Transit Authority

The GMC Envoy XUV has equipment you won't find on other SUVs. A dual-function tailgate can either drop down or swing open; a glass gate behind the second row separates the passengers from the cargo (it folds flat to extend the cargo hold); an all-weather, hard-plastic cargo compartment has drainage so you can wash the area after hauling dirty stuff; and a power-sliding rear roof allows you to carry large items upright. At first, I thought the vehicle seemed like the answer to questions no one had asked, but after due consideration, it's clear that GMC has cross-pollinated a SUV with a pickup truck to create a fresh strain of ultra-versatile vehicles.

To check out the Envoy XUV's willingness to tow, we hitched up a Ski Nautique on a single-axle trailer. The test vehicle had the standard 4.2-liter DOHC in-line-6 engine-a 5.3-liter V-8 is available for an extra $1,500. The standard engine is a serious overachiever and pumps out an enthusiastic 275 hp, but lock the tach needle at the high end of its scale to enjoy reasonable performance. Without the 4,120-pound load, reaching 60 mph took 9.9 seconds; with the boat and trailer, we measured 17.6 seconds. The engine doesn't hesitate to answer a kick of the throttle, but another gear would be appreciated-the automatic transmission has only four forward speeds. Passing performance is enough to keep you apace of traffic.

Soft spring rates and gentle damping calibrations give this truck a pleasant ride. The cabin moves around a bit on its chassis, but the whole rig floats over wavy pavement surfaces like a well-engineered magic carpet. All-around comfort is outstanding.

At the ramp, there's enough forward urge to spin both rear tires. Select automatic four-wheel-drive and slippage is less than a quarter turn of the rear wheels. Fuel economy was disappointing at 8 mpg with the trailer attached, but that's what you get when towing a heavy rig with a high-revving engine.

Last Word. Be the first on your block with an SUV that converts into a high-walled pickup.