4 Nisan 2011 Pazartesi

First Glance


The GM Envoy is the twin brother of the Chevrolet Trailblazer. Each is substantially unchanged for ’05 – a V-8 was first offered in the XL in 2003 and the XUV (also available with V-6 or V-8) was added to the line-up in 2004. For those of you keeping score, the Envoy/Trailblazer is bigger than the Blazer (still here after all these years) but smaller than the Tahoe/Suburban. They're none of them what you might call small-boned. Massive though the Envoy is — hell, it’ll weigh close to 3 tons with a driver onboard — GM still calls it a "mid-size SUV". I have to confess the whole full-size/mid-size thing with SUVs baffles me. They're all oversize if you're just going to use them as a passenger car. The base Envoy, the longer Envoy XL and the just plain weird Envoy XUV are all available in both SLE and SLT trim. Each comes standard with 2WD and GM’s humongous inline six engine. Autotrac 4WD and a huge V-8 are optional on the XL and XUV. You’ll want the V-8 and I’d also choose the 2WD. It saves you a bunch of money in the long haul. A 2WD with four good snow tires and traction control will get you through almost any winter road conditions. And with 2WD you won’t be toting around the extra weight of a 4WD system you don’t need.

In the Driver’s Seat

2005 GMC Envoy
2005 GMC Envoy
© GM Media
The Envoy can be distinctly untruck-like when it really counts. It can be loaded with extra-heavy sound insulation, power memory seats, leather, Bose sound system, DVD… all the luxuries. The power seats deserve special mention — the driver's seat especially. I loved it. Unfortunately, my spouse just couldn't seem to get comfortable in the front passenger seat – not a rare occurrence for her. She also had difficulty just getting up into it. The Envoy is not for short people; nor is it for people who have mobility difficulties even with the power step assist. The interior is big but not nearly so big as the GM claims it is. The auto media raved about the Envoy when it first came out. I admit it's a real looker and, all things considered, pretty quick even with the six. But in the end, the Envoy and big SUVs like it kind of remind me of an NFL lineman. You envy his power and admire his skill on the field but you ask yourself if you'd like to carry around that kind of bulk off the field. Okay, when you're pushing back shooters in a biker bar after midnight… it’d be good to have. The rest of the time, it's got to be a pain. You’re constantly wondering not only how you're going to feed it but also where you're going to park it.

On the Road

All three Envoy models come standard with 2WD and an Inline-6, Vortec 4200 engine, which develops (only!) 275 hp and 275 lb-ft of torque. Autotrac 4WD is optional. The Inline 6 is a good engine but I found 4WD’s extra weight affected overall performance. While it was more than adequate cruising on the straight and level highway, I found it had to work hard to maintain momentum on long grades. And on hills, the shifts from 4th to 3rd with the 4-speed Hydramatic were often jerky. To get passenger car performance from something the size of an Envoy, you really need the Vortec 5300 V-8 with its 300 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque. Problem is with the V-8 your gas mileage goes even deeper in the dumper. (The I-6 can be a gas-guzzler on short hauls too.) On the positive side, loaded up the Envoy can feel as luxurious as almost any passenger car. Most times, it won't even feel like you're driving a truck. Except, of course, when you're maneuvering into a parking space or when you're driving over broken pavement. 4WD equipped Envoy models have a towing capacity of 6400 lbs. With 2WD, towing capacity is 6300 lbs. Another reason to stick with 2WD.

Journey’s End

A vehicle with the heft of the Envoy should by law or something be restricted to people who really need a truck – people who regularly tow things around or daily deliver large loads. And vehicles like the Envoy shouldn’t be allowed to be so darn comfortable. They are just too seductive. After all, given our druthers most of us will choose big over small most of the time. Nevertheless it’s really not sensible to use something a heavy as the Envoy as a grocery-getter or a kiddie-taxi. Yet folks who use it for just those purposes seem to buy most of them. The Envoy should not be considered an alternative to a car. You really don't want something this big if you live in a city. For one thing, you just can't wheel it around like a compact car. It’s slow making left hand turns through intersections and it blocks the view of people in normal sized cars stuck behind you. However, if I needed to haul heavy trailers regularly, the Envoy would be an excellent choice. It’s strong as an ox and comfortable as your rec room. But I'd probably hold off until a common rail diesel or even a gasoline hybrid engine came available. Neither would make the Envoy exactly “tossable” but might make trips to the gas station a bit less stressful.