A little goes a long way
It's difficult to believe that 2012 was five years ago. In the fast-paced world of automotive development, five years seems like an eternity and, with new cars being launched on an annual basis, the next best thing can quickly be left behind. Despite that, the Chevrolet Trailblazer has been resilient in face of newer competition. However, with a look from the earlier part of the decade, Chevrolet really needed to step up the design of the Trailblazer.
Late last year, Chevrolet gave the PPV a much-needed update and claimed it's more than just a nip and tuck. This then is a far more comprehensive update that hopefully brings the Trailblazer in line with its fresher contemporaries. With a new look, expectations were set high.
I have to say that Chevrolet did a good job with the facelift. The pre-facelift model was beginning to look long in the tooth and the revamp injects a bolder, more aggressive design to the Trailblazer. New headlights now seam with the new split bar grill, bringing it in line with the Chevy-truck look seen worldwide. Large faux air intakes dominate the corner of the bumpers, giving it a more chiseled look. While you won't mistake it for a Suburban, the fascia is distinctly Chevrolet.
The side and rear are carried over from the older Trailblazer but that's not necessarily a bad thing. The defined shoulder lines complement the new front end, giving it an even more rugged look. I do wish Chevrolet gave more effort for its tail lights as it has the same arrangement from the older model. That aside, I like the new look of the Trailblazer and it's enough for some passers-by to mistake it for an all-new model.
Differentiating this range-topping Z71 model with the rest of the lineup are the gloss black alloy wheels with a rather polarizing stripe package. I took a particular liking to the color of this test car, appropriately called Pull Me Over Red. I do wish there was also an option to delete the Z71 graphics for a more subtle look.
While the new look is a welcome change, it's on the inside where Chevrolet pulled out all the stops. It's miles better than the old one with an adaptation of the US-spec Colorado layout. From the dashboard to the door panels, it's all new for 2017 and a big leap in terms of design and ergonomics.
Gone is the fussy circular automatic climate control housing. In its place is a slim, clearly marked panel that sits below the infotainment screen. With the redesigned door cards, the window switches and side mirror adjusters are now easier to reach compared to before. The new instrument cluster is much appreciated, now sharper and clearer to read with a soft, white glow. On top of that, the Chevrolet MyLink infotainment system was also overhauled. Not that the old one was difficult to use but the new one is well organized and doesn't require an owner's manual to figure out. It also gains navigation, Apple Car Play and Android Auto, one of the few cars in its class to have it.
Boosting cabin ambiance is the addition of more soft-touch materials in the dash and door panels. The new dashboard design complements the refreshed front fascia; bolder with a more upmarket look. The only thing that remains from the old Trailblazer is the steering wheel. Blindfold a pre-facelift Trailblazer owner and they will be in for a surprise when they touch the buttons, switches and panels in the new one. With its large dimensions, it goes without saying that the Trailblazer has loads of space inside, albeit not class leading. Also, folding down the third row is an easy one-step process.
Carried over from the previous Trailblazer is the familiar 2.8 liter Duramax turbodiesel engine. It's still a potent engine, delivering 200 PS and 500 Nm of torque. Also carried over was the six-speed automatic transmission and the electronically controlled four-wheel drive system. With these figures, the Traiblazer retains its position as the most powerful choice in its segment.
Sitting inside the new Trailblazer, I immediately noticed that the seats were on the stiff side. It does offer a full range of adjustability thanks to the power seats but it needs a touch more lumbar support. A softer set of seats would certainly boost the Trailblazer's comfort, especially for long drives. I also wish it came with reach adjustment for the steering wheel.
That's not to say it's uncomfortable. With a full load and running 35 psi in the tires, the ride is firm but never jarring. However, it does start to feel its age when compared to the competition with their all-new platforms. There is only so much a facelift can do.
Chevrolet made an effort to make the Trailblazer an easier SUV to drive. Before, comments about the steering ranged from 'full of feel' to downright heavy. The new model has now shifted to an electronic power steering (EPS) system and it has made this PPV a lot less ponderous to drive. For a truck-based SUV, steering reactions are quick and the EPS feels consistent, if a little vague. It is easier to maneuver around town but it still feels confident out on the highway. Even if Chevrolet did not say they made enhancements to the suspension, the revised steering adds confidence and I felt that it handled better than the older model.
While the pickup roots can be felt on the road, it shines when the road turns into ruts. The Trailblazer tackled muddy paths filled with huge pockmarks and soft soil with ease. When things got even tougher, the grunt from the Duramax motor meant that I didn't even have to put it in low range. With 4WD-Hi engaged, it easily creeps over obstacles despite those 18-inch alloy wheels. The ride was good too with deep ruts only mildly upsetting the suspension.
A quick look at the previous review sees gains in fuel economy. I managed 8.1 kilometers per liter at an average speed of 17.4 km/h around town and off-road. Bigger gains were seen on the highway with a rating of 13.7 kilometers per liter at an avarage speed of 92.6 km/h.
Another thing that impressed me with the Trailblazer was its comprehensive safety equipment. Being the top-of-the-line model, it comes as no surprise that it is equipped with traction control, stability control and a host of airbags. It goes a step beyond that by offering driver assists that help you avoid an accident in the first place. For starters, it comes with forward collision warning (FCW) which I found really helpful at night. I found this feature particularly handy every time a bus or motorcycle threatened to cut me off at cruising speeds. On top of that, it also comes with blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert (helpful when reversing out of parking slots), and lane departure warning.
At Php 1,881,000, the new Trailblazer is over Php 100,000 more than the older model. If that seems too steep of a price increase, think of all the upgrades and enhancements made to the car plus it handily undercuts the top-of-the-line models of the competition. Granted, ride and refinement are a half step behind the newer models but the new Trailblazer's package makes it worthy of a shortlist if you're in the market for a PPV. If this is 'just a facelift', imagine what the new one will be like.
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