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GMC Envoy for those actively seeking a lifestyle The world lavishes looks on SUV with upscale image

It's about time I got a lifestyle. I've been too long without one.

Please understand that I'm not getting a life. That would be too difficult and time-consuming.

What I want is a lifestyle: a series of visible cues to the outside world that indicate who I am and what I do. That indicate my priorities, personal and professional; my individual sense of style and desire for high-quality tools.

General Motors tells me that its new "360" trucks are built for three different kinds of customers with three different lifestyles.

Chevy's TrailBlazer, for instance, is for hardworking, independent, active sorts; Oldsmobile Bravada buyers want more luxury, comfort and performance than other SUV buyers, and GMC's Envoy is for successful people who want refinement and confidence, who have high expectations and who want to look good.

I like big ol' trucks. I chose to drive the Envoy around Montreal, and eventually home to Toronto, after a press preview for other reasons besides lifestyle projection. GM anticipates about 45 per cent of the three trucks' sales will be Envoys.

GMC's variant offers low-range four-wheel drive and among the three has, for me, the most comfortable seats and the most attractive dash design. Save for my 16.5 L/100 km average fuel consumption, this is a great highway vehicle.

The load-levelling suspension uses air springs in the back.

These supply a liquid highway ride.

The engine is incredibly smooth — reflecting its naturally balanced inline-six design — and quiet, only delivering a throaty growl under hard acceleration.

Steering is accurate, if a bit slow — but has just the right amount of feel.

The only dynamic disappointment is in braking. Stopping distances and braking force are quite good, but the pedal has a mushy feel; you're never sure if they are biting hard enough.

Envoy is also a comfortable cruiser. The seat heaters have three settings and let you heat your back only, if you want.

Dual-zone climate controls and rear-seat audio make sure everyone is comfortable. And because this rig is some 15 cm longer — and wider — than the previous Envoy, passengers in the front and back have plenty of room. There is some wind noise, but not enough for it to be objectionable at highway speeds.

This is a $46,000 truck, and it looks like it.

Maybe it was the paint, but my Envoy tester attracted more attention than any vehicle I've driven in recent memory.

The massive 17-in tires ride on attractive six-spoke alloys.

The mirrors are huge and incorporate useful turn-signal repeaters. And the big square grille had left-lane dawdlers scooting out of my way.

Inside, it's not that the quality of the plastics or the build is that bad, it's just that this truck's interior doesn't live up to the promise of its exterior. The air vents have metallic-looking surrounds, but are hard plastic. The fake wood on the dash and console is really fake, formed into shapes wood could never take.

And the seams, though always perfectly aligned, are sometimes big enough to stick a finger through.

Potential Envoy buyers probably won't care that much. They're interested in lifestyle (or at least the perception of lifestyle).

And everything about this truck–from the covered well in the rear compartment to store dirty boots in, to the split-fold rear seats, to the rugged roof rack and Michelin Cross Terrain tires — screams "I want to go out and drive over stuff." And who can blame them? Driving over stuff is fun.

And the nice thing about an Envoy is, if you finally decide to get a life in addition to your lifestyle, there's enough capability in the truck to actually go out and live it.

It's got a full hydroformed frame, a live rear axle and big suspension travel.

Whether you have a life or just a lifestyle, Envoy has all the bases covered.

Laurance Yap can be reached by e-mail at: yap

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