The styling of GMC's all-new 2002 Envoy SUV is bold and modern, just a couple steps this side of being too flashy. The Envoy moniker, previously reserved for the luxury model of the Jimmy, is now used across the board. Jimmy doesn't quite have the ring of a model whose maker touts its products as ''professional grade,'' vague though the term may be.

The Envoy is representative of a trend spreading across the SUV landscape: less like a truck and more like a car, with greater power and bigger interiors. To that end, General Motors turned to a clean sheet of paper for its new family of midsize SUVs. The 2002 Chevy TrailBlazer, GMC Envoy and Oldsmobile Bravada are based on the same platform and mechanical bits, although each uses its own body panels for separate brand identity.

There are two Envoys, SLE and SLT, and prices start at $28,820 for a two-wheel-drive SLE and range to $33,820 for a four-wheel-drive SLT, which is the model I drove for this review. Destination adds $600.

There's little doubt that the 2002 Envoy is a significant improvement over the previous model, both in terms of enhanced drivability and room for occupants. Nearly everything is new, from the hydroformed frame to the 4.2-liter, DOHC inline six-cylinder engine that pumps out an impressive 270 horsepower. The old Envoy/Jimmy felt narrow and crowded. A bump on the passenger's floor for the catalytic converter intruded on legroom. The new one, however, addresses those issues. The 2002 is 8 inches longer, 4 inches wider, 7 inches taller and has 12 more cubic feet of interior space. The wheelbase has grown from 107 inches to 113 inches. It is now roughly the size of a Ford Explorer even though it doesnÕt look like it.

Aside from the bigger interior, the biggest change can be found under the hood. General Motors developed a new all-aluminum, inline six-cylinder engine for this vehicle. With double-overhead cams, four valves per cylinder and a variable exhaust valve timing, this engineÕs configuration is similar to a European luxury sedan's. Inherent smoothness is one of the hidden benefits of an inline six, and this engine was a joy to drive. It puts out more power than its competitors' V-8 engines, yet it does so with a high degree of civility. Low- and mid-range throttle response is excellent, with no sacrifice in maximum power for passing or towing. A two-wheel-drive Envoy can tow 6,300 pounds.

Mimicking the high-tech exterior is an interior that is a marriage of cockpit design and luxury-car comfort. The instrument cluster consists of overlapping, silver-ringed gauges not unlike those found in an upscale sedan. The test SLT has plenty of wood-grain trim on the instrument panel, door panel and console, although it was obviously not real wood. Polished silver rings surround the large, circular air vents. The radio and climate controls have been lifted from GMÕs better sedans.

The SLT has two-tone leather seats, and the ones in front were quite comforta ble. The 60/40 split-folding rear seat has an indented center section, and on a short trip the right-side rear passenger commented on feeling a bit crowded.

A five-link rear suspension is used to attach the solid axle, and while the ride is much better than the previous model, its truck roots can be felt. Our test vehicle was outfitted with the optional electronically controlled load-leveling air suspension. Air springs inflate to accommodate heavy loads, and compensate for side-to-side imbalances. The on-board compressor has a 22-foot air hose for inflating bike tires, air mattresses and the like.

Four-wheel, anti-lock disc brakes are standard, and the power rack-and-pinion steering has good feel. Its turning circle is almost 6 feet tighter than the old Envoy.

Price The base price of the test vehicle was $33,820. The SLT Premium package ($2,250) included a locking differential, load-leveling suspension, heated front seats, Bose audio system with 6-disc CD c ger, rain-sensing wipers and aluminum 17-inch wheels. A power sunroof and running boards brought the sticker price to $37,795.

Warranty Three years or 36 ,000 miles.

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Point: The redesigned Envoy has a high-tech, almost fussy look that drew more than its share of stares and attention. A brand-new 4.2-liter, DOHC six-cylinder engine has 270 horsepower and very little vibration, while interior volume has been improved substantially.

Counterpoint: The instrument panelÕs design is a bit over the top, and the back seat, while bigger, still could use some improvement.

Engine: 4.2-liter, 270-hp 6-cyl.
Transmission: automatic Four-wheel drive
Wheelbase: 113 inches
Curb weight: 4,628 lbs.
Base price: $33,820
As driven: $37,795
Mpg rating: 15 city, 21 hwy.
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