We drive: New Chev Trailblazer
CHEVROLET TRAILBLAZER: Rugged looks, choice of three engines, seven seats - Chev is taking on Toyota in South Africa. May the better SUV win...
Author: LES STEPHENSON
GEORGE - A new South African flagship for Chevrolet has rolled through the mountains, the freeways and the (private) sand dunes of the Western Cape for its national launch.
It’s the Chevrolet Trailblazer, a Thai-built seven-seater SUV for the global market with some mighty Duramax engines, the options of five-speed all-wheel drive, low range and a six-speed auto box, and the kind of muted styling that appeals to local off-roaders.
'EFFICIENCY OF A CROSSOVER'
GM sees the Trailblazer as a direct challenger for Toyota’s Fortuner, and indeed each runs on a bakkie chassis from its own stable - the Toyota aboard Hilux ribs and the Chev on the backbone of an Isuzu KB / Colorado truck.
As Wheels24 reported Chev as claiming after I attended the SUV’s concept launch in Dubai in late 2011: “The new-generation Trailblazer combines the hauling and towing capability of a body-on-frame SUV with the ride comfort and efficiency of a crossover.
“It shares the chassis architecture of the Colorado though tuned to combine heavy-duty off-road capability with refined city driving.”
We added at the time: “Regard it as the Chev Captiva’s bigger brother: where the Captiva is an SUV for modest rough-stuff and gravel back roads the Trailblazer is the relative which stops for nothing.”
Chev SA sees the car as “the golden key in a segment in which we have not participated – yet the brand invented the segment 75 years ago”.
It also claims to have all the assets necessary to succeed in SA, among them “some of the soul of South Africa”, “a car-like ride but the boldness of an SUV” and “theatre seats” – they rise gradually from front to rear with the rear two folding completely, at a touch, to create flat rear deck; in other brands they must be removed then stored in, say, one’s garage.
“The Trailblazer,” Chev SA additionally asserts, “combines smart, easy-to-use technology with unmatched-in-class space and comfort. Its technical finishes, featuring LED lighting, USB ports, Bluetooth, audio and cruise control, ensure a luxurious driving experience designed to fit your everyday life.”
It also has 34 storage compartments, including a double-decker glove box.
There are two trim levels, LT and the more expensive LTZ, with a choice of 16 or 18” wheels and can tow up to 2950kg
“Despite its impressive muscle, it is easily mistaken for a luxury vehicle due to its bold, sophisticated and timeless exterior. It’s in a league of its own against competitors.”
The SA launch put the cars over mountain trails, the huge private sand dunes of Vlees Bay near George and the open roads of the far Western Cape, showing off its 4x4 prowess and range of engines, of which there are three, a 2.5 and 2.8 four-cylinder diesel and a 3.6-litre V6 petrol... each of them quad-valve.
Entry level is the 2.5 4x2 LT that puts out 110kW and 350Nm at 3800 and 2000rpm through a five-speed manual gearbox. Next is a the 2.8 diesel manual or auto in the LTZ in 4x2 and 4x4 guise and capable of 132kW/470Nm, also at 3800 and 2000rpm, and finally the V6 built for 176kW/329Nm at 6600 and 3200rpm.
There are no multiple gear-shifters: 4x2, 4x4 and 4x4 low-range are selected through a rotary switch on the fascia. Given the “intelligent” drive train, a lockable differential is also absent; the car steps and grabs its way across rocky, loose terrain and scoffs at thick sand gradients.
Fuel consumption is listed as from eight to 10 litres/100km for the diesels to 11.1/100 for the petrol V6.
There’s a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating on the LTZ and “the best in safety features on all models” with the SUV having an overall length of 4.878m, width of 1.902m and height of 1.847m. For off-road work, approach angle is 30 degrees, departure 22 degrees and a wheelbase of 2.845m – no ramp-over figure was supplied.
While on dimensions, the boot will take from 205 to 1830 litres depending on how many seats are folded and the fuel tank will take 76 litres.
The Trailblazer is no mean performer, either: the 2.5 is rated for 171km/h, the other four for 180, and 0-100 times vary from 9.7sec for the V6 to 12.5 for the 2.5 diesel.
COOL SOUND SYSTEMS
Luxury items across the range include power operation for the door locks, windows, external mirrors, aircon with rear-seat separate controls, cruise control, cargo cover, illuminated vanity mirrors left and right and (except for the 2.5) six-way power adjustment for the driver’s seat, leather seat trim and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.
The sound systems are pretty cool, too: radio, CD front-loader, MP3, AUX input, mini USB port and Bluetooth phone with six speakers on the 2.5, eight on the other models. Steering-wheel controls for cruise control and audio are standard, along with a comprehensive trip data computer.
The top four models each have anti-lock brakes with emergency pressure reserve and electronic pressure distribution, traction and stability control, hill-start and gradient descent control, limited-slip differential and trailer sway control. The 2.5 misses out on stability and traction control, hill start and descent control, limited-slip diff and anti-trailer sway.
Driver, front passenger and curtain airbags and child-seat anchors are standard along with anti-theft and key-fob remote-operation central locking.
Also, on all models, expect five years or 120 000km of warranty/roadside assistance and anti-rust through with five years or 90 000km of service plan with service intervals once a year or every 15 000km – petrol and diesel.
Read more about the Trailblazer.
2.5 LT 4x2 - R364 000
2.8 LTZ 4x2 a/t - R423 500
2.8 LTZ 4x4 - R454 500
2.8 LTZ 4x4 a/t - R469 900
3.6 V6 4x4 a/t - R479 500
Watch the off-road video - in Thailand