Test Drive: 2002 GMC Envoy car test drives gmc
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by Greg Wilson


Completely redesigned, the 2002 Envoy replaces the Jimmy/Envoy models. Bigger, roomier, more powerful, and better-equipped, the new Envoy features a new 4.2 inline six cylinder engine with more power than competitive V8 engines, and much improved ride and handling characteristics. 2002 Envoy’s range in price from $37,955 for SLE 2WD models to $45,670 for SLT 4WD models.



More interior room, but new powertrain is the highlight

The 2002 GMC Envoy is one of three new General Motors mid-size, four-door sport-utility vehicles introduced in June. The 2002 GMC Envoy and Chevrolet Trailblazer replace the 2001 GMC Jimmy/Envoy and Chevrolet Blazer while the 2002 Oldsmobile Bravada is new for Canada.

Two-door models of the current Jimmy and Blazer will continue to be sold in 2002 as entry-level SUV’s for younger buyers.

The new four-door Envoy is bigger, more powerful, roomier, safer and more luxurious than its predecessor, but unlike the 2002 Ford Explorer which is available with a third row seat, the Envoy is strictly a five-passenger SUV. Later this year, GM will offer a long-wheelbase Envoy with a third-row seat and seven passenger capability.


More aggressive styling

Test Drive: 2002 GMC Envoy car test drives gmc
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The Envoy’s new styling is a little more aggressive than the Jimmy – it features much larger rectangular headlamps and a large grille opening with a chrome surround and a prominent red GMC logo, foglamps built into the bumpers, bulging fender flares, and sharper angles to the bodywork. A bright, stainless steel strip on each side displays ‘Envoy’ prominently. At the rear are large wraparound taillamps and a hatch with separate liftglass.

The Envoy’s styling is certainly not as radical as some other new GM vehicles like the Pontiac Aztek and Chevrolet Avalanche (thank goodness for that), but there’s one thing I don’t like about it – from the side, the frame rails are visible under the bodywork – it just looks untidy to me.


New engine is the highlight

There are many improvements to the 2002 Envoy, but the highlight is the Envoy’s new 4.2 litre inline six cylinder engine. Developed from a clean sheet of paper, this twin overhead cam, four valve per cylinder six cylinder engine has 270 horsepower and 275 lb-ft of torque – 80 more horsepower and 25 lb-ft more torque than the previous 4.3 litre V6 engine – making it the most powerful standard engine in the mid-size SUV class, and more powerful than many of its V8 engine competitors. In addition, the new 4.2 litre inline six cylinder engine offers better fuel consumption than comparable V8 engines.

However, it’s noteworthy that the Envoy is available only with one engine, whereas the Explorer, Grand Cherokee and Durango are available with optional, bigger V8 engines.

The 4.2 litre inline six gives the Envoy a maximum towing capacity of 2812 kg (6200 lb.) for 4X4 models, and 2903 kg (6400 lb.) for 4X2 models. An integrated platform hitch and 7-lead wiring harness is standard equipment on all Envoys, and rear self-leveling air springs are available as an option.

All Envoy’s come standard with a four-speed automatic transmission with a floor shift lever and four wheel disc brakes with ABS. Unlike the Explorer which switched to an independent rear suspension, the Envoy continues to offer a solid rear axle.


Driving impressions

Test Drive: 2002 GMC Envoy car test drives gmc
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Though it’s a mid-sized SUV with a truck frame, the Envoy’s step-in height is not excessively high. A running board is not required to step up into the cab, although one is optional. The Envoy’s driving position gives a commanding view of the road, and it’s easy to get comfortable because the driver’s seat features a power height adjustment and lumbar adjustment for the lower back. A large dead pedal to the left of the brake provides a comfortable spot to rest the left foot.

The Envoy’s performance has improved considerably in three major areas: acceleration, handling and ride. Unlike most truck engines, the Envoy’s 4.2 litre inline six is a smooth, free-revving, and reasonably quiet powerplant. GM engineers chose an inline six because it offers better engine balance and reduced noise and vibration characteristics as well as comparable power with a V8 engine. In fact, the 4.2 litre inline six is more powerful than most of its competitors’ larger displacement standard V8 engines.

Despite the fact that the 2002 Envoy is about 250 kilograms heavier than the 2001 model, it’s much faster in a straight line, doing 0 to 100 km/h in about 8.5 seconds. The Envoy leaps off the line, with some tire spin if you’re not careful, and accelerates with a fairly even torque curve – this engine reminds me of BMW’s inline 3.0 litre six cylinder unit but with more power. At a steady cruising speed of 100 km/h, the engine does 1700 rpm – at 120 km/h it does just 2100 rpm – very relaxed engine speeds for comfortable highway cruising. I found the Envoy’s cabin to be very quiet at speeds over 100 km/h – the engine is very quiet and the tires are relatively quiet – there’s just a little wind noise which seems to be coming from the mirrors.

The Envoy’s 4 speed automatic offered excellent performance, changing with authority when the engine was pushed hard, while sliding gently into gear when just coasting.

Envoys are available in 2WD and 4WD models – my test truck had four-wheel-drive. To engage it, the driver turns a dial on the centre console – very easy to do. There’s a choice of 2 Hi (two-wheel-drive), Auto 4WD (full-time 4WD), 4 Hi (part-time 4WD), or 4LO (a Low Range gear). For summer driving, the Envoy can be left in 2Hi because it saves a bit of fuel. In variable weather conditions, or light off-road conditions, it can be switched to Auto 4WD which allocates power to the front or rear axles depending on which has more traction. For gravel or snow-covered roads, 4Hi is the best choice because it evenly distributes torque to front and rear all the time. 4Lo low range is for steep, treacherous off-road situations, and can only be engaged when stopped in Neutral.

The Envoy’s standard power assisted rack-and-pinion steering system offers easy effort steering and more manoeuverability. Despite the Envoy’s longer length and wheelbase, the 2002 Envoy has a tighter turning diameter of 11.1 metres (36.4 feet) – almost 1.8 metres (6 ft.) tighter than the 2001 Envoy.

Stopping power is provided by standard four-wheel vented disc brakes. Four-wheel antilock braking (ABS) is standard to allow the driver better steering control during hard stops.

The new Envoy features an independent short- and long-arm front suspension and five-link rear suspension with a solid rear axle, and a wider track width than the previous model. 17-inch Michelin tires and aluminum wheels are standard. I found the Envoy’s ride much more comfortable than the previous model, with less bobbing and pitching, and more stability when cornering. The wider track really helps reduces that ‘top heavy’ feeling that the previous model had.

An electronically controlled air suspension that adjusts the spring height at each rear wheel depending on load requirements, is optional. I would recommend this feature is you plan on towing a trailer or carrying heavy payloads. The system also includes an air pressure pump and gauge which can be used to pump up the tires!

The Envoy’s standard ground clearance of 203 mm (8.0 inches), adequate for most off-road driving.


Bigger than previous model

The 2002 Envoy is about 20 cm (8 in.)inches longer, 10 cm (4 in.) wider, and 18 cm (7 in.) taller than the previous four-door model. The broader dimensions add significantly to passenger room and cargo room – there’s approximately 7% more cargo room behind the rear seats, and 8% more cargo area with the rear seats folded down.

Test Drive: 2002 GMC Envoy car test drives gmc
Test Drive: 2002 GMC Envoy car test drives gmc
Test Drive: 2002 GMC Envoy car test drives gmc
Click an image to enlarge

The Envoy’s seats have longer, wider, thicker cushions and the front seats have lap and shoulder belts built into the seats for easier adjustment and comfort. The rear seats are split 65/35, but there is no centre armrest. To fold one or both, you pull up on the seat cushion until its in a vertical position, and then release the seatbacks and fold them down to an almost flat position. Unique to the Envoy are rear head restraints that automatically fold back out of the way when the seatbacks are folded down. A benefit to these head restraints is that they can be left in the down position when the seatbacks are up (and there are no rear passengers) to improve rear visibility for the driver.

The dash makes good use of shiny metal trim to add contrast to the interior – there are four large, metal trimmed air outlets on the dashboard, a metal ring around the floor shifter, and metal trim around the round gauges. A little warmth is added with artificial wood trim on the centre console, around the floor shift lever, and on the doors.

The centre stack has the AM/FM/cassette/CD player/clock positioned above the dual-zone automatic climate control. The radio has speed-compensated volume control, but I found the volume too loud as the speed increased – in theory, the occupants shouldn’t notice the difference in volume. Every Envoy offers Radio Data Systems (RDS) technology that provides the ability to search for radio stations by type (i.e. classical, country, rock) as well as receive text-based messages such as the name of the song being played and the artist. A high-powered 275 watt Bose premium sound system is available on SLT models.

A round dial for the rear intermittent wiper/washer with three speeds is positioned at the bottom of the centre console next to two 12 volt power outlets.

The floor-mounted shift lever has a flexible boot at the base of the lever rather than a more traditional gate design. Unlike most automatic transmissions, there is no PRNDL indicator next to the floor shifter – you have to look up at the instruments to see an illuminated PRNDL display.

Two cupholders with flexible rubber inserts are located in front of and behind the shift lever. The centre armrest/storage bin has enough room to fit a half dozen CD’s and cassettes.

Many interior functions can be operated with buttons on the steering wheel hub, including automatic climate control fan speed and temperature control, AM/FM stereo, and trip computer. The headlight control is a round dial on the left dash, while wipers, turn signals and cruise control are all included in one stalk on the left of the steering column.

Other interior niceties include a compass in the rear view mirror, and overhead sunglasses holder.

Rear passengers in SLT models have their own audio controls, including radio station select, and headphone jacks with individual volume controls. There’s also a 12 volt power outlet and flip-down cupholders.

The Envoy’s hatchback lifts up from bumper level and sits up high enough to stand under. The hatchback includes a separate rear liftglass which can be opened with an external button. The rear hatch opening is four feet wide and three feet long to the back of the rear seats – cargo volume with the rear seat up is 1128 litres (39.8 cu. ft.) With the rear seats folded down, the cargo area is almost six feet long – cargo volume is 2268 litres (80.1 cu. ft.). In addition, there’s a small storage compartment is found under the cargo floor. The spare tire is stored underneath the cargo floor so as not to take up room in the cargo area. Other features include a sliding privacy cover, a cargo net, wall-mounted tie-down hooks, and a rear 12 volt power outlet.

The Envoy’s maximum payload capacity is 514 kg (1,133 lb.) for 2WD models, and 523 kg (1150 lb.) for 4WD models.


Two trim levels: SLE and SLT

Envoys come in two trim levels, SLE and SLT. 2WD SLE models start at $37,955 while 4WD SLE models are $41,275. Standard equipment includes the 4.2 litre six cylinder engine, automatic transmission, front and side airbags, 17 inch tires with alloy wheels, air conditioning, AM/FM/CD with six speakers, cloth upholstery and 8-way power driver’s seat, 65/35 split rear seats, OnStar, power windows, power door locks and keyless remote, power mirrors, fog lights, variable intermittent wipers and rear wiper/washer, cruise control, tilt wheel, and roof rack.

Top-of-the-line 2WD Envoy SLT models start at $42,345, and 4WD Envoy SLT models start at $45,670. In addition to the standard features on the SLE, the SLT adds leather upholstery and heated front seats, cassette player and rear seat audio controls, dual zone climate control and rear seat controls, 6-way power passenger seat, heated mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, headlight washers, Driver Information Centre, auto-dimming mirror with compass, and steering wheel audio/heater controls.

Envoys are built in Moraine, Ohio.


Technical Data:

2002 GMC Envoy SLT
Base price $37,955
Price as tested $46,235
Freight $990
Type 4-door, 5-passenger mid-size sport-utility vehicle
Layout longitudinal front engine/2WD/4WD/AWD
Engine 4.2 litre inline six cylinder, DOHC
Horsepower 270 horsepower @ 6000 rpm
Torque 275 lb-ft @ 3600 rpm
Transmission 4-speed automatic
Tires Michelin P245/65R17 all-season radials
Curb weight 2,087 kg (4,600 lb.)
Wheelbase 2869 mm (113.0 in)
Length 4866 mm (191.6 in.)
Width 1897 mm (74.7 in.)
Height 1826 mm (71.9 in.)
Max payload (4WD) 1523 kg (150 lb.)
Max towing capacity(4WD) 2767 kg (6100 lb.)
Cargo capacity 1128 litres (39.8 cu. ft.) seats up
  2268 litres (80.1 cu. ft.) seats down
Fuel consumption n/a
Warranty 3 yrs/60,000 km

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