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2006 GMC Envoy XL review

February 16, 2006 07:56 PM EST | GMC , SUV's | Email to Friend | Comments (0)

View large imageIf true seven-passenger capacity and serious cargo space are your top priorities in shopping for a midsize SUV, the Envoy XL has the competition beat. Just make sure you test-drive the well-rounded Ford Explorer and Dodge Durango before making a decision.

Pros
Strong six- or eight-cylinder power, clean interior design, plenty of passenger and cargo room.

Cons
Sloppy handling around corners, numb steering, cheap interior materials.

What's New for 2006
Changes to the 2006 GMC Envoy XL 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 for every trim level.

Introduction:
As the evolution of the SUV persists, customers continue to demand even more utility from their family haulers. One of the biggest draws is a third-row seat, as it allows you to accommodate an extra two or even three additional passengers in back. Most manufacturers have accomplished this by merely jamming an extra bench seat in their standard midsize offerings, but not General Motors.

To provide what it considered true seven-passenger capacity, GMC took its standard Envoy sport-ute and stretched it 16 inches to create the Envoy XL (Chevrolet gave the same treatment to the TrailBlazer, yielding an EXT model). This extended-length version offers third-row seating. Fold the second- and third-row seats flat, and the Envoy XL really shows its advantage, offering up to 107 cubic feet of cargo space.

The rest of the truck is similar to the standard Envoy. Two engines are available: a 4.2-liter inline six or, on the Denali trim, a 5.3-liter V8 engine. Both deliver strong acceleration, though the V8 offers plenty more torque for towing and hauling jobs. The XL also has the same suspension design that provides a smooth ride. We have found, however, that this setup gets a bit too cushy when cornering -- resulting in sloppy handling.

The Envoy XL certainly one-ups the competition when it comes to seven-passenger comfort and overall cargo capacity. Combined with the powerful V8 engine, it definitely makes a case for itself in this hard-fought segment. Our main reservation about recommending it has to do with the questionable suspension tuning and some of the low-grade materials used in the cabin. If you're thinking about buying an Envoy XL, make sure that you also try the Dodge Durango, Ford Explorer, Honda Pilot and Toyota 4Runner before making your decision.

Body Styles, Trim Levels and Options:
The four-door, seven-passenger Envoy XL comes in three well-appointed trim levels: SLE, SLT and Denali. SLE versions come with a deluxe cloth interior, dual-zone manual climate control and a six-speaker AM/FM stereo with CD player. SLT models are loaded with a driver information center, automatic climate control, leather seating and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with auxiliary radio and climate controls. The Denali adds unique trim inside and out, as well as 18-inch alloys, power-adjustable pedals, heated seats and a Bose audio system. Other popular Envoy XL options include a rear-seat DVD entertainment system, a DVD-based navigation system, upgraded audio systems and satellite radio.

Powertrains and Performance:
SLE and SLT Envoy XLs 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 four-speed automatic transmission that delivers firm, precise shifts. Properly equipped, the six-cylinder Envoy XL can tow 6,000 pounds. The Envoy XL 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 6,200 pounds. Both two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive are available on all trims.

Safety:
The Envoy XL comes standard with four-wheel antilock disc brakes and stability control. Head curtain airbags are optional on all models. Though the Envoy XL has not been tested by the NHTSA, the standard-wheelbase Envoy earned a five-star rating (the best possible) for its protection of front and rear passengers in the side-impact test when equipped with the optional airbags. Frontal-impact tests resulted in a three-star rating for driver and four stars for front-passenger protection. The IIHS rated the regular Envoy "Marginal" (second lowest) after conducting its frontal offset crash test.

Interior Design and Special Features:
Inside, the Envoy XL's spacious cabin offers room for seven passengers. Brushed nickel accents grace the console and instrument panel, and wood accents add a touch of class to the uplevel Denali trim, but the low-grade plastics used on the dash and door panels are still noticeable. Cargo capacity is tops among midsize SUVs. There is 23 cubic feet of space behind the third-row seats, and with both the second- and third-row seats folded, there is a maximum of 107 cubic feet.

Driving Impressions:
The standard 4.2-liter six is impressive enough on its own, so there's no going wrong with either of the XL's engine options. Unfortunately, the suspension isn't quite so competent, as it tends to feel overly soft when cornering and rough in off-road situations. Less enthusiastic driving generates a smooth, comfortable ride, so it's not all bad, but overall, we consider the Ford Explorer's driving dynamics superior in most respects.

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