2008 GMC Envoy Review

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Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
July 2, 2008

If you have a load to pull on a regular basis, the 2008 GMC Envoy might make sense. Otherwise, you can do better when hauling passengers.

TheCarConnection.com’s vehicle experts have sampled what other critics have had to say regarding the 2008 GMC Envoy. Then the editors at TheCarConnection.com have incorporated their own driving impressions and firsthand experience with the vehicle, to make this review especially useful.

The Envoy is GMC's mid-size sport-utility vehicle, closely related to the Chevrolet TrailBlazer, Buick Rainier, and Saab 9-7X. Unlike many new utility vehicles, the 2008 GMC Envoy has traditional truck-based underpinnings, which make it better suited for towing but less proficient at hauling passengers than car-based crossovers.

Performance from the Envoy's standard 291-horsepower, 4.2-liter six-cylinder engine is adequate for most needs, though it's not particularly perky from a standstill. The 2008 GMC Envoy is also rather coarse-sounding from inside the cabin. The 300-hp, 5.3-liter V-8 that's standard on top Denali models and optional through the rest of the lineup is strongly recommended for towing, as it has plenty of power on reserve, works especially well with the four-speed automatic transmission, and doesn't have any real-world fuel-economy penalty versus the six, due to the fitment of GM's Active Fuel Management technology on the V-8. Both engines can be equipped with either rear- or four-wheel drive. The Envoy's maximum tow rating is 6,600 pounds.

The extended-length XL models are no longer offered, so all Envoys have two rows of seating for five, but the overall interior space is disappointing compared to more modern designs. The ride is quite soft, but can be bouncy on the roughest roads; its handling isn't very crisp or secure, either. Interior appointments feel rather outdated and materials lack luster or a high-quality feel. The 2008 GMC Envoy has reasonably comfortable seating, but road and engine noise are prominent.

Review continues below

The top-of-the-line 2008 GMC Envoy Denali model gets a seemingly endless list of additional equipment, including upgraded mechanicals and plush luxury features, including a load-leveling rear suspension, upgraded wheels and tires, a stronger alternator, a luggage rack, heated mirrors, power heated leather seats, dual-zone climate control, steering-wheel controls, power-adjustable pedals, and Bose speakers. XM Satellite Radio is now standard across the line. Major options include a navigation system, a sunroof, and DVD entertainment for the backseat.

Crash-test performance for the 2008 GMC Envoy has been hit-and-miss. The Envoy earned just three stars--the lowest score typically awarded--in the federal government's frontal crash tests for driver protection and four stars for passenger protection. And in the IIHS tests, the Envoy was given Acceptable ratings for frontal protection, Marginal for side protection (unusual for an SUV), and Poor for rear impact. However, it maintains five-star results from the feds in side-impact protection. GM's StabiliTrak stability control and anti-lock brakes are standard; curtain airbags are newly standard for '08.

7

2008 GMC Envoy

Styling

The 2008 GMC Envoy has traditional SUV cues outside and in.

TheCarConnection.com sees overall satisfaction with the 2008 GMC Envoy's outward appearance in reviews across the Web, but some sources have complaints about the interior.

The GMC Envoy was introduced in 2002 and has had few changes in styling since.  Calling it an "upscale twin to sister division Chevrolet's TrailBlazer midsize SUV," Edmunds says the Envoy GMC 2008 "takes a trip uptown with fancier styling." Cars.com reports that "a shield-shaped grille helps give the four-door [GMC] Envoy a distinct identity." ConsumerGuide describes the Envoy GMC as having "a traditional truck-type design," and Kelley Blue Book says the GMC Envoy "strikes a rugged yet refined pose that seems equally comfortable off-road or at valet parking."

ConsumerGuide is less impressed with the 2008 GMC Envoy's interior: "mainstream Envoys use unimpressive imitation-wood trim," but nonetheless "are slightly more upscale than similar Chevrolet TrailBlazers for interior décor." Edmunds notes that "brushed metallic [dresses] up the interior" of the GMC Envoy but adds "that luxurious effect is sullied somewhat by the use of low-grade plastics on the dash and door panels." Kelley Blue Book on the other hand had nothing but accolades for the Envoy GMC's interior, describing it as "typical GMC: simple and clean...the instrument panel controls are handsomely adorned with wood trim and sturdy black plastic."

6

2008 GMC Envoy

Performance

The 2008 GMC Envoy’s V-8 engine is the best choice for towing, and fuel economy’s not that much worse than the inline-six. Handling is soft—too soft.

TheCarConnection.com's experts see few complaints--or raves--about the 2008 GMC Envoy's performance.

Cars.com reports that the GMC "Envoy's 4.2-liter inline-six-cylinder makes 285 horsepower," while the "Envoy Denalis feature a 300-hp, 5.3-liter V-8"; with these capabilities, the GMC Envoy "rivals the Ford Explorer in passing power," they contend. Edmunds acknowledges "the most enjoyable aspect of the Envoy [GMC] is its peppy performance that comes by way of its brawny engine lineup." Kelley Blue Book advises that the "[very impressive] 4.2-liter in-line six-cylinder engine is all the [GMC] Envoy needs, unless it will be towing something really big." If this is the case, this source recommends the larger engine, which "delivers a little more horsepower and a usable increase in torque, and at lower engine speeds."

According to Cars.com, "all [Envoy GMC] models use a four-speed automatic transmission." Few sources comment on the drivetrain, except for ConsumerGuide, which reports "the transmission is smooth and responsive."

Because the 2008 GMC Envoy is powered by large engines, one should not expect stellar gasoline mileage. EPA estimates for the smaller inline-six are 14 mpg city and 20 mpg highway; the larger V-8 gets 1 mpg less on both counts. ConsumerGuide testing indicates "a 2WD Denali averaged 15.2 mpg."

Handling and steering elicit praise from some sources. Cars.com reports that the 2008 GMC Envoy "rivals the Ford Explorer in ride comfort and handling prowess" and says that the "regular-suspension Envoy rides similar to a car on smooth surfaces." This source adds "handling is on the slow side, but the SUV has a satisfying steering feel."

Edmunds suggests that "the steering offers little in the way of road feel, and handling is sloppy around corners due to the overly soft suspension," but "off-road, the Envoy is capable of tackling the moderate terrain owners are likely to encounter while accessing trailheads and campsites." Kelley Blue Book also praises the Envoy GMC's off-road capabilities, saying, "Extreme lean and dive are kept in check by the complex five-link rear suspension and double A-arms up front...[offering] a car-like ride but still has the ground clearance and suspension settings to take it far off-road." ConsumerGuide reports that the Envoy GMC's "brakes have good stopping control but spongy pedal action."

TheCarConnection.com’s editors observe that the performance from the Envoy's standard 291-horsepower, 4.2-liter six-cylinder engine is adequate for most needs, though it's not particularly perky from a standstill. The 2008 GMC Envoy is also rather coarse-sounding from inside the cabin. The 300-horsepower, 5.3-liter V-8 that's standard on top Denali models and optional through the rest of the lineup is strongly recommended for towing, as it has plenty of power on reserve, works especially well with the four-speed automatic transmission, and doesn't have any real-world fuel-economy penalty versus the six, due to the fitment of GM's Active Fuel Management technology on the V-8.

In TheCarConnection.com’s opinion, the 2008 GMC Envoy’s ride is quite soft, but can be bouncy on the roughest roads; its handling isn't very crisp or secure, either. Both engines can be equipped with either rear- or four-wheel drive. The Envoy's maximum tow rating is 6,600 pounds.

6

2008 GMC Envoy

Comfort & Quality

You'll ride in reasonable comfort aboard the 2008 GMC Envoy, but be prepared to raise your voice.

Comfort levels aboard the 2008 GMC Envoy are fair, from comments read in respected Web reviews and in the opinion of TheCarConnection.com’s test drivers.

Cars.com reports that the five-seat Envoy GMC "contains reclining front bucket seats and a split, folding rear seat." ConsumerGuide touts "good headroom and legroom, even for taller folks" and "seats [that] are fairly comfortable and supportive," while "Available power-adjustable pedals help tailor a comfortable position, especially for shorter drivers." Edmunds comments that the 2008 GMC Envoy offers "a roomy cabin and plentiful features...[it] easily accommodates five adults, but there is no third-seat option."

ConsumerGuide reports that the "60/40 split 2nd row seat with automatic-folding headrests converts easily to provide ample space." Edmunds gives the specifics: "with those seats folded, the Envoy has a maximum cargo capacity of 80 cubic feet."

The interior quality of the Envoy GMC is a mixed bag; on one hand, "backlit power-window buttons and steering wheel-mounted controls are two of the Envoy's finer features--details too often overlooked by other manufacturers," according to Kelley Blue Book. On the other hand, the GMC Envoy's "mediocre interior materials prevent it from seriously challenging the class leaders" says Edmunds.

Noise aboard the GMC Envoy is a problem; "the 6-cylinder engine cruises quietly enough but sounds ragged at full throttle," according to ConsumerGuide, whereas the "V8 is more refined." This source also notes "tire noise is audible at highway speeds, though that's drowned out by considerable wind noise, especially from around the sunroof--even when it's closed."

TheCarConnection.com’s experts think the interior appointments in the 2008 GMC Envoy feel rather outdated and materials lack luster or a high-quality feel. The Envoy has reasonably comfortable seating, but road and engine noise are prominent.

7

2008 GMC Envoy

Safety

The 2008 GMC Envoy offers only adequate crash protection.

TheCarConnection.com gives the GMC Envoy for 2008 only average marks for safety, due to relatively poor front-impact crash performance.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) awards the Envoy GMC excellent marks in side impact tests--which is good, since most injuries result from side impacts--but both this agency and the more stringent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) give the 2008 GMC Envoy much lower marks in frontal impacts. The NHTSA’s front-impact rating is only three stars for the driver, far off the mark for most new cars.

That score comes despite the Envoy’s extensive safety gear. Standard safety equipment in the GMC Envoy, according to Cars.com, includes "all-disc antilock brakes, electronic stability control and side curtain airbags and a tire pressure monitoring system; Edmunds reports that "the 2008 GMC Envoy gains head curtain airbags as standard equipment."

Visibility poses few problems aboard the Envoy. GMC’s design has "enough glass around the sides to give the driver a good 360-degree view," according to Kelley Blue Book. On the other hand, ConsumerGuide says that while "the driver has a good view to the front and sides" in the GMC Envoy, "headrests and roof pillars hamper lane changes and backing up."

8

2008 GMC Envoy

Features

The 2008 GMC Envoy has a long list of standard equipment and high-tech options, such as DVD navigation.

TheCarConnection.com notes a number of useful features both standard and optional offered for the 2008 GMC Envoy, with the ability to configure a vehicle to meet many needs.

GMC Envoy trims include the SLE, SLT, and Denali.

Cars.com reports that GMC "Envoys have either rear-wheel drive or Autotrac four-wheel drive, which incorporates a two-speed transfer case." Kelley Blue Book goes into greater detail; according to this source, standard 2008 GMC Envoy equipment includes "Stabilitrak, illuminated entry, keyless remote, cruise control, tire pressure monitoring system, power liftgate release, dual power mirrors, AM/FM stereo with CD, head-curtain side airbags, XM Satellite Radio, rear window wiper/washer and aluminum wheels." With the SLT upgrade to the Envoy GMC, buyers get "a garage door opener, heated mirrors, eight-way power driver's seat and the TravelNote digital recorder."

Options for the GMC Envoy, according to ConsumerGuide, "include power-adjustable pedals, DVD entertainment, and navigation system." Kelley Blue Book reports additional Envoy GMC options that include "limited-slip rear differential, rear load-leveling suspension [and] locking rear axle."

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6.8
Overall
Expert Rating
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Styling 7.0
Performance 6.0
Comfort & Quality 6.0
Safety 7.0
Features 8.0
Fuel Economy N/A
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