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by Dan Carney
The equation is pretty simple: more rows = more seats = more passengers = more money.
Airliner manufacturers recognized this fact and have exploited it by building “stretch” versions of popular planes. Take a proven aircraft, stretch it for more interior space, and for almost no cost you’ve got a roomier vehicle. Same engines, same control systems, same basic structure, same components and assembly techniques. Bottom line: wide-body capacity for a narrow body price.
The only downsides are that it is more of a hassle getting into and out of the plane, and pilots have to take care on take-off not to lift the nose too abruptly, or they’ll drag the longer tail on the ground.
GM has taken the same approach with the creation of the Envoy XL, which has an additional 16 inches of wheelbase to make room for a third-row seat, and it is a bit taller to provide head room in the “way back.”
The regular Envoy is one of the nicest mid-sized SUVs around. It looks good, has a smooth-but-powerful straight six, and rides well for an SUV (though we’d rather have a muffler that doesn’t make the Envoy look like a stationary generator). But room for a couple more passengers would be even better, wouldn’t it? Maybe not.
The stretched Envoy XL left us wondering if buyers might be better served by a true wide-body – a Yukon or Yukon XL – instead of this stretched mid-sizer.
Concern arose at the sight of the price on the window sticker. Thirty-nine thousand dollars will buy a pretty well-equipped full-size SUV. Inside we were also worried, because it seemed a little cramped for a seven-seater. But at least it gets better gas mileage, right? We only managed 14.5 mpg in mostly gentle rural highway driving with the whole family aboard. We’ve seen similar mileage from a Suburban while towing a light race car.