2008 GMC Envoy Performance
This performance review was written when the 2008 GMC Envoy was new.
The 2008 GMC Envoy receives mixed performance reviews, with New Car Test Drive noting it is "well-engineered and enjoyable to drive, stable and responsive with good brakes and a superb inline six-cylinder engine." However, others complain about the four-speed automatic transmission, sloppy handling, and low fuel economy. Reviewers are generally happy with the suspension, but many find steering numb.
Acceleration and Power
Under the hood, the 2008 GMC Envoy SLE and SLT models pack a 4.2-liter inline six-cylinder Vortec engine that puts out 291 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque. The 4.3-liter V6 engine, with a four-speed automatic transmission, has an Environmental Protection Agency fuel economy of 14 miles per gallon in the city and 20 on the highway. The ultraluxury Denali model boasts a 5.3-liter V8 Vortec engine that pumps out 302 hp and 330 pound-feet of torque. It nets around the same fuel economy as the 4.2-liter engine, thanks to a cylinder-deactivation feature. Regardless, NewCars.com says the GMC Envoy's fuel tank "will need to be replenished somewhat more often than the unit in the average midsize SUV."
Reviewers are generally pleased with the smaller engine, although they do note some drawbacks. Automobile Magazine says, "Adequate acceleration is supplied from the torque-rich engine, although it would be a stretch to call the six-cylinder Envoy quick." New Car Test Drive feels the six-cylinder is "smooth and powerful, and it's a perfect companion for these vehicles," and Autobytel calls it "an excellent engine." The Denali's larger V8 engine comes with Active Fuel Management, a cylinder-deactivation feature that allows it to return mileage similar to that of the six-cylinder engine on the highway -- making it a logical choice for those willing to shell out for the much higher base price. The says the V8 provides "impressive acceleration," while Automobile Magazine notes that "While the V8 provides more torque, it feels only marginally faster [than the six-cylinder] fitted to the heavier Envoy configurations."
Both the inline-six and V8 engines come with a four-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission with overdrive that reviewers find just adequate. Reflecting the general consensus, Automobile Magazine says, "Shifting is smooth, but another ratio in the gearbox would help both acceleration and fuel economy" and comments that "It's a shame GM doesn't provide a five- or six-speed automatic."
Handling and Braking
Kelley Blue Book praises the Envoy's handling, saying, "On the road, you'll find the Envoy's ride to be extremely comfortable, with a firm suspension that soaks up most road imperfections before they ever reach the passenger compartment." All models come standard with a Luxury Ride suspension that includes 46-mm high-pressure gas Bilstein shocks, front and rear jounce bumpers, and front and rear stabilizer bars. New Car Test Drive reports that "the Envoy feels smooth and stable, even at high speeds. It rides smooth and car-like at lower speeds without being overly soft in corners. Yet it's sufficiently compliant for stable handling on bumpy roads."
For a more luxury feel, the Denali comes standard (and the SLT comes optional) with a rear load-leveling suspension with an air compressor that reviewers feel adds refinement. Automobile Magazine notes, "Towing heavy loads can cause traditional spring suspensions to sag, reducing ride quality, steering control, and towing ability. GMC engineers have addressed this problem by installing an air-spring rear suspension. Inflating the air spring prevents sagging and returns ride height to normal, resulting in a more refined ride, both laden and unladen." The special suspension also adds an inflator kit, "a 22-foot air hose that attaches to a small valve in a compartment in the cargo area [that] can be used for filling everything from tires to toys," according to New Car Test Drive.
Though reviewers are happy with the Envoy's suspension, for many steering is a different story. While Carz Unlimited likes the Envoy's "well-cushioned ride," the reviewer doesn't like the steering, noting it "offers little in the way of road feel, and handling is sloppy around corners." Consumer Guide echoes that the Envoy is "Trucky, with a tippy feel in aggressive cornering and annoyingly vague steering feel." However, the reviewer likes the SUV's 36.4-foot turning radius, which is "relatively tight" and "eases close-quarters maneuvering."
Likewise, another group of reviewers, Kelley Blue Book included, praises the steering, commenting that "Though the Envoy exhibits some body lean in sharp turns, it does so gradually and never imparts the feeling of being top-heavy. This may be the Envoy's greatest attribute. It offers a car-like ride but still has the ground clearance and suspension settings to take it far off-road." MSN thinks "The steering has the right gearing for a big, high, heavy vehicle." Reviewers also praise the Envoy's brakes. New Car Test Drive says, "Back at speed on the pavement, the Envoy can be brought to a halt with little drama. Envoy's four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes are impressive. The nose doesn't dive under hard braking, keeping the vehicle remarkably level and stable."
The 2008 GMC Envoy comes standard with rear-wheel drive, but any model is optional with an electronic Autotrac four-wheel drive system, which can be left engaged on dry roads but also includes low-range gearing for off-roading. The 4WD system's three modes are rear-wheel high, four-wheel high, and four-wheel low. A locking rear differential is optional. Carz Unlimited finds the system competent, noting that "the Envoy is capable of tackling the typical obstacles one encounters while trying to access trailheads and campsites."
New Car Test Drive put the system to the test with a comprehensive off-road trek. The reviewer concludes that "For serious off-road use, it's usually best to switch to 4HI or, for low-speed mud-slogging or climbing steep, rugged terrain, 4LO. Switching in and out of 4HI can be done on the fly with a flip of the switch. You'll need to shift the transmission into neutral before switching into 4LO, however." The reviewer points out, though, that the Envoy's relatively low ground clearance of 8 inches under the engine reduces its capability for serious off-highway driving: "Note that word, serious, however. We would not hesitate to drive an Envoy down primitive dirt roads or any of the other trails commonly encountered when heading to a hiking or fishing or hunting destination."
When properly equipped, a 2WD Envoy can tow up to 6,300 pounds and a 2WD Denali with the V8 can tow up to 6,600 pounds--"making it one of the most capable mid-size SUVs on the market," according to Automobile Magazine. Confirming that, NewCars.com says, "Towing is quite a bit more the GMC Envoy's forte than it is the average midsize SUV's."
All models come standard with trailering equipment, including a trailer hitch platform, seven-wire harness, and trailering wire harness connector. All models except the SLE 3SA base model also offer an optional locking rear differential, which is designed to evenly distribute power to both rear wheels in slippery traction situations. To boost towing capacity, the Denali comes standard with the heavy-duty locking rear differential as well as rear load-leveling suspension.