GMC's XUV Tears the Roof Off Convention

,
Physician's Money Digest, February29 2004, Volume 11, Issue 4

If you're thinking about purchasing aToyota Highlander, Lexus RX-330,Acura MDX, or Ford Explorer, firsttest-drive a GMC Envoy. Better yet,try the XUV model for the most enjoyment.The GMC Envoy XL's XUV modelis uniquely versatile, with an overalllength of 208 inches and a roomy wheelbaseof 129 inches. It's the only truck of itstype for sale in the Western Hemisphere.

Powerful and Comfortable

The Envoy comes in two- and four-wheel-drive models with either a 4.2-liter,in-line 6 cylinder or a 5.3-liter V8. The 6-cylinder engine is surprisingly smoothand uses the most advanced technology,with dual overhead cams that work 4valves per cylinder. On the exhaust side,the cam is variable. It's a recent design forGeneral Motors with a cast aluminumblock and head. The 6-cylinder puts out275 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 275foot-pounds of torque at 3600 rpm.

The V8 is also cast aluminum, but isan older push-rod design with only 2valves per cylinder. If you demand fastacceleration or plan on towing heavyloads, the V8's additional 50 foot-poundsof torque will probably be good for you.Best of all, unlike the import models,87 octane gasoline is all that is required.

The Envoy has a powerful, full steel,ladder-type frame underneath. Up frontis an independent suspension and at therear is a substantial solid axle. StandardBilstein brand shocks provide a pleasant,car-like ride. At the four cornersare antilock disc brakes that ride onwide 17-inch tires with aluminumwheels. The comfortable and roomyinterior is spacious enough for fiveadults. The seats in the back even havea reclining feature.

Change Your Look Quickly

The letters XUV have no specificmeaning, but GM engineers joke that theletters stand for "extra utility vehicle."The most provocative feature is thepower sliding rear roof. By depressing abutton up front, the rear roof retractsnearly 3 feet, creating a pickup truck-likebed. At the touch of another button therear tailgate glass drops down, giving youa pickup with a tailgate. Your pickuptruck bed is actually an all-weather cargoarea with an innovative quick drain systemthat can empty over 30 gallons perminute. Simply hose it down after transportinga load of topsoil.

At the front of the cargo area behindthe rear seats is a new mid-gate with asecond power window that also goesdown with the touch of a button. Thismid-gate allows you to leave the rearcompletely open to the elements, yet givesthe passenger compartment completesecurity. Triple seals with guided drainageensure that passengers stay warm andtoasty inside. For a rush of fresh air, youcan open all the windows, including themid-gate and tailgate.

Another specialfeature:

For the most depth, fold down therear seats and the mid-gate with onehand. Now you have a full-length pickuptruck built into your XUV. The tailgate with the powerwindow can swing open like a door, leftto right, with one hand. In fact, all vehicletransitions can be performed singlehandedly."There's nothing like the versatilityof the Envoy XUV in the marketplace,"says Lynn Meyers, marketingmanager for GMC.

Inexpensive and Loaded

The XUV is nimble, quick, and quiet.The steering is light and all controlsreturn good feedback. While the 6 cylinderis adequate, many drivers will enjoythe V8's acceleration. The transmissionand all-wheel-drive systems change gearswhen you want and are easily controlledby the accelerator. Braking is consistent,even, and predictable.

The least expensive model, the SLE,can be purchased for just over $30,000.The level of standard equipment on thebase SLE surprised us. Standard featuresinclude automatic transmission,dual-zone air conditioning, fog lights,deep tinted glass, keyless entry, specialinterior flood lighting, antilock brakes,and driver lumbar support.

Although the standard vehicle is surprisinglycomplete, you may want to addside-impact air bags for $350 and electricadjustable pedals for $150. If you plan ontowing, or just want more toys, add onall-wheel drive, load-leveling suspension,and XM Satellite Radio with the Bose premiumsound system. Leather seats arestandard in the upper-level SLT model. Ifyou want a moonroof, add another $800.For more safety, add OnStar for $695,which comes with a year subscription toits Safe and Sound Service. Navigation isavailable for about $2000.

An Envoy XUV SLT model loadedwith features will cost you approximately$42,000. You can expect 15 city mpgand 19 highway mpg with the Envoy. Tolook up other cars and compare mileagefigures, check out www.fueleconomy.gov.Anyway you slice it, the new XUVaffords greater use and practicality for thebusiness of pleasure.

Jean Swenson and Ashly Knapp are independentresearch reporters and the founders of AutoAdvisor.com.