There is a long-held dogma in the auto industry that truck-based sport utility vehicles do not and cannot offer a comfortable and refined ride like car-based ones. Now the 2013 Chevrolet Trailblazer has demolished that dogma by offering best-in-class ride quality matched by superior offroad capabilities. In other words, Chevrolet has struck the perfect balance with the second-generation Trailblazer and in the process vindicated the value of its midsized SUV.
A look at the history of the Trailblazer will show why. The Trailblazer was introduced to the US market in 2002 to replace the Blazer, which had its origins in 1999. General Motors produced the Trailblazer up to 2009, when it was discontinued after being outdistanced by competitors due to complaints about its poor ride and handling characteristics, shoddy construction, imprecise steering and outdated cabin design.
An all-new, second-generation Trailblazer, designed in Brazil and scheduled to be built in Thailand for the global market, was unveiled at the 2011 Dubai Motor Show. GM built a new $300-million manufacturing plant in Rayong, Thailand, to produce the Colorado pickup, on which the Trailblazer is based, and its come-backing midsized SUV. The first new Trailblazers began rolling out of the Rayong plant in 2012, initially for the Asean market including the Philippines.
RIDE QUALITY. After having tested both the Colorado (in Thailand in 2011 and here in November 2012) and the Trailblazer last month, I can say with conviction that their ride quality is as different as night from day. The Colorado, whether you are driving or riding shotgun, provides a moderately rough, bouncy ride, typical of a pickup truck with no payload in the back.
And the Trailblazer? I both drove and rode it on alternating days during the week it was with me. I drove it from Alabang to the mean, narrow, congested streets of Pasay City, and was surprised by how easy it was to maneuver safely out or away from jaywalkers, vendors, illegally parked cars, tricycles and other obstacles. It was also quite easy to parallel-park despite its size.
On the Skyway, the 4X4 Trailblazer LTZ was a pleasure to drive fast as it is powered by Chevrolet’s latest Duramax 2.8-liter, DOHC, 16-valve, 4-cylinder diesel engine with common rail direct injection (CRDi), variable geometry turbo (VGT) and intercooler delivering 180 ps and 470 Newton meters max torque, which is more torque than the second leading competitor’s.
The 2.8 Duramax diesel engine, the most powerful in its class, is mated to an efficient 6-speed automatic transmission with driver shift control that, together with VGT, helps to reduce fuel consumption and carbon emission. Mileage is rated at 12 km per liter and top speed is estimated at 170 kph.
ALL SEATS. When several high school classmates organized a trip to Lipa City, I hired a professional driver so that I could try out all the seats in the Trailblazer. From Alabang to Lipa I rode in the front seat, which has generous head and legroom and was so comfy that I took a short nap. From Lipa to Tagaytay I rode in one of the second row seats, which was equally comfortable, supportive and roomy. From Tagaytay to Alabang I took one of the two third-row seats and, to my surprise, found it so accommodating and so pleasant that I was lulled into catching a few winks here and there.
As can be expected of former classmates, we had a lot of catching up to do and chatted away during the trip. All during this noisy chattering, the Trailblazer cruised along quietly, thanks to the generous spaciousness of the cabin and the unique independent suspension configuration with gas shock absorbers. Having experienced driving many other truck-based SUVs, I was impressed with the smooth and quiet driveability and riding comfort of the Trailblazer, not to mention its outstanding engineering and excellent build quality.
5-LINK. The new Trailblazer’s 5-link rear suspension system and balance shaft for smooth running contribute to the vehicle’s exceptional road manners, smooth ride and responsive handling dynamics. It shares the same architecture as the Colorado, its truck sibling, with am 8-crossmember ladder chassis tuned to combine the heavy duty offroading and towing (3 tons max) capability of an SUV with refined city driving.
To engage the 4X4 drivetrain with limited slip differential, you simply have to turn a knob in the electronic drive mode select system. The Trailblazer’s high ground clearance, 800-mm water-wading capability and high approach and departure angles enable you to tackle all sorts of terrain in any kind of weather conditions. Electronic driving and safety aids—ABS, Traction Control, Electronic Stability Control, Hill Descent Control, Hill Start Assist, Dynamic Brake Distribution, Hydraulic Brake Fade Assist, Panic Brake Assist and Cornering Brake Control—further help you to master any situation.
The Trailblazer looks masculine and brawny with projector headlamps, dual-port grille, powerdome hood, roof rails, rising beltline, thick B pillar, LED and chrome details and 18-inch alloy wheels in a body in-wheel out proportion. It would look even sportier with 20-inch wheels, though.
CARLIKE. The carlike interior has a two-tone dash, leather seats (in the 2.8 model), Optitron LED gauges, cruise control, headlamp leveling control, steering wheel-mounted audio controls and Infotainment technology with USB, Bluetooth connectivity and Aux-in. The second-row seat splits 60:40 and can be folded down to increase cargo space, ditto the third row, which splits 50/50. The cabin is packed with storage pockets and cup holders galore while a rear air-conditioner with third-row air vents guarantees cool riding comfort for all occupants even on the hottest day.
Bottom line, the 2013 Trailblazer is a huge improvement over its predecessor and has successfully resolved the problems of the old model. More than that, Chevrolet has added to its stable, between the extra-large Traverse and the full-sized Tahoe, a robust, body-on-frame, midsized CRDi SUV that offers a perfect balance between premium riding comfort and excellent all-terrain 4X4 prowess.
The 4X4, 2.8-liter Trailblazer LZT with 6-speed A/T retails for P1,718,888 while the 4X2, 2.5-liter LT with 4-speed M/T is priced at P1,368,888.