What is it?
The 2003 GMC Envoy falls into the second generation of General Motors’ GMT platform. It was introduced as a high-end version of the Jimmy SUV for the 1998 model year. It was redesigned in 2002 and finally decommissioned in 2009.
Changes for the “new” year included a slight bump in output from the 4.2-liter I6 to a stout 275 hp, to go along with its 275 lb-ft of torque. It also got a bigger fuel tank and a new, four-position headlight switch that allowed drivers to turn off the daytime running lights. At a combined average fuel economy of 15 mpg, we’re guessing it needed that bigger tank.
The Envoy definitely looked the part in the early aughts. Compared to the early Envoys, it came with a better grille, more impressive wheel choices and stronger-looking haunches all around. On this 11-year-old model, the GMC logo has long since fallen off, and the chrome finish is chipping off the wheels. A stubborn lug nut and an angle grinder may have contributed to that. Still, from a three-fourths view, for an 11-year-old car, it looks good.
This car went from being driven by a grandfather and grandmother to being driven by a college-age student and did some heavy pizza delivery work; needless to say there have been some repairs. The shocks and springs, tie-rod ends and wheel bearings have all been replaced. The fan clutch, blower motor and pullies are newer, too. The SUV was also in an accident involving some slippery blacktop, which required some new body panels and other parts. It’s lived a tough life.
Because of that tough life, however, the original owner saw fit to follow the maintenance schedule to the letter. Oil changes, transmission flushes and tire rotations have resulted in a car that, despite all of the above, is still in good shape.
What’s it like to drive?
Hopping a bit to get into the driver’s seat -- not sure about the integrity of those step boards -- I was surprised at how well the seats have held up. They were surprisingly firm, if a little flat, but there were no major cracks in the leather. The Envoy offers a good viewing perch. I like the low-down, sports-car feel, but I understand why SUV drivers love SUVs.
The owner assured us that the hundreds, possibly thousands, of buttons on the center console, dash and doors all worked perfectly. After a bunch of poking and prodding, we decided to take him at his word.
It’s such a throwback to see those green-teal LED lights that break up into segments to make the digital 8. It can be a 5, or an S! See! See! The fake wood grain also gave me flashbacks of our ’86 Ford Taurus. Like that Taurus, the headliner felt like a sad stuffed animal that’s been washed too many times.
On the other hand, the central dash has good, solid knobs for all your tuning, volume and heating needs. They all have that satisfying click as they spin. Sometimes I miss that, not that it’s all new age smoothness. Same with the vents -- they’re big and adjusted by hand -- no drama. The sunroof works, too, and somehow doesn’t leak.
After a few minutes, we turned the key. This thing has zero vibration on idle. That’s with about 143,000 miles on both the engine and transmission. Likewise at red lights, the Envoy is dead still. [Straight 6! –ED]
On the road, the engine and trans felt smooth. There was no lurch during gear changes, and it didn’t hang in low gears longer than it should have. It made a little more noise than I expected for a near-luxury car, but remember, there’s more than a decade of hard driving under its belt.
Even with the new-ish suspension, the Envoy floats and bounces all over the road. It dives on braking and moves all over the place on the expressway. At a stop or at lower speeds, though, the steering wheel has a surprising amount of heft, compared to today’s SUVs.
Wind noise is kept in check, but bigger bumps echo into the cabin. And with that iffy steering rack, it was dangerous to try and dodge them all. Interior rattles were minimal. Of course, a brightly lit service-engine-soon light glowed on the instrument panel for the duration of my drive.
EDITOR WES RAYNAL: Like the 2014 Ford Explorer Limited I drove previously, the 2014 GMC Acadia Denali seems to me a terrific minivan for those who don't want a minivan.All of GM's Lambdas (this, the ...
Do I want one?
Now? No. When it was new, probably. It wasn’t cheap at about $35K, but it was one of the better SUVs on the market at the time.
This Envoy did hold up well, even with those hard-driven miles. So that’s a bonus. It needs better headlights and you have to get a cassette-tape-to-iPhone converter if you want to listen to music, but the armrests on the doors are perfect. Now if we could just find the super glue, we could put that GMC logo back in front.
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