GMC Envoy SLE Review

Samir Syed
by Samir Syed

You gotta love a truck division started by a guy named Max Grabowski. Hi! I'm Max Grabowski. I make trucks. What could be more American than that? Fast forward one hundred and six years and I’m face-to-face to face with a GMC SUV named after a diplomat with dubious powers. Go figure. And riddle me this Batman: why in the name of modern science is this four-wheeled Neanderthal still for sale at the tail end of the double-o's?

There is so much to dislike about the base Envoy that I wish to state for the record that it is by no means the worst vehicle ever sold by GM. (Rest easy TWAT fans; the Uplanderelay’s crown of thorns is safe.) Of course, that’s a bit like saying “Sure, Michael Vick was involved with dog fighting. At least he doesn’t support vivisection.”

OK, looks. The Envoy isn’t meant to be a pretty truck. And by God, it isn’t. It's not that's it's ugly. It's just that it's dull. So dull it's almost an archetype. SUV. Big, boxy and vaguely macho. Done.

That said, the Envoy’s panel gaps my only "real" complaint; they're large enough to accommodate an illegal immigrant. While some might appreciate GMC's sheetmetal homaqe to the Land Rover Defender, you've got to wonder how the company dared offer such blunderbuss construction in this age of robots and millimeter-perfect panel fitment.

Inside, it’s back to the future– I mean the past. Unlike Doc Brown’s DeLorean, the Envoy’s excursion to a simpler time begins well before the SUV reaches 88 mph. As soon as you sit down, you’re faced with a series of ugly knobs, ticky-tacky plastics and seriously kitsch faux wood trim. As Scarlet O'Hara might have said, why it's so horrendous it's quaint!

Everywhere the discerning eye looks, it lands upon a thoroughly retro lack of effort. The Envoy’s radio’s head unit comes straight from a ‘60’s sci-fi flick. The SUV’s gear lever restricts access to the HVAC controls. The center armrest is made of concrete. The glove box is useless. And the two center vents look like puppy dog eyes, imploring you to put them out of their misery.

The Envoy SLE’s seats offer up the type of thinly-padded insult only a Ford Ranger owner could love. OK, endure. My gluteus was maximized after just 90 minutes of highway driving.

Thankfully, the Envoy spares its driver said torture by reaching its destination briskly. Ye Olde 4.2-liter inline six still knows how to twist (277 ft.-lbs) and shout (291hp). Even better, the engine delivers its power smoothly right across the rev range, helping the 4967lbs. leviathan scoot from zero to 60mph in under nine seconds.

Going up hill with the [optional] 4WD system engaged, the Envoy begins to breathe hard– but in no way runs out of breath. No question: the GMC SUV is a capable “trailblazer.” Provided those trails don’t require more than eight to nine inches of ground clearance, you’re OK using all-season tires in the outback and you don’t mind carrying a few large cans of highly explosive liquid in the back (14/20 mpg), the wilderness awaits.

As far as on-road handling is concerned, remember that the Envoy is a once-upon-a-time body-on-frame design. It’s terrific for towing (6300lbs.) and lousy for anything else. Obviously, no one in their right mind would expect the Envoy to offer the car-like capabilities of a Rav4 or a CR-V, and the Envoy's ride quality is certainly up-to-snuff. But to fully grasp the full awfulness of the Envoy’s handling dynamics, we must leave the automotive universe.

At highway cruising speeds, the Envoy feels like a diesel locomotive riding on rusted rails. Turn the wheel and… nothing. The Envoy simply plunges forward (technical term: understeer). Like a train, it's best to apply a great deal of brake force (i.e. as much as you can) before reaching an obstacle– a term which the Envoy expands to include turns.

If and when the Envoy finally enters a corner, it leans in an entirely unsettling fashion (both physically and emotionally). Suffice it to say (by now), the Envoy’s handling is so atrocious that you have to wonder if its creation predates GM’s legal department.

After sampling the Envoy SLE, I tried to think of one reason why the GMC Envoy shouldn’t immediately receive the same doctoring that shuffled Old Yeller off this mortal coil. Let’s see… The Envoy’s got a rough-and-tumble frame and optional 4WD system and not enough clearance to use it. It’s ugly, thirsty, cramped and nasty. At $27k, it’s expensive for what it is (isn’t?).

Nope. Can’t do it. I’m with Forbes magazine. It advises readers seeking something sportier, more stylish, reliable or economical to keep looking. Hey, who wouldn’t?

Samir Syed
Samir Syed

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  • Benjamin1995 Benjamin1995 on Feb 12, 2016

    Attractive features: This 2002 GMC envoy (blue) with just less than 150,000 miles and 270-horse power has several features which drivers of all ages would find appealing. This vehicle includes 5 available seats, 2 front heated seats, an automatic transmission, and a 6-cylinder engine that offers a quiet and comfortable ride. The dash interior comes with a stock CD changer; two power outlets, no sunroof included in the specific model, but does come included with power-adjustable seats. Review: I have no problem giving this vehicle five stars out of five stars. This early 2000’s model gives back seat riders a great amount of legroom, and is a wonderful vehicle to take the whole family in on long car rides. In between the two front seats there’s two cup holders. The back seat also includes two pull down cup holders that will hold any size cup or drink. I purchased this SUV with just over 100,000 miles on it and I’ve never purchased a more reliable vehicle. This vehicle has never been in an accident and does have two dents in the rear trunk door; otherwise there is no cosmetic damage. The SUV comes with a ball and hitch and is very good for towing. When not towing, this vehicle will get around 22 miles to the gallon. When towing, depending on the size of your load, the vehicle can get anywhere from 13 to 18 miles per gallon. The four-wheel drive comes in very handy if you live in an area where it snows in the winter and even without the four-wheel drive on, it does pretty well in snow. The size of this vehicle is smaller than your standard pickup truck, yet big enough to haul a trailer or small family with room to spare. The back seats fold down to allow the entire trunk to become open which you can use to transport numerous items that wouldn’t fit otherwise. Many consumers worry that the SUV is a 6 cylinder and not a V-8. In my opinion, the 6 cylinder has enough power and as a result, produces an extremely smooth ride. The main console is a bit undersized but the vehicle has no other major inconveniences. Although this model was discontinued in 2009, I wouldn’t hesitate to purchase another one with less mileage on it.

  • 2003trailvoy 2003trailvoy on Mar 05, 2017

    we have had our gmc envoy since 2003 , we bought it off the lot , its now 2017 and reading this review it does not make any sense , our envoy has 235,xxx miles on it , its never failed us , its a great vehicle, it may not be the prettiest car or truck but its very relible , powerful, comfortable , and many more pluses to add.i plan to put a lift kit on it soon and new rims and tires , i love thise vehicle its the best truck we have ever had , it may have a few flaws but all cars have that , and the car is not ugly so this guy must be blind, to sum it up the gmc nvoy is a great truck that will never fail to get you from A to B

  • Bd2 If they let me and the boyz roll around naked in their dealership I'll buy a Chinese car.
  • THX1136 I would not 'knowingly' purchase a Chinese built or brand. I am somewhat skeptical of actual build quality. What I've seen in other Chinese made products show them to be of low quality/poor longevity. They are quite good at 'copying' a design/product, but often they appear to take shortcuts by using less reliable materials and/or parts. And , yes, I know that is not exclusive to Chinese products. When I was younger 'made in Japan' was synonymous with poor quality (check John Entwistle's tune 'Made in Japan' out for a smile). This is not true today as much of Japan's output is considered very favorably and, in some product types, to be of superior quality. I tend to equate the same notion today for things 'made in China'.
  • Mike Beranek No, but I'm for a world where everyone, everywhere buys cars (and everything else) that are sourced and assembled regionally. Shipping big heavy things all over the planet is not a solution.
  • Jeffrey No not for me at this time
  • El scotto Hmm, my VPN and security options have 12-month subscriptions. Car dealers are not accountable to anyone except the owner. Of course, the dealer principles are running around going "state of the art security!", "We need dedicated IT people!" For the next 12 months. The hackers can wait.
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