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Envoy XUV is a rolling backpack with style

June 11, 2004|by MALCOLM GUNN/Wheelbase Communications

Is it really a combination of a handy pickup, rugged sport-utility vehicle and some kind of fancy-pants wagon?

It might not matter how you define it, just as long as the new-for-2004 Envoy XUV gets the job done when you need it, and looks good while doing it.

Not much beats this versatile GMC for moving refrigerators, furniture, big-screen TVs, small trees or similar tall objects that would otherwise require the services of a conventional pickup truck.

The XUV is an appeal to your practical nature as well your pocketbook. Hey, if you're going to shell out $30,000 or more for a sport-utility vehicle, it should do everything possible, right? Think of the vehicle's flexible nature as added justification for the price of admission into the sport-ute world.

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An offshoot of the extended-length GMC Envoy XL, this five-passenger rolling backpack offers versatility that's similarly provided by the Chevrolet Avalanche and Cadillac EXT pickup trucks. All feature a "Midgate" wall that can be folded into the floor to create a variety of payload/passenger configurations, depending on the need at the time.

Because of its sport-utility platform, the XUV goes one step further by providing an enclosed - or open - cargo bed.

To do this, a massive 32-inch-long aft roof section slides forward, opening the skys to accommodate tall objects. The sides stay up, however, while the power-operated rear window can be lowered into the tailgate to provide an even bigger opening as well as access to the goodies you're toting around.

The Midgate functions much the same as it does in GM's full-size pickups. The XUV's second row of seats folds into the floor so that the Midgate can be tilted forward (once the partition glass is lowered) to provide a flat 6.3-foot-deep cargo area. With the Midgate and the tailgate lowered, the XUV can swallow 4x8 sheets of building material. The dual-purpose tailgate also opens from the side in regular sport-ute fashion.

For quick and easy cleanup, the cargo area can be sprayed out with a garden hose. In fact, the XUV's built-in drainage system has been designed to shed up to 35 gallons of water per minute. It also provides piece of mind if you're caught out in the rain.

The XUV - whether base SLE or upgraded SLT - is stocked with plenty of standard equipment, including dual-zone air conditioning, keyless remote entry, tilt steering, power windows and a six-speaker CD sound system. The SLT adds eight-way powered and heated leather-covered front seats, dual-zone climate control, 17-inch alloy wheels and steering-wheel-mounted controls for its Bose stereo and climate-system controls.

Options include a towing package, rain-sensing wipers, power sunroof and rear-seat sound-system controls. In addition, a lockable storage box, a roof-mounted utility rack and/or color-coordinated brush bars can be installed by your dealer.

Motivation comes via a 275-horsepower 4.2-liter inline six-cylinder engine. Optional is a 5.3-liter V-8 with 290 ponies ready to gallop. Both are connected to four-speed automatic transmissions.

If most of your time is spent on dry pavement, the two-wheel-drive XUV might be all you need. However, if more extreme use is required, you can select GM's Autotrac four-wheel-drive system.

Set up for any one of its many uses, the XUV is a cool and capable performer. It's also the most functional sport-ute in GM's stable, besting the rest of the similar Chevrolet Trailblazer, Buick Rainier and Isuzu Ascender models. In fact, it offers one of the most practical reasons yet to clamber aboard the sport-ute bandwagon.

Copyright 2004, Wheelbase Communications

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