2004 GMC Envoy XUV Reviews and Ratings

Utility 4D SLE 2WD

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2004 GMC Envoy XUV
Mitch McCullough

The GMC Envoy line of mid-size SUVs has been expanded for 2004. The new XUV is brimming with innovation and clever engineering that answers the call for someone who wants both the utility of a pickup truck and the luxurious accommodations of a passenger car.

The Envoy line continues to come in two sizes, regular and extra-long. The standard GMC 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 the optional V8 engine. The Envoy carries five people in comfort with two rows of seats.

The Envoy XL is 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. The XL is actually longer than the Yukon, can carry seven passengers, and offers an optional V8 engine. Its third row adds versatility. But the Envoy XL is narrower and not as stable as the full-size Yukon. And because it's longer and heavier, the Envoy XL lacks the handling response and stability of the standard Envoy.

For 2004, GMC has introduced the innovative Envoy XUV. The XUV seats five and features an all-weather cargo area that can 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 cargo space? Lowering the window, Midgate and rear seats reveals a pickup-like bed suitable for hauling 4x8-foot sheets of plywood. Its dual-function tailgate can be dropped like that of a pickup or swung open like a door. But wait, there's more: 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. The Envoy XUV shares the longer wheelbase and optional V8 engine of the XL.

GMC Envoy shares its chassis and engine with the Chevrolet TrailBlazer and Buick Rainier. Each of the three boasts unique styling, however, and there are feature differences. Envoy has conservative, upmarket styling, yet has a masculine look that says it's ready to tackle the tough jobs. It offers more features than the Chevy, but the standard Envoy doesn't offer the Rainier's optional V8. And the XUV version is a GMC exclusive.

GMC has added some new options for all 2004 Envoys, including power-adjustable pedals and several new audio systems. Model Lineup
As mentioned, the GMC Envoy is available in three primary variants: Envoy, Envoy XL, and Envoy XUT. All three variations are offered in SLE or SLT trim. End each is available with a choice of two-wheel drive (2WD) or four-wheel drive (4WD). All Envoys come standard with the highly regarded six-cylinder Vortec 4200 engine, which was all-new for 2002. A 5.3-liter overhead-valve V8 is available ($1500) for Envoy XL and Envoy XUV. All models come with automatic transmissions.

Retail prices range from $29,120 for the Envoy 2WD SLE to $38,065 for the XUV SLT with 4WD. Four-wheel-drive models are priced about $2,225 above their two-wheel-drive counterparts.

SLE trim levels come standard with manually controlled dual-zone air conditioning, CD stereo, anti-lock brakes (ABS), power windows and locks, keyless entry, 17-inch aluminum wheels and fog lights.

SLT trim adds leather upholstery, automatic climate control, a driver information center, audio controls on the steering wheel, separate rear-seat audio controls, power seats with memory, light-sensitive outside mirrors with turn signals, an electric rear defogger, OnStar telecommunications, and other features.

Major options (and there are a lot of them) include side-impact airbags ($350), power-adjustable pedals ($150), tilt-and-slide sunroof ($800), automatic load-leveling rear suspension ($375), DVD entertainment ($1,295), and XM satellite radio ($325). Electronic navigation ($1,845-$1,995) and a Bose premium sound system ($495) are available for SLT models. The 2WD models can be ordered with a locking rear differential ($270) and traction control ($175). Walkaround
The GMC Envoy models are considered to be mid-size SUVs, about the same size as a Ford Explorer. Envoy is smaller than a GMC Yukon, but much bigger than the car-based compact SUVs.

As mentioned, the GMC 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, and it's nearly 9 inches longer yet more than 4 inches narrower than the standard GMC Yukon. One way to distinguish an Envoy XL from the standard Envoy is to look at the rear doors. Envoy's rear doors are interrupted by the rear fenders. Envoy XL, with its length stretched amidships, has enough space for full-size rear doors.

The Envoy XUV is about an inch longer than Envoy XL, and an inch and a half 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. Visually, the XL and XUV look too long in the back end with respect to the front proportions.

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.

As mentioned, the Envoy shares its platform with the Chevrolet TrailBlazer and Buick Rainier, but the Envoy's styling looks more sophisticated to our eyes than that of the other mid-size SUVs from General Motors. Envoy has a wide-mouth black grille with a big ruby-red logo that 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 Envoy's 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. Interior
The GMC Envoy and Envoy XUV seat five passengers. Envoy XL seats seven. Let's start with the second row and work our way back.

No matter the model, the GMC Envoy offers more room for second-row passengers than the Ford Explorer. (The standard Envoy offers 37.0 inches of legroom and 58.1 inches of hip room, versus the Explorer's 35.9 and 54.2, respectively; Envoy XL provides 37.0 and 58.4.)

The Envoy XL offers lots of cargo space, but third-row seating 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 a 114-inch wheelbase, the Envoy XL uses a 129-inch wheelbase. However, 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 39.0, 45.3, and 34.8 inches, respectively, versus the Envoy XL's 38.5, 45.9, and 31.2.) And the XL's long cabin led some adults we put back there to say they felt like they were looking down a tunnel.

Cargo space in the Yukon XL is generous, however. Fold the second- and third-row seats and Envoy XL offers 107 cubic feet of cargo space, more than the standard Envoy (80) or Explorer (82), or even the Yukon (105). 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 plans to market a line of accessories to further enhance the XUV's cargo-carrying capabilities. And if things get messy back there, it's easy to flush it out with a hose; GM says the system of one-way drains will channel out 35 gallons per minute.

Touch a button, and a 32-by-32-inch panel above the cargo bay slides forward, open 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. (You can also 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 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 luggage, 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 some space; when it's buttoned up against the weather, 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 hauling a small army's camp gear, the XL may be the better choice. But clearly the XUV is the better choice for hauling messy stuff, like dirt, plants, a couple of cords of wood. The Envoy 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. We would choose an Envoy over a TrailBlazer for the seats alone. Envoy SLT's leather was way plush, while Envoy SLE's cloth was grippier. On the SLT, the driver's bucket is eight-way power adjustable, with two-way lumbar support and optional heat. The shoulder belts are fixed to the seat backs, and one tester said he'd have preferred adjustable 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. 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.

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 cupholders forward of the gear lever. 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 and a power outlet. Rear-seat headrests conveniently flip down to give the driver a better view to the rear. The rearview mirror is electrochromic, so it automatically dims when it senses bright lights; unfortunately you can't turn this function off.

SLT's overhead console includes a sunglasses holder 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.

Audio systems have been redesigned for 2004. We found that the optional Bose system ($495) with six-disc in-dash CD player ($245-395) 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 communications system, is standard on the SLT and optional ($695) on SLE. It includes GPS navigation, hands-free cell phone communication (including a free first year of safety and security service) automatic crash and theft reporting, as well as remote unlocking and other services. Driving Impressions
The GMC Envoy comes standard with a 4.2-liter six-cylinder engine. Smooth and powerful, it's the perfect companion for the standard Envoy. The heavier XL and XUV models really need the optional V8, though.

The standard 4.2-liter inline-6 uses dual overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder, and variable phasing for the exhaust cam to produce 275 horsepower and 275 pounds-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 4200'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. It's rated 16/22 mpg city/highway with 2WD. It's an excellent engine. With the engine's broad and bountiful torque, the transmission does much less downshifting. And when the full-throttle upshift comes at about 6000 rpm the engine is 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 the strong 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 at 6100 pounds with 4WD, and 6300 pounds with 2WD.

The V8, an option for the XL and XUV, develops 290 horsepower and 325 pounds-feet of torque, which tops the Explorer. Equipped with the V8, a 2WD Envoy XL can tow 7100 pounds (6700 pounds with 4WD). All Envoys come with a trailer hitch platform and seven-wire trailer harness.

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 roll (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-road driving.

The optional load-leveling air suspension ($375) 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 ($200). Our test model had the skid plates, of course, which we also 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 tried out the Auto4WD 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 stable handling of the standard-length Envoy. The Envoy XL is long and narrow and it feels like it. Envoy XL's wheelbase is stretched dramatically, by 16 inches. Its suspension is soft. It wallows in corners. On exit ramps, when braking and turning at the same time, the Envoy XL does not feel as stable as an Envoy or Yukon. On the highway, the XL wanders around in its lane. Stability is also affected by strong crosswinds at high speeds. And even equipped with the optional V8 engine, Envoy XL feels distinctly underpowered. It weighs almost 350 pounds more than the standard Envoy. The XUV drives very similarly to the XL; the rear skyroof in our test vehicle sometimes rattled when driving over railroad tracks. Summary
The GMC Envoy is an excellent choice among mid-size sport-utilities. GMC's brilliant inline six-cylinder engine gives up nothing to the Ford Explorer's available V8. Envoy is well-engineered and enjoyable to drive, stable and responsive and the brakes are very good.

The Envoy XL and XUV is ponderous, however, lacking the good handling stability and responsiveness of the standard Envoy. If you need third-row seating, we think a minivan, such as the upcoming Pontiac Montana SV6, or a larger SUV, such as the Yukon, would make better choices than the Envoy XL.

Having said that, the Envoy XUV offers some really trick features that increase its cargo-hauling versatility. It's a brilliant solution for someone who needs to haul messy cargo yet needs comfortable, five-passenger seating.

Model as tested
GMC Envoy SLE 4WD ($31,370)
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 ($1300) includes overhead custom console with HomeLink universal transmitter, electric rear window defogger, electrochromic rearview mirror, power heated exterior mirrors, OnStar with one-year Safe & Sound service, 8-way power driver's seat with power lumbar, illuminated vanity visor mirrors, luggage rack cross bars; Skid Plate Package ($200); power passenger seat ($275); power sunroof ($800); rear load-leveling suspension ($375); retractable cargo shade ($70)

Model Line Overview
Model lineup
GMC Envoy SLE 2WD ($29,120); SLE 4WD ($31,370); SLT 2WD ($33,970); SLT 4WD ($36,220); Envoy XL SLE 2WD ($31,220); XL SLE 4WD ($33,470); XL SLT 2WD ($35,770); XL SLT 4WD ($38,020); Envoy XUV SLE 2WD ($31,240) XUV SLE 4WD ($33,465); XUV SLT 2WD ($35,840); XUV SLT 4WD ($38,065)
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, interior lighting package, floor console with storage and cupholders, 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
191.6/74.7/71.9 (without luggage rack)
Turning circle
Towing capacity
Track, front/rear
Ground clearance
Curb weight

J.D. Power Rating
Overall Quality Not Available
Overall Quality - Mechanical
Not Available
Powertrain Quality - Mechanical
Not Available
Body & Interior Quality - Mechanical
Not Available
Features & Accessories Quality - Mechanical
Not Available
Overall Quality - Design
Not Available
Powertrain Quality - Design
Not Available
Body & Interior Quality - Design
Not Available
Features & Accessories Quality - Design
Not Available

Overall Dependability Not Available
Powertrain Dependability
Not Available
Body & Interior Dependability
Not Available
Feature & Accessory Dependability
Not Available

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J.D. Power Rating Legend
Among the Best
5 / 5
Better than Most
4 / 5
About Average
3 / 5
The Rest
2 / 5

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