While the all-weather competition may have long since signed partnerships with brand-name outfitters like Eddie Bauer, L.L.Bean, and Orvis, this GMC needs no third-party tie-ins to offer a solid interpretation of an ideal outdoor enthusiast's ride. More than a mere lifestyle accessory, the Envoy proved to have the goods over its year-long evaluation, whatever the chore or journey.
This comes as no surprise because the Envoy took the Motor Trend 2002 Sport/Utility of the Year honors, despite strong entries from Cadillac, Ford, Jeep, Mercedes-Benz, Toyota, and others. After logging thousands of miles on the track, urban roads, and sprawling highways and creeping through Death Valley, the winning Envoy earned an automatic entry into our One-Year Test fleet.
Ushering in GM's all-new midsize SUV platform, the Envoy and Chevrolet TrailBlazer fared well in the grueling competition. Although the sheetmetal and interior designs are unique, both vehicles ride on the same hydroformed rails of the GMT360 platform and use GM's Atlas inline-six-cylinder engines, lauded for V-8-grade output. While both models share the same essential mechanical bits, the better-dressed GMC wooed our staff with its Indiana Jones personality, rear air suspension, and higher level of refinement.
We opted for a four-wheel-drive model to indulge the Envoy's inspiration for adventure. Our tasteful, Pewter Metallic, standard-wheelbase Envoy started at $33,985, complete with a long roster of power accessories, leather upholstery, convenience features, and safety equipment. Because the suspension played a key role in our final award decision, we added the SLT Professional Technology package for $3360. This significant upgrade brought together the load-leveling air suspension, rain-sensing windshield wipers, heated seats, locking differential, Bose AM/FM/CD changer stereo, rear DVD entertainment system (a major stress-reducer for long family trips), and digital voice recorder. The only items added a la carte were running boards for $375, though we came to regret these later. All told, the luxurious Envoy totaled $38,320.
With the initial battery of photography handled, our One-Year Test Envoy was soon pressed into long-haul service. On such trips, editors found the "modern American ride" plush without wallow and handling controlled without firmness. This enviable combination earned kudos for the ride/handling balance achieved with body-on-frame construction in a world increasingly dominated by unibody construction. The air suspension gave our Envoy added refinement, though intermittent compressor sounds sometimes befuddled passengers.
Second-row riders benefited from the skip-free DVD system on long trips, though there was criticism for the limited second-row-seat support. An upright, dare we say "minivan-like," front bucket had some drivers pining for more lateral support. Comfort for most was achieved with the up/down and lumbar adjustments. Limited up-front storage frustrated PDA-encumbered drivers who wanted more cubbyholes and wider map pockets for road essentials, but this wasn't an issue for most.
Leather, faux-wood trim, deeply grained dash materials, and chrome highlights give the interior a rugged, yet upscale, feel. This hunting-lodge-inspired appearance and materials support the Professional Grade marketing assertions, and, along with the Cadillac XLR and Pontiac GTO, point to a more promising future in General Motors' interior design, though this cabin still doesn't quite match the standards set by many premium German and Japanese products.
The Bose stereo in particular received more than its share of logbook praise, with a simple interface, preset equalization settings, and strong, crisp sound that could bring music to life. The trip computer proved a valued ally on cross-country treks, though it does take practice to toggle through the multiple displays. Among its messages is a report on the percentage of oil life remaining, which proved something the owner--rather than the dealer--resets after servicing. One desert crossing had a driver puzzled when the fuel range remained stuck on 26 miles, which became more nerve wracking as lonely miles ticked away. Upon refueling, there were still 2.7 gallons left--a generous safety margin noted for future trips.
Despite being a four-wheel-drive model, ingress and egress are easy for an average-height adult. The optional step bar, however, proved a tripping risk, source of pants-cuff grime, and off-road liability. Take our advice: Pass on the running boards.
GM's 4.2-liter inline-six is a jewel: great power, equal smoothness, reasonable economy, and 270 horsepower on regular gas. While we'd hoped a new five-speed automatic transmission would come with it, GM stuck with an older four-speed unit. Number of gears aside, it worked well, with nice shift quality and well-matched ratios. No powertrain complaints, period.
We did encounter a few minor electronic gremlins that proved largely anecdotal, such as a random call to OnStar and the trip computer changing languages without prompting. Overall, the Envoy performed reliably and admirably for 12 months, with no more than basic service required. The one exception was a sticking passenger-seatbelt retractor that had to be replaced under warranty. Our annual maintenance cost was $700.11, buoyed by a significant scheduled service totaling $486.36 at 21,000 miles.
The right-size packaging had drivers and passengers finding adequate space, while keeping overall dimensions tidy enough to make the vehicle fun to drive and easy to park. Strong power, a rigid frame, comfortable ride, and masculine packaging never lost its appeal over the 12 months, proving an old-school SUV approach can still play in the increasingly "nu sheetmetal" marketplace--and do so without a trendy clothes outfitter in tow.
What's new, changed, different
GMC has used the Envoy to launch an entire family of midsize sport/utility vehicles that now counts a long-wheelbase XL and the flexible cargo-space-managing XUV among the siblings. As the name implies, the XL is a longer variant featuring third-row seating and an optional 5.3-liter, 290-horsepower V-8. The increased power raises tow capacity to 7100 pounds.
The innovative XUV is a fresh take on combined pickup and SUV abilities. This model has a large, power-sliding roof that opens to expose an all-weather cargo area. The result is the flexibility to transport tall items as well as isolate wet, muddy gear or even animals. Like the XL, the XUV is available with the I-6 (now 275 horsepower) or optional V-8 engine.
|2002 GMC ENVOY|
|Drivetrain layout||Front engine, 4wd|
|Engine type ||I-6, DOHC, 4 valves/cyl, alumblock/head|
|Displacement, ci/cc ||256.0/4160|
|Horsepower @ rpm|| 270 @ 6000|
|Torque @ rpm ||275 @ 3600|
|Transmission ||4-speed automatic|
|Suspension,|| front; rear Upper & lower control arms, coil springs, anti-roll bar; live axle, multilink, air bladders, anti-roll bar |
|Brakes, ||f;r 12.0-in vented disc; 12.8-invented disc, ABS|
|Wheels|| 17x7, cast alum|
|Tires ||245/65R17, Michelin Cross Terrain|
|Traction control No ||(2wd only)|
|Wheelbase, in|| 113.0|
|Length, in|| 191.6|
|Width, in ||74.7|
|Height, in ||71.9|
|Curb weight, lb ||4628|
|Seating capacity|| 5|
|Cargo capacity, cu ft|| 80.1|
|Fuel capacity, gal|| 18.7|
|0-60 mph, sec ||8.0|
|1/4 mile, sec/mph|| 15.96/85.53|
|Braking, 60-0 mph, ft|| 137|
|600-ft slalom, mph|| 55.1|
|Total mileage ||21,197|
|Avg test mpg ||17.3|
|Problem area|| Seatbelt retractor|
|Non-warr cost|| $700.11|
|Base price|| $33,985|
|Price as tested ||$38,320|
|Current value, whlse/retail* ||$20,770/$28,160|
|Airbags ||Dual front|
|EPA mpg, city/hwy ||15/21|
|Range, city/hwy, miles ||280.5/392.7|
|Basic warranty|| 3 yrs/36,000 miles|
|Powertrain warranty ||3 yrs/36,000 miles |
|Roadside assistance ||3 yrs/36,000 miles|
|Recalls||Airbag inspection, fuel-filter fitting replacement, hazard/stop lamps, high-speed gear engagement, transfer-case control module|
|*According to IntelliChoice|
All 2004 Envoys benefit from new satellite-radio-capable audio systems, fresh exterior colors, and optional adjustable pedals.