2005 GMC Envoy XUV Reviews and Ratings

Utility 4D SLE 2WD

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2005 GMC Envoy XUV
Mitch McCullough

The GMC Envoy name applies to a whole family of versatile, sophisticated, and comfortable SUVs and that family expands again for 2005. Two Denali models have joined the line, bringing the same machined-billet styling and ultra-luxury status associated with the Denali editions of the full-size Yukon and Yukon XL.

The Envoy comes in two sizes: regular and extra-long. The standard-length Envoy is a compelling alternative to the Ford Explorer and other mid-size SUVs. Smooth, stable, and responsive, the Envoy comes with a smooth, powerful inline six-cylinder engine that gives up nothing to the Explorer, even when the Ford is equipped with its optional V8. The Envoy is a five-passenger SUV with just two rows of comfortable seats.

The Envoy XL is the extra-long model, a stretched, long-wheelbase version of the Envoy that features third-row seating. Some buyers see the XL as a less-expensive alternative to the full-size GMC Yukon. Indeed, the Envoy XL is actually longer than the Yukon. Envoy XL can carry seven passengers, and an optional V8 engine is available. Its third row adds versatility. But because it's longer and heavier, the Envoy XL doesn't seem to handle as well as the standard Envoy, nor does it feel as reassuring as the wider Yukon.

The Envoy XUV might be the perfect vehicle for a landscape architect. It's brimming with innovation and clever engineering for those who need to haul messy stuff, like dirt, or tall things, like trees. The XUV seats five but features an all-weather cargo area designed to be cleaned out with a hose. This cargo area is sealed off from the passenger compartment when the Midgate and power rear window are closed. Need more space? Lowering the window, Midgate and rear seats reveals a pickup-like bed suitable for hauling 4x8-foot sheets of plywood. Got something tall? The rear section of the roof retracts at the press of a button, leaving a wide-open cargo area that can haul tall items like potted trees. And depending on what you're trying to load or unload, the dual-function tailgate can be dropped like that of a pickup or swung open like a door. The Envoy XUV is built on the longer wheelbase of the XL. Model Lineup
GMC Envoy, Envoy XL, and Envoy XUV are offered in SLE or SLT trim, each with a choice of two-wheel drive (2WD) or four-wheel drive (4WD). All come standard with the highly regarded, overhead-cam six-cylinder Vortec 4200 engine. A 5.3-liter overhead-valve V8 is available ($1,500) for Envoy XL and Envoy XUV. All models come with automatic transmissions.

SLE trim means manually controlled dual-zone air conditioning, CD stereo, anti-lock brakes (ABS), power windows and locks, keyless entry, an electric rear window defogger, 17-inch aluminum wheels and fog lights. An Enhanced Package ($970) for the SLE adds an overhead console with Homelink transmitter, eight-way power driver's seat, illuminated vanity mirrors and a compass in the rearview mirror.

SLT adds automatic climate control, leather upholstery, eight-way power seats for driver and passenger with memory on the driver's side, a driver information center, audio controls on the steering wheel, separate rear-seat audio controls, heated outside mirrors with turn signals, a machined finish for the aluminum wheels, and other features.

Retail prices range from $29,750 for the Envoy 2WD SLE to about $40,000 for an Envoy XUV SLT V8 4WD. Four-wheel-drive models are priced about $2,250 above their two-wheel-drive counterparts. Major options (and there are a lot of them) include head-curtain and side-impact airbags ($495), power-adjustable pedals ($150), tilt-and-slide sunroof ($800), automatic load-leveling rear suspension ($375), DVD entertainment ($1,295), XM Satellite Radio ($325), and OnStar telecommunications ($695). Electronic navigation ($1,995) and a Bose premium sound system ($495) are available for SLT models, along with an MP3 player. Discount packages bundle the sunroof with various audio and entertainment options. The 2WD models can be ordered with a locking rear differential ($270) and traction control ($175).

The Denali package for 2005 Envoy and Envoy XL models includes the 5.3-liter V8, a premium leather interior, unique styling cues, plus all of the features of the SLT. Envoy Denali models will be available with 2WD or 4WD. Walkaround
The GMC Envoy models are mid-size SUVs, about the same size as a Ford Explorer. Envoy is smaller than a GMC Yukon, but much bigger than compact SUVs based on cars.

As mentioned, Envoy is available in two wheelbase lengths: 113 inches for the standard Envoy, and 129 inches for the Envoy XL and Envoy XUV. In terms of overall length, the Envoy XL is 16 inches longer than the standard Envoy. It's even longer than the GMC Yukon, by 9 inches, though it's more than 4 inches narrower. One way to distinguish an Envoy XL from the standard Envoy is to look at the rear doors. The Envoy's rear doors are interrupted by the rear fenders; the Envoy XL, with its length stretched amidships, has enough space for the rear edge of the rear doors to drop straight down all the way to the rocker panels.

The Envoy models share their chassis and engines with the Chevrolet TrailBlazer and Buick Rainier. Each of these three nameplates boasts unique styling, and there are feature differences as well. Envoy generally offers more features than the Chevy. And the XUV and Denali versions are GMC exclusives. And only the GMC Envoy Denali and Buick Rainier offer the V8 engine with the shorter, better-handling standard wheelbase.

Envoy has conservative, upmarket styling, yet has a masculine look that says it's ready to tackle the tough jobs. It looks more sophisticated than the TrailBlazer. Envoy's giant black grille with its big ruby-red logo says GMC in no uncertain terms. Sleek and clean are the distinct headlamps, round fog lights and pouty front bumper with a wide, slim slit at the very bottom. Strong beveled shapes extend along the clean sides and around the wheel wells, and help make the Envoy look imposing. Envoy dispenses with the TrailBlazer's showy fender flares, by housing its standard 17-inch wheels inside hefty wheel openings that are part of its trapezoidal design theme. The rear bumper is stepped for its full length, and includes big round backup lights. From behind the wheel the Envoy seems to be raked, as you look down over the strong hood.

Like their cousins in the Yukon clan, Envoy Denalis are distinguished by their chromed honeycomb grille, body-color bumpers that reach lower to the ground, body-color mirrors, and 17-inch polished aluminum wheels. Running boards that also act as stone guards are integrated into the rocker panels.

The Envoy XUV is about an inch longer than Envoy XL, and nearly three inches taller. At first glance it resembles the XL, but take a closer look, and you'll see that the XUV's rear side windows, the windows that look into the cargo bay, wrap subtly into the roof, where they meet the tracks for the sliding roof section. The tracks themselves are integrated into the luggage rack, a clever design. The XUV also has unique, larger taillights that wrap up over the tops of the rear fenders. From the rear, the XUV looks even more raked-forward than the Envoy and Envoy XL. Still, the XL and XUV both look too long in the back end with respect to their front proportions to be truly attractive. The XUV features a unique, dual-function tailgate. The tailgate power window can be raised or lowered at the touch of a button. With the window fully lowered, the tailgate can be dropped for ease of loading and unloading. Or it can swing open to the right, allowing bumper-level access to the cargo area, though this is the wrong direction for convenient curbside loading. Interior
The GMC Envoy and Envoy XUV seat five passengers. Envoy XL seats seven. Up front, they're pretty much the same, so let's first take a look in back where all the differences are located. No matter the model, the GMC Envoy offers more room for second-row passengers than the Ford Explorer, particularly hip room.

Envoy and Envoy XUV do not offer a third-row seat, and third-row seating in the Envoy XL is only average in terms of roominess. The Envoy XL is 18 inches longer than the Ford Explorer; and where the Explorer squeezes an optional third-row seat into its 114-inch wheelbase, the Envoy XL relaxes on a wheelbase of 129 inches. Yet somehow, third-row Envoy XL passengers get less legroom than third-row Explorer passengers. Head, hip, and leg room in the Explorer's third row measure 38.9, 45.4, and 34.9 inches, respectively, versus the Envoy XL's 38.5, 45.9, and 31.2. And the XL's long cabin led some of the adults we put back there to say they felt like they were looking down a tunnel.

Cargo space in the Envoy XL is generous, however. Fold the second- and third-row seats and Envoy XL offers 107 cubic feet of packing room, more than the standard Envoy (80) or Explorer (81), and slightly more than the big Yukon. SLT models come with a scrolling cargo cover.

Envoy XUV shares its second-row seating dimensions with Envoy XL, but instead of a carpeted cargo area with a folding third-row seat, the XUV has a weather-resistant box, like a pickup bed parked indoors. Four tie-down rings can be moved to any of 12 locations, and there are four more fixed rings in the ceiling. GMC offers accessories to further enhance the XUV's cargo-carrying capabilities. If things get messy back there, it's easy to flush it out with a hose. GM says its one-way drains can channel out 30 gallons per minute.

Ah, but you still haven't seen the XUV's neatest trick: Touch a button, and a 32-by-32-inch panel in the roof slides forward, opening the cargo bay up to the sky. A power rear window quickly slides up from the Midgate behind the rear seat, sealing off the passenger compartment from the now-open-air cargo area. The XUV has converted itself into a four-door pickup with a 44-inch bed. (And you can still order a traditional sunroof over the main cabin.)

If that's too short for the job, the XUV has one more trick it can do: Retract the glass behind the rear seat, open the Midgate between the seat and the cargo bay, and then tumble and fold the seat itself. Now you have 6 feet, 4 inches of open bed, albeit without a partition between it and the front seats. Close the roof and the tailgate window, and you can carry two people and a lot of personal belongings, out of the weather and dry. Tie-down points are conveniently located all around.

All this versatility, however, comes at a price. The Midgate and weatherproof bed-lining take up space, so the XUV offers a little less total cargo volume (95 cubic feet) than the XL, and has a significantly shorter cargo floor (76 vs. 85.5 inches long). So for carrying a small army's camp gear, the XL may be the way to go. But clearly the XUV is the better choice for hauling messy stuff, like dirt, plants, or a couple of cords of wood. The XUV could be the perfect solution for a landscape designer, deer hunter, or do-it-yourselfer, anyone who needs the utility of a pickup but also wants to move the family around in comfort.

Up front, it's comfortable in any of the Envoy models. GMC's seats seemed more comfortable to us than the Chevrolet TrailBlazer's seats. The Envoy's seat cushions are longer, wider and thicker than those in the TrailBlazer, and offer noticeably more side bolstering, though the seat bottoms could use more support. Envoy SLT's leather is plush, while Envoy SLE's cloth is grippier. As with Ford's Explorer, the sides of the seat bottoms are not fully trimmed around to the inside. On the SLT, the driver's bucket is eight-way power adjustable, with two-way lumbar support and optional heat. But the shoulder belts are fixed to the seatbacks, and one tester said he'd have preferred adjustable-height anchors.

Instrumentation is complete and clean. A big tachometer is on the left, speedometer in the center, and on the right are smaller gauges for water, battery, gas and oil.

The brushed nickel trim looks classy, and on SLT, burl woodgrain surrounds interior components in the center stack and console. It also is used in trim surrounding the light switches and the switches on the door armrests. We didn't care for the carbon-fiber colored trim on the center stack of our XUV SLT, however. Four big round registers for heating and air conditioning look stylish and purposeful in nickel. A four-spoke leather-wrapped steering wheel comes with both models, and on the SLT includes controls for climate, sound, cruise control and the driver information center. Overall, the dash looks a bit choppy, not smooth and organic.

SLE's dual-zone manual climate controls use sliders and seem like a big step backward from the SLT's digital controls. Turning a knob is easier than sliding a lever, especially when bouncing on rough roads. Heating and air conditioning temperatures can be controlled separately by the driver and front-seat passenger. Rear-seat passengers have their own independent temperature control in XL models.

The center console houses an open storage bin, an enclosed compartment, and two cup holders forward of the shifter. The emergency brake lever is also located there. There are pockets in the front doors and behind the front seats, but we'd like more places to put small items in the center console area. Three power outlets are provided in the center stack, though none have power when the ignition is switched off. Behind the rear seat is a small hidden compartment under the floor, a cargo net (on SLT) and a power outlet. Rear-seat headrests conveniently flip down to give the driver a better view to the rear.

SLT's overhead console includes a sunglasses holder, Homelink universal transmitter and an optional Travelnote digital recorder ($85), which allows the driver to orally take phone numbers while on a cell phone. Interior lights abound, including reading lights.

The optional Bose audio system with six-disc in-dash CD player offers outstanding sound quality and adjustment versatility. All Envoy audio systems include RDS (Radio Data Systems) technology, allowing the listener to search for stations by type, display song and artist information, and provide traffic and weather updates. And the rear-seat DVD system plays through the audio system.

OnStar, GM's telematics system, is optional on all models. It includes hands-free cell phone communication, one year of basic service, automatic crash and theft reporting, as well as remote unlocking and other services. Onstar's latest (Gen 6) technology for 2005 improves voice recognition and hands-free operation.

Denali models dress up with Nuance leather seats, tailored with French seam stitching, which means more stitches-per-inch for long-term durability. Driver and front passenger seats have not only eight-way power adjustments but electric heat. The four-spoke steering wheel sports French-stitched leather in the 3 o'clock and 9 o'clock positions, and real wood inserts at 12 and 6. Brushed aluminum sill plates are emblazoned with the Denali logo. Driving Impressions
The standard 4.2-liter six-cylinder engine is smooth and powerful, and it's the perfect companion for the standard Envoy. The heavier XL and XUV models really need the optional 5.3-liter V8, though.

The 4.2-liter inline-6 is a modern engine with dual overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder, and variable phasing for the exhaust cam to produce 275 horsepower and 275 pound-feet of torque. That's more horsepower than the Ford Explorer's optional 4.6-liter sohc V8 and nearly as much torque. About 90 percent of the GMC's peak torque is available at just 1600 rpm, and it's still there at 5600 rpm.

That means quick response at any engine speed, allowing the Envoy to bound past trucks on steep uphill two-lanes with confidence. In the standard-wheelbase Envoy, the 4.2-liter six is rated 16/21 mpg city/highway with 2WD. It's an excellent engine, and with its broad and bountiful torque, the transmission does much less downshifting. Stand on the gas and the full-throttle upshift comes at about 6000 rpm, and the engine feels like it's only striding, not screaming. The smooth-shifting four-speed automatic transmission is the proven Hydramatic 4L60-E, used in GM applications from Corvettes to Cadillac Escalades. A 3.42:1 rear-end ratio is standard for maximum economy, but ratios of 3.73 and 4.10 are offered for easier towing. With so much torque available, we couldn't discern a significant improvement in acceleration performance with the 4.10. Towing was a high engineering priority, and the six-cylinder, standard-wheelbase Envoy is rated to pull 6100 pounds with 4WD, and 6300 pounds with 2WD.

The V8 is standard in Denali, and optional in XL and XUV. Refined for 2005, it now develops 300 horsepower and 330 pound-feet of torque, easily topping the Explorer V8. Equipped with the V8, an Envoy XL can tow 7100 pounds with 2WD, or 6700 pounds with 4WD. All Envoys come with a trailer hitch platform and seven-wire trailer harness.

For 2005, long-wheelbase Envoys with the V8 are now equipped with Displacement on Demand (DOD) technology, which shuts down four of the eight cylinders when they are not needed, for up to 8 percent better fuel mileage under light-load conditions. The engine-management computer instantly revives the sleeping cylinders the second the driver demands more go. With this system, even the 5000-pound 4WD XUV can squeeze 15/18 city/highway miles out of a two-dollar gallon.

The standard Envoy feels smooth and stable at high speeds. It rides smooth and car-like at lower speeds without being overly soft in corners. On a high-speed washboard surface, the rear end stayed impressively planted. The Envoy is designed to lean exactly 5 degrees in corners, and then stop leaning. Envoy's track is among the widest in the class. Also, the engine is mounted relatively low, lowering the Envoy's center of gravity. A low center of gravity means better handling and stability. On the downside, the Envoy has a relatively low ground clearance of 8 inches under the engine, reducing its capability for serious off-highway driving.

The optional load-leveling air suspension is intended to provide a more luxurious ride. It uses a silent air compressor, which yields one additional benefit: a 22-foot air hose that attaches to a small valve in a compartment in the cargo area, and can be used for filling everything from tires to toys. Off-road, we found that the load-leveling suspension bottomed easily, signaling a need for the optional skid plates. Our test model had the skid plates, of course, which we dragged in soft sand, chugging easily along at 5 mph in Auto4WD. On low-speed whoop-de-doos, the front end bobbed up and down more than we would have liked.

The Envoy's four-wheel-drive system, called Autotrac, works well and features four settings: 2WD, Auto4WD, 4HI and 4LO. Auto4WD shifts power to all four wheels as conditions require. Switching in and out of 4WD can be done on the fly with a flip of the switch (although the transmission must be in neutral to engage or disengage 4LO).We tested the Auto4WD mode by deliberately driving into soft sand in 2WD. The moment the Envoy bogged, we switched to Auto4WD on the fly; it clicked in and began pulling us right along again. (Of course, it makes more sense to stay in 4WD if you think you might encounter soft sand.) Auto4WD is especially good in mixed, inconsistent conditions, such as ice or patchy snow. For serious off-road use, it's usually best to switch to 4HI or, for low-speed mud-slogging or climbing steep, rugged terrain, 4LO.

The four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes are impressive. The Envoy's nose doesn't dive under hard braking, keeping the vehicle remarkably level and stable.

The longer Envoy XL and XUV lack the responsiveness and handling of the standard-length Envoy. The Envoy XL is long and narrow and feels it. Envoy XL's wheelbase is stretched dramatically, by 16 inches. And its suspension is soft. It wallows in corners. On exit ramps, when braking and turning at the same time, the Envoy XL does not inspire confidence an Envoy or a Yukon does. On the highway, the XL wanders around in its lane. Stability is also affected by strong crosswinds at high speeds. The XL needs all the power it can get from the V8, given that it weighs nearly 350 pounds more than the standard Envoy. The XUV drives very similarly to the XL. Summary
The GMC Envoy is a good choice among mid-size sport-utilities. GMC's brilliant inline six-cylinder engine gives up nothing to the Ford Explorer. Envoy is well-engineered and enjoyable to drive, stable and responsive and its brakes are very good.

The Envoy XL and XUV are ponderous by comparison, lacking the handling and responsiveness of the standard Envoy. The innovative Envoy XUV is an interesting solution for someone who needs to haul messy cargo yet needs comfortable, five-passenger seating.

New Car Test Drive editor Mitch McCullough is based in Los Angeles.

Model as tested
GMC Envoy SLE 4WD ($32,000)
Basic Warranty
3 years/36,000 miles
Assembled in
Moraine, Ohio; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Destination charge
Gas guzzler tax
Base Price
Price as tested
Options as tested
SLE Enhanced Package ($970) includes overhead console with Homelink universal transmitter, 8-way power driver's seat with power lumbar, illuminated vanity visor mirrors, compass in rearview mirror; XM Satellite Radio ($325)

Model Line Overview
Model lineup
GMC Envoy SLE 2WD ($29,750); SLE 4WD ($32,000); SLT 2WD ($33,885); SLT 4WD ($36,136); Denali 2WD; Denali 4WD; Envoy XL SLE 2WD ($31,420); XL SLE 4WD ($33,670); XL SLT 2WD ($35,535); XL SLT 4WD ($37,785); XL Denali 2WD; XL Denali 4WD; Envoy XUV SLE 2WD ($31,505) XUV SLE 4WD ($33,755); XUV SLT 2WD ($35,590); XUV SLT 4WD ($37,840)
Safety equipment (standard)
dual-stage front airbags, ABS
Safety equipment (optional)
4.2-liter sohc 24-valve inline-6
four-speed automatic

Specifications as Tested
dual-zone manual heating and air conditioning, AM/FM/CD stereo, cigar lighter and four accessory power outlets, front manual-reclining bucket seats with lumbar support, folding 60/40 split second-row seat, remote keyless entry, power windows, power locks, electric rear window defogger, interior lighting package, floor console with storage and cup holders, deep tint rear glass, trailer hitch and wiring harness

Engine & Transmission
4.2-liter sohc 24-valve inline-6
Drivetrain type
four-wheel drive
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)
275 @ 6000
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy
Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm)

Brakes, front/rear
ventilated disc/ventilated disc with ABS
Suspension, front
independent, upper and lower A-arms, coil springs, anti-roll bar
Suspension, rear
live axle, upper and lower trailing links, track link, coil springs with supplementary air springs, anti-roll bar

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

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