The Detroit News's view

Envoy XUV misses the mark

The all-new 2004 GMC Envoy XUV is one of those vehicle concepts that sounds great, on paper, but whose execution leaves much to be desired.

What sets the Envoy XUV apart from the competition is a sliding rear roof and tailgate that turn this sport utility vehicle into a faux pickup with an open cargo bay, but enclosed rear windows. The XUV also features a sliding ‘midgate’ that seals off the rest of the cabin from the rear cargo compartment and the outside elements.

The base two-wheel-drive Envoy XUV starts at $31,925. We tested a four-wheel-drive Envoy XUV with up-level SLT trim and a price tag of $42,285.

HE: There’s not much I like about the Envoy XUV, which is a subpar product in many ways. In truth, it’s a compromise vehicle that’s a lousy compromise. It’s not a good utility vehicle and it’s not a good pickup. And that’s really surprising, considering that General Motors Corp. makes some of the best trucks in the business. If you want an SUV, you’re far better off with the regular Envoy or long-wheelbase Envoy XL. If you want a full cabin with four doors, but occasionally need the cargo-hauling capability of a pickup, you’re considerably better off with a GMC Canyon Crew Cab or even a Chevrolet Avalanche.

SHE: I think you’re being way too harsh. The Envoy XUV is not the type of vehicle you’d buy if you’re a building contractor because the bed is way too small. But I still see it as a really cool vehicle for weekend warriors like me, whose idea of fun is going to the Home Depot. I’m not going to haul a full-size tree in my XUV, but I am going to load it up with all kinds of indoor and outdoor project stuff to keep me occupied between writing assignments.

HE: So why wouldn’t you just buy a crew-cab pickup? You can still hose out the bed after hauling whatever, and there’s really no compromise. Plus you don’t have to fiddle with buttons, switches or key fobs to open or close roofs and windows. The XUV just seems like an awful lot of fuss and bother for very little additional payoff. Fortunately, the Envoy XL chassis on which it’s based is a good one. With a very long wheelbase and Bilstein gas shocks, the ride quality is exceptional. You’d almost never guess you were in an SUV. But that generous wheelbase comes with a penalty, a wide turning circle that makes parking and tight maneuvers a real chore.

SHE: I was impressed with the wide running boards on the XUV. They make getting in and out of the truck much easier. The seats are comfortable, and I love the idea of seat belts built into the front seats. The cabin is actually quite nice, too, and so is that silvery-sage exterior paint scheme.

HE: I’ve always liked the tasteful nickel trim in the Envoy. But I was less impressed by the unsightly gaps where the edges of the instrument panel meet the bottoms of the windshield pillars. Individual interior modules also look like t hey were designed to plug into the instrument panel with plenty of margin for error, a ‘coarse fit’ method, rather than the seamless fits and tight, smooth edges that you find on most European and Japanese products in this price class. Speaking of prices, did it dawn on you that you could buy a luxury SUV, like a BMW X5 or a Porsche Cayenne, for the same money as our test vehicle?

SHE: I would never haul dirt in a Cayenne or an X5. I did have some other problems with the Envoy XUV. If you look over your shoulder, the thick side pillar creates a major blind spot when you’re backing up or trying to change lanes on the freeway. The rear compartment needs some kind of cargo-management system to keep grocery bags from sliding all over the place. I thought the vehicle felt almost tippy when we went around some corners a little faster than we should. And I was disappointed that, even with the base six-cylinder engine, the city fuel economy is only 15 miles per gallon. More importa tly, if you intend to use this as a family vehicle, there is no air-bag protection for rear-seat passengers and no rear-seat entertainment system.

HE: Like I said, not much of a compromise. Or perhaps too much of one. I could deal with some of the smaller annoyances, like a key fob that didn’t always provide the “one-touch” function as promised. But I think the last straw was when I opened the window a crack about 10 minutes after the rain stopped, and all of a sudden water started pouring over the roof drip rail and through the window. Considering you can get a new Chevrolet Equinox or a GMC Canyon Crew Cab for half the price, and they’re both better products, I’d urge you to steer clear of the Envoy XUV.

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