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2006 GMC Envoy reviews

September 24, 2005 06:37 PM EST | GMC , SUV's | Email to Friend

View large imageA decent effort from GMC, but it still falls short of more well-rounded midsize SUVs like the Ford Explorer and Toyota 4Runner.

Pros
Extensive options list, strong six-cylinder engine, available V8 power, user-friendly interior design.

Cons
Numb steering, low-grade interior materials, sloppy handling around corners.

What's New for 2006
Changes to the 2006 GMC Envoy include new 18-inch alloy wheels for the Denali trim and the addition of stability control, OnStar and cruise control to the standard equipment list of all Envoys.

Introduction:
A corporate twin of the Chevrolet TrailBlazer, the Envoy nameplate dates back to 1998 when GMC introduced a gussied-up version of its standard Jimmy sport-ute to appeal to buyers looking for an upscale ride. Even with a strong V6 and options aplenty, however, the first Envoy was totally outclassed by its competition.

The Jimmy name was dropped in 2002, and the Envoy received an extensive redesign. It now comes to the table with specifications and features that allow it to compete more favorably against its arch rival, the Ford Explorer. A longer and wider body gives the Envoy a substantial look, while providing considerably more room for passengers and cargo inside.

The current Envoy represents a vast improvement over its predecessor, but ultimately, it doesn't measure up to competitors. While its handsome exterior and roomy interior may attract consumers, GMC needs to come up with a better compromise between cushy ride quality and confident handling; specifically, it should lose some of the former to gain some of the latter. The company also needs to take a look at the materials used inside the cabin -- too many of them are of dubious quality for a vehicle in this price range. The midsize SUV class is populated with extremely capable vehicles, and unfortunately, the Envoy has yet to prove that it's got what it takes to overtake the segment leaders.

Body Styles, Trim Levels and Options:
The four-door Envoy seats five and comes in three trim levels: SLE, SLT and Denali. SLE versions come with a cloth interior; dual-zone manual air conditioning; a CD player; power windows, mirrors and locks; keyless entry; and 17-inch wheels. SLT models are loaded with just about every feature available including a driver information center, automatic climate control, leather seating and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with radio and climate controls, just to name a few. The Denali adds unique trim inside and out, as well as 18-inch alloy wheels, power-adjustable pedals, heated seats and a Bose audio system. The Envoy also offers a rear-seat DVD entertainment system, a DVD-based navigation system, upgraded audio systems and satellite radio as options.

Powertrains and Performance:
SLE and SLT Envoys are powered by a 4.2-liter, inline six-cylinder engine. Rated at 291 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque, this engine outpowers most of its competitors' V8s, let alone their V6 offerings. It's connected to a well-designed four-speed automatic transmission that delivers firm, precise shifts. Both two-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive models are available. Properly equipped, the six-cylinder Envoy can tow 6,300 pounds. The Denali ups the ante with a 5.3-liter V8 that pumps out 300 hp and 330 lb-ft of torque, and it can tow up to 6,600 pounds.

Safety:
Four-wheel antilock disc brakes and stability control are standard on all Envoys, while full-length head curtain airbags are optional. There are three-point seatbelts at all five seating locations. When equipped with the optional airbags, the Envoy earned five stars (the best possible) for its protection of front and rear passengers in NHTSA's side-impact test. Frontal-impact tests resulted in a three-star rating for driver and four stars for front-passenger protection. The IIHS rated the vehicle "Marginal" (second lowest) after conducting its frontal offset crash test.

Interior Design and Special Features:
Inside, the Envoy's cabin offers plenty of room for five adult passengers. Brushed nickel accents grace the console and instrument panel, and wood accents add a touch of class to the uplevel Denali trim. Materials quality has improved over the years, but unfortunately, cheap plastic still dominates the dashboard and door panels. The 60/40-split rear seats fold for cargo-loading flexibility; with the seats folded, the Envoy has a maximum cargo-carrying capacity of 80 cubic feet.

Driving Impressions:
Out on the road, the Envoy delivers a well-cushioned ride that most shoppers will like. Unfortunately, the steering offers little in the way of road feel, and handling is sloppy around corners. Off-road, the Envoy is capable of tackling the typical obstacles one encounters while trying to access trailheads and campsites. Ultimately, the most enjoyable aspect of this utility vehicle is its brawny engine choices.

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