2005 GMC Envoy XL with Displacement-On-Demand
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Review and photos by Russell Purcell

In 2003, General Motors introduced a stretched wheelbase Envoy model known as the XL in an effort to add a little more utility to the Envoy line. It was followed in 2004 by an open-roofed ‘mid-gate’ model (based on the stretched XL platform) known as the Envoy XUV. Not one to rest on its laurels, GMC’s design team decided to shift the focus for 2005 from styling to engineering. Buyers who choose to select the optional 5.3-litre V8 engine will immediately benefit from a gain of 10 horsepower and 5 ft.-lbs. of torque over the 2004 iteration, but the big news is the addition of GM’s Displacement-On-Demand (DOD) technology.

This innovative system helps to extend the vehicle’s operating range by automatically deactivating four of the engine’s eight cylinders (much like the system Daimler-Chrysler uses in their Hemi-equipped 300C and Magnum RT) when the vehicle is cruising along at highway speeds and there is no apparent need to keep the engine’s entire power-band on tap.

The standard power plant for all Envoy models is a powerful 4.2-litre inline six-cylinder producing a commendable 275-horsepower and 275 lb.-ft of torque. While this engine should suffice for most users, XL and XUV buyers can opt for the optional 5.3-litre Vortec V8 – now with 300 ponies and 330lb-ft of torque under the hood. This all-new V8 offers abundant pulling power (perfect if you own a trailer or are hauling a lot of cargo or kids), and gives the driver the comfort of knowing that a healthy reserve of power is available should the need arise.

2005 GMC Envoy XL with Displacement-On-Demand

2005 GMC Envoy XL with Displacement-On-Demand

2005 GMC Envoy XL with Displacement-On-Demand

2005 GMC Envoy XL with Displacement-On-Demand
Click image to enlarge

My test unit was a V8 model, and I must admit, it felt more energetic than the one that was fitted to the last Envoy I had the opportunity to play with (2004 Envoy XUV). Power comes on smooth and strong, and the 4-speed automatic transmission seems the perfect match for this package. This is the standard transmission for all Envoy models, so it has a few years of development under its belt and its refined operation speaks to that. While I never had the opportunity to hook up a trailer during my test, I did test the vehicle’s mettle during a treacherous high-altitude journey from Vancouver to Kelowna, in the frigid Okanagan Valley.

Harsh winter driving conditions including unpredictable crosswinds, blowing snow and icy stretches of highway were the plagues of the day as I navigated the treacherous Coquihalla Highway one way, and the scenic (but dicey) Fraser Canyon on the return. Steep, extended climbs followed by fast, twisty descents made for entertaining driving, but when I initially booked the Envoy XL, I was thinking more of its utility than the driving experience it offered. This is because the Envoy was essentially standing in for Santa’s sleigh as I needed it to carry a truckload of Christmas gifts and family members from their snowbound home in the Okanagan to the clan’s festive base of operations in glorious Vancouver.

It handled this task with aplomb as its 3,041-litres (107.4 cu.ft.) of cargo space made short work of my load. By folding the third row seats flat and fitting the hard cargo-shelf /cover to its lower recess (which creates an even floor surface), the Envoy easily swallowed up most of my cargo. Some last minute shopping resulted in the need to utilize the folding ability of the 60/40 split second row seat as well, but the remaining seating position was still roomy enough to keep my passenger happy. In fact, the ride quality and interior appointments are so comfortable that everyone felt relaxed and rested at journey’s end.

Even with the full load, the engine never felt stressed at all, and was able to summon up the power to tackle the long climbs and pass the occasional lumbering truck without any drama. The Displacement-On-Demand system operates almost invisibly in the background, but you do notice a slight hesitation when you trounce on the accelerator to either pass or accelerate quickly. Most drivers wouldn’t even know DOD was in operation if they weren’t informed that the system was present, as it is so well integrated that the motor behaves like a normal V8 under most conditions. The throaty rumble emitted from the exhaust system sounds the same as that of a regular V8 so it won’t give DOD’s presence away, and acts to remind you that there is plenty of power under the hood.


Smooth operator


2005 GMC Envoy XL with Displacement-On-Demand
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Ride and handling feels less-truck-like than that of many of its competitors, as the combination of A-arms and coil-over shocks up front, and a coil spring system in the rear, as well as the use of advanced hydro-forming technology in the Envoy’s frame design rewards the platform with stiffness levels similar to those found in high-end luxury sedans. My passengers found the ride relatively turbulence free and insulated enough that they even managed to catch a few winks as we ploughed through sloppy mountain passes. I should note that at higher speeds there is a little too much wind noise around the front window seals for my liking, especially for a vehicle in this class, but it is only present when speeds enter triple digit territory.

The brakes on my test vehicle were ABS-assisted discs front and rear. They proved to offer excellent stopping power and only exhibited minor fade – the latter after a number of extended duration steep descents while the vehicle was loaded with passengers and gear. During regular, everyday use the Envoy driver will likely never face such a situation, unless of course the vehicle pulls car-pool duty (or acts as a substitute school bus) and is faced with stop-and-go traffic.


Versatility

All Envoy models are available in both two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive form, but most are delivered in four-wheel-drive spec. Buyers choosing the four-wheel drive model will be pleased to see that they can select to operate the vehicle in two-wheel drive mode if they wish, unlike many rival vehicles. In a time of astonishingly high fuel costs this has to be chalked up as a positive trait, at least on dry weather days.

Operation of GM’s proven Autotrac four-wheel drive system couldn’t be simpler, as a simple dash-mounted dial allows the driver to select all-wheel-drive or, for heavier-duty off-road travel, either 4-low or 4-high settings.

A dedicated tow package is also available which includes a weight-distributing platform with trailer hitch receiver and 7-lead sealed connector.


Room to spare


2005 GMC Envoy XL with Displacement-On-Demand

2005 GMC Envoy XL with Displacement-On-Demand
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The Envoy XL is a practical alternative to a full-size SUV as it still offers true 7-passenger seating but in a more practical (at least size wise) city-friendly package. The wheelbase has been stretched an extra 16-inches (406 mm) over that of a standard Envoy which endows the XL with the interior space of a larger SUV while maintaining the more convenient width and height of a mid-size model. I found the extra length to be a slight hindrance when backing up or trying to park in tight parallel spots on city streets, but this was more a case of having to get used to the vehicle’s dimensions and sight lines. By the second day of my week-long test period I could wrangle the XL through city traffic and tight side streets with the finesse of a pro. Bring on the truck rodeo! All of the Envoy XL’s size gains are lengthwise and were mainly executed to allow the addition of the third row seats, so the vehicle still benefits from a narrow width which allows it to slide nicely into a standard parking spot or a standard garage.

2005 GMC Envoy XL with Displacement-On-Demand
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The stretched wheelbase also results in a plush ride, and gives the vehicle an interesting side profile. In fact, with its stretched rear doors and long side windows it bears a striking resemblance to a limousine, which is not a bad thing in this image conscious world.

The twin front bucket seats offer excellent comfort and support, as do the 3-passenger second row and 2-passenger third row bench seats. The extended length of the Envoy XL allows for a healthy increase in the size of the foot well for passengers in the rear seating positions, but the elevated third row should be reserved for smaller children or pets, at least for trips of longer duration. Both the rear bench seats fold easily, the second row being a 60/40 split design while the third is a 50/50 split.

2005 GMC Envoy XL with Displacement-On-Demand
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The aforementioned cargo cover is a fully-carpeted hard shelf unit that can be used to conceal cargo stowed beneath, support light bags and packages loaded via the pop-up rear window, or utilized to even out the floor surface when the seats are all folded. The backs of the third-row seats also feature flip-up rigid flaps to fill the gaps usually left between the seats when folded.

Operation of GM’s proven Autotrac four-wheel drive system couldn’t be more simple as a dash-mounted dial allows the driver to select all-wheel-drive or, for heavier-duty off-road travel, both 4-low and 4-high capabilities, as well as neutral. Unfortunately the stretched wheelbase and low ground clearance (8-inches / 203mm), not to mention running boards, will keep this rig from tackling really rugged off-trail terrain. If regular off-road duty is in the plans, GMC offers a skid plate package and a custom grille guard for those inclined to explore.


Loaded With Luxury


2005 GMC Envoy XL with Displacement-On-Demand
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The Envoy XL is available in two trim levels: SLE and SLT, but a healthy options list offers consumers a chance to equip the vehicle to meet their needs. The SLE version comes standard with a luxurious cloth interior and a host of power features (locks, windows and heated mirrors), dual-zone air conditioning (with separate rear controls), remote keyless entry, theft-deterrent system, deep-tint privacy glass, roof rails AM/FM/CD, 17-inch aluminum wheels and a power driver’s seat. Ticking the SLT option package adds dual power front seats with memory settings, a handy driver information centre, automatic climate control, plush leather seating surfaces and a multi-function steering wheel. The later being a four spoke design that offers excellent comfort as well as a host of handy switches and controls to operate the stereo, cruise control, the HVAC (including temperature) and the driver information centre (fuel levels, temperatures, service info, etc.). Most buyers will also choose to add side running boards to the XL, as they prove invaluable when entering or exiting this stout vehicle.

2005 GMC Envoy XL with Displacement-On-Demand
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Huge central air vents keep the interior climate in check, and separate console-mounted units for second row occupants help control air circulation in an effort to keep the cabin comfy. Second row passengers have their own set of controls located at the end of the centre console, so when the space is not being used, the driver can switch this unit off. Third row occupants benefit from roof-mounted vents, but have no control over the system’s settings. In SLT trim, these passengers have access to rear vent windows, but their operation can only be controlled from up front.

Audiophiles will love the available Bose-engineered audio system that will prove to be a popular option, but the premium system that comes as part of the SLT trim package features a powerful AM/FM/CD/Cassette with available steering wheel mounted controls.

A touch-screen, DVD-based navigation unit is also a popular choice, especially if you use the car for business or love to take road trips. The mapping is getting better all the time, but be forewarned that there are still pockets around the country that are invisible to these systems.

Other popular options include an automatic load-levelling rear suspension complete with cargo air inflator, sure to make you popular at the beach. Buyers with kids will no doubt select GM’s roof-mounted DVD entertainment system. This popular baby sitter comes with a flip-down 7-inch LCD screen, game ports, two pairs of wireless headphones and a remote control. The theatre effect of the elevated third row seating means that everyone gets a clear view of the screen. Selecting this option requires you to pass on the optional moon roof.


Safety First

Dual-stage front airbags come standard on all Envoy models, but side curtain units are available as an option on SLE models, and standard on SLT. Big four-wheel disc brakes with ABS and available four-wheel drive act as a tag team to keep the vehicle under control.

2005 GMC Envoy XL with Displacement-On-Demand
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The Envoy’s shapely headlamps are aided by front cornering lights, bumper-mounted driving lamps, and huge reverse lamps – all ensuring that the driver will have optimal visibility when darkness falls. Amber turn signals are integrated with the Envoy’s side mirrors (SLT) which help to make your directional intentions known to surrounding traffic in bumper-to-bumper traffic or inclement weather.

SLT models feature an electro-chromatic rear-view mirror that automatically protects your eyes free from headlight glare, but the ultra-dark tint rear windows alleviate this problem very well on their own.

GM’s ever-popular OnStar system finds its way onboard as standard fare on all Envoy models for 2005, offering its subscribers everything from route planning and hands-free phone service to emergency assistance. Having used this service on a number of products, I can attest that it is a worthwhile addition to any vehicle. GM provides the first year of OnStar’s basic ‘Safe and Sound’ service free-of-charge as part of your purchase contract, but buyer’s can select to add features from the OnStar menu for an additional charge.


Conclusions

The Envoy XL has carved a unique niche for itself in a sea of cookie-cutter SUVs. It stands as a competitively priced, well-balanced, luxurious all-weather vehicle that offers sufficient space and pulling power to forego the purchase of one of the larger SUVs or quad-cab trucks on the market. Add to this the new Displacement-On-Demand technology and competitive financing and the Envoy XL never looked better.


Technical Data: 2005 GMC Envoy XL w/D.O.D.

Base price $41,890 base (SLE-2WD), $48,350 (SLT-2WD), $45,830 base (SLE-4WD), $51,675 (SLT-4WD)
Options $5,530 ($ 2,255 Sun and Sound Package – Glass sunroof and Bose premium audio system; $2,120 V8 engine; $695 Side impact air bags; $460 side step running boards
Freight $1,050
A/C tax $100
Price as tested $56,560
Type 4-door, 7-passenger SUV
Layout longitudinal front engine/ RWD / AWD / 4WD
Engine 5.3-litre OHV V8 with Displacement on Demand
Horsepower 300 @ 5,200 rpm
Torque 330 lb.-ft. @ 4,000 rpm
Transmission 4-speed automatic with overdrive
Curb weight 2247 kg (4954 lb.)
Wheelbase 3275 mm (129.0 in)
Length 5271 mm (207.6 in)
Width 1897 mm (74.7 in)
Height 1917 mm (75.5 in) w/o luggage rails
Towing Capacity (max) (2WD)(V8) 3,221 kg. (7,100 lb.)
Cargo Capacity 3,042 Litres (107.4 cu ft) (seats folded)
Fuel consumption City 16.6 L/100 km (17 m.p.g.) (Imperial gallons)
  Hwy: 11.5 L/100 km (25 m.p.g.) (Imperial gallons)
Warranty 3 yrs/60,000 km

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