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GMC Envoy 4WD (2002)

SEE ALSO: GMC Buyer's Guide

by Carey Russ

Although many new sport-utility vehicles are built with car- like unit construction, and based on car or minivan platforms, there is still a demand for more traditional, body-on-frame SUVs. The unit-construction "crossover" vehicles may have some advantages over a body-on-frame truck in lighter weight and a stiffer structure, for more car-like ride and handling qualities, but a body-on-frame truck can be just as comfortable if it is designed correctly. Case in point: the 2002 GMC Envoy.

"New" really does describe the 2002 Envoy, as, compared to the previous Jimmy-based model, it has a new chassis, new body structure, newly-designed suspension, and, most importantly, a remarkable new engine, a smooth, powerful, high-tech aluminum alloy inline six instead of the more common V6 usually found in today's cars and trucks. If the 2002 Envoy is larger and roomier than the previous model, it's still small enough to park easily in the crowded urban parking situations that are likely to be its natural habitat. And, unlike most crossovers, it is available with real low- range four-wheel drive for those times when nothing else will get you out of slippery trouble.

I've been driving a new 4WD Envoy for the past week and have been very impressed. It has the ride quality of a luxury car, and makes great use of its larger interior space. The 4.2-liter, 270- horsepower engine is most impressive. It's smooth, quiet, and powerful enough to be at home in a sports car, not just a sport- utility.

APPEARANCE: The second-generation Envoy is noticeably larger than its predecessor, but not too large to park easily. Although it has the classic two-box SUV shape, luxury car styling cues abound. No massive chromed truck bumpers here, the Envoy's bumpers are covered with body-colored plastic just like a car, and have inset foglamps in front and backup lights at the rear. Complex headlights with washer nozzles are common on luxury cars, but not on trucks. The blistered fenders are similar to those of some sports cars of the past. The rounded-trapezoid GMC grille is integrated into the hood bulge for a powerful look.

COMFORT: The 2002 Envoy utilizes its larger size with significantly increased interior space. To its good-visibility SUV high seating position it adds all of the contemporary interior styling cues of a luxury car at its price point, such as woodgrain paneling, metal bezels around the instruments, metal-look accents on the air conditioning vents, and leather seating and steering wheel covering. The well-designed power front buckets have integrated shoulder strap mountings for comfort and safety, and the rear bench has remarkable leg and head room. It's split 60/40, and both flips and folds for a good-sized cargo floor when necessary. A large locking glovebox, console box partitioned for CDs and cassettes, and a hidden compartment under the cargo floor add convenient storage. The spare tire is underneath, pickup-style, further increasing interior space.

SAFETY: The 1001 GMC Envoy has dual front and front side airbags and four-wheel vented antilock disc brakes. A one-year subscription to the OnStar security and communications system is standard.

ROADABILITY: Although it is a body-on-frame truck with a double-wishbone independent front suspension and solid rear axle, the GMC Envoy feels more like a luxury car than a truck. The ride is smooth and quiet, even at highway speed over poor surfaces. Rear suspension response with a heavy solid axle can be slow, reducing handling responsiveness and comfort. The Envoy's five- link rear axle location system virtually eliminates any negative solid axle characteristics. Because of its extremely rigid chassis, with hydroformed side rails, and a rigid body structure, the Envoy's spring rates are soft, for comfort. Bilstein(r) shock absorbers control body motion well. The four-wheel drive Envoy has a push- button multimode four-wheel drive system that includes rear-only, automatic all-wheel drive, and four-high and four-low modes.

PERFORMANCE: An aluminum alloy, dual overhead cam, 24- valve inline six-cylinder engine with variable valve timing and electronic throttle control - in specification, the Envoy's 4.2-liter engine would seem more at home in a German sports sedan than an American sport-utility vehicle. But, it works just fine here. Its maximum 270 horsepower at 6000 rpm is greater than that of some V8-powered competitors, and 90 percent of its peak 275 lb-ft of torque is available from 1600 to 5600 rpm - the most commonly- used engine speeds. Result: instant power for acceleration or passing. Like all inline sixes, it is very smooth, and its four-speed automatic transmission enhances the engine's performance. Despite its greater power than the V6 used in last year's Envoy and Jimmy, it is more economical, with an EPA rating of 15 mpg city, 21 highway.

CONCLUSIONS: The 2002 GMC Envoy is a thoroughly modern sport-utility.

2002 GMC Envoy 4WD

Base Price              $ 33,820
Price As Tested         $ 36,440
Engine Type             24-valve dual overhead cam inline 6-
Engine Size             4.2 liters / 256 cu. in.
Horsepower              270 @ 6000 rpm
Torque (lb-ft)          275 @ 3600 rpm
Transmission            4-speed electronically-controlled 
Wheelbase / Length      113.0 in. / 191.5 in.
Curb Weight             4628 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower   17.1
Fuel Capacity           18.7  gal.
Fuel Requirement        unleaded regular gasoline, 87 octane
Tires                   P245/65 SR17 Michelin Cross Terrain m+s
Brakes, front/rear      vented disc / vented disc, antilock 
Suspension, front/rear  independent double A-arm with coil 
                          springs /
                          solid axle with 5-link location, coil 
Drivetrain              front engine, on-demand multi-mode 
                          4-wheel drive

EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed      15 / 21 / 15
0 to 60 mph            est 8.5 sec

SLT Enhanced Package - includes: 
 AM/FM/cassette/CD stereo,   content theft alarm,
 heated front seats               $ 400
Power sunroof                     $ 800
Bose premium sound system         $ 495
Running boards                    $ 325
Destination charge                $ 600