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After its debut as General Motors' high-end compact SUV last year, the GMC Envoy gets equipment upgrades for '99. A new mini-module for the driver airbag allows for steering wheel radio controls, and the turn signal stalk now incorporates a flash-to-pass headlamp feature. Heated, eight-way power front seating is improved, thanks to available two-position memory for the driver and power recliners. A liftgate ajar telltale resides in the instrument cluster, and the outside rearview mirrors have been redesigned, featuring electrochromic dimming and power-folding capability. GM's advanced AutoTrac active transfer case is now standard, while a new shift lever-mounted button selects a tow/haul mode to optimize transmission shift points. There are three new metallic exterior paint colors: Topaz Gold, Meadow Green and Indigo Blue.
GMC has been positioning itself as the premium truck division for three years running, so it should be no surprise that last year GMC dolled-up a four-door, four-wheel drive Jimmy and packed it full of fancy touches, calling it the Envoy. This year, GMC's upscale compact sport-utility vehicle adds minor feature enhancements to its already staggering list of standard equipment.
Motivated by the same 190-horse Vortec 4.3-liter V6 and four-speed automatic transmission that's found in the Jimmy, the Envoy disguises its rugged underpinnings with full-wrap body cladding, molded wheel flares and a monochrome paint scheme. Envoy also has a unique body-colored front bumper/fascia with upper and lower grilles, chrome accents, round fog lamps and integrated tow hooks. Out back there's a step bumper with integrated trailer hitch, as well as a rear spoiler whose rearward edge incorporates a neon Center High Mounted Stop Lamp (CHMSL), although rear-end styling is hardly distinctive enough to tell it apart from any other GM compact sport-utility.
Envoy features High-Intensity Discharge (HID) headlamps. These lamps emit a true-white light that is brighter, lasts longer and uses less electricity than halogen bulbs. They offer more than two-and-a-half times the light emitted by halogen bulbs and provide a longer, wider beam. Other standard equipment on the Envoy includes Next Generation driver and passenger airbags, the PassLock theft deterrent system, keyless remote entry, electronic climate control, retained accessory power, self-dimming outside heated mirrors and tinted glass behind the B-pillars. There's even a built-in air compressor as part of the standard Premium Luxury Ride suspension package that includes an automatic load-leveling system.
Inside you'll find a variety of luxury touches, including Zebrano wood trim and heated Nuance leather power seating with the "Envoy'' badge stitched into the headrests. Designers sought a cockpit theme by putting the gauges on a semicircular cluster and angling the instrument panel 15 degrees toward the driver. The center console can hold a cell phone, while the overhead unit includes a three-button HomeLink transmitter. The standard sound system is none other than GM's Premium Bose unit, with CD player and high-tech Bose Nd speakers for deep bass tones.
For '99, Envoy's four-wheel drive system now employs GM's new AutoTrac two-speed active transfer case, which allows for automatic shifting from all-wheel drive to four-wheel drive when road conditions warrant. (It also allows the Envoy to be towed behind, say, a motor home, without having to disconnect the propshaft.) Plus, there's a new Tow/Haul button on the transmission shift lever that adjusts the shift points in the electronically controlled automatic when the vehicle is heavily loaded or towing a trailer.
GMC packs tons of standard equipment on this sport-ute (among the rare options are a power sunroof and GM's dealer-installed OnStar mobile communications system) and wraps it with a cleanly upscale look. Priced competitively in this segment, the Envoy is one to look at if you are thinking along the lines of a Ford Explorer Limited, or perhaps the Infiniti QX4.
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