2002 GMC Envoy Review
A rugged SUV that can pass for a luxury vehicle.
Compared to its predecessor, the new Envoy is eight inches longer, four inches wider, seven inches taller and has 20 percent more cargo space behind the rear seats. Despite the size increase, its turning circle is 36.4 feet, nearly six feet tighter than before. This is thanks to a new front suspension and the narrower inline engine.
Among the three new GM midsize SUVs (Olds Bravada and Chevy TrailBlazer), the Envoy's styling may be the most sophisticated. It's logical and precise," says GMC's brand manager. It has a wide-mouth black grille that says (in ruby red) GMC all the way. Sleek and clean are the distinct headlamps, round foglights and front bumper with a wide slim slit at the very bottom. Envoy dispenses with the TrailBlazer's showy fender flares, by housing the standard 17-inch wheels (shod with specially developed Michelins) inside hefty fenders which are part of a trapezoidal design theme. Strong beveled shapes extend along the Envoy's clean sides and around the wheelwells, and help make the Envoy look imposing. The rear bumper is stepped for its full length, and includes big round backup lights.
From behind the wheel the Envoy seems to be raked, as you look down over the strong hood. It looks cool. Under that hood, the inline engine is the big new thing. The straight-six design is hardly new, of course. Jeep Cherokee has been using a less sophisticated I6 for years, while BMW and Lexus have very sophisticated versions in high-performance sedans. Advancements in electronics, metallurgy and manufacturing methods now enable an inline engine to soar, and for 2002 GM has fully exploited this technical opportunity.
The new Vortec 4200 is an all-aluminum, double-overhead cam, 24-valve inline-6 with variable valve timing. It features electronic throttle control, an electrical system using silicon circuit boards (replacing some 1100 feet of copper wire), coil-on-plug ignition (thus no plug wires), and a seven-quart oil pan with a clever tunnel for the front drive axle, which allows the longish block to be mounted six inches lower, contributing to better balance and a lower center of gravity.
The chassis rails are shaped by hydroforming, a process pioneered in the '97 C5 Corvette that makes the rails stronger and lighter. No less than eight crossmembers contribute to a claimed 260 percent increase in torsional rigidity, and there are 12 tuned body mounts made of urethane.
Attention to detail is evident, from a battery box that draws in cooling air, to remarkably sanitary wiring under the hood, to a seven-pin receptacle for towing trailers with brakes, to rear-seat headrests that conveniently flip down for better rearward driver visibility. Because the engine is so quiet and smooth at idle, a feature called "intellistart" was added which prevents the starter from grinding if the key is turned when the engine is already running.
The Autotrac system, standard on 4WD models, features four settings: 2WD, Auto4WD, 4HI and 4LO. In Auto, which shifts power to all four wheels as conditions require, the Envoy can be towed without having to disconnect the driveshaft-a convenient new feature. Switching in and out of 4WD can be done on the fly with a flip of the switch, although the vehicle must be in neutral to engage or disengage 4LO.
There is an optional load-leveling air suspension intended to provide a more luxurious ride. It uses a silent air compressor, which yields one small fruit: a 22-foot air hose for filling everything from tires to toys. It attaches to a small valve in a compartment in the cargo area."
All Envoys seat five passengers, compared to the Ford Explorer's optional seven seats on a nearly identical wheelbase, with its third row of seats squeezed in. A seven-seat Envoy with longer wheelbase is in the works. GM says their buyers told them that seven passengers on a five-seat wheelbase didn't appeal to them. So GM will build a separate chassis.
For legroom, the Envoy offers 44.6 inches in front and 37.1 inches in the rear. Working with a vehicle width that exceeds the Explorer by 2.5 inches, the Envoy's rear seats offer slightly less shoulder room but 3.8 inches more total hip room.
We tested the Envoy at the same time we tested the TrailBlazer, and one clear difference was in the comfort of the seats. The Envoy's seat cushions are longer, wider and thicker than those on the TrailBlazer, and offer noticeably more side bolstering-in fact, we would choose an Envoy over a TrailBlazer just for the seats. The SLT's leather was way plush, while the SLE's cloth was grippier. On both the SLE and SLT, the driver's bucket is eight-way power adjustable, with four-way lumbar support and four-way adjustable head restraint.
The instrumentation is complete and clean. A big tachometer is on the left, speedometer in center, and on the right are smaller gauges for water, battery, gas and oil. The brushed nickel trim looks classy, with or without the wood. Four big round registers for heating and air conditioning look both stylish and purposeful in nickel. The four-spoke leather-wrapped steering wheel comes with both models, and on the SLT includes controls for climate, sound, cruise control and driver information center in eight languages.
The console includes an open storage bin, an enclosed compartment and two cupholders forward of the gear lever (with two more for the rear passengers). The emergency brake lever is also located there. There are pockets in the front doors and behind the front seats, though none in the rear doors. Standard behind the rear seat is a small hidden compartment under the floor, a cargo net, scrolling tonneau cover and power outlet.
The overhead console includes a sunglasses holder, plus the SLT's Travelnote digital recorder, which might be considered an important safety feature, as it allows the driver to orally take phone numbers while on a cellphone. The heating and air conditioning can be controlled separately by the driver, front and rear passengers.
Interior lights abound, including reading lights. GM calls the interior lighting world class," developed by the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Lighting Research Center in Indiana.
The standard sound system is a radio/CD, but optional are a radio/CD/cassette, radio with six-disc in-dash CD, or six-speaker 275-watt Bose system. Our test model was equipped with the Bose, offering outstanding sound quality and adjustment versatility. All the systems include RDS (Radio Data Systems) technology, allowing the listener to search for stations by type, display information including song and artist information, and provide traffic and weather updates.
The OnStar communications system is standard. It includes GPS navigation, hands-free cellphone communication including free first year safety and security service-automatic crash and theft reporting, as well as remote unlocking if you lock yourself out. Mind-boggling possibilities include everything from having your email read to you by a computerized voice ("Virtual Advisor") to getting directions to the nearest ATM.
Also optional is a rear seat DVD entertainment system, with a seven-inch flip-down screen and wireless headphones."
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