.2-liter inline, Vortec 4200 six cylinder capable of 275 horsepower and 275 lb-ft at 3600 rpm. The uplevel engine, which is optional, is a 5.3-liter Vortec 5300 V8 that can produce 290 horses and 325 lb-ft of torque at 4000 rpm.
With the V8, the XUV is capable of towing up to 6,500 pounds, but neither engine provides fuel economy numbers to brag about in this 5,000-pound vehicle. In fact, in the test XUV with six-cylinder engine, I averaged less than 17 miles a gallon in combined city and highway driving.
I heard the engine on acceleration, but it was not overly intrusive, and shifts in the transmission in the test XUV were smooth.
Mixed ride quality
The XUV keeps a lot of road bumps away from passengers and provides a surprisingly smooth ride, especially on long straightaways. I would even hear the noises created by going over choppy expansion cracks in the pavement, but my passengers and I felt none of it.
Still, there's a good amount of body sway when the vehicle is on curvy roads, and the various cut body pieces seemed to contribute to a feeling of body flex in the XUV that I do not recall being in the Envoy SUV.
Front suspension is an independent double A-arm, while a five-link solid axle, with optional load leveling, did duty at the back of the test vehicle.
Rack-and-pinion steering has a light feel in the XUV, and it can take a good amount of turning of the large steering wheel to get the vehicle moving in the direction indicated.
There also was a mushy feeling to the brake pedal in the test XUV. Brakes are four-wheel discs, with four-wheel antilock brakes standard.
Odds and ends
In addition, in a heavy rainstorm, raindrops sounded as if they were coming right into the vehicle's cargo area, even though it was closed up tight, save for the Midgate window.
The XUV is in need of a park assist system to alert drivers to obstacles behind them as they back up. In the alternative, I found it helpful to put down the Midgate's power window and the power window in the tailgate a bit so I could listen for passing cars and people back there as I backed up.
The Envoy hasn't been the most reliable of SUVs, according to at least one independent study. Since the Envoy's launch in 2002, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has noted more than a dozen potential safety issues worthy of recalls.