Trucks & SUVs

Worst Car Wednesday: Great Idea Terrible Car-GMC Envoy XUV

GM was rolling out the weird stuff in the early 2000s. Some, like the Avalanche, sold fairly well. As long as you didn’t mind the incessant rattling of the partition separating the cabin from the bed. Others, like the Pontiac Aztek, well, pretty much everything that was so horrible about it has been written. Then we had the GMC Envoy. Another stab at crossing up a car and truck, it was a good idea. Unfortunately, it came with that typical for-the-time club-fisted GM execution. Today’s Worst Car Wednesday spotlight is on the 2003-2005 GMC Envoy-a great idea wrapped up in a terrible car.

What made the GMC Envoy unique was a number of good ideas wrapped into a single package

What made the GMC Envoy unique was a number of good ideas wrapped into a single package. In fact, GM was so giddy about them it reserved these features for the GMC version only since it was the General’s premium truck brand. The retractable roof meant you could haul tall things like grandfather clocks and cell-phone towers. With its movable partition between the cabin and storage area, you could hose out the back after a particularly dirty job because it was watertight. A versatile SUV for work or play. 

How did it get so much extra room? It was a stretched Envoy, which was just a tarted-up Chevy Trailblazer, that’s how. But you can only tart up plastic interiors, dull chassis, and crappy gas mileage so much. The advertised 21 Highway mpg was rarely attained in the real world according to old forums. 

GM president at the time Bob Lutz described looking at it from the rear as “some towering wedding cake.”

Another problem lay in how it looked, which was bad. GM president at the time Bob Lutz described looking at it from the rear as “some towering wedding cake.” With the retractable mechanicals bonked onto the top, and then chrome roof rails above that, it was ever-narrowing elements that gave it a pinheaded look. And lengthening it to end up with cigar-like proportions didn’t help, either. 

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With the retractable roof came added exposure to warranty issues for GM. Sure enough, leaking roofs and broken retractable bits wreaked havoc with warranty claims. All of those added flaws caused GM to lose money and future customers. Complaints were coming loud and fast.

The coup-de-grau was that with all of the hype around how flexible and versatile it was the XUV held little more than the conventional Envoy. So all of that pomp and circumstance, warranty issues, extra weight, and compromised looks, in the end was for naught. 

After big discounts and incentives, GM was lucky to sell the 13,000 units it finally sold

GM marketing was sure the sliding-roof version of the SUV would sell 90,000 units. The premium price that came with the XUV would add to GM’s coffers and polish its image as true innovators. In reality, it was a disaster. After big discounts and incentives, GM was lucky to sell the 13,000 units it finally sold.

The Envoy XUV, Avalanche, and Aztek are all from the same era where it seemed that GM invented features and gimmicks. Then it quickly wrapped it all up in a body that no one stood back and looked at. But you can’t sell ungainly or just plain ugly vehicles. If it doesn’t have the rugged, compelling looks of a Jeep Wrangler or the sexy and aggressive looks of a Corvette, you’re not going to draw customers to it.

As important as this is especially to GM, which has been building cars and trucks for over 100 years, it sometimes gets lost in the odd fog that sometimes permeates the company.  And that’s why we have a Worst Car Wednesday each week.