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]