The GMC Envoy XUV sounds like a smart idea: combine the practicality of an SUV with the utility of a pickup into one vehicle. Unfortunately, good ideas don’t always pan out. One wonders, was the finished product what the hardworking designers at GMC had in mind when they set out to make this "interesting "vehicle? Did they stand back when it was done and go, "Yes, that is fantastic," or did they know that this polarizing design would be a hard sell?
The GMC Envoy XUV was essentially a regular, long-wheelbase Envoy with a retractable roof that allowed you to use the vehicle kind of like a truck. The side windows stayed in place when the power retractable roof slid up into the front of the vehicle's roof. The tailgate swung to the side or folded down, not unlike the Honda Ridgeline. In some ways, it was like a more innovative Chevrolet Avalanche, or a larger Subaru Baja with the ability to close up the cargo area, or even an SUV version of the Honda Ridgeline before Honda really came out with its vehicle. Suffice to say, the rear of the vehicle was unique. In most other ways, though, it was still just a GMC Envoy.
Despite the fact that the Envoy XUV sounds like a good idea, it was a bungled attempt by General Motors to come up with something truly special. You could load tall items, toss in dirty stuff like mulch and then hose out the back, or leave the roof in place and use it like a regular SUV. The innovative rear roof wasn't the real issue. The vehicle was a total flop for many other reasons.
Why the Envoy XUV was the Worst
The Envoy XUV was mired with issues. It was heavy and not very good to drive. Its engine got pretty crappy gas mileage at an EPA-estimated 15 in the city and 21 highway, and some forums report worse numbers in real-world use. It wasn’t an attractive vehicle, especially once GMC added that chunky back end that came with the retractable roof and gaudy chrome roof rails. And finally, it couldn’t haul or tow more than a regular Envoy. This limited the practicality of the interesting vehicle.
Oh, and it was more expensive than its SUV counterpart. The Envoy XUV wasn’t several thousands of dollars more expensive than the regular Envoy, but you had to pay a few hundred dollars for that retractable roof. Pair that with all of the issues listed above and you have a vehicle that not many people were willing to pay for. The price for the XUV was over $31,000 for the base model in 2004 which equates to about $40,600 in today’s money. Jump up a trim level or add any optional equipment and the price goes up. That’s not an outrageous price, but for a vehicle with several flaws, it’s probably too much.
Why It Was Legitimately a Good Idea
Having a vehicle with a versatile and usable truck bed that offers the practicality of
The first generation of the Ridgeline looked weird and a lot of people didn’t buy it because of that. However, Honda went back to the drawing board and fixed the things that people didn’t like for the second generation truck. The new Ridgeline still suffers some perception issues, but it’s much improved. There's the case to be made that GMC could have done the same with the Envoy XUV, but that ship has long sailed.
The Ridgeline and the Chevrolet Avalanche are proof that fussing with truck and SUV body styles is a good idea. When done right you get a versatile vehicle that can do things no other vehicle can. That’s what makes the Envoy XUV worthy of remembering. It was one of the most innovative vehicles of its time. That being said, we’re not surprised it totally bombed.
The reason these vehicles are so difficult to pull off is that legitimate truck owners aren’t going to buy them. They’re going to buy a truck and probably nothing else, and they don’t see an SUV or crossover and truck mashup as a real truck. SUV owners typically aren’t going to buy them either. That’s because they see them as pickups, and they don’t particularly see trucks as being good, practical family vehicles. It’s a perception issue and one that can be overcome by a truly good design and thorough marketing. The GMC Envoy XUV simply wasn’t good enough.