1998 GMC Jimmy Road Test

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1998 GMC Jimmy SUV

(4.3L V6)

Why Buy a Jimmy When You Could Get a Jack, Kelly or Moe?

All right, I’ll admit it: I name my cars. My green ’95 Explorer is affectionately known as "Willow," I used to drive a Jeep Cherokee called "Jake," an old hand-me-down VW Cabriolet went by "Whitey," and the beat-up Honda Accord that I inherited from four older sisters and drove around town in high school? Well, I’d call her anything she wanted as long as she didn’t break down on me. Even now I feel the urge to name other people’s cars, if they haven’t already. When I started dating my husband, I tactfully pointed out the fact that a member of his family was nameless. Humoring me, we collaborated and came up with "Spike" for his Mazda 626.

I don’t believe I’m alone in having this compulsion to name the automobiles I drive. My sister calls her Nissan Pathfinder "Patrick" (it’s green) and my best childhood pal tagged his used Crown Victoria with the nickname "Queen Mary." This doesn’t appear to be a weird obsession only afflicting people from Ohio, either. Greg Anderson, another Edmund’s editor, named his beat up 5-Series BMW "Bessie" so that on cold winter mornings, he can coax her up a hill with, "Coooome Ooooonnn, Bessie." Our editor-in-chief once owned a silver over black Escort with tinted windows called "Guido," a Ford Fiesta with an orange interior named "Oscar" and a 1990 Festiva tagged "Floyd," "Smurf Turd" or "Babe Magnet," depending on how many beers he and his college buddies had consumed. And, I’m sure there are countless others who are addicted to this car-naming habit.

The point is, your car becomes a part of your everyday life—a member of your family, so to speak. It can make you smile, laugh, cry or jump up and down in a fit of rage. A name emotionally attaches you to your car like nothing else can.

Even automakers are catching on to this trend. If you buy the GMC "Jimmy" we drove a few weeks ago, you won’t ever have to pick out a name—it comes with one. Liken it to Jimmy Buffet, Jimmy Dean or any other Jimmy you identify with and you’ve got a truck with personality. But you may have to act quickly. We’ve heard rumors that GMC is phasing out its Jimmy in favor of the more sophisticated-sounding "Envoy." If they do, it’ll be a shame. Upgrade the truck, sure. But why throw away a perfectly good name and replace it with an inanimate term that means "messenger"? We don’t get it.

For now, in addition to a name, the 1998 Jimmy comes with an unchanged yet spunky Vortec 4300 V6 engine, new styling on the front end and a completely redesigned interior. The classic Jimmy powertrain makes 190 horsepower at 4400 rpm and 250 foot-pounds of torque at 2800 rpm, providing what we thought was plenty of power for our two-door test truck. What we didn’t find plenty of, however, was room. Our editor-in-chief-turned-father found that loading his daughter’s car seat in the back was a huge undertaking that caused more headaches than watching six consecutive Barney episodes, and that gaining access to the cargo area practically required a degree in engineering.

Visibility was another problem, even for the taller members of our staff. The view from the rear three quarters of the truck was pitiful and, with the rear-mounted wheel obstructing most of the back window, seeing anything directly behind the vehicle was downright impossible. High seatbacks allowed the driver only a tiny sliver in which to catch movements or shadows of nearby cars when changing lanes—not a safe feeling, especially on a twisty mountain road.

But from the outside, Jimmy looked good. Our red test truck shimmered in the Colorado sunshine and appeared tantalizingly beefy. Trim levels available on the two-door are the SL and SLS sport trim while new colors include Pewter Metallic and Copper Metallic. They sound real nice, but we liked our red truck just fine. On the road, however, we realized that the truck’s ride was a bit bumpy, even for an SUV, and its turning radius of 34.8 feet was too wide for off-roading or even urban U-turns. Maneuvering the gigantic, oversized steering wheel caused problems with everyday turns and made us feel like we were navigating a barge.

On the upside, Jimmy provided plenty of legroom in the front, a smooth automatic transmission, supportive seats that were power adjustable, four cupholders, dual second-generation airbags and double sun visors with extenders. These and other interior improvements were well received, especially the easy-to-operate stereo and climate controls that were featured on a panel angled 15 degrees toward the driver for easier access. Jimmy’s glove box release latch was moved to the left side to improve ergonomics for the driver and the CD storage in the center console was easy to get into. The passenger side grab bar offered a touch of style, not to mention a practical safety handle for driving over those mountain rocks or city potholes.

Complaints about the interior were restricted to the aforementioned lack of space, an oddly-placed cassette player on the center floor console and an obtrusive bump covering half of the passenger side floor area.

To test out the cargo dimensions, we picked up my sister and her boyfriend after a weekend of downhill skiing. First, we discovered that the keyless remote had a separate button for unlocking the back—a nice touch. Jimmy’s V6 did just fine with the extra gear and body weight, but when loaded with four people, gear for two, and one pair of skis stretching the length of the vehicle, the modest cargo space in our two-door Jimmy was all eaten up. Which made me wonder: what if we’d all gone skiing?

Despite our grievances, we commend GMC on many aspects of this vehicle, including, for now, their fine choice of a name. Jimmy is rugged and sporty-sounding, the perfect ideal for GMC’s target customer: a 41-year-old looking for a solid vehicle with style.

Jimmy has all this and more, but so do many of the competing trucks in this class. And some offer extra power and amenities for nearly the same cost. Still, Jimmy’s the only one that comes with its own name already branded on the vehicle.

Now, there’s an idea: we could start painting our cars’ names right on the bumpers like they do with boats. Think how much more fun Monday morning commutes would be ("Hey, there's a fuscia Lexus named Sugar Bun"or "See that black Thunderbird named Zippy?"). I think I'm on to something here…

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