Bucking strong competition from such rivals as the Jeep Liberty, Acura MDX and Toyota Highlander, the GMC Envoy has been named the Motor Trend Magazine SUV of the Year.
Motor Trend Detroit bureau chief Jack Keebler said the mid-sized SUV excelled in several areas, but most notably it retained the toughness of a sport utility vehicle, while providing a comfortable ride despite being built on a truck body, rather than a car body like the Toyota Highlander and Lexus RX300.
``People who want SUVs want no tradeoffs,'' said Envoy brand manager, Tony DiSalle. ``We saw a gap in the market where people wanted comfort, but didn't want a car-based SUV.''
Analyst Bill Seltenheim, of Autodata Corp., said he agrees with Motor Trend's choice. He said he believes consumers for whom the traditional reasons for buying an SUV -- storage, power and towing capacity -- are important, might be disappointed with a car-based vehicle.
``You get the comfort, then you realize it's more like a station wagon,'' Seltenheim said.
Keebler said the Envoy's exterior design also won over Motor Trend's editors, who drove each of the contenders for three weeks for a minimum of 1,000 miles, some of which were through California's demanding Death Valley.
``It has a fresh new shape, a little edgy,'' Keebler said of the Envoy.
The judges also were sold on the Envoy's inline-six cylinder, aluminum block, double overhead cam engine. ``It's an amazing engine, a wonderful powertrain,'' Keebler said.
The Envoy's closest competitor was the Jeep Liberty, Keebler said. The smaller SUV fell short on interior roominess and ride comfort, he said.
Sticker price for the 2002 Envoy starts at $29,700 and can soar to $38,000 with leather seats and either a sunroof or DVD player.
For General Motors Corp., the award is expected to give added momentum to a strong sales year for its light trucks. Last month, while light truck sales declined for most automakers, GM's shot up just over 10 percent from Sept. 2000.