2008 GMC Envoy

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2002 GMC Envoy

This 2002 review is representative of model years 2002 to 2009.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 8

Bottom Line:

Smooth new sport-utility vehicle among best in midsize class.
Pros:
  • Powerful engine
  • Spacious
  • Comfortable ride
  • Decent handling
Cons:
  • No third-row seat
  • Narrow rear-door openings
  • Wind noise at highway speeds

General Motors largely stopped being competitive in the 1960s, when it offered everything from turbocharged and rear-engine cars to large front-wheel-drive luxury autos.

GM knows as well as any auto producer that it must be innovative to grow or even survive in the increasingly competitive vehicle market. So it's trying hard to innovate.

One example of the auto giant's efforts is the 2002 GMC Envoy. It's one of GM's three new similar midsize sport-utility vehicles, which share the same basic design, powertrain, size and body-on-frame construction. They have their own styling, inside and out, and such things as differently tuned suspensions. All are offered with rear or 4-wheel drive.

The other two new entries are the Chevrolet TrailBlazer and Oldsmobile Bravada. The TrailBlazer costs less than the Envoy, while the Bravada is priced a little higher. GM wants GMC to be its prestige truck division, so it can be argued that the Envoy is the top dog model of the trio. In any case, Olds is on its way out.

Rear Air Suspension
The $28,820 - $33,820 Envoy replaces the dated GMC Jimmy. Its optional load-leveling rear air suspension—standard on the Bravada—provides a softer ride than that delivered by the TrailBlazer.

However, even the Envoy's standard rear suspension helps provide a smooth ride because it's nicely designed and this is a heavy 4,442 - 4,628-pound truck with a fairly long 113-inch wheelbase to help with the bumps.

Unfortunately, you can't get the Envoy's $325 rear air suspension without ordering the rather pricey $2,250-$2,425 Preferred Equipment Group.

Innovative New Engine
Like its sister vehicles, the Envoy is powered by a new GM inline (not V-shaped) 6-cylinder engine with dual overhead camshafts, variable valve timing and four valves per cylinder.

Sound like the type of engine offered by upscale foreign automakers, particularly BMW? Well, that's because it is similar to such engines. No wonder new GM product czar Robert Lutz, the former top Chrysler executive who has much international auto experience, is enthusiastic about the new inline six.

Many GM rivals had expected the automaker to give the trio a big, old-style GM pushrod V8. After all, even the Chevrolet Corvette has such an engine.

The new engine isn't especially large at 4.2-liters, but provides a class-leading 270 horsepower—more than provided by the fairly big V8 in the rival 2002 Ford Explorer. The GM engine also has plenty of torque for towing heavy objects.

Strong Acceleration
Acceleration is strong and the 65-75 mph passing time is quick. Curiously, the accelerator pedal must be pushed a long distance before it can be floored to activate a transmission downshift.

The engine loafs at 2500 rpm at 75 mph, which is why the estimated highway fuel economy rating of 21 mpg for the rear-drive model is fairly decent for a large, heavy, powerful sport ute. Steady cruising at 65-70 mph should allow up to 23 mpg during "real world" driving, at least if hilly roads are avoided.

The city figure is 16 mpg for the rear-drive Envoy. Economy numbers with the easily engaged 4-wheel-drive system are 15 and 21.

The Envoy is sold in base SLE and higher-line SLT trim levels. Even the SLE has lots of equipment, while the SLT adds such uptown items as leather upholstery and dual-zone automatic climate control to keep peace in the front-seat area if occupants want different temperature settings.

Refined
Compared to the TrailBlazer, which is above average in most respects, the Envoy feels more refined and a little smoother and sharper. The Envoy's four-speed automatic transmission downshifts more quickly and its steering is more precise. However, rough roads elicit some steering wheel shake, which is a surprise in this solidly built truck.

Handling is pretty good, as are stopping distances—although, as with the TrailBlazer, brake pedal action is too soft.

The Envoy has a fairly luxurious interior, which is quiet except for noticeable wind noise at highway speeds. There are high-grade materials and room to stretch for four tall adults, who sit high.

No Third Seat
However, the absence of a third-row seat is a glaring omission. Such a seat is available in the new Explorer and expected in a higher-line sport ute. One is coming next year for the Envoy, but that makes it a year late.

Although the Envoy stands tall, its low floor allows fairly good entry and exit. Large door handles can be easily gripped, but narrow rear-door openings can make it awkward to get in or out of the back seat. At least all doors open wide, although the narrow $325 running boards are for kids and those with small shoe sizes.

Nicely Designed Dashboard
The nicely designed dashboard has gauges that can be quickly read and large controls that are within convenient reach. Even the gearshift lever is angled toward the driver for easier operation, and rear windows roll down all the way. There is a large storage console bin and the nicely designed front cupholders shouldn't lead to spills.

Power seat controls on the sides of the front seats near the doors aren't in the most convenient location, but there is sufficient room between the seats and doors to allow fairly simple operation of them.

Large Cargo Area
The cargo area is big and has a low, wide opening. And cargo room can be considerably enlarged by flipping the entire rear seat forward—an easy operation. The tailgate has a fairly long, sturdy strap to help yank it shut.

The Envoy lacks the third seat and the Explorer's independent rear suspension, but it is a serious contender. And features such that new engine show GM still can be pretty innovative.

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BB05 - 7/13/2014 10:09:37 PM