For 2005, the GMC Envoy XUV adds Displacement on Demand technology for its optional 5.3-litre V8. This system seamlessly deactivates half of the cylinders under low engine load, such as when highway cruising, for extra fuel economy. Since the heavier models benefit immensely from the V8’s power, any fuel savings are appreciated.

Other changes include an available curtain air bag system with rollover protection sensing, front passenger-sensing system, new interior colours and features, OnStar Gen 6 with enhanced hands-free capability, and three new exterior colours.

The Envoy XUV is a body-on-frame vehicle, sharing its platform with the Buick Rainier, Chevrolet Trailblazer and Saab 9-7X. It’s the same truck as the long-wheelbase GMC Envoy XL, but with an overall length that’s 22 mm longer. The most noticeable difference is that, in place of the Envoy XL’s third row of seats, the XUV has an all-weather cargo area with a “Midgate”, a divider between the passenger and cargo area. Lower the Midgate’s glass, fold and tumble the rear seats, and flip down the Midgate, and you have a wide, extended cargo area that will hold the ubiquitous 4×8 sheet of plywood. The tailgate contains a power window, and is hinged so that it can be dropped like a conventional pickup truck tailgate, or swung open like a door.

All that is topped with a power sliding roof that moves forward into the roof to turn this enclosed SUV into a quasi-pickup truck. (GM makes a big fuss about coming up with the idea, but you’ll notice it’s careful to advertise it as the world’s first “power” sliding roof. That’s because Studebaker had exactly the same thing, except you had to slide it manually, on its 1965 station wagon.)

The XUV comes in two- or four-wheel-drive, in base form with a 4.2-litre inline six-cylinder, and with an optional 5.3-litre V8. Both use a four-speed automatic transmission. Four-wheel-drive models use an Autotrac automatic system with electronic controls and Auto 4×4, in addition to 2HI, 4HI and 4LO settings. Two trim lines are offered, the SLE and the SLT.

The base Envoy SLE includes cornering lights, fog lights, power heated mirrors, 17-inch aluminum wheels, variable intermittent wipers front and rear, manual dual-zone air conditioning, cruise control, tilt wheel, power windows, cloth seats, CD player, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, and power locks with keyless entry.

The SLT adds integrated turn signal mirrors with passenger park assist, automatic dual-zone climate control, cargo net, mat and cover, compass, leather-wrapped wheel with audio controls, leather interior with eight-way heated driver and passenger seats with memory, CD/cassette, and power-adjustable pedals.

Sales of the XUV are much slower than expected, and don’t expect this model to stick around for 2006. Sure, the sliding roof is a great idea in theory, but the number of people who regularly haul trees or giraffes isn’t a huge one. Come to think of it, the Studebaker version only lasted a year, too.

The Envoy XUV is built in Moraine, Ohio.

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