2008 GMC Envoy


2003 GMC Envoy

This 2003 review is representative of model years 2002 to 2009.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 8

Bottom Line:

One of the top mid-sized sport-utility vehicles.
  • Newly available V8
  • Roomy 7-passenger version
  • Nice ride
  • Low fuel economy
  • Average handling
  • High step-in

Availability of a V8 has enhanced the appeal of the 2003 GMC Envoy, which is one of General Motors' most modern vehicles.

The Envoy was introduced with the Chevrolet Trailblazer and Oldsmobile Bravada in early 2001 as 2002 models. These brawny sport-utes have the same basic design and share major mechanical components, such as engines and transmissions.

They have different front, rear and side styling and unique interiors, along with differently tuned suspensions. The lack of a third-row seat was a glaring fault when the trio was introduced, but GMC and Chevrolet added a longer wheelbase version with such a seat to increase occupant capacity from five to seven last year.

Standard for these sport-utilities is a smooth BMW-style inline (not V-shaped) 4.2-liter 6-cylinder with 275 horsepower and good torque. It adds five horsepower for 2003 and is sophisticated with such items as dual overhead camshafts, variable valve timing and four valves per cylinder.

New V8
A 5.3-liter V8 with 290 horsepower and more torque than the 6-cylinder engine is offered for the Envoy and Trailblazer, but not for the Bravada. The V8 is needed to give the heavier, longer versions stronger off-the-line acceleration and more towing ability.

Some potential buyers of these vehicles have been typical American truck purchasers who didn't understand why a V8 wasn't offered—although this GM "six" has been the most powerful standard engine in the mid-size sport-ute class since the trio was introduced.

Base prices for the Envoy range from $28,510 for the regular-length, rear-drive SLE model to $37,385 for the XL SLT extended-length version with 4-wheel drive.

There are various trim levels, and GMC gives the latest Envoy some option and feature repackaging. Even the base Envoy has a good amount of standard equipment, including air conditioning, cruise control, AM/FM/CD, power windows and remote keyless entry.

Wrong Step
Formerly standard front side airbags have become a $350 option for 2003. That's not a step in the right direction, with heightened emphasis on SUV safety features. No curtain side airbags are offered, either.

The Envoy comes with rear-drive and available traction control or GM's Autotrac 4-wheel-drive system, which can be left engaged on dry roads and includes low-range gearing for decent off-road prowess.

Two Lengths
The regular length Envoy has a 113-inch wheelbase and is 191.6 inches long. The extended-length XL version is considerably larger, with a 129-inch wheelbase and a length of 207.6 inches. While shorter than a Chevy Suburban or GMC Yukon full-size sport-utility, the 7-passenger version is among the largest trucks in the mid-size sport-ute category.

GMC says the Envoy 6-cylinder engine is the most popular. That's partly because the V8 costs an additional $1,500 and is offered only with the 7-passenger XL version. The regular-length version provides seating for five adults.

The V8 can't be ordered for the XL SLE version without a $1,450 Preferred Equipment option group, which contains items including a power driver's seat and GM's OnStar emergency assistance feature. No option group is needed if the V8 is ordered for the XL SLT version.

Both engines provide strong overall acceleration and are hooked to a 4-speed automatic transmission. It works well, but a more modern 5-speed automatic would be better.

Low Fuel Economy,br> Fuel economy is not a strong point with either engine. Mile-per-gallon figures are in the low to mid teens in the city and in the high teens on the highway with either one. Four-wheel-drive models are slightly more fuel-thirsty; however, a larger (25-gallon) fuel tank provides a decent highway cruising range.

The Envoy has the same general feel of a big 1970s GM full-size sedan. Those who like the sharper feel and handling of some foreign sport-utes probably won't like this vehicle, although it provides lots of space, power and comfort—just like an old Buick, Cadillac or Oldsmobile sedan.

The Envoy has a traditional body-on-frame truck design, but, unlike those long-gone GM sedans, it has impressive chassis rigidity, which improves ride and handling.

Impressive Ride
The ride is very smooth, especially with the longer wheelbase, although it occasionally becomes bouncy. The steering has the right gearing for a big, high, heavy vehicle. Handling is decent, and the $375 rear load-leveling rear suspension enhances it.

The brake pedal is too soft, but the Envoy provides sure stops, thanks partly to a good anti-lock brake system.

Extra effort is needed to enter or leave the quiet interior, which has easily read gauges and nicely sized, smooth sound system and climate controls. Front seats are very comfortable, but power controls on their sides near the doors are inconveniently located. There are a good number of storage areas for smaller items.

There's plenty of room in the first- and second-row seating areas, and occupants sit high for a good view of surroundings. The third seat area offers decent leg and head room for several 6-footers and isn't especially hard to reach. A raised rear roofline provides third-row occupants with good head room.

The tailgate has a convenient flip-up glass area. The cargo area is spacious in the shorter version, but just average in the extended-length Envoy with the third-row seat in place. However, the third seat folds forward to allow plenty of cargo room.

The Envoy benefits from being one of GM's newer vehicles. It's very easy to live with, and very well-mannered.


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BB01 - 9/17/2014 2:51:33 PM