Enjoy the outdoors in GMC Envoy XL

Friday, May 16, 2003

Let's play a little word game. How many SUVs can you name in a single sentence? For example: Envoy, I need you and Pathfinder to fly with our Pilot and Navigator out to Durango and pick up an Explorer and a Trailblazer and deliver this Element to a place in the Outback where a Wrangler is having a Rendezvous with a Cherokee and an Aztec. That was fun, wasn't it?

Well, listen up, all you fun-seekers, because I've got a vehicle for you that's guaranteed to put a big smile on your face: the GMC Envoy XL! Cape GMC-Pontiac calls the gorgeous paint on the car I tested "Magnetic Red Metallic," and if you can say that three times in a row, you should be a radio announcer. It's a real eye-catcher, and it's almost a shame to make this go-anywhere do-anything vehicle so darn pretty. Who would want to get this baby all muddy?

A real ladder frame

This is no wimpy, wanna-be truck. This is the real thing ... all 5,000 pounds of it. With a full-perimeter ladder-type frame, and a surprisingly powerful 4.2-liter six-cylinder engine coupled to a 3.75 axle ratio rear end, it can pull 5,300 pounds of trailer. (This is the much ballyhooed straight-six that produces 275 horsepower on regular gas -- that's as much power as Cadillac's North Star V-8 engine of just a couple of years ago!)

Mated to the new engine is an electronic 4-speed automatic transmission, and mated to that is GM's push-button (it's actually a knob in this vehicle) four-mode, four-wheel-drive system. Although it's a sophisticated system, it's not at all complicated to operate. You just turn a little knob to select standard rear-wheel drive (which delivers the best gas mileage); automatic all-wheel drive; four-wheel "high"; or boulder crunching four-wheel "low." You don't even have to get out of your seat. Gone are the days when you find yourself stuck in the middle of a muddy trail, and you have to get out of your truck and slog around to each wheel to turn a muddy thingamajig, then get back into your vehicle looking like the muddy Mississippi monster. Even the rear differential locks automatically. Thank you, Detroit!

Incredible inside

You won't want to get the inside of this truck muddy either, because there's rich leather, deep carpeting and wood trim everywhere. This vehicle is so rich looking I wonder why they don't give you a doormat to wipe your shoes on before you get in. The seats are incredible -- like something out of a top of the line Pontiac. Those of you with a button-pushing fetish will feel right at home in this Envoy. There are several buttons for the On-Star communication/navigation system, three buttons to get your garage doors open, a button for the sunroof and each window, buttons for the 8-way adjustable seats with lumbar support, a bunch of buttons on the steering wheel for the on-board trip computer and missile defense system, and perhaps a hundred buttons for the front and rear Bose sound systems. OK, I exaggerate a little bit when I get excited, but this vehicle should keep you well entertained while cruising down that old rutted trail in search of gold or uranium.

Driving impression

Seriously, there are a lot of great features on this vehicle, and I haven't mentioned some of the coolest ones, like the rain sensing windshield wipers. Since our beloved region has been acting more like the tropical rain forest lately, those will be real handy. And, if you do venture into the outback and get a little dirty, a push of a button will wash your headlights! You'll need those bright headlights at night, because this puppy really moves when you step on the go pedal. The engine is just amazing. But the handling, cornering, steering and brakes are just as impressive. Not only can the Envoy XL keep up with the traffic, it gives a quiet, smooth ride as well. We drove it down to Sikeston, Mo., so we could stand in line at Lambert's and admire it in the parking lot. It sure is pretty. And, it got decent gas mileage -- about 18 mpg in city and highway driving, according to the in-house computer.

Several models

There are several versions of the Envoy. This gussied up, seven-passenger model, the XL (which must stand for "extra long") with SLT trim has a sticker price of $41,285. That gets you just about every goodie in the option book. But if the price gives you pause, keep in mind that Cape GMC-Pontiac is offering a $3,000 rebate or 0 percent financing for 60 months. There is also the popular short version, the "standard" Envoy, providing seating for five, in two rows of seats. Either model can be ordered with SLT or the more economical SLE trim. And both models come with the $3,000 rebate deal. Now, about that doormat for my muddy boots...

Steve Robertson of Robertson Photography in Cape Girardeau is a car enthusiast and former photographer for the Southeast Missourian.

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