By on January 26, 2009

The Chevy TrailBlazer is the butt of many a joke, or outright Internet flame. And while many iterations of the GMT-360 platform are brand-corrosive, unholy degradations of once-proud marques, the Bowtie Brand’s version remains a working mom’s utility vehicle. As one of our Best and Brightest once told me, buying a vehicle for its engine alone is totally acceptable. With that in mind, have I got a deal for you!

Many say that writing about music is like dancing about architecture. The same logic applies here. The clean, respectable and wholly unforgettable sheetmetal of the TrailBlazer exhibits pleasant enough looks for an SUV. This older design’s split grille looks better than the other interpretations on Chevy’s latest uni-body creation. Go without the gargantuan bodyside moldings, ditch the dowdy wheels (or get the SS model) and this SUV looks pretty respectable. While curb appeal isn’t this Chevy’s forte, just like a band geek, the stuff on the inside counts more.

Or not: peek inside the TrailBlazer for all the muck that’s fit to rake. There’s been countless hours of lamenting, criticizing, and insulting this cabin’s blend of cheap materials and Neanderthal-esuqe design. And that’s why the TrailBlazer earned multiple trips to TTAC’s Ten Worst Awards.

The ergonomics are quite good, and the dash top sports a mighty fine and forgiving polymer. The TrailBlazer’s seats are enjoyable, even if their fuzzy material looked better on the rat that died to make them. But the shallow-ish cargo area is slightly compromised by a fat D-pillar, and the rear seat’s bubbly floorboard causes some initial ankle twisting until you find its sweet spot.

But it gets worse: the overlapping fascias, a cartoonishly oversized footprint where the dash meets the door panels and a ghastly monochrome gray color are nothing less than industrial design suicide.

It’s not that the TrailBlazer’s interior fails short for an SUV. Even without a third row seat (that would be absolutely useless), this rig’s guts are so inhumanely unappealing from any angle, even when shadowed by darkness night. No matter how you slice it, this interior is so screw-screwed and chop-chopped it deserves its own underground hip hop mixtape.

But then again, the TrailBlazer can hide behind that “it’s a truck, stop being an elitest” argument. Fair enough. Even the most metrosexual Euro-snob changes their tune once they hammer the throttle. That’s when the 4.2 liters of inline-six goodness truly shine. It’s so good you rarely notice there are only four (responsive) forward gears to propel the 4400lb Chevy down the interstate.

Some people movers are all about big-daddy, low-end torque. Others scream bloody murder when their multi-cam motors find their power bands. The TrailBlazer is 285 horses of “respect mah authoritay” from idle to 6000 revs. It launches out of the hole like a V8. It’s got the midrange punch of a purpose-built truck motor. And one (disturbingly short) trip to second gear’s vario-cammed-on-crack terminal velocity explains just how fast you could get your ass arrested in an old-school SUV. Sure the 6.0L V8 in the SS-iternation makes for more of a good thing, but this six-banger shines as a workingman’s BMW 3-series.

If you say a silent prayer for the TrailBlazer’s forthcoming death simply because it spells doom for this lovely motor, you’re mostly correct. Much like the larger GMT-900 platform’s admirable dynamics, the TrailBlazer points and shoots with enough accuracy to hang with the most mundane CUVs.

Yes, the steering feels numb and the brakes aren’t as expressive as a sporting sedan. And rough roads create a series of in-cabin, low frequency booms reminiscent of a THX-fettled movie theater. But my time with the TrailBlazer was surprisingly devoid of disappointments, and was occasionally impressive.

Except when the going gets rougher than your trip to Home Depot. Our TrailBlazer sported electronic AWD, yet was one wheel peel über alles when locked in rear-wheel only motivation. So leave the system in automatic mode. But the question remains: dude, where’s my Posi-traction?

Use less than half-throttle and things get easier for the TrailBlazer. Rarely did I meet a road where the Ford Explorer’s independent suspension offered a significant improvement over the cost-engineered, oxcart axle of the Chevy. In normal driving, the TrailBlazer stops, steers and corners like a CUV, but tows nearly 6000lbs thanks to that beefy five-link axle.

And there it is: another kneecapped GM product. It’s not the Fiero all over again, the TrailBlazer has all the “hard stuff” right but couldn’t win a personality contest with Jonathan Goldsmith’s help. The TrailBlazer’s got a heart of pure gold, but you have to be a compassionate (blind?) individual to spend this much coin for an SUV with such a horrid interior. But this truck deserved a better fate. Stay thirsty, my (soon to be departed) friend.

[CarMax provided the vehicle, insurance, and fuel for the vehicle reviewed]

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76 Comments on “Review: 2009 Chevrolet TrailBlazer LT...”


  • avatar

    Funny how GM wouldn’t exploit a decent, modern (it has them newfangled over head cams, dangnabbit) engine design in other platforms. In my perverse and not-market-reflective mind I can see a big honking straight six stuffed into a G8 for an viable “entry level” alternative to the GT. That is, if they could make the damn thing fit in there. Where everyone else uses corporate motors in just about every model line, the domestics always managed to keep truck engines in trucks and car engines in cars (Chrysler excepted). Why? If it’s a good motor, use it.

  • avatar
    KingElvis

    Trailblazers have leaf springs? Huh. You better take that up with Chevy’s website, where it says it has a five link coil settup.

    Does this count as ‘flaming?’

  • avatar
    JG

    My fellows in Detroit say the I6 is less powerful, reliable, and fuel efficient than the 5.3 V8, and the guy who ran the design team for the former has been “reassigned.”

    Hmmm.

    My Sister has the tested vehicle. GM managed to screw her out of a warranty repair on the front axle by stonewalling about noises/malfunctions until the warranty was up, then diagnosing a front axle replacement was required. Jerks.

    • 0 avatar
      Abderal58

      I was screwed by GM with my new 2009 model back in July 2009, I was T-boned by a bus that was going 107 KPH, the SUV was totaled and amazingly all 6 air bags failed to deploy !!!!!!!! I sewed the local dealer in the Gulf Region and they were found not at fault, like it was my fault the bags did not deploy!!!!!!!
      I suffered serious injury and still suffering the effects to this date not counting the psychological affect on my children and wife which they were with me, thank God they did not suffer any serious body injuries, and I pray one day they will overcome that day when they saw me trapped between the seat, the door and steering wheel with an open skull :-(

  • avatar
    brettc

    Our neighbours across the street have one of these in Black. They use it to get groceries, and haul a pop-up/tent trailer a couple of times per year. I think 99% of the other owners probably do the same thing with theirs. This thing can’t die soon enough in my opinion.

  • avatar
    Nicholas Weaver

    A straight six, ESPECIALLY a 4+L straight six, is a long engine, longer than a V8 of greater displacement.

    This makes it really hard to mount transversely in a FWD vehicle, and needs a long hood in a RWD longitudinal mount use.

    Why do you think a little car like a BMW 3 series has such a long hood? Because they are using a 3L straight6, mostly out of tradition.

  • avatar
    wannabewannabe

    What I don’t understand is why they didn’t engineer the new full-size pickups to accept this engine as the base engine. Well, I do understand: it’s all about cost, but still, it’s a sweetheart. It would have also obviated the need for the 4.8L V8.

  • avatar
    mel23

    I have an ’07 TB with the 5.3L. It surprises me that the road noise is greater when I drive lots of cars than in my TB. Where the TB really falls flat in the noise department is with cross winds. Something just not right there. I’m not into style or noticing much on the interior, so I accept/ignore points people make there. As usual, GM falls down on airbags; no torso bags available. My last all day trip showed 22 mpg at 65-70 mph. I expect to drive it for years with little trouble given that the power train components are well proven.

  • avatar
    thalter

    I’m surprised that they still sells these things (especially since GM shut down the Moraine plant where these are (were?) assembled).

    I checked Chevy’s web site, and sure enough, there is a 2009 TrailBlazer. Then I saw the starting price: $29,900! For a goddamn truck! Obviously, that is before what I can only assume are generous rebates, but still! I can’t see any reasonable person paying over 25K for one of these things.

  • avatar

    @JG- Time for your sister to make a trip to small cliams court. If she has documented complaints about the issue during the warranty period it’s an easy win for her.

  • avatar
    200k-min

    I once dated a girl with a late 90′s Blazer with the 4.3 V6. That was a gutless SUV for sure, but it did manage decent MPG’s and was a decent size. Never even tipped over when IMO it was less stable than the Explorers of that era. We managed a lot of moving trips, camping and holiday trips back to the folk’s house in that thing. Years after the girlfriend and I broke up got word the engine blew up, but I was on to another woman that mistakenly bought a GM vehicle. (Story of my life.)

    I once did drive the new “Trail Blazer” as a rental. First thought, “Chevy made it fat.” The thing was a tank compared to the old S10 Blazer, but didn’t feel significantly larger inside. The I6 had way more snort, but drank fuel at an alarming rate driving across TX freeways at 75mph. How this was an overall improvement is beyond me? Bigger, heavier, thirstier all outweigh a faster 1/4 mile time in my book.

    The only reason this thing was ever a top seller is because the Explorer got so much bad press…then gas prices spiked and the rest is history.

  • avatar
    8rings

    I’m surprised that they still sells these things (especially since GM shut down the Moraine plant where these are (were?) assembled).

    As well as the Oklahoma City plant.

  • avatar
    getacargetacheck

    You want to see an interior that’s actually worse? Check out a 2002 Toyota 4Runner. I’ve been a bit of a Toyota snob for many years having owned their very best straight-6 stuff. But I was surprised how much my friend’s 4Runner reminded me of the inside of a late 70s early 80s Hilux. Durable but, honestly, cheesy looking. There’s a reason a quarter million Trailblazers were sold in its first few years — families need utility at a decent price. Part of that utility includes having an interior that you don’t mind the kids messing up.

  • avatar
    Raskolnikov

    I pretty much agree with your assessment Sajeev, but I’d like to add that after a spin in the SS, the 1987-esque interior is long forgotten.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    Sorry, but I thought the Envoy/Ascender were much better looking. Something about those 2000-era smoked lens irritate me. Actually, the Bravada had tremendous style before they nuked it.

    OTOH, for roughly $30k (after discounts) you can go totally upscale with the Saab 9-7X.

  • avatar

    KingElvis : Oops. Revision on the way.

    Raskolnikov : I pretty much agree with your assessment Sajeev, but I’d like to add that after a spin in the SS, the 1987-esque interior is long forgotten.

    Maybe I’ll give it a whirl one day. But don’t be mean to 1987, the old S-10s interior was nicer looking…matter of fact, most GM cars from the 1980s had softer/nicer interior materials than their counterparts from the current millennium.

  • avatar
    seoultrain

    wow, the resale on these is through the floor. a quick CL search in just my area yielded the following:

    2008 with 6400 miles for $18k
    http://seattle.craigslist.org/kit/ctd/1007184121.html

    2005 with 47000 miles for $7k
    http://seattle.craigslist.org/see/ctd/1007236681.html

  • avatar
    SupaMan

    Raskolnikov

    I agree…..and the Cobalt SS is another example. A spin in that turbo-terror made me look past the interior enough to contemplate that car being my next purchase.

    That 4.2 straight six is a sweet motor and why GM never invested in it enough to scatter the engine throughout the truck range is beyond me.

    The SS version is just nutz!

  • avatar
    Blunozer

    I was really hoping GM would use that motor for a downsized Camaro.

    GM dropped the ball when they spent the money to develop this engine, and then forget to make it fit in any other vehicle.

    What that 4L I6 needs is a light RWD sports car.

    I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before someone figures out how to cram one into Miata.

  • avatar
    Alex Dykes

    Great review Sajeev. I married into a GMT360 (I would never buy one myself) so I have to respectfully disagree with your star count, I’d rank it at around 1. The seats are universally uncomfortable in the base model and despite the adjustability of the lumbar support, the odd seating position makes long car trips something best left to another vehicle. The interior is beyond awful in terms of fit and finish in ll GMT360s other than the Saab 9-7 (and the 9-7 should never have existed in the first place) I think the ideal would be the exterior of the Envoy and the interior of the 9-7 (sans the funky flip-out cup holder). While it does indeed tow (that’s what we use it for) it is not, i repeat NOT an off-roader kind of SUV. When reviewing the Volvo XC70 we took our Envoy along just in case we needed to pull the XC out of the woods
    (off-roading in the redwood forests of the Santa Cruz mountains) as it turns out we needed the XC70 to pull out the Envoy! If flat land is your thing then you are ok, but the weight and center of gravity of the Envoy would not make it my first choice.

    That 4.2L I6 is a fantastic engine however, I love I6s and I personally think it is a shame that that engine doesn’t find it self mated to better transmissions and into GMs premium SUVs.

  • avatar
    Eric Bryant

    The 4.2L Alpha is a sweet engine – but the fact of the matter is that the 5.3L produces more power, produces it at a lower RPM, and in all likelihood is much cheaper to produce. The 2008 models also resulted in the same EPA combined fuel economy rating for both engines, which kinda negates the V8′s reputation for thirst (and once again emphasizes the impact of weight and aerodynamics, not displacement or horsepower).

    It would have been interesting to see the I6 coupled with GM’s six-speed auto. Shame that it won’t ever happen.

    Per what Raskolnikov stated, a ride in the TB SS pretty much atones for any of the GMT360′s obvious sins. The LS2 combined with the AWD system allows those of us in foul-weather states to engage in acts of intentional acceleration year-’round.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Per what Raskolnikov stated, a ride in the TB SS pretty much atones for any of the GMT360’s obvious sins

    Ummm..

    Maybe it’s just me, but in the time I spent in the 9-7x thusly equipped I was reminded of why the TrailBlazer really is an awful car (Decent truck, I’m sure, but an awful car), and why crossovers, stupid as they might be, are so much better for what most people do.

    Of course, this was in the context of the 9-7x. At a TrailBlazer price point, and without the brand-sullying, nausea-inducing Saab-inspired-styling, I might have felt differently.

  • avatar
    h82w8

    My in-laws have a 2005 GMC Envoy Denali, the top-o-the line version of the Trailblazer’s twin sister of a different mother. It has barely 40K miles on it and is, quite simply, a P.O.S. An obvious result of fastidious bean counter engineering for which GM is long infamous, its basically falling apart inside and out – outside trim coming off, painted finish on interior knobs sloughing off, repeated HVAC problems, tranny issues….Could write a book about what’s gone wrong with this thing, but suffice it to say, nice engine or not, you’ll likely not be an “envoy” for GMC or Chevy after several years of ownership of one of these SUVs. Contrast this to my wife’s 2005 Acura MDX. It’s been nigh perfect since day one, with over 60K miles on it. To think these two vehicles sold for about the same price when new….No wonder GM is where it is.

  • avatar
    Alex Dykes

    h82w8, what transmission issues have they had, I would be interested to know since our Envoy has 85,000 miles on it and is on its 4th transmission…

  • avatar
    Canucknucklehead

    A little bit of GM insider stuff:

    The Atlas engines, ie the 4200, has had serious problems with cracked and warped heads. The head is made using the lost foam process and even the most minor deformation, the kind you get when hung over UAW worker handles it, will lead to deformities in the process and therefore early failures. Added to this is teaching UAW retards to concept of properly torquing such a long and complicated casting. With the exta QC required in the motor it is more expensive than the 5.3 and guess what most buyers want?

    The 5.3 is classic GM V-8. A drunk could assemble it (and I suspect many of the esteemed UAW workers are) and it would still run because you could run an elephant through the tolerances in that engine and it will still run. Really, any thing close tolerance GM has ever tried has ended up either being very expensive of unreliable or is simply not made in UAW plants. Where is the 3.6 V-6 built? Well in ain’t in the good old USA.

  • avatar
    davey49

    As poor as they might be, GM sold a lot of these. And not all of them to fleets.
    The TB and its relatives are cars that if you deal with the small problems will likely last for 200K miles or more.
    “most GM cars from the 1980s had softer/nicer interior materials than their counterparts from the current millennium.”
    The crappy hard plastic holds up better.

  • avatar
    JMII

    My father owns the 2003-4(?) version of this thing. Its a HORRIBLE vehicle. In the first two years of ownership it was in the shop 14 times. Yes you read that correctly FOURTEEN! Twice on the back of wrecker because it wouldn’t run at all. The A/C system was rebuilt on 3 separate occasions. The brake lines were lose under the driver’s seat causing the most annoying rattle ever (took two years to track down and fix). Various problems included: the tranny got stuck in 1st gear, the ECU died, various electrical problems such as random warning lights, stalling at idle… the list goes on. I think its one of those “built on Friday” specials you hear about. The only reason dad kept it was all fixes were covered under warranty, it tows his boat fine and its the perfect height to get in/out easily. He drives around with the all the paper work in the glove box claiming if it breaks down one more time he is selling it on the spot.

    The dash is a Fisher Price special for sure, there are panel gaps big enough to lose a #2 pencil in. Its all hard grey plastic with mismatched buttons and switches, there is no design or theme to the interior. I once thought TTAC was overally critical of the big 2.8′s interiors but then I sat in the TrailBlazer, it really is the worst of the worst and prime example of just how bad things are at GM. The rear seats are very uncomfortable and the way they fold is a joke. The front seats aren’t much better, they are too short and have this weird deal where the seat belts are routed thru the seat backs themselves. The radio is a flash back to the ’80s with the infamous green on black “toothpick” readout.

    While the inline 6 is peppy it still seems gutless and its way too loud as well. However it gets really good mileage… my father has managed nearly 23 mpg on the highway on several trips. Dad’s next vehicle will be a used Pathfinder.

  • avatar
    P71_CrownVic

    I think the GMT-360, SWB, with the 5.3 V8 is the best SUV on the road. Especially if you get the Buick Rainier. Same mileage as the I-6, sounds worlds better, damn quick, etc.

    I wouldn’t buy anything else. The Explorer is unrefined and the V8 is a gas guzzling boat anchor.

    And I won’t drive a Chrysler.

  • avatar
    ihatetrees

    The TrailBlazer’s got a heart of pure gold, but you have to be a compassionate (blind?) individual to spend this much coin for an SUV with such a horrid interior.

    They’re not a bad value if you get ‘em a few years old at 2/3 off MSRP.

    And I wonder about the inline-6. GM does V8′s pretty well.

  • avatar
    Eric Bryant

    @ Canucknucklehead: “Added to this is teaching UAW retards to concept of properly torquing such a long and complicated casting.”

    Not to take away from your effort in belittling the UAW, but every engine mass-production that I’ve seen (even the hand-built stuff at GM’s Performance Build Center) uses a hugely complicated fixture to torque all of the bolts in one operation, in the correct sequence, and to the correct torque and angle (these modern engines use torque-to-yield fasteners). There’s virtually no room for operator error, and that’s a requirement for mass production regardless of the labor contract. If there was a problem, it was very unlikely that it was due to operator error – and any opportunity for operator error reflects poorly on the process, not the guy running the equipment.

  • avatar
    RayH

    I’ve stated before somehow between friends, family and neighbors I know firsthand of 16+ of these on the road, many being repeat buyers. All of them 4-wheel-drive. Granted, I am in the GM town that used to produce these (Dayton, Moraine Ohio). With my sample, I feel qualified to give anecdotal accounts of the TB.
    I could write paragraphs on their experiences, but a couple things stand out: 1. Power windows going out are a yearly event on average, the motor, regulator or switch (I think on one, all of the above). 2. The 5.3 V8 seems to be more reliable and get better mpgs than the 4.2 I6.
    Only one would qualify as a “lemon” in my book, a brother-in-laws 05 Envoy Denali bought new he still somehow manages to suffer through. Its powertrain has been flawless (he has about 70 or 80k miles on it now), but electronics wise, numerous radios, power windows, alternators, front and rear wiper motors, batteries and a couple other electronics-related item. My unqualified opinion is something is wrong with the voltage with that many issues electrical related, but I could be wrong.
    A friend has a base 4×4 with no options except locking rear and tow package bought new with 100k miles on it that’s been flawless except a couple window motors. I’m guessing it’s a Wednesday car, so I would buy that one, at the right price.

  • avatar
    suspekt

    Hi all,
    I have no affiliation with any car company and I am simply placing the link below because the deals out there boggle the mind.

    With respect to the above review, a local GM dealer in the Washington state area has some amazing deals. They are unloading 2008 TB’s for $16,994. If comparing to like import SUV’s, I dont know if a 75% price premium is justified.

    I presently own an Acura and the last car was an A4. BUT, I just want to say that I am totally into GM’s current product line, specifically: Corvette, CTS/+Wagon, G8, Solstice GXP, Enclave, Tahoe, Cruze, 09 Equinox, Malibu, XLR…

    Maybe I am just getting tired of Honda/Toyota owners so certain that domestic metal is junk because it really isn’t.

    http://www.goodchevrolet.com/ou/renton-chevrolet/console.do?page=f_incentives

    Okay, my rant is done…

  • avatar
    NickR

    What I don’t understand is why they didn’t engineer the new full-size pickups to accept this engine as the base engine.

    I actually wrote GM about this very issue, believe it or not. The response was “thanks for your interest we have forwarded your letter to our product planners”. So, don’t hold your breath waiting to find out.

    Yes, I am sad to see any straight-6 go. As far as the Atlas family goes, that leaves that engine line in precious few vehicles doesn’t it, especially if the H3 takes a dirt nap? You’ve got the 2.9 I4 and the 3.7 I5 in the Canyorado and what else? Seems odd to have these engines around for just that.

    ETA, my boss has one of these and IT SUCKS. A total lemon.

  • avatar
    discoholic

    I was – ahem – “fortunate” enough to be treated to one of these after our original rental car decided to break down on us in the middle of nowhere, which is why I humbly disagree with the rather positive tenor of Sajeev’s review.

    The ever-so-fabulous engine sucked a 22-gallon tank bone dry within 350 miles (and I drove at EXACTLY the speed limit, which in most areas of New England that we got to was 55 or 60). The engine itself may go like hell, but the Chevy’s weight and positively prehistoric four-speed box still make this a slow car. Which is good because God forbid you will ever have to negotiate a bend fast. Imagine Jello on stilts.

    While Sajeev’s already conceded that the interior is not exactly the TB’s strong suit, I’d say that Lada’s designers would have been deported straight to Siberia if they had dared to come up with such a wild pot pourri of the most unappealing materials ever made of oil. Never mind that a blind six-year-old could almost certainly produce a more coherent design.

    In Jeremy Clarkson’s immortal words, this is nothing more than an engine and two bits of railway track for a chassis, and I’m sure a 2003-model hoeloader is more refined. At the very least GM has realised by now they need to do better.

  • avatar
    Canucknucklehead

    If there was a problem, it was very unlikely that it was due to operator error

    Then that was obviously the case with the Atlas. When they came out, we got scads of TSBs on them and did a load of engine replacements. They later ironed the problems out but not before the rep of the design was ruined and the cost of production went through the roof. That is why the Atlas has not been used in any other series.

  • avatar
    gmt360

    GM could have done so much better with the GMT360 platform with very little effort. The Buick Rainier almost seems to be a different vehicle when compared to a Trailblazer. NVH is substantially reduced, the ride is improved, steering is more responsive, and the fit and finish is improved. When equipped with a V8, it’s a very responsive vehicle. If you go to the trouble of upgrading the anti sway bars and shocks, it handles quite well for what it is.

    I own an ’02 Trailblazer I6 and an ’06 Rainier V8 and the difference between the two vehicles is night and day. In my opinion, they represent amazing used values. I got the Rainier in the summer of ’07 for $19k with 18,000 miles on it. Loaded and it tows ~6500lbs. I’m aware of how cheap new ’08s are but in ’07, that was a smoking deal. Less than year earlier, somebody paid over $35k for it.

  • avatar
    jmo

    “Less than year earlier, somebody paid over $35k for it.”

    No, they didn’t.

  • avatar
    dew542512

    The TB is a P.o.S.. Our Highlander was laid up for a week due to repairs 2 years ago and the rental company stuck us with the TB.

    #1) The ergonmics are horrible, confusing and not intutitive in the least
    #2) The engine makes of noise – lots of it – or should I call it durm und strang
    #3) quality of the interior is equivalent to a Lada or Yugo or Drabant – take your pick they all suck!
    #4) The truck (yes it is a truck) is noisy and unrefined like a throwback to the 60′s

    I dont consider the Higlander to be state of the art in auto design but I sure was happy to have it back after a week with a GM truck.

  • avatar
    blautens

    I’ve owned a 2006 TrailBlazer SS since late 2005, when I could first get my overzealous hands on one. It’s a pilot model, built the week before production started. It was even missing a few pieces (later resolved, but still pretty funny). I bought it over the phone, sight unseen, after locating it a couple hours away thanks to the GM website.

    It’s a pretty bad interior relative to our RX and my last 2 Hondas and well, almost everything else going back to 1990, except that the driver seat is extremely comfortable for my 6’4″, 250 lb. frame. And once I’m comfortable, the rest is sort of…I dunno…unimportant? It’s interior packaging is kind of inefficient, offering little rear knee room given the wheel base. No reclining rear seat. I’d gladly give up cargo area for a roomier rear seat for the kids (and dog). But I don’t sit in the back, the kids rarely do, and the dog is rarely critical of anything.

    On the other hand, only slightly massaged, mine will run a 12.9 quarter mile if the track conditions are right (that means no mid-August runs here in hot, humid, south Florida).

    The brakes grip like the Corvette that the pads are lifted from. The suspension is so buttoned down I swear it twists the car beyond the limits of the frame. I’d kill to see what Heinricy’s lap time was at the ‘Ring in the TBSS.

    I almost didn’t buy mine because I sat in an LT version (SS’s weren’t on any lots) to see if I could fit in it (ironically, my head hits if it has a sunroof – so it took a lot of work to find an SS without one), and I was sort of repulsed by the 1985 S-10 era dashboard and general sloppy assembly.

    Mine’s been in the shop probably a dozen times in the 3 years that I’ve owned it. Some small issues, some serious issues (pitted #6 bearing being one of them). All exacerbated by the usual crappy GM dealer experience.

    But did I mention that it’ll break into the high 12′s?

    It’s a keeper…maybe not a daily driver, but I won’t part with this one like I did my ’96 Impala SS. 4800 pound blocks of metal shaped like this aren’t supposed to launch so hard, turn in so well, and carry 30 bags of mulch.

    If the Atlas made the GMT360 platform acceptable, the LS2 made it a delight (for some – admittedly, it is an acquired taste). Especially at $29,206 out the door (tax, tag, title). I’m glad it’s not my only car, but I am glad that it’s mine.

  • avatar
    NickR

    They later ironed the problems out but not before the rep of the design was ruined and the cost of production went through the roof.

    Any idea how they ironed out the problems? Did this problem extend to the 4 and 5 cylinder members of the Atlas family?

  • avatar
    Johnster

    The pictures are of the long-wheelbase version, the TrailBlazer EXT, which was discontinued after the 2006 model year.

    I’ve heard that the old 4.3 Liter V-6 in the previous S-10 Blazer and S-10 Pickup had a higher GVW and greater towing capacity, though it was admittedly more coarse and rough than the inline 4.2 in the TrailBlazer.

    Around here I see ads for supposedly low-mileage year-old TrailBlazer “program cars” running below $17,000.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    Quote: Go without the gargantuan bodyside moldings, ditch the dowdy wheels (or get the SS model) and this SUV looks pretty respectable. While curb appeal isn’t this Chevy’s forte, just like a band geek, the stuff on the inside counts more.

    I agree about the alloy wheels but eliminating the newer body color moldings would make this vehicle look like crap and it would pick up untold amounts of door dings akin to a large females rear end inside of a year spent in grocery store parking lots. As for the fuzzy stuff on the seats, I can tell you that I would pick that anyday of the year over the cheap harsh weaved fake synthetic crap they are using in many of todays vehicles. Just try owning a vehicle for a year with this garbage and try cleaning it the first time it gets soiled. Gives new meaning to the word arm falling off. Vehicles without bodyside moldings and that use that garbage seat material are deleted right away off my shopping list because those car payments keep coming in for at least 4-5 years and it has to be kept clean and dent free for at least that long because they deduct heavily at trade in time for this. Just my 2 cents!

  • avatar

    My own impressions strongly resemble those in this review.

    Limited data in TrueDelta’s Vehicle Reliability Survey suggests subpar reliability. Would prefer a larger sample size, of course. So if you own one:

    http://www.truedelta.com/reliability.php

  • avatar
    h82w8

    Alex Dykes….To answer your question, the original tranny was replaced in the first year of ownership. Since then he’s had it in the shop twice because the replacement tranny gets stuck in 1st or 2nd gear. It’s a V6 model, btw.

  • avatar
    Canucknucklehead

    Any idea how they ironed out the problems? Did thisproblem extend to the 4 and 5 cylinder members of the Atlas family

    The major problem was the foam dyes getting damaged before being placed in the sand. Even the most tiny nick could have a catastrophic affect on the integrety of the head. The problem was solved bt the time the four and five cylinder models came out.

  • avatar
    k.amm

    By Robert Farago:

    “Sherman set the way back machine for 2004. And there it is! An interior shot! How great is that?”

    Hah! It’s more like 1989 – this interior looks exactly like the one our old Passat had back then… :D

  • avatar
    Rev Junkie

    Kinda sad to see the last hurrah (or dying gasp) of the once-a-brand-staple Chevrolet Straight-Six in a nine-year old truck with a sub-Chinese car interior saddled with a four-speed transmission that was probably hewn from stone in its development stages back in the Jurassic Era. But, it has a DOHC valvetrain…that’s….something

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Where is the 3.6 V-6 built? Well in ain’t in the good old USA

    My old home-town of St. Catharines, Ontario, baby, along with the 2.8L HFV V6 and the 5.7L V8.

    Basically, if it’s a GM powertrain and it’s competitive and it’s not a Corvette V8, it’s made with love and care by my homeboys in St. Kitts. Not all of them, but a lot.

  • avatar
    Slare

    This has got to be the oddest comment log I’ve seen on this site in a long time. Lots of fanboys for the 4.2L… but I think not very many owners.

    I had one. Everything good you say about it is true. Good midrange grunt, relatively smooth, nice snort, and even power delivery for a GM engine. Low end torque killed by torque management, but still good enough.

    The problem?

    Fuel economy. Terrible, just terrible fuel economy. I didn’t care about it when I bought the thing but 14-16mpg running in 2wd. Granted, I had a 4wd with the higher axle ratio.

    Hey, I’m not a fuel economy guy. Really, I’m not. But when GM can shove a good old fashioned 350 in there and give me more power, more torque, better fuel economy, V8 sound… of course the expensive 4.2L isn’t going to make it.

    It’s a real shame too, because if they would have kept up incremental improvements on this engine… it could have been great. Small revisions coupled with big ones like direct injection and a proper 5 or 6 speed tranny… now you’d be looking at ~320+ hp with better fuel economy, and a short first gear for good off the line grunt. Suddenly, you’ve got game.

    But as-is, it just isn’t worth it, and I’m a bit confused by all the positive comments. Odd for this group.

    Far as the truck itself goes… they were pretty nice back in 2002-2003 when they were replacing Blazers. Talking quantum leaps here folks. But 6 years is a really long time when most of the advancements in the SUV area were in ride and interior quality. It was however a very functional truck, easy to drive/park, great ride quality (but peepoor handling), and mine at least held up pretty well. It’s just old now.

  • avatar
    CommanderFish

    There are few cars I hate more in this world than the Trailblazer.

    I’ve had the displeasure of driving one of these abominations on multiple occasions.

    -Steering so numb, you’d think you’re captaining a barge
    -Interior that wants to make me scream bloody murder
    -I was never impressed by the I6. Even though, it doesn’t matter, because if you were to really use it you’d probably roll the car. I like the Cologne V6 in another friend of mine’s Explorer better.
    -So big on the outside, smaller than a midsize sedan on the inside (I’m talking seating space)

    I find fun in a lot of strange cars (I drive a Dodge Stratus and it’s a blast, leave me alone), but this… Think just takes the fun out of everything.

  • avatar

    This POS rates three stars!

    That makes one star cars (like the Acura TL review) really, really bad.

    Now I know the TL is Aztek ugly, but seriously, would you swap the TL for the Trailblazer?

  • avatar

    theswedishtiger : Now I know the TL is Aztek ugly, but seriously, would you swap the TL for the Trailblazer?

    Are you suggesting that the TrailBlazer is comparable to an Acura TL? I don’t normally compare a dated SUV to the latest and greatest (ha-ha) mid-luxury sedan, much less cross shop them as a serious buyer!

    Maybe its a 2 star vehicle, but the Chevy did enough things right for me (during the time I had it) to give it the extra star.

  • avatar
    davey49

    “Now I know the TL is Aztek ugly, but seriously, would you swap the TL for the Trailblazer?”
    I would because Truck > sedan

  • avatar

    About the 3 stars: put another way, it sucks much less than you think. Our B&B who’ve owned them may beg to differ, judging by the mixed bag of comments here.

  • avatar

    Yes I was serious in the question. To haul me an my little brood around I would take the TL. Times are tough and I do not relish the thought of putting the aged Trailblazer into the shop or reselling it when the warranty runs out on the Trailblazer.
    Despite the god awfull looks of the TL and plethora of useless buttons, I feel the TL is a better investment, will keep me safer and probably save me less trips to the garage.

    The Blazer ain’t no oil painting either. And the advantage of the Trailblazer being a truck and not a sedan? MPG

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    teaching UAW retards…

    Hey, thanks for the unbiased statements that are based on facts and are in no way colored by personal opinion. Work for Faux News?

  • avatar
    Bridge2far

    “The TB is a P.o.S.. Our Highlander was laid up for a week due to repairs”

    Isn’t that ironic? The “reliable” Toyota out for a week! And all you can do is complain about the TrailBlazer. Typical uninformed drone.
    Oh yes, I’ve had a couple of TrailBlazers and an Envoy as well. No problems. Bullet proof reliability. I would acknowledge that the Envoy had a nicer interior however.
    I would also venture to say that over half of the best and brightest denouncing the TrailBlazer have probably never owned or driven one. They are disciples and respond as they feel they should.

    “I actually wrote GM about this very issue, believe it or not. The response was “thanks for your interest we have forwarded your letter to our product planners”. So, don’t hold your breath waiting to find out.”

    Really? I can’t believe engineering didn’t stop production and implement your idea immediately. I also mailed them and asked that they put the LS6 into the Aveo.

    “A drunk could assemble it (and I suspect many of the esteemed UAW workers are) ”

    Ahh- the Best and Brightest!

    “The Chevy TrailBlazer is the butt of many a joke, or outright Internet flame. ”

    And you think that is universally true? Or perhaps you might want to clarify with a “here at TTAC” disclaimer. Of course, only thinking of fairness.

  • avatar
    ajla

    As one of our Best and Brightest once told me, buying a vehicle for its engine alone is totally acceptable.

    Whoever told you that is a person after my own heart, and a 4.2L Trailblazer is certainly a good example of that idea.

  • avatar

    Bridge2far : And you think that is universally true? Or perhaps you might want to clarify with a “here at TTAC” disclaimer. Of course, only thinking of fairness.

    Uhhh, if you think we got the lock on GM flaming/criticism/whatever, you are giving TTAC too much credit. Oh, and you might not wanna call dew542512 an “uninformed drone,” because maybe his Highlander was in the body shop after a major accident???

    That and our “don’t insult other people” banning policy. Of course, I’m only thinking about fairness. (wink)

  • avatar

    ajla : Whoever told you that is a person after my own heart, and a 4.2L Trailblazer is certainly a good example of that idea.

    I regret not finding that thread to credit the person (who loves them some Chrysler HEMIs) who said that. Whoever that was, thank you very much. :)

  • avatar
    DaveP

    We have a 2003 EXT. Just hit 174K. Only been to the dealer twice for the wiper motor warranty and taillight circuit board warranty.

    All service done by a local independent. Biggest repairs – one set of Coopers, two sets of brakes.

    Gets 20MPG on the highway, is comfortable on long trips. And is just a monster in the snow.

    It’s my wife’s commuter – 100 miles a day – and has never left her stranded. Not falling apart, runs as good as the day we bought it. Paint and trim still looks great.

  • avatar
    ctoan

    I’d argue that inconsistent quality is just as bad as consistently bad quality, since it would seem to indicate that it’s pretty much random whether the process will result in a good component or not, and there’s the one-in-100,000 vehicles that happened to be made entirely out of good parts.

  • avatar
    NickR

    Bridge2far, I wasn’t expecting them to stop the production line to implement my idea. A one sentance explanation such as ‘lack of space in the engine bay’ or ‘too expensive’ would have sufficed. Companies that respond to customer inquiries with more than canned answers tend to prosper. Those that don’t, don’t.

    >>>But as-is, it just isn’t worth it, and I’m a bit confused by all the positive comments. Odd for this group.<<<

    I think it’s more nostalgia for inline-6s. They inherently have many advantages, and the 250 and 292 I6s epitomized GM.

  • avatar
    gmt360

    People used to be concerned about performance and handling or a lot of aftermarket support. Or perhaps offroad ability and towing capacity. Now metrosexual emo fagboys just want a nice interior. Are you bitches sure your balls didn’t just drop off somewhere?

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    I’d argue that inconsistent quality is just as bad as consistently bad quality, since it would seem to indicate that it’s pretty much random whether the process will result in a good component or not, and there’s the one-in-100,000 vehicles that happened to be made entirely out of good parts.

    I wish I could find the quote I’d read in Lemon-Aid a few years back to that effect. To paraphrase:

    “Of every hundred (thousand?) vehicles we build, ten are as good as anything that Toyota makes, ten are fit only for the crusher, and the remaining eighty are a toss-up”

    It was from someone senior at Chrysler. It may have been Iacocca himself. Again, I can’t find the quote. That, and the ownership experience of a 1976 Dodge Aspen, ended my family’s string of Chrysler ownership and drove them straight into Toyota’s waiting arms.

    I’m sure most TrailBlazers are decent enough, but the quality of GM products from this era is incredibly spotty. At the ‘Blazer’s price-versus-content point this might be acceptable, but in a Ranier, Bravada or 9-7x it was gag-worthy.

  • avatar
    hwyhobo

    Okay, for ~20% more $$ and same fuel economy you can get a Tahoe. Unless it’s one of those “Tahoe doesn’t fit into my garage” things, why would anyone buy a Trailblazer?

  • avatar
    agroal

    As usual GM shows up for a gunfight and pulls out a knife. Why are all you people bad-mouthing GM? We all had a vote to decide whether or not to bail them out, didn’t we? LOL

  • avatar
    like.a.kite

    hwyhobo: 900 Tahoe’s a lot nicer too.

  • avatar
    chris8017

    My family has an 03 Chevy Trailblazer EXT. I totally agree that the dashboard is crude. My parents initially bought it to be a family hauler, and it’s 4×4 capabilities. Living in the Catskill Mountains of NY State, a 4×4 vehicle is a must in the winter. This truck can get through virtually anything.

    It’s been a very dependable vehicle and has given us 45k trouble free miles. Most of its life is spent on long highway trips and family vacations down to South Carolina. The seats are comfortable for the 14 hour drive and the gas mileage is decent for a 4.2L L6. We usually get a tad over 20mpg on the interstate. GM really hit the nail on the head with this engine. The Vortec 4200 can almost make one forgive the silly-puddy dashboard.

    I do know people who love these trucks. One guy had his older Trailblazer totaled and he recently bought an 07 LT Model. Most of the people who buy these trucks seem to be the rugged type rather than the soccer mom or white collar husband. I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but some people honestly don’t really care that much about hard plastics or fancy knobs and switches. They want something that can take life off road and the Trailblazer does have this rugged nature about it which makes its shortcomings seem forgivable.

  • avatar
    Blobinski

    As I have said many times before, I will never buy a GM vehicle again. By the way, why would I risk owning a Trailblazer so I could have my comments accepted here and elsewhere. I think listening to others and being informed is plenty good and exposes me to a lot less of a gamble with a GM product like the Trailblazer. A friend of mine – a gal – has had nothing but trouble with her 2007 TB. It is sad to see a single mom who thought she was getting a great deal continue to struggle with this POS.

    GM continues to prove its point to me by it’s own Customers. My father-in-law has a Caddy STS 2005, with 70K miles on it. He just had to put a third set of brakes on it brakes on it ($900), have the lower engine block seal(?) replaced by completely unbolting and rotating the motor ($2,100). They said that the front driveshafts are completely trashed and that the tranny is going ($4,200 total to fix). All this and the car doesn’t even have 80K on it – it isn’t worth a bag of doodie. My 2005 Elantra GT has the about the same miles on it – I had to pay for the map pocket netting to be replaced at $80.

  • avatar
    netrun

    The couple across the street from us had two of these things. One in dark green and the other in black. You could barely tell one from the other if they were next to each other. The main thing they used them for was to try and leave longer black marks on the street than the guy next door who had an F-150.

    What’s hilarious to me is how everyone loves to knock the 4.2L for not being “as good” as the 5.3L in power/fuel economy. Classic internal GM strife, I say. They’ve spent the better part of 40 years refining the 5.3L vs the new 4.2L. Given 40 years of refinement I’m sure the 4.2L would be as big or bigger of a knockout engine.

    That said, going after a slightly smaller I-6 may have been the smarter route just so you could use it in a number of different platforms. Too bad no one plans or thinks that way at GM. Now all they can do is cancel one new engine so that they can dump $5B into developing another new engine. Stupids.

  • avatar
    flomulgator

    I know no one’s posted here in a while and no one will probably read this, but if I can get through to at least one owner perhaps they will fare a better fate then me. Sajeev’s advice about “leave it in automatic 4WD” should be ignored. Never ever ever use the A4WD setting, just go from 2WD to 4WD. I rolled this exact vehicle 2 or 3 times (I wasn’t exactly counting) because I used this setting. Was going down a mixed conditions road, had taken it out of trusty 4WD. Hit black ice, completely lost it. When the car was already 45 degrees and my fronts near opposite-lock is when I felt the front axle engage. It was far far too late, and as the ensuing drama of me trying to regain traction and tracking unfolded, it was clear that I was totally fucked the second the unaided open-diff rear axle lost grip.

  • avatar

    Makes sense to me, even if I live in Houston. Keep it in 4WD (or maybe 2wd) when conditions call for black ice. Too bad you didn’t have posi either, though I don’t think it’d matter at that point.

  • avatar
    flomulgator

    Posi might have helped. Arguably only one tire had to lose traction for it to go. Nonetheless, having the front axle engaged or engage very quickly would have made it a non-event. Likely so would have traction control (the 2002 model was not endowed with it).

    Black ice can be sneaky. Its rarely a problem for the experienced snow driver who is aware they are on it. I know of 3 flipped vehicles (myself included) that combined those two statements in the wrong way ;)

  • avatar
    energetik9

    My wife had one of these (extended version) and I could not wait to get rid of it. It was slow, a gas hog, cumbersome, difficult to see out of, and felt cheap on the inside. Thank god it was a lease, because I don’t think it hardly had any value by the time we got rid of it. It was good for truck things, horrible for daily driving. I hated driving it because it was hard to drive and the ergonomics were a challenge. Whenever I see one of these still driving around I think thank god we unloaded it. When I see an upgraded model or one of the SS models, I laugh at the wasted money.

  • avatar
    johndoe

    The Trailblazer is good for what its for, an SUV so mom doesn’t have to drive a minivan. I haven’t experienced the any of the horrible rough ride people posted about. We have almost 30k mile on our 2008, no problems yet. 285 hp is more than enough power to get us to 90mhp quickly. Great vehicle, would buy again!!


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