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GM Rolls Out Fresher, Hulkier Versions of 3 of Its Biggest-Selling Big Trucks


DETROIT — In a relentless effort to keep its lineup of pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles fresh without carrying out a complete redesign, General Motors recently unveiled new versions of three of its popular truck models, including an SUV with a sliding roof and the biggest Cadillac truck ever.

The 2004 GMC Envoy XUV is a version of the hulking Envoy XL (think Chevy Suburban twin) with a sliding roof over a cargo bed that is sealed off from the rest of the truck's interior by GM's fold-down "midgate"--meaning the cargo area can be hosed out without getting the rest of the truck's insides wet.

With the top open, drivers can carry around, say, potted palm trees, a function admittedly more in demand in L.A. than in the Midwest. The midgate now has a power window, and the rear gate also folds down or swings open.

"There are about 50 SUVs out there, and people want reconfigurability," said Mike Abelson, GM's chief engineer for mid-size trucks.

The Cadillac Escalade ESV is the luxury sibling of the Suburban, with three rows of seats and 180% more cargo room than the standard Escalade. GM calls the ESV, which will be available in the first quarter of 2003 and which can be configured for eight passengers, the biggest luxury SUV on the planet.

The Escalade ESV, however, won't have GM's Quadrasteer four-wheel steering, which greatly reduces trucks' turning radius, as an option, said Escalade marketing manager Susan Docherty. It's at least a $4,500 option, and luxury truck buyers are more likely to want to use that money for big, brash wheels or multiscreen entertainment units, Docherty said.

High performance also is coming to GM's Chevy Silverado full-size pickup, the second-best-selling vehicle in the U.S. market (after Ford's F-series pickup). The Silverado SS gets GM's 345-horsepower V-8 engine and four-speed automatic overdrive transmission.

All GM full-size trucks are getting some 40 new technology features for the 2003 model year, including dual-stage air bags; dual-zone climate controls; heated and power-folding exterior mirrors and upgraded audio systems.

There also is a passenger-side air bag suppression system made up of a sensor sewn into the passenger seat that deactivates the passenger air bag if the seat is occupied by a child seat or a small adult.

The all-truck GMC division also released a sketch of the Canyon, an all-new mid-size pickup truck that will replace the compact GMC Sonoma. No details were released other than that the Canyon will be built in Shreveport, La., starting in the fourth quarter of 2003. But by calling it a mid-size pickup, GM hinted it will be a step up in size from the compact Sonoma.

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