NELSPRUIT, Mpumalanga - Chevrolet's five-model Trailblazer range, launched in SA in 2012, has been refreshed for 2014 with a raft of substantial specification improvements.There are minor cosmetic changes but more important are engine upgrades which give more torque but take less fuel, a reversing camera on all but the base model, 'MyLink' infotainment and, across the range, front side airbags and new cabin colour schemes.IMAGE GALLERY: 2014 Chevrolet TrailblazerTim Hendon, Chevrolet brand manager at General Motors SA, reckons: "The Trailblazer continues to make inroads into the large SUV segment in SA where a well-informed market knows what it wants from a vehicle of this calibre. With our enhanced range we expect the Trailblazer to be even more widely received by the South African public where value is a key factor and luxurious appointments remain an added benefit."POTHOLE PARADISEChoosing to launch the vehicle in the picturesque but Potholed Princedom of Mpumalanga made sense to me on two counts: the roads from Kruger International Airport near Nelspruit and through surrounding areas are particularly potholed due to heavily laden trucks that create huge swathes of broken tarmac.There's was little sign of policing of any kind during my brief stay – a bit like the rest of the country, then.VIDEO: Join the journos on the launchThe Trailblazer, unlike most of its competitors, remains very car-like in ride and handling – and that’s no bad thing. It's largely due to the excellent five-link rear suspension with which these full-import American-styled but Thai-built cars are blessed.Little wonder, then, that since the pioneering days of South Africa most dirt tracks (there would have been very few tarred roads in any case) would have been traversed by Yank Tanks time and again without breakdown... European-based vehicles, meanwhile, failed to handle such rough conditions.One up for the Chev Trailblazer, I'd say.TECHNICAL GURUSCustomers leaning towards the seven-seater Trailblazer have a choice of three engnes: 2.5 Duramax turbodiesel (120kW/380Nm), 2.8 Duramax turbodiesel (144kW/500Nm) and petrol 3.6 (176kW/329Nm). Hendon believes the 2.8 turbodiesel auto will be the volume seller for the Bow Tie brand.Chevy technical gurus on hand at launch categorically assured Wheels24 that power figures were up by nine percent on the diesel variants while offering 8.5% more torque – neatly achieved from these Euro 2-compliant upgrades.Providing advanced drivetrain technology is paramount to GM’s road to the future and continued success after some particularly tough times of late – along with a whole raft of built-in safety devices – so its good to know there’s a sturdy 4x4 system with switchable and intuitive drive modes including 2-High, 4-High and 4-Low options. Talking safety, there’s the addition of curtain sidebags along with bags for driver and front passenger, anti-lock brakes, PBA (panic brake assist, silly!), limited-slip differential, remote control for the central locking and auto-locking doors.LTZ models (read pricier) benefit from electronic stability control along with traction control and hill-descent and hill-start control – each working inconspicuously in the background. OFF-ROAD MUNCHERWhile the Mpumalanga roads were probably test enough, product communications manager Lunga Ntsendwana felt we should put the Trailblazer, with its 230mm ground clearance, through its paces on a really tough 4x4 circuit found in the area.The outcome of which led me to two conclusions: It's most unlikely that owners will ever put their vehicle through this kind of torture; to put the Trailblazer in context with competitors, it is most certainly capable of holding its own against the so-called hardcore off-road vehicles found in this burgeoning sector of the 4x4 market.Not to be outdone in the smart phone technology and infotainment stakes, Chev has introduced 'MyLink' technology, and it works well enough, but definitely not intuitive enough for this Luddite! It didn’t want to know my driving partner’s brand of cellphone – no matter how much we tried!Interestingly, Chev was the first car company to offer an automobile radio (known all those years ago as a wireless), that would have been about 85 years ago, but it cost nearly as much as the vehicle itself, I’m told.There’s an impressively large 18cm screen that doubles up as a reverse camera – this worked particularly well, I must say (the Trailblazer seemingly has a lengthy wheelbase), yet suitably positioned for driver and passengers to paw over, while offering video and picture playbac, all linked to six speakers.TUNE TO 15 STATIONSThere is the familiar-to-me USB slot and aux integration, as well as Bluetooth for hands-free cellphone use and audio streaming – definitely impressive enough credentials for those who feel the need to worry about utilising their social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter connectivity, et al, while out in the bush or miles from home or office.Ntsendwana told me up to 35 pre-set and 15 auto-stored AM or FM radio stations can be programmed to Chevrolet’s MyLink – along with the ubiquitous 11 cupholders that we’ve come to expect from the American vehicle manufacturers. Perhaps more importantly there are four 12V power sockets distributed throughout and rather practical side steps for ease of climbing in and out of the Trailblazer.One customer gripe that Chev have listened intently to and now rectified revolves around the choice of interior colours – light shades are conducive to appearing shabby in double quick time – and here GM instead offer shades of grey – a much better customer option and one that might just see more prospective buyers to their showrooms, reckons Hendon.TRAILBLAZER PRICES (including VAT)2.5D LT 4x2 6-spd - R386 5002.8D LTZ 4x2 a/t - R456 4002.8D LTZ 4x4 6-sp - R489 8002.8D LTZ 4x4 a/t - R506 4003.6 LTZ 4x4 a/t - R516 700All Chevrolet Trailblazers are delivered with a five-year or 120 000km warranty and roadside assistance and a five-year or 90 000km service plan. Service intervals 15 000km.