Full 2009 GMC Envoy Review
What's New for 2009
With the exception of new wheels and the adoption of Bluetooth connectivity, the GMC Envoy is essentially unchanged for 2009.
With so many stylish and luxurious crossover SUVs now populating showrooms, it's hard to believe that the original SUVs were rather bland vehicles based on pickup trucks. The reason for the crossovers' success is that they are generally superior to old-school utes in the areas that matter most to consumers: cabin space, fuel efficiency and ride and handling dynamics. There are still truck-based SUVs available, however, that offer greater off-road capability and higher towing capacities. For those who need such a work horse, GMC offers the 2009 Envoy.
As an upscale twin to sister division Chevrolet's TrailBlazer midsize SUV, the Envoy offers fancier styling, a more luxurious cabin and more standard features. And being a traditional SUV, the Envoy offers low-range gearing in its four-wheel-drive version. It also means a choice of burly engines and stout body-on-frame construction that allows a generous towing capacity.
On one hand, the 2009 GMC Envoy is modern in the sense that it offers desirable high-tech features such as a navigation system, a DVD entertainment system and stability control. But on the other, there's no getting around the fact that this platform (now in its eighth year) is about as dated (and refined) as grunge rock.
We'll acknowledge that the Envoy has respectable performance, a supple ride and a roomy cabin, but a closer look reveals that it falls short of its rivals when it comes to driving dynamics and interior quality. Furthermore, the Envoy's steering lacks road feel, and its handling is sloppy when pressed. As such, if you need a traditional midsize SUV, there are more well-rounded choices out there, such as the Ford Explorer/Mercury Mountaineer twins and the Toyota 4Runner. And if you don't need one, consider a crossover. GMC's own Acadia, for instance, offers a roomier, higher-quality cabin, third-row seating and better fuel economy.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 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, Bluetooth connectivity, 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. 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 2WD Envoys are 14 mpg city /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 government crash tests, the 2009 GMC Envoy earned five stars (the best possible) for its protection of front and rear passengers in the side impact test. However, 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 2009 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.