GMC Envoy Review

GMC Envoy Review

Midsize SUVs are some of the best-selling vehicles on the market, as families and singles alike seek out their just-right compromise of space and maneuverability. The GMC Envoy had been among the eligible candidates in this segment since 1998. It was completely redesigned for 2002, and the result was additional size, power and refinement, though the Envoy was still thoroughly eclipsed by its rivals. Its last year of production was 2009.

A platform twin to the Chevy TrailBlazer (as well as Buick, Oldsmobile and Saab models), GMC's Envoy was a traditional body-on-frame SUV offered in two-wheel-drive (2WD) and four-wheel-drive (4WD) configurations. Apart from styling, there were subtle differences between it and the Chevy, however. For example, the Envoy offered an optional rear air suspension (which provided a more isolating ride and balanced out heavy loads), which the TrailBlazer didn't. Engine choices included an inline-6 (with 270-291 horsepower, depending on the year) and on some models, a 5.3-liter V8 (with 300-302 hp, depending on the year).

Among traditional midsize SUVs, the GMC Envoy got lost in the pack. It had all the right features to compete in this segment, as well as a comfortable ride and decent power. But it was sullied by sloppy handing and below-average interior build and materials quality. Furthermore, although the Envoy's safety features looked up to date on paper, the SUV actually performed poorly in crash tests. For some used car shoppers, the Envoy may still be an appealing choice, but most would be better served by its more refined rivals.

Most Recent GMC Envoy Models
The second-generation Envoy debuted for 2002 and didn't change much throughout its 8-year model run. Initially, it was offered only with the 270-hp (increased to 275 hp for '03) inline-6 engine in two body styles: regular five-passenger and extended-wheelbase Envoy XL, which provided seven-passenger seating and considerably more cargo capacity. A 5.3-liter, 300-hp V8 became available on the Envoy XL in 2003 and on the regular Envoy (as part of the Denali trim) for '05. That year also saw head curtain airbags replace the front side bags. A more powerful (291-hp) inline-6 came for '06, as did newly standard stability control and cruise control. The Envoy XL was discontinued for 2007 and the Envoy itself was gone after '09.

The most common trim levels were the base SLE and leather-lined SLT; however, in '05 the ultra-plush Denali trim debuted, bringing standard V8 power, a unique grille treatment, more sound insulation and heated seats.

An unusual model called the GMC Envoy XUV was offered in 2004 and '05. The XUV was an Envoy XL stripped of its third-row seat and fitted with a retractable roof over its cargo bay. The result was a vehicle that could function as both a true SUV and a pickup. In practice, though, the multitalented but odd-looking Envoy XUV proved to be a tough sell to consumers.

The first-generation GMC Envoy was sold from 1998-2000 (there was no '01 model). It was little more than an upscale version of the midsize GMC Jimmy, which debuted in '95, and was equipped much like today's Denali. The extra amount of features didn't mask its aged chassis and old-tech V6, however, and the two together delivered a mushy ride quality and lackluster acceleration at highway speeds. Other complaints included numb steering, a large turning radius and poor brake feel. Although these early Envoys are inexpensive to buy on the used market, subpar reliability keeps us from recommending them, even to buyers interested in an old-school, truck-based SUV.