2003 GMC Envoy XL
2003 GMC Envoy XL. Click image to enlarge

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By Chris Chase

Photo Gallery:
GM mid-size SUVs, 2002-2009

The 2002 Chevrolet Trailblazer and GMC Envoy were the trucks designed to replace the aging Chevy Blazer and GMC Jimmy as GM’s entries in the mid-sized SUV segment. Not only were the new trucks significantly larger, but they were also more mechanically sophisticated.

The Trailblazer and Envoy are the most common variants of this platform, but Buick and Oldsmobile also got their own versions, called the Rainier and Bravada, respectively. The Chevy, GMC and Oldsmobile models debuted in 2001 and 2002 models; the Rainier appeared in 2003 as a 2004, and a Saab version called the 9-7X arrived in 2005.

All versions were powered by 4.2-litre inline six cylinder engine that was notable for its use of double overhead cam (DOHC) technology, a rarity in domestic trucks up to that point. This motor made 275 horsepower and 275 lb-ft of torque. A 5.3-litre V8 borrowed from GM’s full-size pickup and SUV lines was also available; the 25-horsepower boost it offered seemed minimal, but the V8’s 330 lb-ft of torque was what made this the better choice for heavy towing duty.

2002 Chevrolet TrailBlazer
2002 Chevrolet TrailBlazer. Click image to enlarge

In 2003, long-wheelbase versions of the Trailblazer and Envoy arrived. Chevy versions were denoted by their EXT suffix, while the extended Envoy got an XL designation. From 2003 through 2005, the Envoy XL was also offered in an XUV trim that added an all-weather pickup-like cargo area with a sliding roof and the nifty midgate first seen in the Chevrolet Avalanche.

The Buick, Oldsmobile and Saab variants were never offered in long-wheelbase form, and the Olds Bravada disappeared along with the rest of the brand after 2004.

In 2006, Chevrolet added a model: the performance-oriented SS used GM’s gutsy 6.0-litre V8, good for almost 400 horsepower. Other add-ons included big 20-inch wheels and a lowered suspension. The SS could be had with either two- or four-wheel drive.

2006 Saab 9-7X
2006 Saab 9-7X. Click image to enlarge

In 2007, the long-wheelbase Envoy was dropped, and the Buick Rainier was cut after 2007, to make room for its Enclave replacement. In 2008, the rear-wheel drive option was dropped from the Trailblazer and Envoy, making all of these trucks four-wheel drive.

In 2009, the 5.3-litre V8 was dropped from the Trailblazer’s option sheet, though it remained available in the Envoy.

Fuel consumption isn’t one of these trucks’ strong points. In six-cylinder, four-wheel drive form, EnerGuide’s figures are 15.6 L/100 km (city) and 10.6 L/100 km (highway). Adding four-wheel drive doesn’t actually affect those numbers significantly, but a two-wheel drive V8-powered version uses about an extra litre per hundred clicks on the highway while retaining the six-cylinder’s city rating. It isn’t until you move way up to a long-wheelbase, four-wheel drive, V8 model that you’ll see lump-in-the-throat fuel consumption ratings like 17 L/100 km (city) and 12.4 L/100 km (highway). The SS was rated at a surprisingly reasonable 15.6 L/100 km (city) and 11 L/100 km (highway) in rear-drive form, though choosing four-wheel drive here increased consumption by about a litre per 100 km in each driving cycle.

2004 GMC Envoy XUV
2004 GMC Envoy XUV. Click image to enlarge

Consumer Reports suggests that the biggest problems with these trucks aren’t with the basic mechanicals (engine and transmission), but with many of the ancillary components, like the four-wheel drive, electrical, fuel delivery and climate control systems, as well as lots of squeaks and rattles probably caused by iffy interior assembly quality.

Most of the mechanical problems these trucks are prone to are related to the four-wheel drive system. The most common four-wheel drive-related threads on TrailVoy.com tend to deal with the four-wheel drive system not engaging. Many of these can be seen here. The question, of course, is whether the bulk of the problems are mechanical – as in, bad gears and such – or electronic, being that the four-wheel drive system on these trucks is engaged via a dash mounted electronic selector.

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