How They Stack
GMC Envoy SLT
We didn't peg our 2002 Truck of the Year pick to finish dead last in this competition, but the years haven't worn all that well for our Golden Caliper recipient. A couple years ago, it was the best new or significantly updated SUV on the market, but the competition has seen some heavy updates and redesigns, while not much has changed with the Envoy. That said, let's be perfectly clear: The Envoy's still a great vehicle for the market it's intended to serve--middle- to upper-middle-class families. The Envoy's chock full of creature comforts that'll keep Mom, Dad, and the kids happy as the miles ply on down the highway, and it's a consummate hauler of honey-do supplies and trailerable toys. However, we felt the level of quality interior materials, sloppy suspension, and buzzy engine when pulling a load didn't befit the GMC's $42,445 asking price.
Ford Explorer XLT
Not so long ago, Ford's Explorer would've blazed through our battery of tests and tossed the competitors aside. Not by outright winning every category, but by doing everything asked of it very well. Even with this test, the Ford didn't exhibit any super-strength or hold a smoking gun in any category--it's a well-balanced vehicle that does what's asked of it with nary a complaint. True, the Explorer has its shortcomings, with an underwhelming transmission, more-than-stout suspension tuning, and too many hard interior surfaces where softer materials are needed--thus its midpack status. In our book, with an as-tested-price of $37,690 it's a good buy, but not one we'd make with our own money.
Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited
When we first laid eyes on the redesigned Grand Cherokee, we were disappointed. We expected a look that was more groundbreaking, one that would take the Jeep's icon to a new level. Once behind the wheel, we were reminded that beauty is more than skin deep. The Hemi's thrust, smart-shifting transmission, go-anywhere anytime Quadra-Drive II 4x4 system, and multitasking suspension won the group over. Saddled with a gorgeous interior, stout load-carrying capacity, and accoutrements to keep the family happy, Jeep surely has a winner that'll serve soccer moms and outdoor enthusiasts equally well.