Curbside Classic: 2004 GMC Envoy XUV – And Whose Bright Idea Was This?


(first posted 3/30/2016)   Take a seventeen-foot, extended-length SUV, take out the actually usable third row, replace the entire trunk area with waterproof truck lining, separate it from the passenger compartment with a limousine-style glass divider, and oh, add a retractable roof and rear windshield – that pretty much sums up the concept behind the Envoy XUV.

Envoy XUV 1

This concept wasn’t all that new, as a similar idea had been implemented with the 1963-1966 Studebaker Wagonaire. However unlike the Wagonaire, the Envoy XUV was a truck-based SUV, came at the cost of its third row, and had a power retractable roof that wasn’t overly prone to leaking. The XUV’s cargo area also included a drainage system capable of draining 35 gallons of water per minute, making spraying down the cargo bed with a hose an easy task.

Envoy XUV 2

Similar to the Chevrolet Avalanche/Cadillac Escalade EXT, the XUV’s rear seats tumbled forward and the midgate divider could be folded down, increasing the cargo area to 95.2 cubic feet. Due to the XUV’s modifications, cargo capacity was actually less than that of the Envoy XL by some 12.4 cubic feet. Unfortunately, utilizing this 95.6 cubic feet of space behind the front seats was not well-suited for messy hauls, as folding down the midgate exposed areas of the interior not easily cleaned with a hose.

Envoy XUV 4

Much like the similar-era Lincoln Blackwood, the GMC Envoy XUV’s failure was in its attempt at offering the best of both worlds between a pickup truck and SUV. As it demonstrated in practice, the Envoy XUV wasn’t able to maximize the cargo carrying benefits of a pickup, nor the passenger carrying benefits of an SUV. At over 208 inches long, the XUV was longer than a standard cab Sierra pickup, yet offered less cargo space (with the seats/midgate upright) and even had a higher load floor height!

Envoy XUV 5

At the same time, the XUV only sat five passengers, or the same as the standard-length Envoy, which was 17 inches shorter in length and six inches lower in total height. As aforementioned, the Envoy XUV actually had a smaller cargo capacity than the seven-passenger Envoy XL, which had nearly identical exterior dimensions.

Envoy XUV 3

Despite its ability to transport items such as a bookcase or a tree upright, most consumers clearly didn’t see a need to spring for the Envoy XUV (which despite its added mechanics, was priced less than $1,000 higher than the XL), and GMC discontinued the XUV after less than two years of production. Regardless of the XUV’s very narrow appeal, credit must be given to GM for having the gall to go ahead with creativity and put such a unique vehicle into production, even if it did come at the expense of improving current and more practical SUV offerings. I mean, they could have just rebadged the regular Envoy and sold it under six different brands. Oh wait, GM did do that.