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2008 GMC Envoy Denali: Upscale luxury in a right-size SUV

We liked the GMC Denali concept the first time we drove a Yukon Denali in the nineties. We went on a long family vacation to central Oregon. The blend of luxury and function made the Denali a pleasure whether cruising at 80-plus on U.S. 97, trekking along silt Forest Service roads or plowing through deep snow on the way to Mt. Bachelor.

That great Denali tradition carries on in the 2008 GMC Envoy Denali. The Denali package is the top level Envoy above the SLE and SLT models. All three models are available in either 2WD or 4WD configurations. 2WD SUVs are few and far between in Washington State, but they’re not bad choices for everyday driving conditions. They cost about two thousand dollars less although they also return much less at trade-in time.

Walkaround: The GMC Envoy is a handsome SUV that avoids the exaggerated wheel arches of so many other SUVs. The polished 20-inch alloy wheels on our test Denali gave it that popular urban celebrity look.

Interior: The seven passenger Envoy has been discontinued for 2008. That’s fine because those last two seats were quite snug. Heated 8-way power leather front seats provide excellent comfort and support. The Denali has all the luxury features people expect in upscale SUVs including standard power-adjustable pedals.

Rear seat room is excellent for two passengers and doable for three. You can order a DVD rear entertainment system to keep the kids occupied.

Under The Hood: The Envoy is available with either a 4.2-liter inline six-cylinder or a 5.3-liter V8. The Denali gets the V8 and the SLE and SLT models get the I-6. If you want a V8 you need to order a Denali.

There isn’t a great horsepower difference between the two engines . The I-6 produces 285 hp and 276 lb-ft of torque. The V8 delivers 300 hp and 321 lb-ft of torque.

A fuel-saving feature of the V8 is its cylinder deactivation system . It provides about a five-percent improvement. That accounts for the close EPA estimates. The deactivation is seamless.

The sole transmission is a strong 4-speed automatic. Stability control is standard. The Denali has standard limited slip and load-leveling rear suspension. The transfer case is a 2-speed unit that speaks to the Envoy’s serious off-road abilities.

Behind The Wheel: The Envoy is pretty smooth riding for a truck-style SUV. All the controls and switchgear are well-designed and pleasant to use.

Whines: The seat-mounted front safety belts are hard to reach for us less-than-limber types.

Bottom Line: The GMC Envoy Denali is a Goldilocks type SUV. It’s not too big or too small. It’s powerful, but not overly thirsty. It’s luxurious, but rugged enough for snowy or muddy roads. The Denali is a nice combination of just right features.

Bruce Caldwell's picture
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