- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 11, 2003

Envoy XUV, the newest addition to the GMC SUV family, is all about versatility, from its beefy standard V-6 powertrain to its power sliding rear roof that creates an open-air driving experience. Packing several industry-first innovations into its cargo space and two powerful engine choices under its hood, the XUV is designed to answer family stowage needs — from the summer road trip to the Saturday-afternoon jaunt to Home Depot.

Spun from the same DNA as the Chevy Avalanche and Cadillac Escalade EXT, the all-new XUV brings creative storage solutions with its Midgate rear compartment configuration system. It also offers a flip-up or swing-out tailgate, an all-weather cargo area and a power sliding rear roof, which accommodates tall items.

Envoy XUV’s creative use of space is its most distinguishing feature, and it is its key differentiator in a crowded SUV market.

Envoy XUV is available with a choice of two powertrains and two trim levels. The standard engine is a 275-horsepower, 4.2-liter inline six-cylinder. A 5.3-liter, 290-horsepower V-8 also is available. Both can be matched with either two- or four-wheel drive.

Trim levels are the base SLE and up-market SLT. Both come with the standard power sliding rear roof, Midgate with power window, all-weather cargo floor, 17-inch cast-aluminum wheels, roof rails, interior overhead console with Homelink transponder, AM/FM/CD stereo and power heated exterior mirrors. Dual front air bags, anti-lock brake system and four-wheel disc brakes are standard on all XUVs.

SLT adds leather trim, power driver’s and front passenger’s seats with heat, automatic climate control, rear audio and climate controls, steering-wheel-mounted controls and an in-dash driver information center.

Available options include polished aluminum wheels, side-impact air bags, XM satellite radio, OnStar navigation/communications system, Bose sound system, adjustable pedals, running boards and sunroof. Rain-sensing wipers, headlamp washers and an integrated navigation/radio system are optional on SLT models only. GM also offers add-on accessory packages, such as a camping unit with a self-contained waterproof tent and a pet package.

From the front, the XUV looks much like its fraternal Envoy twin. The front end retains the big “GMC” badge and horizontally slatted grille, but the nose is snubbed and petite. Wrapped, clear glass headlamps and bumper-integrated fog lamps sit above a big air dam. Side body-color panels keep the profile simple and crisp, with “Envoy” badging accenting the sides of the SLT version.

From the B-pillar back, however, the family resemblance ends. Starting just behind the B-pillar is the sliding roof panel, framed on either side by thick roof rails. A button located in the front overhead console controls the panel, which converts the cargo area from fully enclosed to open air, making room for tall items such as furniture.

Here’s how it works: The panel slides back above the fixed roof on tracks built into the roof racks. Fully retracted, the rear roof panel sits above the existing roof, over the second row of passenger seats, creating a 32-by-32-inch opening. The panel does not cover the sunroof.

The reconfigurable roof, which is an industry first, is capped by a tailgate with power sliding window and dual-function tailgate. The gate, which can swing open to the right or flip down, has electronic assist that permits easy, one-hand opening.

The standard engine is a Vortec 4.2-liter inline six-cylinder producing class-leading 275 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 275 foot-pounds of torque at 3,600 rpm. The motor features DOHC and four valves per cylinder with variable cam phasing for more efficient operation. The optional Vortec 5.3-liter V-8 has OHV with two valves per cylinder and delivers 290 horsepower at 5,200 rpm and 325 foot-pounds at 4,000 rpm.

Both are linked to a four-speed electronically controlled transmission with overdrive and can be ordered with either two-wheel rear drive or AutoTrac four-wheel drive. Traction control is available on two-wheel-drive models.

The 4.2-liter V-6 tows up to 5,800 pounds (5,700 with four-wheel drive) and has a combined fuel economy of 17 miles per gallon. The V-8 manages up to 6,500 pounds (6,400 with four-wheel drive); it also rates 17 mpg with rear-wheel drive (16 with 4WD).

For 2004, the Midgate gets a power window that can be more easily raised or lowered than the previous iteration.

Another interior innovation is the all-weather cargo area, which has a QuickDrain system that channels up to 32 gallons of water per minute out of the cargo bed.

In addition to providing drainage after a downpour, the feature allows owners to hose down their XUVs after transporting messy items.

Seating is comfortable, although five adults would be slightly cramped. SLE models have manual dual-zone climate control and a CD stereo system, in addition to HomeLink. SLT models add amenities such as automatic climate control, steering wheel audio and climate controls, rear passenger audio and climate controls, leather trim and power seats.

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