Full sized SUVs are big, brash and ostentatious beings that are being unfairly targeted for being politically incorrect. Nevertheless, the demand for these machines is only going in one direction – and that’s up! We drive the Chevrolet Trailblazer to find out what all the fuss is about.
The streets of Gurgaon are always either dusty or flooded, and let’s not even get to the broken tarmac that can end rather abruptly. Driving a car in this city then is a challenge of monumental proportions, not to mention the deadly tempos and buses that cut you off without hesitation. But,today, I’m not worried about any of that because today I’m driving Chevrolet’s humongous Trailblazer – which has enough sheer presence to keep others at bay. A bus driver coming from the other direction actually stopped as I was doing a U-turn on a four-lane road – colour me impressed!
The Chevrolet Trailblazer is slotted into the premium SUV space,in which it’s the widest car among its competition with a width of 1,902mm. This is further accentuated by its high set bonnet, tall double section grille, flared wheel arches and those large 265/60 section tyres. It’s much the same story no matter which angle you look at the Trailblazer from. With a length of 4,878mm, 2,845mm wheelbase and a segment leading ground clearance of 253mm,the Trailblazer is absolutely intimidating to look at as you can see from these pictures.
Design elements for the vehicle are simple. The bonnet has a curved front contour with raised edges on either side, the Chevy bowtie is mounted right at the centre bar that divides the front grille. The bumper gets ridges above the chrome garnished fog lamp housings. The curvature of the roof is visible from the front,which further adds to the aggressive stance of the vehicle. It’s only the headlamps that appear a little meek in what is otherwise a rather butch design.
The profile is dominated by large 18-inch wheels with chunky tyres. Every panel on the Trailblazer is so large, and because there are few design lines it takes you a while to take in the whole vehicle.
Around the back, the Trailblazer has swanky LED tail lamps that look upmarket in the dark, the reverse lamps and rear fog lamps are located separately in the rear bumper, which is a relatively sleek unit in contrast to the tall tail gate and rear windshield.
Fortunately or unfortunately, the rugged nature of its exterior styling flows into the interiors as well. Chevy has given the Trailblazer a dual tone cabin with a neat design. But there isn’t much here in terms of equipment.You get standard features, such as climate control, electric folding ORVMs, theatre dimming interior lights, tilt adjustable steering, etc., and only the driver’s window gets an auto up / down feature. But the highlight here is the brilliant My-Link touch screen infotainment system, which is really intuitive and nice to use. I love how the system stays on even when the engine is turned on, as it allows you to continue your Bluetooth phone calls or listen to music until your departure from the car.
While the cabin may not be the most special out there, you simply cannot ignore how airy it is thanks to the large windows and acres of space. The front seats are nice and large, and they offer good support for your back and legs. It’s much the same story in the second row, where you get ample leg room. The third row, while more spacious than most, continues to offer little in terms of under thigh support. And with the third row up, there isn’t much in terms of boot space – which otherwise is very generous with 878 litres of space and a massive 1,830 litres with the second row of seats folded.
Moving onto the firepower, the Chevrolet Trailblazer is the most powerful vehicle in its segment with max power being rated at 197bhp @ 3,600 rpm and peak torque of 500Nm @ 2,000rpm from its 2.8 litre, four cylinder, common rail turbo diesel engine. The engine is mated to a six-speed automatic gearbox that sends power to the rear wheels.
Crank the engine, and slot the chunky gear lever into drive and the Trailblazer gets off the line in a smooth manner. One thing you’ll notice immediately is the heavy steering – but I suppose it’s quite in keeping with the nature of this machine.
Prod the throttle and the powertrain actually feels pretty refined, as this huge SUV hurtles down the road. Power delivery picks up as the engine spins at 1,800rpm, post which the Trailblazer has a meaty mid range. The gearbox does a good job at slotting in the next cog – depending on how much throttle you give it. When you really mash the right pedal, the gearbox will hold a gear up to and sometimes past 4,000rpm – at which point the big motor begins to feel strained in typical oil burner style.
Being a large, diesel SUV, there is a certain amount of delay when you’re in the mood for a sudden surge of power – as the powertrain responds to sharp throttle input with a little bit of a delay. But when the downshift is made, and all the 500Nm of torque kicks in, the Trailblazer forgets its size and darts ahead in a surprisingly brisk manner.
It’s this ability of the Trailblazer that impresses me quite a bit. For a tall SUV, weighing in at two tonnes, the Chevrolet Trailblazer has very confident road manners. You give your inputs to the heavy, but direct, steering and the ladder frame chassis responds well in carrying out directional changes while also handling the throttle load from the powertrain. You can go around wide sweeping bends at decent speeds, as the body control of the Trailblazer is rather good for a vehicle of its size and height. In fact you feel pretty confident from behind the wheel. Body roll comes into play around sharper bends, but that just tells you to take it easy on the throttle.
You are, however, constantly aware of the dynamic limitations of a vehicle of this size – as it does require quite a bit of distance to bring a vehicle weighing 2,968 kg to a halt. Thankfully though, Chevrolet has fitted the Trailblazer with ventilated disc brakes (300mm front and 318mm rear),while also offering anti-lock brakes with electronic brake force distribution and traction control. Other safety features in this regard include cornering brake control, hill start assist, hill descent control, electronic stability control, hydraulic brake assist and panic brake assist.
While this is all well and good, driving in congested traffic conditions in Delhi brings its own set of problems for a large SUV such as this. Because these vehicles aren’t the most nimble at slow speeds and you are seated higher up, annoying drivers and riders in small hatchbacks and bikes tend to get impatient with your presence and try and overtake you while being very close on either side – leaving them in certain blind spots. So there’s nothing you can do really, apart from driving even slower in traffic to ensure no one gets mowed down in the process. In markets where these sorts of vehicles originated, traffic is more organized and they don’t face such problems. So, unfortunately, it can become a taxing task to drive such a behemoth in crowded areas.
But the biggest problem with this vehicle is in the department of ride comfort. The Chevrolet Trailblazer may have an independent double wishbone independent front suspension setup and a five-link coil spring rear suspension, but theride is a bumpy one – there are no two ways about it. The slightest road imperfection will result in vertical and horizontal movements. And while these do not unsettle the vehicle in any way, it doesn’t make the ride particularly comfortable.
But, having driven the Trailblazer for a couple of days, I have to admit that I’ve succumbed to those aspects that SUV buyers seek from these types of machines. The ride may be bumpy, and it may not be very well equipped in terms of in-cabin features for occupants, but I really don’t care anymore.
I mean why would I really? Every time I get into the Trailblazer I no longer have to worry about road conditions as the large wheels and rugged chassis will deal with road imperfections without a care in the world. People stop and let you go because nobody wants to be on the path of a two tone SUV barrelling down the road. Get stuck in traffic, though, and it’s a different story.
But the biggest draw for the Trailblazer is itsroad presence, especially in black. It is an absolute head turner – people just can’t get enough of its imposing stance and seem to have a constant need to peek into the cabin to see just who’s behind the wheel. And let’s face it, SUV buyers love the attention!
Also read- Volvo S60 Cross Country Review: First Drive