Full 2008 GMC Envoy Review
What's New for 2008
The 2008 GMC Envoy gains satellite radio and head curtain airbags as standard equipment.
With crossover SUVs becoming increasingly popular, it might be easy to forget that SUVs started out based on pickup trucks. While crossovers hold an attractive edge in terms of ride and handling dynamics, and usually better fuel efficiency and interior space, traditional truck-based utes still offer tougher off-road capability and greater towing capacity. For those who prefer this old-school approach to SUV design, GMC offers the 2008 Envoy.
An upscale twin to sister division Chevrolet's TrailBlazer midsize SUV, the Envoy takes a trip uptown with fancier styling, a more luxurious cabin and a longer standard features list. Traditional SUV design means the Envoy offers a choice of rear- or four-wheel drive, with the latter having low-range gearing. A pair of capable engines is offered -- an inline-6 and a V8 -- and either one can handle towing a trailer or a boat.
Although the Envoy's modern features (such as a navigation system, DVD entertainment system and stability control) will attract its share of consumers, there's no denying the fact that this generation (now in its seventh year) is past its expiration date. On the upside, it has respectable performance, a supple ride and a roomy cabin. But examined more closely, the 2008 GMC Envoy can't match its rivals in terms of driving dynamics and interior quality. The Envoy's steering is devoid of road feel, and handling is mushy when pressed.
We've never thought very highly of the Envoy and its GM relatives, and that opinion certainly hasn't changed for 2008. If you still want a traditional midsize SUV for its towing and off-road ability, well-rounded choices such as the Ford Explorer/Mercury Mountaineer twins and the Toyota 4Runner will prove to be more satisfying to own. And if you don't expect to fully utilize the Envoy's truck-based strengths, GMC's own Acadia crossover is a much better choice thanks to its higher-quality (and larger) interior, third-row seating and better fuel economy.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2008 GMC Envoy is a midsize SUV that's offered in three trim levels: SLE, SLT and Denali. The SLE features 17-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone air-conditioning, a CD player, satellite radio, full power accessories, keyless entry and OnStar telematics. The plush SLT adds a power driver seat with memory, a trip computer, automatic climate control, leather seating and steering-wheel-mounted audio controls. The Denali adds a unique honeycomb grille, 18-inch alloy wheels, a load-leveling rear suspension, power-adjustable pedals, heated seats, a power passenger seat and a Bose audio system.
A variety of options packages are available on the SLE, such as the SLE-2 package that includes an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a power driver seat, a roof rack, an overhead console and power-folding heated side mirrors. Many of the SLT's and Denali's standard features are optional on the SLE. Optional for all are a rear-seat DVD entertainment system and the sunroof. Only the SLT and Denali, however, offer a navigation system.
Powertrains and Performance
SLE and SLT trims are powered by a 4.2-liter inline-6. With an output of 291 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque, this engine outguns most of its competitors' V8s, let alone their V6 offerings. The Denali packs a 5.3-liter V8 that pumps out 302 hp and 330 lb-ft of torque. Although the transmission is just a four-speed unit, it's matched perfectly to these burly engines and delivers firm, precise gearchanges.
All Envoy trims offer buyers a choice of either two- or four-wheel drive. Properly equipped, the six-cylinder Envoy can tow up to 5,800 pounds, while the V8 can tow up to 6,600 pounds. Fuel economy estimates for the two-wheel-drive Envoys are 14 mpg city and 20 mpg highway. The six and the V8 are rated the same, thanks to the V8's cylinder deactivation technology that shuts down four cylinders under light load conditions (such as freeway cruising).
Antilock disc brakes, stability control and head curtain airbags are standard across the board. In National Highway Traffic Safety Administration crash tests, the 2008 GMC Envoy earned five stars (the best possible) for its protection of front and rear passengers in the side-impact test. That agency's frontal-impact tests resulted in a subpar three-star rating for the driver and a four-star rating for the front passenger. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rated GMC's midsize SUV "Marginal" (second lowest) after conducting its frontal offset crash test.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Envoy's spacious cabin easily accommodates five adults, but there is no third-seat option. Brushed metallic and, on the Denali, wood-tone accents dress up the interior. But that luxurious effect is sullied somewhat by the use of low-grade plastics on the dash and door panels. The rear seat is split 60/40 and folds for cargo-loading flexibility. With those seats folded, the Envoy has a maximum cargo capacity of 80 cubic feet.
On the road, the 2008 GMC Envoy delivers a well-cushioned ride that most shoppers will like. Unfortunately, the steering offers little in the way of road feel, and handling is sloppy around corners due to the overly soft suspension. Off-road, the Envoy is capable of tackling the moderate terrain owners are likely to encounter while accessing trailheads and campsites. Ultimately, the most enjoyable aspect of the Envoy is its peppy performance that comes by way of its brawny engine lineup.