By on July 17, 2013

Saab 9-7x Aero

I have a problem. I own a 2002 GMC Envoy. No, my ownership of a GMT360 SUV isn’t the problem although it is probably enough to get me committed to a mental institution. At 140,000 hard miles, my Envoy is getting old and there’s nothing out there to replace it. That’s a problem.

Whenever the Envoy gets brought up I feel the need to defend myself by saying I “married into it.”  This is entirely true, I did not have anything to do with the purchase. My name is not on the title and finances were co-mingled after it was paid off. That being said, I have an awkwardly styled place in my heart for GM’s GMT360 SUV. Why? It’s all about towing.

I am one of the few people in the USA crazy enough to have built their own home. No, I didn’t write a check to a contractor to build my house, I built my house. Two years into the continuing saga the only help we have had in our construction nightmare has been from friends that had no idea what they were getting into when they offered. Because I’m a cheap bastard, this meant we dug our foundation with picks, shovels and wheelbarrows and we poured the foundation by the 50lb bag. All 67,200lbs of it. Yes, I am insane and should be committed. No, I do not recommend that anyone follow in my footsteps.

IMG_0688

Since “my” car during this process was a 1998 Volvo S70 T5 (manual of course) and then a 2006 Volvo V70R (manual yet again), hauling duties fell on the Envoy. Almost everything that is our house came in the Envoy, on the Envoy, or a in 14-foot utility trailer towed by the Envoy. Why not buy a pickup truck? There were several logical reasons. First off, the Envoy 4.2L I6 produces reasonable torque, it seats 5, has a covered cargo area, is fairly easy to park, but most importantly: it was paid off. The used utility trailer with electric brakes has proven far more useful than simply swapping the Envoy for a pickup. Yes, I still dream pickup dreams (that’s what happens to you when you go to college in Texas) but my practical side says I may never own one.

I never really liked the Envoy before we started construction. I knew better than to deride my better half’s car shopping, but I never understood why anyone would pick the Envoy over a Grand Cherokee or an Explorer or a Pathfinder, or, or, or. As it turns out, the Envoy isn’t half bad after all. The 4WD low range is useless honestly, but the locking 4WD system has saved my bacon when trying to shuttle heavy items on our hillside property or haul a heavy trailer up the steep gravel road. The rear seats fold completely flat, and though doing so causes the front seats to become decidedly uncomfortable, the cargo hold is generously sized. GM may have used a solid rear axle but they tossed in a load leveling air suspension in the back that has been incredibly handy. The air bag suspension doesn’t just keep your butt off the ground when you put people in the back seat, it keeps the suspension in the middle of its travel when you have 800lbs of crap in the back making the Envoy handle better than most SUVs of its era when fully loaded. Not that I recommend this, but it also makes trailer hauling easier because you can go way over the recommended tongue weight without causing serious driveability problems for the tow vehicle. In addition, GM has a bleed off valve you can use to inflate tires, basket balls, etc. I can’t count the times I have had to adjust the tire pressure in the trailer or in the car in the middle of nowhere because something happened as I was hauling a load of free Craigslist.com bricks.

GMC-Envoy_mp137_pic_5282

The only downside seems to be the relative china doll transmission. The 4L60 transmission isn’t GM’s most robust unit and we’re on our third slushbox at 140,000 miles. The first transmission was replaced at only 15,000 miles so I’m positive that was a manufacturer’s defect but Transmission #2 failed around 80,000 miles (covered by an extended warranty). Looking back on the problem, I have a feeling that the issue was inadequate cooling and inappropriate service intervals for the load. Since then I have been flushing the ATF every 20,000 miles due to the loads we haul. Still, the Envoy is showing its age. The dashboard has gouges from ABS pipe hauling, the rear window weather-stripping is torn from 4x6s rubbings against them, one rear window leaks, the rear air suspension deflates after a few hours when parked, she burns a little oil and the transmission isn’t shifting like it did 60,000 miles ago. It’s time send my friend out to pasture. Did I say friend? I guess I did.

So what options are there on the mid-sized market that won’t cost an arm and a leg but can haul 6,500-7,000 lbs? Can’t do that in the GMC Acadia (GM’s replacement for the Envoy). The Pathfinder and Explorer have given up on towing, Kia killed the Borrego, the Montero was mercy killed, the Rodeo is extinct, the Xterra and 4Runner top out at 5,000lbs and VW’s Touareg is luxury priced starting at $44,000. That leaves just the Jeep Grand Cherokee in the mass-market mid-size SUV segment with over 5,000lbs of towing capacity. How can GM think there’s no market for a well prices world-market Trailblazer?

Here’s where my cheap side kicks in. A low mileage 2009 Saab 9-7x can be had for $16,000-$17,000. That makes it the best priced  GMT360 SUV by a few grand. It also happens to be the best GMT360 ever made. I realize that’s like saying it’s the best bedpan ever made, but it does have an impact on this very small segment. What’s a car guy that tows to do? Do I 2014 Grand Cherokee or Durango for $33,000+ or do I dive into a used “Trollblazer” because it is a crazy-cheap known quantity. Stay tuned.

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144 Comments on “Bring back a BOF 5-seater or I’ll buy a Saab...”


  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    What about a Tahoe or a short wheelbase Yukon? I’ve even seen a Yukon with vinyl floor and tie downs in the cargo area on a dealers lot. (Although likely it was a fleet order and he didn’t just decide to “stock it.”)

    Torque-y V8 and solid towing capacity.

    • 0 avatar
      Pig_Iron

      For towing, I would always recommend a long wheelbase, Don’t take my word for it, ask a tractor puller. He/she will explain why.

      • 0 avatar
        Carlson Fan

        Yep a longer wheel base is better but when I am pulling our 25′ boat around town i use our Tahoe instead of my crew cab 3/4 ton PU. The manuverability when towing close to 34′ is night and day better. Whether at the boat landing or pulling into a gas station to fill the boat, the Tahoe is soo much more nimble.

        • 0 avatar
          Pig_Iron

          Understood, that explains why cab-overs are still popular for city vocational trucks too. But for long haul, heavy loads with a tandem axle trailer, I’d trade stability for maneuverability. Especially since it sounds like he plans to “go way over the recommended tongue weight without causing serious driveability problems for the tow vehicle”.

  • avatar
    Alex L. Dykes

    The Yukon is just too big. Aside from being egged as we drove through Santa Cruz, they are a pain to park in the city.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      If you know what to expect. If you know the “secret” to keeping the mechanicals alive. If you can find a good used 9-7 (that will remain largely servicable due to the shared GMT360 parts) I say get the used Saab 9-7. It is half the Cheddar of the Durango or Cherokee (and if you’re poo-pooing a Tahoe as too big, I can’t see the Durango being much better in the size department) you’re options of moderately sized, seats, five, swallows cargo, easy to park, and can haul like the apocalypse is coming while accepting moderate amounts of abuse – well, sounds like the GMT360 is a win for you (from a really short list of options, basically all American with a larger list of cons than pros)

      Personally I’d get a 2013 Tahoe LT1 and grab up a deal – but as you already noted, too big (and yes, they are harder to park).

      Maybe you can find a screaming deal on the Envoy with the sliding roof – although I would really question the quality, seals, and long term use.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    Transmissions lives of 15,000 and 65,000 miles beg the question of whether or not a GMT 360 can really tow more than 5,000 lbs. I’m impressed by the variety of service lives though. The 4-speed 4L30E GM transmissions in our departed E36 BMW died at 30K miles each like it was a feature.

    • 0 avatar
      Alex L. Dykes

      This is a very valid point. My transmission fluid analysis by Blackstone indicates relatively little wear on this current transmission despite the heavy duty and mileage. I think that is thanks to the frequent fluid changes. The 4L60E is very good at cooking its own fluid and if you don’t monitor and flush regularly you end up with wear. Aftermarket cooling does help to come extent, but hauling 7,000lbs (over the rated capacity mind you) up a 2,200ft mountain pass when it’s 98 degrees outside is hard on anything.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        You keep saying that you built your house, as in past tense. Do you really need as much capability now as you did while you were building it? Is there more construction in your future? If building stuff and shifting huge loads is your passion, then a full sized pickup actually does make sense.

        • 0 avatar
          Alex L. Dykes

          It seems the project will never end, so yes I still need (at least on occasion) the ability to two 6-7K lbs but neither of us want a pickup truck as a daily driver.

        • 0 avatar
          GoesLikeStink

          Buy an old beater pick up for hauling and keep the SUV for driving. It might last a lot longer if you don’t over load it. If you built your own house you do not live in an area with HOAs so park as many old cars on your lot as you want.

    • 0 avatar
      CompWizrd

      Sounds about right. The LT1 and 4L60E’s are both _really_ _really_ fragile.
      I’ve had engine seize(lower bearings, etc, etc, rebuilt), engine dead(oil pump failure, replaced), transmission failure(no overdrive, replaced), transmission failure(clutch pack, rebuilt) in that order.

      Took the third water pump to get one that didn’t leak a few years later, I’m on my 3rd set of wires/plugs, a couple gaskets, etc.

      Guess the car. :)

  • avatar
    probert

    Here’s what my 2 cents is:

    For the love of mike rent a backhoe next time.

    When you have to tow massive things rent. You tow – you give it back.

    Buy something fun to drive like a Kia Sportage and get your friends nice things-if they’re still hanging around.

    I’m glad I could help.

  • avatar
    carguy

    Going the Trollblazer route will not fix the ongoing transmission problems. I would opt for used full size crew-cab truck. It will tow all you need, has a useful load area without the trailer and be reliable if you choose domestic. If not the Chevy Tahoe is a sturdy reliable beast for towing and daily use.

    • 0 avatar
      Alex L. Dykes

      Keep in mind that the same transmission was used in the Tahoh, Silverado, Safari, Savanah, Suburban, Colorado, Corvette, etc. Depending on the year the Tahoe may not be any better because it would be combining the same tranny with a more powerful engine and a heavier chassis.

      • 0 avatar
        carguy

        Good point but I was thinking the next gen 6 speed auto but that will drive the price up to $30K

        • 0 avatar
          Alex L. Dykes

          True, and the Tahoe is still a little to big.

          • 0 avatar

            having driven a lot of GMT360′s and a lot of GMT800′s and 900′s – honestly, I don’t think the Tahoe is any more unwieldy than the Trailblazer. Especialy the LWB trailblazer, which has a radius like a boat – i think avoiding the “right” car because you think it is too hard to park might be a little silly. You’d get used to parking it in a day. And it’ll do all the things you want so much better than the Trailblazer.

      • 0 avatar
        Frylock350

        Actually the GMT900 Tahoe and Suburban both use the heavier duty 4L80, a MUCH more durable transmission. This was replaced by the trouble-free 6L80 in 2009

  • avatar
    azmtbkr81

    You are looking for a dinosaur my friend. The simple, affordable, rugged SUV has slowly disappeared over the last 15 years and is unlikely to return. I am in the same boat: there is no vehicle that can replace my ’96 Bronco so I keep it going with frequent visits to the junkyard and purchases from the LMC catalog.

    If you can get by without the covered cargo space look for a deal on a 2013 Silverado. If not get to know your local junkyards and start saving for your next transmission!

    One other thought, you could wait to see how the new Colorado/Canyon turns out.

    • 0 avatar
      tuffjuff

      “You are looking for a dinosaur my friend.”

      Exactly.

      The Explorer or Grand Cherokee, if you’re going new, are really the only two options you have in this segment… at least with which I’m aware.

      • 0 avatar
        Quentin

        Except neither of those are body on frame. Both are unitbody and the Explorer is a transverse mount FWD based setup. 4Runner and Xterra are the only midsize, BOF SUVs that remain on the market as far as I know.

        • 0 avatar
          tuffjuff

          The question is, do you really *need* body on frame?

          It’s been dying off for a reason, you know, and if the Jeep Grand Cherokee has taught us anything it’s that it is a very capable machine, consistently defying convention.

          • 0 avatar
            azmtbkr81

            In some cases you do. It is easier to design a separate frame to support heavy towing or to withstand the abuse of off-road driving vs building the extra strength into a unibody. In addition having a separate frame makes frame repairs easier than they would be with a unibody.

            With that said I don’t believe that BOF construction defines an SUV. A distinction should be drawn between vehicles like the Grand Cherokee and old XJ Cherokee which were designed from the ground up as SUVs vs CUVs like the new Cherokee which are essentially front wheel drive sedans with taller roofs.

          • 0 avatar
            Quentin

            I was just commenting that neither were body on frame. Body on frame is generally worse for 95% of the population because it isn’t as weight efficient or volume efficient. If I’m picking something that will see significant off road time or I plan on keeping 15+ years, like my 4Runner, I prefer body on frame. Maybe it is just perception, but a separate frame certainly feels more robust.

        • 0 avatar
          NormSV650

          I towed a single axle trailer with an 04 Cherokee and on the curvy side roads it was a handful to not put a wheel off. But once loaded up into a turn it was steady and predictable.

          I would definitely look at towing with a car up to around 4,000 lbs as the small amount of time you’ll be towing is wortth the maximum towing capacity of trucks.

          Or have the best of both worlds with a Toureg or Cayenne? Going up in price but drives better than any Toyota SUV.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Considering they made the Envoy til 09, I’m sure you can find another clean Envoy Denali as well.

    About the Saab: Didn’t it come with a V8, not having the robust 4.3L V6? Not sure what other parts were Saab-specific, but interior trim later could become an issue.

    What about the other versions: Bravada, Rainier, Ascender (LOLZ) that could be had for cheaper? Trailblazer SS?

    Also mister, what about the Aviator?

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      Saab – I6 or V8 depending on the model year, later model years ONLY V8 available.

      Mr. Dykes Envoy had the Atlas I6, most underrated GM engine of recent memory.

      Ascender eventually switched to XL V8 version only.

      Bravada – I6 only

      Rainer – I6 or V8 but short wheelbase only

      Aviator was an Explorer with the Mustang’s V8. I’d love one as a stealth way of hauling butt but I don’t know if I’d want to try to work one to death.

    • 0 avatar
      Alex L. Dykes

      The Saab is somehow the cheapest of the GMT360s on the used market. The Saabs also came well equipped with standard 4WD, leather, bluetooth and power seats. Since it is also a daily driver these seem important. The Saab had the same engine options as the rest, the 4.2L inline 6, 5.3L V8 and 6.0L V8.

      Trim parts have the possibility of being a problem, but not very much was Saab specific and from what I understand most parts are as available as they are on the Envoy. Go figure.

      The Aviator looked good until I saw the price. Ditto a used Explorer or Mountaineer.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Wait but the Aviator is older than the Saab, and has lower prices. Or were you concerned about the price versus the year?

        I will say the Aviators for sale (even if older) seem to have lower mileage than the 9-7s for sale. I’d have to think the Aviator was built better, as whenever I see 9-7s they usually have exterior trim issues.

      • 0 avatar
        tuffjuff

        I think the Saab 9-7 also looked the best.

        • 0 avatar
          dolorean

          Only issue I would have with the Saab is it sounds like you spend a lot of time inside the cab of your trucklet, probably suckin’ BigGulps or Starbucks by the bucketful; all of which will flow nicely into the ignition housing located on the center console. Seriously bad idea in a truck.

      • 0 avatar

        The 97 is a decent ride for what it is. But maybe you should just buy a Saab…a REAL 95 or 93 Combi wagon (NO V6s please)would probably handle 90% of your cargo needs. A trailer added if needed. And you CAN always rent a truck

  • avatar
    Charles T

    There’s always the option of going whole-hog and plumping for the born-from-’Vettes 9-7x Aero.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    See if you can get the Ducato for an extend test drive and put it thru HELL… Actually the 4Runner has to be the last BOF mid-size SUV.

  • avatar
    See 7 up

    4Runner,

    Scratch that. Read your last paragraph. Plus they are $$$

  • avatar
    Z71_Silvy

    Trailblazer SS or Saab 97x.

    Those are the two proper choices.

  • avatar
    mikey

    We got eight years, and 75000 trouble free miles out of a two door Jimmy. It was a pig on gas,rather crude to drive, and my wife loved it. Go figure.

    I simply don’t like CUV’s. Alex is right. The Yukon/Tahoe are just too big, to be practical for the real world.

    At this point in time, I can’t see anybody building a smaller B.O.F with 4 WD. The market, is just not there.

  • avatar
    mcarr

    My in-laws have a 2006 Trailblazer LTZ that they’ve absolutely babied, and the thing has been falling apart for the past few years. Only has 92,000 miles on it now. I’m a GM guy and I have no qualms about calling the GMT360′s the turds they are.

    I don’t understand your hesitation to get a pickup, you’re obviously not thinking clearly. There’s nothing you mentioned about your SUV that you can’t do (and do better) with a crew cab pickup. I’d suggest a Silverado. You can use it as a truck, and it won’t fall apart on you or grenade it’s transmission. You’ll probably even get the same or better mileage.

    Try it. You’ll like it.

  • avatar
    THE_F0nz

    My father has the very same issue with replacing his Chevrolet Astro work vehicle. Remove the rear seats, and that van can swallow more than a pickup in the covered back. Need to park? The size is never an issue like the larger cargo vans. That sucker is also rated to tow 5500 pounds.

    Put the seats back in? Then you have an 8-passenger comfortable van with 6(!) total seats that lay down on a long trip. (LT models have them, not the normal bench seats)

    The first van (1989 model) lasted to 310,000 miles before we donated it. Running. On its second transmission. The first lasted to 170,000 miles.

    The second work van (model 2001) lasted to 270,000 before it was t-boned. It still looked (despite Michigan weather) new and was a great family hauler! Its rear end had been re-built, but original transmission.

    The third (model 2005. You didn’t think they built them to 2005 did you?) is now on duty and just needs some basic suspension work to keep it from swaying in the wind.

    My answer to the question? I would get an Astro. I’m kidding of course. Don’t get hooked on that drug.

    My First Pick: Volvo XC90 with the V8. From what I read, the V8 model gets better mileage in the real world than the V6. Rated for 4960lb.

    No Off-road? Cadillac SRX – Towing Capacity = 4250 with the right options. The interior in the 2007-later versions was much improved.

    If you are stuck in Trailblazer-land. I would actually get the Saab. But I would get this one: 9-7X Aero. it is the Trailblazer SS counterpart. Also has transmission issues just like the ones you mentioned though. The difference would be that the aftermarket would be bigger for coolers and other upgrades.

    If gas is a concern, then I would stick with the inline-6 if it makes better sense. Just calculate the mileage/cost aspect. The Buick Rainier might end up being cheaper still in the long run. It won’t handle like the Saab though. The Saab has a much better suspension. I remember reading all about it thinking: Why weren’t all the GMT360 trucks set up like the Saab?

    Best of Luck!

  • avatar
    jpolicke

    I would buy something I liked that had a moderate towing capacity- like the Grand Cherokee, and for the really heavy loads either rent or pay for delivery. Even professional building contractors don’t buy vehicles for transporting materials, they let their suppliers invest in the equipment and upkeep.

  • avatar
    skrypj

    The GMT360 platform is decent, and I liked that you recommended the 9-7x. My dad owns a 9-7x Aero, which is the 9-7x version of the Trailblazer SS. It has a 390hp LS2, AWD, ran a 13.8 in the 1/4 miles bone stock, and has been known to embarrass the occasional WRX or Mustang. You can pick one up for high teens but they only made 500 so they are tough to find. Its a great truck and can do it all. My only complaint is that it has very little interior space. A 2002 CR-V is bigger.

    I personally feel that the vehicle to bring back is the Chevy Astro/GMC Safari. Throw a V8 and GM 6 speed auto and you have an absolutely phenomenal car. Seating for 8, tons of cargo space, 6000lbs towing.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    Buy a Jeep Commander. Do it.

    • 0 avatar
      Wheeljack

      I’m going to second this. Since the Commander was generally unloved, they probably are very reasonable on the used market. Go for the Overland trim with the saddle leather seats – the Overland has unique seats that are quite comfortable compared to the base seats. A hemi would be nice, but don’t discount the “refreshed” 4.7L twin-plug engine that came out in 2008. It’s probably more than adequate for your purposes. I believe a properly equipped Commander can tow over 7,000 lbs. These vehicles do tow well and I think the newer ones have sway control.

      Go for a 2009 or 2010 (I think that was the last year) and it will have the improved interior and the updated Hemi (if you choose that) with variable valve timing. If it doesn’t have an auxiliary transmission cooler, install one ASAP. That last bit of advice goes for anything you buy – even if it is another GMT360.

    • 0 avatar
      That guy

      I’m going to second this.

      I once had a Commander as a rental. Aside from the gutless 3.7L, I actually quite liked it. I thought it drove well for what it was too. They’re pretty tough and not too bad on the used market. The 2008+ 4.7L isn’t bad, but I’d look for a Hemi (especially a 2009).

      I have a 2011 Grand Cherokee now and I think it’s the best vehicle I’ve ever bought. However, it’s also the most expensive vehicle I’ve ever bought.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    You’re not looking very well, are you?

    Even discounting the Mercedes G-series, Jeep offers at least one good BoF SUV that is significantly more capable than your old Envoy–though maybe not as luxurious. You could maybe try a Suburban or an Expedition? Honestly, there’s quite a few choices–just none that you want.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      Jeep didn’t offer a BOF SUV made in the last couple decades.

      I do stand by my Commander recommendation if Alex can get over the ugly. Since he’s been driving an Envoy, that shouldn’t be a problem. Get a Commander with a Hemi and you won’t have trouble with it. The W5A580 5 speed transmission is pretty robust too.

  • avatar
    EspritdeFacelVega

    How about a used Kia Borrego?? Not exactly well known in the NA market but used ones are out there (cheap, as they are so little known). Tough as old boots, simple, rare in NA but found all over Latin America, Africa, Middle East and other places not easy on cars….Thoughts, gentlemen?

    • 0 avatar
      Alex L. Dykes

      I like the Borrego, but they are somewhat expensive since they are rare. Good option however. I think I would miss the load leveling suspension.

  • avatar
    GTL

    Sounds like a Durango would fit the bill.

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      Pretty sure Durango went to unibody

      • 0 avatar
        cdotson

        Sure the Durango went unibody, but in RWD form it will tow 7400lbs. Going AWD limits it to 6200lbs. Since the desire for BOF is for a return of their trailering abilities and not the fact that there’s a ladder frame involved what does it matter? My beef is that equipping it with a Hemi, AWD, and the tech Alex would want pushes sticker to $40k.

  • avatar
    crtfour

    A Land Rover LR3. Reasonably priced used, full frame, 7700 pound towing capacity, seats 7, and air suspension which self levels.

  • avatar
    superdeluxe

    It’s a nice idea to buy one vehicle for everything but it’s like using your screwdriver as a hammer. Buy a 1995 or 1996 F-150 I6 or 302 V8. If you get the 5-speed that combination will last forever. It’s the perfect work truck. It’s a tool. They’re cheap, there’s millions of them and you should have plenty of money left over for a sportier car you’ll love.

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    You just need to bite the bullet and buy a truck, just not a fancy new expensive truck and use it just as a truck. Then get a car or CUV for the daily driving. The money you save in fuel will make up for the occasional use only 3rd car insurance, the purchase price of the old beater truck, and prevent the daily driver from getting its dash gouged weather stripping tore up ect. A trailer is a PITA, much easier to just toss what ever in the back of a pickup and go w/o the loss of visibility, the pain of backing, parking and carrying all that extra weight just to carry some weight.

  • avatar
    bam210135

    As an owner of a 2005 9-7x, I wanted to let you know about one draw back to the non-aero 9-7x; the awd t-case isn’t as strong as the unit in your envoy. The t-case works similarly to what happens when you put your envoy in “awd”, as it senses slip it puts the front wheels to work. The draw back is you cannot turn it off. So if you’re hauling a load and slip, the t-case takes the shock. This is ok if you tow infrequently like me but for someone like you it could become an issue. Otherwise it’s a great choice!

  • avatar
    Dan

    Expeditions have had the 6 speed transmission since 2007, long enough for it to show up in the $15-17K used ones.

    An 05-07 Sequoia would fit the bill as well.

    If you insist on a midsize the last gen 4Runner with the V8 is probably the least bad choice. But the best 190″ vehicle for actual heavy towing is right up there with the best 190″ 4WD vehicle for autocross.

  • avatar
    Hummer

    You could get a v8 H3 :)
    Only problem there is tow capacity is 6k due to AWD

    But try a GMT 800 Tahoe, they really feel quite small when driving, the only problem I had with my old one was after 100k miles it started to get a little more sway, not uncomfortably mind you, but being used to my DD H2 which has very little roll when cornering due to its low center of gravity and width; it was definately there, although the trailblazers I’ve driven we’re also a little more like the Tahoe after 100k so you may be used to it.

    • 0 avatar
      brenschluss

      H2? Low center of gravity?

      Not sure what your reference is here…

      • 0 avatar
        Hummer

        Engineers that built the truck, seeing how it was made etc.
        When I bought my first H2 in 2002 they allowed me to tour the facility, meet the engineers and even watch your truck be built if you had it ordered, talking to the designers engineers etc, also being an engineer myself, the truck was specially made with all of the weight as low as possible, aluminum panels help as well.

        The H2 is taller and narrower than an H1 but I’ve heard of situations where an H2 has passed through an area, then followed by an H1 that actually flipped

        • 0 avatar
          brenschluss

          I’m sure they kept the weight as low as possible; they had to, all things considered.

          But, intuition prevents me from believing that it has a “low center of gravity” relative to the rest of the automotive world, including trucks and SUVs made with towing in mind, without some numbers, or something.

          Plus, he might have to park in Santa Cruz. There wouldn’t be enough touch-up paint in the world.

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            Well also remember the wider something is the lower the center of gravity is.
            H2 is at approx 82 inches, vs say you somehow made it approx 60 inches.

            I have no idea how kalifornia is. But from everything I hear its like an alternate universe full of everything a sane individual dislikes.

  • avatar
    afflo

    Why not make your own BOF 5-seater SUV?

    Consider the following options:

    Tacoma Crew-cab 4×2 V6: $24,610
    Tacoma Crew-cab 4×4 V6: $27,685

    The $650 Towing package* brings the tow capacity up to 6400 lbs. Slap on a camper top and you have a body on frame SUV with a heavy duty load floor in the back. Toss on a Sierra Club sticker on the camper top to avoid eggs in Santa Cruz.

    * Towing package: Class IV hitch, trailer-sway control, heavy-duty battery and alternator, 7-pin to 4-pin connector. Requires Convenience Pkg., SR5 Pkg., TRD Off-Road Pkg., or TRD Sport Pkg. NA regular cab.

    Viola! SOme-assembly-required 5 passenger BOF SUV. The bed is basically concealed, so you don’t look like Banjo Strummy driving his pick-em-up truck in from Bakersfield. You arent’ driving a full size truck and trying to park it in tidy NorCal lots. And you could probably park it atop a 22 story building being demolished and still crank it Jeremy Clarkson-style!

    And, they’ve been building Tacomas since Abraham had a learners permit – you can find them used as well.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    How about a 2012 Suzuki Vitara?

  • avatar
    ajla

    Porsche Cayenne.

    7716 lbs. of rated towing capacity in all trims.

    Check out this classic TTAC review:
    http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2008/06/2008-porsche-cayenne-review/

  • avatar
    Skink

    How about an Avalanche? You’d have some load carrying options.

  • avatar
    Numbers_Matching

    Another vote for the previous generation 4-Runner (2005+ had the higher output VVT 4.7L V8) as a good alternative. This was the best 4-Runner by far – actually a Land Cruiser Prado in disguise.

    Don’t overlook the WK Grand Cherokee though. 7200 lb towing with the HEMI or rare CRD. These can easily be butched-up as well just in case your afraid of being ridiculed by the red-neck crowd for not being BOF while loading up at the local Home Depot.

  • avatar
    JD321

    A 2013 Silverado WT is dirt cheap right now.

    I read somewhere that GM was building a SUV based off the new Colorado platform.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    I could be wrong but I believe the “Trollblazer” was sold as AWD only. Now, this “AWD” may really equate to traditional 4WD in real terms but I saw the model as the Bravada replacement, which did come only in fulltime AWD. The 5.3L V8 offered in Trollblazer plus fulltime AWD = permanently horrible gas mileage. Something to consider.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    You could get a Lexus GX 470, maybe a 2006 or 2007. It has a center-locking differential, and the 4.7L V8 doesn’t require premium fuel. Most of them have third-row seating, but it can be taken out. The GX even looks quite like the Envoy, and they’re probably the same size as well…

    • 0 avatar
      Spartan

      I was thinking Lexus GX as well.

      • 0 avatar
        wagonsonly

        High center of gravity plus a trailer plus a steep, dirt/gravel road doesn’t sound like my cup of tea. What about stepping up to the Land Cruiser or Lexus equivalent? They’re a bit bigger than an Envoy, but tidier than a Yukon/Tahoe and lower than the GX. There’s also the last couple of years of XTerra or Pathfinder production, which were also both rated for up to 5K lbs.

        • 0 avatar
          Kyree S. Williams

          I can’t resist poking a bit of good-natured fun at someone who complains about higher ground clearance while using the handle “wagonsonly.”

          Both the LX 470 and the GX 470 have adjustable air-suspension, but the LX has a minimum ground-clearance of 9.8 inches, compared to the GX’s 8.3. Also, the LX 470 is quite expensive, even for the previous gen…and I assume that the newer LX 570 (2008 and later) or GX 460 (2010 and later) would both be out of the question.

    • 0 avatar
      west-coaster

      My first thought. Most of the ones being traded in were likely driven by suburban mommies who never hauled anything heavier than a Costco-size package of Huggies and a Starbucks Venti latte.

      Between the gentle lives they lead and likely very good reliability, you’d probably get many years of service. (And I bet you could overshoot its rated capacity by a bit – something tells me Toyota/Lexus would always air on the side of caution when calculating their tow ratings.)

  • avatar
    Battles

    Third tranny after 140k?
    Sorry for the tangent but I don’t know how America can have the audacity to decry the Opel Omega / Cadillac Catera as fragile when a supposedly robust, apparently well respected sort-of-work truck thing is chewing gears like that.

    • 0 avatar
      morbo

      We don’t. We buy Hondas, Toyotas, and Fords. Our government bought GM.

      • 0 avatar
        burnbomber

        Which I subsequently bought at auction (bring back Steve Lang!!!). Drove the heck out of them, out of several of them as a matter of fact. No transmission problems, ever, and few other problems as well.

        I like em cause they’re cheap with very readily available parts at my local pull-a-part.

        Please, continue to get your Camrycords and Fusion Hybrids and push our economy higher. I’ll manage my 401k account and plan an early out.

  • avatar
    Jason Lombard

    Interesting timing. My parents are in the same boat. My Dad just retired and my Mom is in her final few years of work. She’s been driving an ’02 Envoy (purchased against my advice—which they remind me of regularly). It now has 257k on it—which ironically is the number of rattles it has—as well as the mileage. Strangely, it’s on the original transmission, which is probably because it’s never towed anything. The only thing that’s needed to be fixed (outside of regular maintenance) is an alternator at 180k.

    Anyway, they’re shopping for a replacement and don’t want something as large as a YukoTaSuburbaLade either. As such, they’re having difficulties finding a modern vehicle that’s equivalent to the Envoy. I recommended a late model 9-7x as the best of the breed (since they had such a good experience the first time around) and they’re mulling it over. They’re not necessarily constrained to BOF vehicles either as towing is waaaaaay outside the norm for this vehicle (they have a Sierra 2500 for towing).

    I’m following this thread hoping the BaB have some suggestions.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      If she doesn’t tow or go offroad, that sounds like a good time to explore CUV options.

      • 0 avatar
        Jason Lombard

        If you can find a CUV with the same interior volume and cargo capacity, I’m all ears. She’s looked at the CRV and the Escape and found both of them to be too small. Sounds like she’s headed over to drive an Edge in the morning…

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      I’m going to recommend the same thing I did above: a Lexus GX 470. They’re as recent as MY2009 and are solid and comfortable enough that you’d actually *want* to keep one through 275,000 miles.

  • avatar
    smartascii

    I’d find the nicest possible first-gen Sequoia. It’s smaller than a Tahoe, more reliable than a GM midsize, and is rated to tow 6500 lbs. The Lexus GX is a more expensive version of this, if luxury trimmings are important.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      Actually, there’s no Lexus equivalent to the Toyota Sequpia. The Lexus GX is actually a relative of the Toyota 4Runner, as well as the FJ Cruiser and Tacoma/Hilux. The GX is sold in other markets as the Toyota Land Cruiser Prado, but isn’t nearly as luxurious. The GX would be my recommendation for Mister Dykes.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    Replace it with a 2.8 litre diesel Colorado 7, it’s getting over 30mpg on the highway and well above 20mpg around town. It’s a mid size SUV.

    Ford is also coming out with a ‘Ranger’ SUV called the Everest, with a 3.2 diesel. Or a Toyota Prado (Lexus 470 in the US).

    A Mitsubishi Pajero (not BoF).

    • 0 avatar
      JREwing

      If only these creatures were available at any price in the United States. Well, the LX470 is, but that’s certainly not in the price range Alex was looking for.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        I think he meant the Lexus GX 470, since that’s the one that’s a rebadged Land Cruiser Prado…and it may well fall into Mister Dykes’ price range. We already have the Toyota version of the larger LX 470, which is the Land Cruiser.

  • avatar
    Prado

    2003-2009 V8 4Runner is what you need. It meets your 6,500-7,000 lbs. requirement. Comes with a Transmission Cooler as standard, and also had an optional load leveling suspension. While 4Runner prices are steep (both new and used), this is one Toyota product that is worth that premium.

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    If you had a turbo charged engine it would work that hard at elevation. I’m thinking Flex or Explorer with about 5K towing capacity. A turbo engine will give you the fuel efficiency of the smaller engine but big towing torque that I wish I had when moving a friend with a 4.0l Cherokee. I thought we were ditching it on curvy roads with slopping body on frame. See I’ve towed over 50 hours with a 2000 Saab 9-5 with manual trans of about 4,000 lbs most of the time on a car dolly with no trailer brake. Easy as pie when you are driving a car and the fuel ewconomy into the 20′s witthout sweating it.

    • 0 avatar
      cpthaddock

      Not Alex’s requirements or conditions, but the Flex Egoboost does a very nice job of towing a Yamaha Rhino with a 72″ snow plow attached up around 7000′, both at interstate speeds and up “illegal for snow country” grades

  • avatar
    ckent42

    I think that perhaps you should consider a truck. There is really no alternative for this sort of work, and if you are regularly hauling/towing/working with it, then there is no alternative. My dad built the vast majority of his house, and he does various home improvement jobs all the time, as well as cutting and hauling firewood, and towing a trailer when we go camping. As for city parking, well, I took one of his older older trucks to college with me, in Irvine, and I know how crappy it is to park a truck in the city. It sucks, but you learn early on that you just have to suck it up and back in to every spot. Aside from that, a truck wouldn’t be that much bigger then the envoy, would probably get similar mileage, better even while towing, the drivetrain would be able to hold up to all the towing you could throw at it. And while the air suspension sounded nice on the envoy, I know from experience that a full size truck shrugs off an 800 pound load like its nothing. so anyways, that was a sprawling post, but my vote is for a truck, certainly if you need all the hauling and towing that you’re doing.

  • avatar
    suspekt

    I vote for the Chevy Tahoe with the 5.3

    If you can find someone who can get you an insider deal on a PPV/SSV Tahoe (police pursuit trim) you will probabaly find that the sticker price is shockingly low and all of the useless bells and whistles are absent. The ride is nicely hunkered down and the electrical system is beefed up.

    I think the current Tahoe is a classic. The durabiity of the LS1 based 5.3 V8, timeless style, and later versions have a 6 speed transmission.

    I dont think any of the other SUV’s mentioned hold a candle to it. Including the GX470. Those Lexus V8′s, although silky, guzzle fuel.DOHC be damned!!! Long live OHV

    • 0 avatar
      Beerboy12

      I am pretty sure Alex is tired of saying “too big” by now.

    • 0 avatar
      suspekt

      Paging Constable Hester. Paging Constable Hester….

      The PPV is a fun ride boys but it is 2wd with a locking differential.

      The SSV is 4wd but not as stiffly sprung.

      Both should have uprated cooling/electrical systems.

      Nabbing a brand new one for $30k or less would be sublime

  • avatar
    morbo

    What about the previous Gen Ford Exploder. BOF, rock solid Ranger mechanicals, and cheap to maintain/cheap to insure. 7300# tow rating. Get a low mileage fancy optioned model for like $10K-ish.

    And unlike GM trucks, there’s a fair chance you’ll be on the original powertrain past 100,000 miles.

    • 0 avatar
      Alex L. Dykes

      I do like the Explorer/Mountaineer, but they are so much more expensive than the 9-7X for similar condition/age/mileage that I could replace the 4L60E several times with the savings.

  • avatar
    Beerboy12

    V8 4Runner 2002-2009 will tow 7000 pounds with 4X4. In my Area the most expensive one is $25,000 for a 2008 with 53,000 miles. Jees! I want that one!

  • avatar
    redliner

    Live on the edge… buy a Tahoe Hybrid.

    Or just buy the most ridiculous brand engineered SUV ever, the “Saab.” They are the most nicely trimmed GMT360 though.

  • avatar
    mikeg216

    The answer is a mint condition 2001 explorer Eddie Bauer or limited bulletproof the.5 0 engine heavy duty 4 speed and when equipped with the towing package air ride suspension

  • avatar
    slow_poke

    +1 on 4runner. been sort of looking for the same thing, not too big, able to tow…

    2002-2009 4runner (from Wikipedia):
    “Towing capacity is 5,000 lb (2,300 kg) on V6 models and 7,300 pounds (3,300 kg) on RWD V8 models (7000 pounds w/4WD).”

    not crazy about the ‘mid-luxury’ which seems excessive and honestly just raises the price and decreases the reliability. i wish they’d just keep the ‘mid-luxury’ in the Highlander.

    you can get on in the bay area for ~$20k but you’ve got look for a while. reliability via truedelta 2x better than most cars…

    • 0 avatar
      Alex L. Dykes

      My whine about the 4Runner is the same as the Lexus GX, it’s those third row seats that fold to the side. I very nearly considered a Range Rover before I came to my senses.

      • 0 avatar
        Beerboy12

        Can you remove the 3rd row seats? That’s what I would do… and unceremoniously to.

      • 0 avatar
        marc

        I believe the 3rd row on the 4Runner was optional. Was that not the case for V8 versions? Or were the 7 seaters just so much more prolific that you couldn’t possibly find a 5 seater?

        • 0 avatar
          west-coaster

          Yes, it was an option. A friend has one that he ordered specifically without it. He just needed a big open area for his dogs and didn’t want to pay for a seat that was going to sit in his garage all the time.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        The third-row seats in the Toyota BOF’s don’t fold into the floor because of the axle running the length of the vehicle and the suspension. However, I know that they are fully-removable in the Lexus GX at least…which is appropriate because they’re too cramped to be useful.

  • avatar
    davefromcalgary

    Alex, I know you have said no to the pickup truck, but what about a crew cab V8 Dakota with a topper. Gives you four real doors and decent seating in the rear bench, alot of cargo space when you don’t have your trailer, and a decent 5-7K lbs tow rating depending on the exact configuration. The Dakota should be much smaller and easier to park than a Silverado, and if you de badge and keep the exhaust mild, hopefully no one will egg it.

    • 0 avatar
      Alex L. Dykes

      I did think about the Dakota, but the back seats aren’t as comfortable as the GMT360 and even though this isn’t really a looks contest (its not like the Saab 9-7x is *that* attractive) Ive never cared for the camper shell thing. It reminds me too much of my brother.

      • 0 avatar
        davefromcalgary

        Out of curiosity, strictly with respect to covering the box (type of truck not withstanding) how do you feel about an aluminum rollup box cover. Great for maintaining the look of a pickup truck, while providing a decent amount dry, lockable storage.

  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    I vote Trollblazer. It may even have heated seats which will be handy when the weather gets cold.

    I’d stay BOF for that kind of HD use.

    Regarding the A/T, get an external cooler. What is keeping you (if barely) on the safe side is your frequent flushes.

    I am not sure if you can check the trans temp in the dash with those (GMT360). I can have a look if you’re really interested (shot an email as I’m very busy ATM). Also can have a look at how to fit the cooler if you want to DIY.

  • avatar
    Ralph ShpoilShport

    I haven’t logged in and commented in a long time and am now for two reasons. 1) Bertel is gone. 2) The only possible recommendation to you, Alex, who dug the foundation of his house with shovels and poured it one 50 lb. bag at a time is: build your own G*dd*mn BOF mid size SUV. Makes about as much sense. =O)

  • avatar
    seth1065

    Look Alex is cheap and must not take advice bc someone must have told him not to build his own house , so Saab is the ticket, he knows what he is getting into and with a lot less hauling the tranny should last and it is more than a Comfy truck and did I mention he is cheap , in a good way of course the Saab is the best buy for what he wants / needs

  • avatar
    Grumpy

    Alex, Chops on building the house the old fashioned way–by yourself. But my advice is to stop towing oversized loads with underspeced gear. Just don’t do it, it’s too dangerous. You need a longer wheelbase to help stabilize the trailer and the air bags are just a parlour trick to let you think you can get away with it. Even though I’ve never owned one, trust the feedback from many of the responders and get a good truck.
    I have an 02 Pathfinder and have towed a 2 ton travel trailer (with brakes) and a heavily overloaded 10ft utility trailer (no brakes). I also built a house–granted the new fashioned way–architect, builder, site manager, designer etc., but I was sole garbage boy and took all construction detritus to the dump. I used to brag about all the big loads I towed and got away with it–well–granaded the suspension bushings on Pathfinder but otherwise the vehicle is still good (had an auxiliary transmission cooler installed the day I got it). Now I’m 65 and won’t do it anymore. The Pathfinder has been relegated to towing garden cleanup in the spring and leaves in the fall and occasional bulky but light hauling for kids and friends. No more hero loads.
    A good friend has a 21 ft travel trailer that weighs almost 3 tons, and he tows this thing up to 10,000 km every summer. He has driven Japanese vehicles his whole life and started with a Sequoia, which he recently traded for an F250 because he wanted more wheelbase. Much less concerned about the power etc.,just wanted the most wheelbase for the money.

  • avatar
    RS

    The correct answer is get another Envoy or one of it’s brethren.

    Flex/Explorer or Acadia and it’s variants are about your only decent options.

    Personally, I’d be after a new Dodge Ram with the V6/8 speed with the tow package, sliding rear window and a topper….or ladder rack. The rear slider is very useful for hauling long boards.

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    I would go with a Tahoe. I owned one, without a backup camera or anything. It was EASY to park, drive and drive in big cities. Great car.

  • avatar
    burnbomber

    Bring Back Steve Lang. I don’t want to go to Curbside Classic

  • avatar
    mnm4ever

    Suck it up and buy a real pickup already. I borrowed my dad’s for a month and yea at first it was a pain to park but within a week both my wife and my 17yo daughter could park it easily pretty much anywhere, and they both suck at parking! The new ones are extremely comfortable, just stay away from the fancy ones and the prices are very reasonable. Or buy an older one, the older Chevy and Ford pickups are not even that big compared to the new ones. Or just get a nice slightly used loaded up one and enjoy the luxury features.

    You are one of the few that can completely justify driving a full sized pickup so go get one and embrace your inner Texan!

  • avatar
    mnm4ever

    Or how about this:

    http://tampa.craigslist.org/psc/cto/3938552112.html

    or this:
    http://orlando.craigslist.org/cto/3861816403.html

  • avatar
    ChevyIIfan

    Just pick up a newer Envoy.. They made them until 2009, even though production tapered off drastically after the 2008 model year. Also, are you on the GMT360 boards, GMT Nation? Lots of great advice and help on there with thousands of 360 drivers chipping in.

  • avatar
    cdotson

    After thinking about this some more I’m reminded of a former co-worker whose old Expedition (late-90s model) was wearing out from towing his race car (914/916-clone) and his wife hated how hard it was to park. She absolutely forbid him from buying a pickup truck, so he bought a 3/4-ton Yukon XL with the then-new 4-wheel steering. His wife let him have his A4 back and drove the Yukon most of the time after that.

  • avatar
    Bob

    The funny thing is, you are a guy who actually NEEDS a full-sized truck with a tow package, but are resisting it, while others just love driving a pickup.

    I know its “too big” but a used, modern pickup will likely burn the same or less gas than your Envoy, but will stand up to more abuse. Get a short bed with a cap and your have the same covered cargo area. A crew cab chevy or F-150 can be found at a decent price used. While I drive an F-150, if you are looking for a good value, used truck and have to settle for high miles on the odometer, nothing beats a Silverado with a 5.3 V-8. If you look hard you might even find one used with the 6speed.

    You won’t regret it.

  • avatar
    That guy

    What about a Sport Trac? They drive nicer than a normal truck, but still have quite a bit of utility and aren’t as obnoxiously huge as an F150 or Silverado.

    A 4-door Dakota (4.7L) or Colorado (5.3L only!!) could work too, but they’ll be more trucky than the Sport Trac.

  • avatar
    kosmo

    Side comment: Though both were thoroughly derided by true Saab fans, the 9-7X was the best GMT360 ever made, and the 9-2X was the best WRX ever made (actual sound insulation in a WRX – yahoo!).

    I’d vote for a lightly used, current version Durango V8. Great rig, over 7k towing, and good pricing. Small quantities, though. Might take awhile to find just the right one.

  • avatar
    jco

    another vote for the 4Runner V8/Lexus GX470.

    my friend tows his 23′ Malibu wakeboat with his. it’s tough, will last forever, comfortable, and the roll down rear window is seriously magic when it comes to hauling cargo that you can just leave sticking out the back window. which kinda sucks that the Lexus doesn’t have that, but oh well.

    the 2UZFE can easily hit 500k miles with regular maintenance. and since you live in a nice climate, as long as you buy one from a nice climate rust won’t really be an issue for you. my V8 4R is at 110k miles and it’s just barely broken in. and with no loads and a laid-back driving style, I regularly see 18mpg cruising. i’ve towed all sorts of crazy things with mine: boats, cars, uhauls. no complaints.

    The engine changed in 05 to include VVTi, so there’s a nice HP/torque bump. external trans cooler, true low-range, Toyota reliability. i know there’s a Toyota tax, but really you can buy these trucks knowing it is something that will always be there for you. and then it doesn’t seem so expensive.

    Another option, though quite a bump in size, is the Sequoia. it even has the roll down rear window.

    oh yeah and the 3rd row on the 4Runner was def an option. My Sport trim model does not have them. folded down and with the rear window open, it’s 99% pickup truck.

    and yes, as much as I’ll cheer it on, the short wheelbase is the truck’s downside when towing is involved. but the other thing to think of.. when the house is done, will you still need the capability? of course, if you’re building your own house, you’re never really done, are you? :)

  • avatar
    Domestic Hearse

    Ford Excursion diesel. Search hard, and you’ll find decent examples under 10k.

    Yes, it is huge. Way too big for your DD needs. But see, you’re going to park it and use as needed. Interior load space and towing capability – off the charts.

    Next, you find a nicely maintained Miata. Zip up and down that mountain road with a huge grin on your face. Yes, I know. Two cars replacing the one Envoy. Two, instead of one, to maintain, insure, license. But both the Excursion and the Miata, in their specific roles, will bring you much more satisfaction than the rolling compromise which is the Envoy (or future Trollblazer).

  • avatar
    357

    Previous-gen 5.6L Pathfinder perhaps? Or even the 4L, really. I think the 5.6 tops out at 7k towing, with the 4.0 being closer to 6k probably. I had an ’07 Frontier which I loved, and it did just fine pulling ~5500lbs up and over the grapevine on I-5 north of LA. I had the 6-speed manual though, so the marginally lower control offered by the auto-only Pathfinder might justify getting the V8 instead. And you certainly won’t be forced into the price premium of the Toyotas.

  • avatar

    Get a 4Runner, previous-gen Sequoia or just bite the bullet and go full-size. Seriously seriously consider what problems are insurmountable due to an extra ~4″ of width.

    If you’re using it as a work vehicle, get the best 3/4 ton truck or Suburban you can, and kiss drivetrain issues goodbye. The GM 4l80e or 6L80e + 14bolt rearend are bombproof.


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