Even though most sport-utility vehicles are based on trucks, some of the hottest sellers rival luxury sedans in terms of equipment and features.

To test the waters for a upscale version of the Jimmy, GMC debuted the Envoy last year at the Chicago Auto Show. Now it's in production with a mission: Establish GMC as a builder of premium sport-utility vehicles and grab a piece of the luxury pie. It has a big brother, the Denali, built on the Yukon.

The Envoy is a dolled up Jimmy with a host of amenities, such as leather upholstery, wood trim, premium stereo and a distinct exterior featuring High-Intensity Discharge headlights, chrome wheels and a monotone paint job that highlights simplified lower body cladding.

The result is comfortable and cushy, less trucklike than its overall look would suggest. The price is now a hefty $34,135, although everything but a power sunroof ($695) is now standard.

The two-tone, glove-soft leather upholstery and Zebrano wood trim create a refined and luxurious atmosphere. The seats are wide and plush, and the surface of the dash surface looks like leather even though it wasn't. Chrome door handles look elegant, but they felt unfinished on the back where your fingers touch.

The Bose stereo has superb sound quality. Rear-seat audio controls enable passengers to listen to CD's with earphones while those in front listen to the radio. This is a welcome touch for families with teenagers.

Almost everything throughout the interior has been spiffed up. A six-disc CD changer is integrated into the console to facilitate loading music without having to go around to the back of the vehicle. A 12-volt power outlet as well as one for the on-board air compressor are located in the cargo bay. Both are great for active folks who need to pump up soccer balls or bike tires at the park. A pull-out cover is built into the side of the cargo space so luggage or other items can be concealed. By building this shade into the side panel, it doesn't have to be removed when you want to fold down the back seat to carry stuff. Good thinking. A removable cargo net keeps small items from rolling around in back, too.

The overhead console has a trip computer as well as a HomeLink transmitter for garage doors and security gates.

Often, folding down the back seat of an SUV requires too much work, but the Envoy is an exception. In one simple motion, the back seat tumbles forward, the headrest folds down and you have a flat floor in seconds.

In keeping with the luxury nature of this vehicle, GMC's Premium Smooth Ride suspension package is specified, and it does a good job of softening the blow of bumps while providing a carlike ride. Rear air shocks automatically raise and lower the vehicle according to load or towing requirements. They are the reason there is an air-compressor outlet in the cargo bay.

The 4.3-liter, V6 Vortec engine is unchanged from other Jimmys. The 190 horsepower prov ides adequate acceleration and quiet highway travel. This engine is capable of pulling a 5,000-pound trailer.

Four-wheel-drive is standard, as is the four-speed automatic transmission. Four-wheel drive is engaged with buttons on the dash rather than a floor-mounted shift lever.

OnStar, GM's communication system, is a dealer-installed option that uses a Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) and a hands-free cellular phone to track and monitor the vehicle as well as provide a variety of services, including getting help in the event of an accident.

Given the city use of most sport utilities, the Envoy makes sense. Not only does it ride smoothly, but it surrounds its passengers with oodles of comfort, good sound and all the requisite power options.

Price

The base price is $34,135. The only option, a power sunroof, brought the sticker of our test vehicle to $35,345.

Warranty

The standard warranty is for three years or 36,000 miles.

Vehicles f The Star's week-long test drives are supplied by the auto manufacturers.

Point: The Envoy is a dolled-up Jimmy loaded with goodies, a vehicle intended to attract buyers who might otherwise choose a luxury sedan but want the versatility of a sport-utility vehicle.

Counterpoint: Overall, the Envoy is rather small inside, and it is rather pricey.

SPECIFICATIONS:

ENGINE: 4.3-liter, V6

TRANSMISSION: automatic

WHEELBASE: 107 inches

CURB WEIGHT:

BASE PRICE: $34,135

PRICE AS DRIVEN: $35,345

MPG RATING: 16 city, 20 hwy.