Chevy’s rugged TrailBlazer offers comfortable ride
Some common laws for living probably have an element of truth to them: Don’t swim for half an hour after a meal, don’t wear white after Labor Day and never, ever, test drive a car when it’s raining.But when business brought me back to the Western Slope last week, one very rainy and slightly snowy day in Glenwood Springs proved to be a useful day to check out some of Chevrolet’s most recent offerings. And parked behind the wheel of the large and comfortable TrailBlazer EXT four-wheel drive, I got the opportunity to sample the TrailBlazer in high and dry style.Occupying a niche in the Chevrolet family which places it somewhere between the largess of the Suburban and Tahoe and more compact SUVs such as the new Equinox, the TrailBlazer offers a smooth ride, ample stability and off-road agility, plus a decent package of amenities.
And with a third row of seating – a feat you might think impossible from the vehicle’s relatively compact exterior – the TrailBlazer provides comfortable seating for seven.Our tester, the stretched-out EXT model with LT-level finish, boasted 151 cubic inches of passenger volume and rear seat extras such as leather seating, separate stereo and climate controls, plus extra-wide opening rear doors to get the crew inside much more easily.Powered by a smooth-running, 275 horsepower 4.2 liter Vortec V-6 channeled through a four-speed automatic transmission, the TrailBlazer had plenty of get-up-and-go. Those seeking more power can also go for the 300 horsepower 5.3 liter V-8, which features displacement on demand technology (reducing fuel consumption by silencing up to four cylinders during flat acceleration). It’s equipped with a trailer hitch and capable of hauling up to 5,800 pounds of RV or boat, not to mention you and the kids and the kids’ friends.
On a quick trip up twisty Mitchell Creek Road, checking out a flock of wild turkeys and cruising through the fish hatchery, the TrailBlazer provided smooth, concise handling, solid braking and a happily smooth ride. The P245/65 R17 tires also meant a comfortable ride during an absolutely rain-soaked jaunt along I-70; my only negative observation was a bit of extra engine noise during heavy acceleration, although standard acceleration was quiet and more than adequate.TrailBlazer’s external details are equally clean and rugged, with a pronounced, brush-busting bumper – even though we suspect few users will take advantage of the SUV’s off-road capabilities – plus large, darkened windows and functional running boards.
Inside, details are smooth and casual, resplendent with Chevrolet’s rounded design figures (from the air vents and audio controls to the plethora of drink holders), a two-tone color scheme and a load of adaptable, driver- and passenger-friendly features. The TrailBlazer features a relatively large wall of dash with relatively plain black-on-white gauges (a large tachometer and speedometer and four smaller fuel, oil pressure, engine temperature and battery level readouts). Gear position can only be ascertained from a digital readout on the dash; there are no gear positions on the large, leather-shrouded, center console-mounted shift module, which may seem odd to drivers used to other makes. Below the gear read-out you’ll find the Driver Information Center, which offers helpful updates on engine oil life, fuel economy and vehicle range. An automatic climate control provides dual-zone heating or cooling, quickly clearing some foggy windows and warming up the cabin on a chilly day. XM Satellite radio (pre-equipped) helped broaden the already ample and powerful sound system. You’ll also have ready access to the all-wheel drive/high-low range selector, rear wiper controls and a rear fan control.
Look up and you’ve got equally fast access to the OnStar assistance system and controls for the power sunroof and a set of electrically controlled vent windows in the back.Front compartment seating position seems a bit high, although the soft, leather-covered seats (with self-contained shoulder belts, free from the door pillars) are infinitely adjustable and feature power lumbar support; as a result of that height, the only steering wheel adjustment is an angular pivot that should accommodate most drivers – and pedals are also electrically adjustable. A trade-off for the high seating is great visibility. Second-row seating is also comfortable and will even slide forward (GM calls it MultiFlex seating) although headspace seems a little low for taller passengers. Access to the third row is also fairly easy with a flip-forward function on the right hand-side second row seat.Alternately, the whole passenger compartment flattens out completely, creating a large cargo area; a two-sided rear cargo panel system adjusts to three levels and features loads of hooks for grocery bags.
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