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The Original Envoy

The GMC Envoy was an upscale, mid-size SUV produced from 1998 to 2009.  It began as the highest trim level for the GMC Jimmy and eventually became its own model, offering a blend of towing capability with a comfortable interior with lots of seating.  This made the Envoy popular with families. 

In 1998 the Envoy was introduced as a trim level for GMC’s popular Jimmy SUV (which shared a platform with Chevy’s Blazer). The Envoy trim offered buyers new features like a moonroof, Bose audio, and heated seats and mirrors.  The Envoy kept the same sturdy frame and 190 horsepower inline-six as the Jimmy, giving it decent towing capabilities.  With anti-lock brakes and passenger airbags standard, the Envoy got a four star safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.  The Envoy existed as a Jimmy trim until 2000. 

The Envoy Branches Out

Eventually the Jimmy was phased out.  After a one year hiatus, it was replaced in 2002 by the GMC Envoy, now its own model.  The Envoy shared much in common with the Chevy Trailblazer, including an inline six engine or an optional V8.  The new Envoy had a towing capacity of 6300 pounds.  On its release in 2002, the Envoy was named Motor Trend’s Sport Utility Vehicle of the Year.  In the next seven years, GMC added several new features to the Envoy, including satellite radio, stability control, and optional air suspension for a smoother ride. 

GMC also offered a number of specialty versions of the Envoy.  The first of these was the Envoy XL, which was 16 inches longer than the regular Envoy.  It featured more leg room for the third row seats and more cargo space than in the normal Envoy. 

Next, in 2004, was the Envoy XUV, which combined the Envoy with pickup truck features.  In place of the third row seats was an extended truck bed.  Over the truck bed was a retractable roof to allow drivers to haul tall objects or to cover up anything that needed to be kept out of the weather.  When the roof was pulled back, drivers could put up a “mid-gate” to enclose the cabin and separate it from the truck bed. 

2005 saw the introduction of the Denali trim option for both the regular sized Envoy and the Envoy XL.  The Envoy Denali came with heated seats, rain-sensing windshield wipers, and a “displacement on demand” system that deactivated four of the V8’s cylinders when the power demand was low. 

The End of the Envoy

Despite all the options and features available to Envoy buyers, demand for the model began to diminish.  It had hard time fitting into the crowded mid-size SUV market, and, although it was known for a smooth comfortable ride, many reviewers felt that the handling used much to be desired.  From 2005 to 2008, sales per year dropped from over 100,000 to under 25,000.  Eventually the Ohio factory where the Envoy (along with a number of other GM SUVs) was built was shut down.  The shut-down process was detailed in an HBO documentary titled The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant

In 2012, GM had to recall thousands of Envoys built between 2006 and 2007 due to electrical problems with the window and lock switches that could cause fires.  The problems were the worst in cars driven in areas where road salt is commonly used.  Despite these flaws, many remember the Envoy fondly and many remain on the road due to their blend of comfort and practicality.  

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