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1999 GMC Envoy
John Matras

The name of the truck is Envoy, but that's only one letter away from "envy," which is what GMC's top compact sport-utility may arouse in other mid-size SUV drivers. The Envoy is loaded to the gunwales with luxury features and fancy trim, yet doesn't wimp out on the truck side of the equation. It comes standard with a powerful V6, full towing equipment and four-wheel drive.
The Envoy looks like the traditional SUV. And it should, as the Envoy is essentially an ultra-high trim level of the GMC Jimmy, itself a member of GM's compact sport-utility line that also includes the Chevrolet Blazer and Oldsmobile Bravada. Like most premium SUVs, the Envoy is available only as a four-door. It has the classic two-box profile. Its body is mounted atop a sturdy steel frame. The corners are nicely rounded and the lower body is clad in plastic.

Flanking the GMC family grille are headlamps that set the Envoy apart from its siblings. Each headlight cluster includes a circular amber parking light, an elliptical halogen high beam, a highly elliptical high intensity discharge low beam, and a sidemarker light. A pair of large fog lamps is incorporated in the lower front valence. With this lighting package, they will see you coming.

The Envoy sports cast aluminum wheels with P235/70R15 all-season tires. Front suspension is independent, a short-long arm design with torsion bars; semi-elliptic springs are used at the rear. The Envoy has the ZW7 Luxury Ride suspension, which has shock absorbers and springs tuned for a smooth highway ride on paved or improved roads. Front shocks are by Bilstein, and Delphi premium load-leveling shocks are standard in back. The set-up is also appropriate for heavy trailering. The Envoy is rated to tow up to 5000 pounds and is pre-wired.

Power comes from GM's ubiquitous Vortec 4.3-liter V6 truck engine. This overhead-valve 90-degree V6 is tuned for truck work, with torque peaking at 2800 rpm (250 foot-pounds). It is rated at 190 horsepower at 4400 rpm. Redline is just over 5000 rpm.

The engine is mated to GM's 4L60-E 4-speed electronically controlled transmission. The Envoy's transmission has a tow/haul mode, accessed by a button on the shift lever, that reduces shifting when towing a heavy trailer and attunes the performance of the gearbox to the heavier load. The new Auto Trac 2-speed transfer case is standard as well. Modes are selected by dash-mounted buttons, including an Auto 4WD button that is not all-wheel drive, but rather a standby mode that, when rear wheel spin is detected, engages the four-wheel-drive system for as long as needed.

Four wheel disc brakes are standard, as is ABS on all four wheels. Interior
It wasn't too long ago that cars didn't have interiors this luxurious: Seats are trimmed in supple two-tone leather, the steering wheel and shifter accorded similar treatment. The driver's seat has multiple power adjustments, with power lumbar and heated surfaces on both front seats. Genuine Zebrano wood graces the console and door trim. Large, easy to use controls are angled toward the driver. Delco Bose audio is standard, complete with special speakers mounted in the doors and a six-CD changer in the console. A welcome change is the new small-hubbed steering wheel. A mini-pack airbag improves the appearance as well as the view of the instrument panel.

Power equipment abounds in the Envoy. The windows and locks are powered, and remote locking is standard. So are power mirrors, not only adjusting the view but also folding in for tight parking spots and carwashes. All glass aft of the B-pillar is tinted, and not only is the inside rear view mirror electrochromatic, so are both outside mirrors. Climate control is the set-and-forget type; dial up a temperature and the computer-controlled system maintains fan speed and directs the air to where it's needed. An overhead mini-console includes HomeLink, a trip computer and compass. A rear wiper is standard and includes a wet-arm washer. Also out back is an air compressor outlet for inflating everything from flat tires to soccer balls. The rear hatch can be opened completely, or the rear glass only opened. Driving Impressions
The Envoy is a genuine sport-utility, complete with the raised step-in one should expect of a truck. This yields that commanding view of the road, but it's not so high as to be eyeball to eyeball with semi-tractor drivers. The front seats are well cushioned though wide and lightly bolstered on the side -- more chairs than buckets -- comfortable, but not fit for sporty driving. The rear bench is low, with a lower hip point than the front seat and most comfortable for two adults, though three can fit and be friendly.

Controls are easy to reach and use. The engine starts easily and idles smoothly. The transmission shifts easily at part throttle. Push hard on the right pedal and the torque comes instantly. The Vortec V6 pulls like a smallmouth bass unhappy about being hooked, right down to that tingle you can feel in your hands. It's not nearly as slick as some of its overhead-cam rivals from Japan when accelerating hard, but the difference on the highway is imperceptible.

On the road the only noises when cruising are a slight ruffle of air around the mirrors, tire noise coming up from the highway and a bass note from the engine. It's all subdued, however, allowing for easy conversation between the front and rear seat, or a rolling concert environment for listening to the audio system. You'll regret reaching your destination. Back seat passengers wearing headphones can listen independently to other programming.

The ZW7 suspension lives up to its luxury billing, with a soft ride over the road, soaking up expansion joints. Unimproved roads, however, will jostle the inhabitants, which is to be expected. The ZW7 package does not have the lateral control of some of the other Jimmy suspensions, and on winding roads the Envoy tends to lean in corners. A sightseeing trip to the Lackawaxen home of Zane Gray required traversing some narrow, bumpy highways in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania, and here we would have preferred a little more rebound damping in the shocks and a fatter anti-roll bar. Back on Interstate 84, however, the Envoy was in its element. It almost made us wish we had a trailer to tow.

We also had the chance to climb a hill on an ice-covered road. The Auto 4WD mode worked exactly as advertised, shifting into four-wheel drive with no indication to the driver that anything unusual was going on. The Envoy scaled the icy climb so easily that we tried it again with the transfer case in 2-Hi (two-wheel drive). Barely able to make forward progress on the uphill section, we came to a stop and shifted back into Auto 4WD. Even from rest on an incline we pulled away and reached the top. It was slippery enough to test the ABS as well, and we certainly would have found going down the hill much more thrilling without the antilock system.

Those exotic looking headlamps, incidentally, are more than just for looks. Halogen lights pale in comparison to the bluish white light of the Envoy's high-intensity discharge low beams.

A dealer-installed option is GM's OnStar Communication System. It uses the Global Positioning System and cellular telephone communications to provide the driver with directions or unlock the car when you leave the keys in it. It automatically sends a signal to an OnStar representative when the airbags are deployed; and if you don't respond the OnStar representative will contact emergency personnel and direct them to you.

Bringing home the groceries was made easier by a net that keeps those plastic bags and milk gallons from sliding all over the cargo area. A cargo cover reels from side to side, which means there's no bar with the cover inside to deal with when lowing the rear seatback for a large load, and it's also easier to reach. The cargo floor also has tie downs to secure loads. Summary
The Envoy, though a truck, is actually a hybrid, at least from a use standpoint. Its interior is as cushy as that of any luxury car, and no doubt the Envoy will be used that way most of the time. But when the time comes, it is also fully capable of handling heavy loads, whether stuffed to the rafters with a dorm room's worth of college stuff or towing a snowmobile trailer into the country. In short, the Envoy is a versatile, well-equipped and luxurious truck.

Model as tested
Basic Warranty
3 years/36,000 miles
Assembled in
Moraine, Ohio
Destination charge
Gas guzzler tax
Base Price
Price as tested
Options as tested

Model Line Overview
Model lineup
Safety equipment (standard)
Dual airbags, rear door child safety locks
Safety equipment (optional)
4.3-liter ohv 12v V6
4-speed automatic

Specifications as Tested
ABS, Auto Trac 4WD transfer case, cast aluminum wheels, automatic load leveling suspension, heavy-duty trailering package, vehicle content theft alarm, rear compartment compressed air port with air hose, HID headlamps, projector beam foglamps, premium leather seat surfaces, 8-way power driver's seat, heated power lumbar front seat, Bose AM/FM/cassette with six speakers and six-disc CD changer, rear radio control with earphone jacks, electronic climate control, heated power folding electrochromatic outside mirror, HomeLink 3-channel transmitter, battery rundown protection, keyless entry with panic alarm

Engine & Transmission
4.3-liter ohv 12v V6
Drivetrain type
four-wheel drive
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)
190 @ 4400
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy
Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm)

Brakes, front/rear
Suspension, front
Suspension, rear
Live axle

Seating capacity
Head/hip/leg room, middle
Head/hip/leg room, front
Head/hip/leg room, rear

Fuel capacity
Trunk volume
Turning circle
Towing capacity
Track, front/rear
Ground clearance
Curb weight

Vehicle History Report

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