Pontiac-GMC uses a series of television commercials featuring a new “mystery SUV” as the basis for an early launch of its revamped Envoy sport/utility vehicle for '02. The TV ads, which bowed during Olympics coverage and initially showed the new vehicle without its Envoy or GMC badges, were designed to generate a little intrigue around the SUV that goes on sale next year.

“People are more willing to learn when they're interested,” Tony DiSalle, GMC Envoy brand manager, says in explaining the ads, which subsequently revealed the “mystery SUV” to be the Envoy.

The revamped model is some 6.5 ins. longer, 4 ins. wider and 5.5 ins. taller than the '01 Jimmy it replaces, giving it about 10-cu.-ft. of additional interior room overall. Its exterior is completely new. The front end now has a trapezoid-shaped shield on the front grille, vertical headlamps and round foglamps.

The Envoy also gets a new, stiffer frame, in part due to hydroformed side rails front and rear — a first for a midsize SUV. An electronically controlled air suspension (ECAS) is optional and an electronic throttle control that limits torque to the rear axle is standard.

The powertrain includes an all-aluminum, twin-cam, 24-valve, 4.2L inline 6-cyl. that produces 270 hp. Mr. DiSalle says the engine is more powerful than any competing V-6 and almost every V-8 in its class, yet has the fuel efficiency of a V-6.

Standard is General Motors Corp.'s OnStar system, including one year of safety and security services. Beyond that, owners can upgrade to a premium package featuring concierge services, hands-free calling and e-mail. Also standard is a “smart-start” system that prevents the ignition key from being turned once the engine is running.

The Envoy replaces the Jimmy, a name that is being retired after 30 years. Mr. DiSalle says that consumer testing indicated Envoy better fit the new, upscale design.

Envoy output will begin February with expected sales of 50,000 units for calendar 2001. That compares to Jimmy annual sales of about 80,000 units. A 7-passenger model will be introduced later.