What's New for 2002
Debuting as a midyear addition to the Envoy lineup, the Envoy XL is an extended-wheelbase seven-passenger version of the standard Envoy.
As the evolution of the SUV continues, customers continue to demand ever more utility from their family-haulers. The newest draw in the marketplace is a third-row seat. With one of these, an SUV can accommodate 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 GMC.
To provide what it considered true seven-passenger capacity, GMC took its standard Envoy sport-ute and stretched it a full 16 inches to create the Envoy XL. This extended-length version offers third-row seating that, according to GMC, can comfortably accommodate two 6-foot-2-inch 190-pound adult males. Fold the third-row seat flat, and the Envoy really shows its advantage, offering more than 100 cubic feet of cargo space -- that's almost 20 cubic feet more than a seven-passenger Explorer.
Other than the Envoy XL's extended length and additional seating, it remains identical to the standard Envoy. That means serious horsepower from the 4.2-liter inline six engine and an advanced hydroformed frame structure that sets new standards for stiffness in the midsize class of SUVs. Rated at 270 horsepower and 275 pound-feet of torque, this new engine out-powers most of its competitors' V8s, let alone their V6 offerings. Achieving its peak torque output at a low 1,600 rpm gives the straight six a wide powerband that delivers plenty of passing and merging power at just about any speed. The suspension uses dual A-arms and coilover shocks up front and a five-link coil spring system in the rear to give the Envoy XL a smooth ride, although we find it a bit too soft in the corners. An electronically controlled air spring suspension is optional in the rear, providing load-leveling capabilities and an even more isolated ride.
The Envoy XL comes in two well-appointed trim levels: SLE and SLT. Base SLE versions come with a deluxe cloth interior, dual-zone climate control, the OnStar communications system, dual front and side airbags and a six-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo. 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 satellite radio and climate controls, just to name a few. The Envoy also offers a rear-seat DVD entertainment system as an option.
The new Envoy XL certainly one-ups the competition when it comes to seven-passenger comfort and overall cargo capacity. Combined with the powerful new engine, it makes quite a case for itself in this hard-fought segment. Although the reworked suspension delivers a soft, comfortable ride, it still has a little work to do before it can match the road feel of the Explorer's fully independent setup. In most other areas, however, it matches up favorably.