Economy test: 2009 GMC Envoy in the UAE
Oil prices are soaring and so is the greed of the local oil companies due to which fuel costs are rising. The massive impact from the recession has hit hard on the brains of the crowd; in fact so hard that their vision of the future is now so short term. As a result, this has led to many people playing “safe” by not falling prey to huge debts and its aftermath. They make more sensible choices and judge their financial stands way better. The recent increase in the number of econo-sedans and crossover jokes is a proof to this. It is rather a sad sacrifice which some individuals are forced to make as no car or CUV can ever be as fun, as commanding and as capable as a proper SUV. By proper SUV, I definitely do not mean the feeble 4-cylinder Prados or poseur RAV-4s – what I am talking here is about those machines which give you real “go anywhere” capability, like the GMC Envoy. Aside from numerous Toyota leaners and crude Nissan beasts, GMC is one nameplate that has managed to gain quite some popularity in the Middle Eastern market as their vehicles are renowned for their comfort, powerful engines and of course, the optional Denali luxury and bling. However, they are also known to be some serious gas-guzzlers as well.
The Envoy, which was discontinued in 2009 along with the Chevrolet Trailblazer and sadly replaced by the crossover Acadia, is a proper part-time 4wd with low range gearing and body on frame construction. It is powered by a straight-6 4.2-litre Vortec engine which is rated at 291 hp and 373 Nm of torque and mated to a basic 4-speed automatic transmission. Since the Envoy was already reviewed before, this here will be a fuel economy test. While fuel economy is gaining rapid popularity in this region due to fuel becoming costlier than water these days, I decided to put this 2009 GMC Envoy SLT, which I got for a day, through a quick fuel economy test, along with some insight into off-roading.
Awed by the Envoy’s smoothness, comfort and engine power, and not having enough of some rear wheel drive fun, putting it through an economy test was sort of a challenge for me. I don’t think I have driven my Mondeo so carefully as to achieve some good fuel economy numbers. As known by many, economy driving involves careful and sensible use of the accelerator and avoidance of abrupt braking manoeuvres. For the best numbers, one ideally needs to avoid congested roads and seek jam-free highways. But for a change, I chose to negotiate some mild-to-moderate traffic which in turn shall give more real-life numbers.
The routes that I chose for my test included the famous Ittihad road (also known as Dubai-Sharjah highway) renowned for traffic congestion at peak hours, Dubai Bypass road and Sharjah-Kalba motorway (Maleha road). My highway speeds were a steady 110 kph with the tacho resting at 2000 rpm. During accelerations and in all occasions I made sure that the tacho needle never crossed 2500 rpm, thanks to that 4.2-litre Vortec motor with above-average low-end power. All sounds good. So could I break the ‘gas guzzler’ myth that shrouds GMC? After driving well over 150 kilometers, the trip computer registered the rate of fuel burn at 12 litres/100 km. And the reading had dropped down to 11.6 litre/100 km which was, astonishingly enough, while negotiating the usual morning rush on Dubai-Sharjah highway towards Dubai, moving at no more than 30 kph, not to mention the occasional stops. I had always thought highway driving results in better fuel economy! The presence of an additional gear would have definitely made those figures even better.
On the off-roading front, the vehicle was very capable. The only barriers that hinder its capabilities are the low and thick side-steps and a plastic lip attached to the lower part of the front bumper, which affects the vehicle’s approach angle. The plastic part can be removed though. There were no skid plates either. Traction control had to be turned off manually and stability control seemed to remain active all throughout, evident from the occasional screen warnings that said “Stabilitrak Active” and some weird sounds coming from outside due to the vehicle applying brakes to individual wheels as needed whenever the vehicle swayed; I could not find a way to turn off the stability control. The Envoy comes factory-fitted with street tyres and you probably won’t miss those offroad rubbers, thanks to the raw Vortec power.
I had initially driven into loose sand and even negotiated some moderate dunes without deflating the tyres at all since I was too lazy to do it; but not until I decided to stop on a slight downslope with relatively harder sand, which is when the epitome of heaviness just gave up and sank in. Considering Envoy’s low slung body and unprotected underbelly I did not want to deflate the tyres to as low as 18 psi which is what I generally use for sand bashing, hence deciding to reduce the tyre pressure to just 24 psi. However, that was all enough for the Vortec beast to pull the Envoy out of trouble and blast off to glory. There is ample power in the lower and mid-rev range, making stuff like shooting up dunes and sailing over the sands a breeze. A 1-inch lift is all what it takes for the Envoy to kill its Japanese competition downright in the off-roading department. That said, such a lift would also see the on-road handling levels go from mediocre to disaster! Nevertheless, in its current setup, the Envoy is surprisingly capable and can keep up with Prados and Pathfinders in most scenarios.
It is sad to see such a capable off-roader being replaced by a humungous soft-roader which may look good, but is not nearly as capable. However, changes are inevitable and hardly do any of the Envoy owners take their vehicles to explore the wild. The soft-roaders being much more popular and off-roading not being a concern at all for many, several icons have been forced to bid goodbye to their capabilities and concentrate more on family hauling, comfort and safety. If driven sensibly enough, the truck will not disappoint you with mileage too. Those who really want the Envoy should check out the used car market for a sparingly-used accident-free example and you may be lucky to find some great deals.