Many people no longer are content to buy just a sport/utility vehicle. They want upscale, equipment-loaded ones such as the 1998 GMC Envoy
But it's getting tougher to tell the players without a scorecard in the sport/utility market.
For instance, the compact $34,135 Envoy
is a high-line version of the compact GMC
Jimmy, which is similar to the Chevrolet Blazer.
It helps to remember that General Motors is cutting costs by having its divisions share more vehicle platforms. And vehicles such as the Envoy
are helping further distance GMC
Heaven knows what will happen to GM's stragegy when Cadillac unveils its upcoming GMC
-based sport/ute. But here's what I found after testing an Envoy
Uptown items that distinguish an Envoy
from a Jimmy include a two-tone leather interior with Zebrano wood trim, ``Luxury Ride'' suspension, high-intensity headlights, load-leveling suspension and body-color ouside door handles, mirrors, cladding and fender flares. The Envoy
is packed with power accessories, heated front seats with a power driver's seat, remote keyless entry and AM/FM/cassette. Sole options are a power sunroof and GM's OnStar system.
The air-conditioned interior is a step above that of the Jimmy, but contains a lot of average-looking plastic. Being a dressed-up Jimmy four-door model, the Envoy
gets 1998 Jimmy improvements, which include a revised instrument panel, restyled front end and standard anti-lock disc brakes.
has a four-wheel-drive system that can be engaged on the fly via a dashboard button, but it isn't for use on dry pavement; if a driver suddenly encounters a slippery patch of road, there may be no time to engage the system to avoid a spin. Rivals from Ford, Dodge and Jeep have a full-time four-wheel-drive system that can be used on dry pavement.
Despite the ``Luxury Ride'' suspension, the Envoy
has a firm ride that elicits a few rattles and definitely lets you know you're in a truck. But handling is good and the power steering is quick, although slightly vague. The brake pedal has a stiff, artificial feel--but stopping distances are decent.
Powering the Envoy
is a 4.3-liter, 190-horsepower pushrod V-6, which delivers good acceleration and easy highway cruising. It works with a responsive four-speed automatic, but fuel economy is mediocre: an estimated 16 m.p.g. in the city and 20 on highways.
Five tall adults comfortably fit in the quiet interior. The step-in height is low, but rear doorways are narrow. There's a space-robbing bulge on the right-front floor, and the comfortable front seats should have more side support. Dashboard controls are well-located, and the fairly big, flat cargo area can be enlarged by flipping the rear seatbacks forward. And the back windows roll all the way down.