In the Driver's Seat
If you ever have occasion to lug a ficus plant, a giraffe, a Weber grill, a couple of kegs of beer, and Yao Ming to a tailgate (and please, please, call me if you do), the 2004 GMC Envoy XUV might just be the vehicle of choice. The Envoy is a midsize SUV (perfect for a family of four) that becomes a 32- by 32-inch pickup (perfect for schlepping a grandfather clock or sheets of plywood) via a magic button that controls the retractable roof. A "midgate" can be lowered to create more room--95 feet of cubic space with the rear seats down. For entrepreneurs with cargo-carrying needs, the multiple-personality Envoy XUV unveils an array of reconfigurable hauling options.
Sticker price: $33,500 for base four-wheel drive, up to $45,400 loaded with goodies like XM satellite radio, headlamp washers, and heated mirrors.
Vital stats: 4.2-liter, 275-hp, six-cylinder engine; four-speed automatic; available in either rear- or four-wheel drive; nearly 5,000 pounds (disqualifying it for an SUV tax deduction).
Nice touches: The tailgate opens to the right or straight down; the effective draining system spits out 35 gallons of water a minute--which is great for hosing out the back after taking the dogs on a muddy hike, or for an open-air cruise through a car wash.
Drawbacks: The grim 15 to 18 mpg (imagine if you have a 6,000-pound trailer in tow), and a rear cargo bed that isn't as big as a pickup's. The price tag for a souped up Envoy is hefty, although considerably less than buying both a truck and an SUV.
What you think it says about you: "I'm pragmatic (pickup = functional) but trendy (SUV = style)."
What it really says about you: "SkyDome is the happiest place on earth."
Second opinion: "GM is throwing anything on the road to see what sticks," says John McElroy, host of Autoline Detroit on the Speed Channel. "The Envoy, which is almost experimental on GM's part, will answer the question of whether there are a lot of car buyers out there who need a retractable roof. I imagine if you have a small business that transports things that stand, it's perfect."