What's New for 2003
For 2003, Envoy buyers are able to order certain options individually, rather than as part of an equipment package, adding potential savings and increased flexibility. The sport-ute's already powerful Vortec 4.2-liter inline six also gets a slight bump in horsepower, up from 270 to 275, and Envoys now boast a new four-position headlamp switch that permits drivers to turn off the vehicle's daytime running lamps and automatic headlamps when necessary. Additionally, the Envoy gets a larger fuel tank that holds 22 gallons. Previously standard side airbags are now optional, while autodimming side mirrors and the rear seat overhead compartment have been deleted.
Introduction: GMC's previous-generation Envoy was merely a gussied-up version of the standard Jimmy. Even with its strong V6 and options aplenty, it was totally outclassed by its competition.
The Jimmy name was dropped in 2002, and the Envoy became GMC's only midsize sport-ute. That year also saw the Envoy receiving an extensive redesign. It now comes to the table with specifications and features that allow it to compete more favorably against its archrival, the Ford Explorer (also fully redesigned in 2002).
A longer and wider body gives the Envoy a substantial look, in addition to providing considerably more room inside. Its frame structure utilizes advanced hydroforming technology that achieves stiffness levels typically associated only with high-end sedans.
The 2003 Envoy represents a vast improvement over the previous-generation model, but ultimately, it doesn't measure up to competitors such as the Nissan Pathfinder or the Ford Explorer. While its handsome exterior and roomy interior may attract consumers, GM 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 midsize SUV class is populated with highly talented vehicles; unfortunately, the Envoy has yet to prove that it's got what it takes to overtake the segment leaders. The Envoy's questionable handling characteristics, unascertained reliability and low frontal-offset crash test scores prevent us from recommending this truck.
Body Styles, Trim Levels and Options: The Envoy comes in two trim levels: SLE and SLT. Base SLE versions come with a cloth interior; power locks, windows and mirrors; the OnStar communications system; keyless entry; 17-inch wheels; and a power driver seat. 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, an air suspension, upgraded audio systems and heated front seats as options. Powertrains and Performance: Under the hood, the 2003 Envoy gets a 4.2-liter 24-valve dual-overhead-cam inline six-cylinder engine. Rated at 275 horsepower and 275 pound-feet of torque, this new engine out-powers most of its competitors' V8s, let alone their V6 offerings. It's connected to a well-behaved four-speed automatic transmission. Two-wheel- or four-wheel-drive models are available. Properly equipped, the Envoy can tow 6,400 pounds.
Safety: The Envoy features dual-stage front airbags and front side airbags as standard equipment. ABS, along with four-wheel disc brakes, are also standard. Three-point seatbelts are at all five seating locations. The Envoy has fared well in the NHTSA side-impact crash tests, scoring five stars (the best possible) for both front and rear passengers. Frontal-impact NHTSA scores have yet to be issued, though the IIHS rated the vehicle "marginal" in frontal offset crashes. The Envoy achieved three out of a possible five stars in tests done to ascertain rollover resistance, a score that is similar to other vehicles' in this class.
Interior Design and Special Features: Inside, the Envoy's enlarged 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 SLT trim. Material quality has been improved, but unfortunately, cheap plastic still dominates the dashboard and door panels. Split rear seats fold for cargo-loading flexibility; with the seat folded, the Envoy is capable of containing 80 cubic feet.
Driving Impressions: The suspension -- A-arms and coilover shocks up front and a five-link coil spring system in the rear -- gives the Envoy an amply cushioned ride, although we find it to be overly soft during cornering. An electronically controlled air spring suspension is optional in the rear, providing load-leveling capabilities. Offroad, the Envoy should be able to tackle the typical obstacles one encounters while trying to access trailheads and campsites. The most enjoyable aspect of the Envoy is its brawny inline six. Belching 275 horsepower and 275 pound-feet of torque, it makes for easy passing and acceleration.