Piston Slap: Trollblazer, Massaged. Or Not?

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta

DH writes:

A cherry 2008 Saab 9-7 with the 5.3L V8 and a very clean Carfax sheet is now in the capable hands of my lovely bride at a price that would shame even Jack Benny. It will tow what we need it to, it will carry what we ask of it and even looks cool enough that our 11 year old son will allow us to drop him off in front of his junior high.

Eventually it will need consumables. Rather than replace shocks / struts, tires, brake pads etc with OEM stuff, what can be done to improve the ride and handling of this solid axle SUV? Where would you go and to whom would you turn to inquire if it can be improved upon if one spends a bit more on things that need to be replaced anyway? Is this excrement polishing?

Sajeev Answers:

It’s absolutely not excrement polishing, if the whole family enjoys the TrollBlazer. That said, the word “improve” is in the eye of a beholder. Porsche it shall not be, but SUVs can be stupid fun to drive with just a change of dampeners. I found out, and was suitably… shocked.

So do yourself a solid, and get a set of performance dampeners aimed at street going SUVs: any mild Koni, Bilstein or Tokico shock will suffice. Do some research on TireRack.com for the best a “high performance all-season” tire for your needs. Switch to a more aggressive semi-metallic brake pad for maximum “whoa” for minimal “dough.”

If you want to go further, give it a shot: a set of lower springs along with firmer shocks can make for a more street-savvy SUV. The key is to go conservative in your lowering to not screw up the geometry associated with minimizing suspension/drivetrain bind. I’m not gonna speculate on what’s your wisest move in terms of springs, that’s why places like the Trail-Voy Forums have a home on the Internet. Give it a good read.

Send your queries to mehta@ttac.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

Sajeev Mehta
Sajeev Mehta

More by Sajeev Mehta

Join the conversation
2 of 23 comments
  • Jimbowski Jimbowski on Oct 14, 2010

    Powerslot (slotted only) rotors with Hawk HPS (SUV) pads. Excellent 'whoa nelly' ability. I have had them on a 93 integra for 3 years and an 02 solara for 1.

  • LUNDQIK LUNDQIK on Oct 18, 2010

    I run a Road Master Active Suspension (RAS) on my '10 Xterra. They have greatly improved handling. When I bought the Xterra I came from a 1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee. I wanted something similar in size and capability. The Xterra was one of the closest SUVs I could find for the price. It is however a fairly tall SUV and its driving dynamics leave a bit to be desired. I was suprised at how my 10+ year old Jeep, with aging suspension parts, handled a little better. I suppose the Xterra's extra umph didnt make matters better. I did some research and in the end I went with the road master. Its about $300 and acts like a set of airbags / leaf stiffeners / sway bars - all in one. Its simple enough to install on your own and is supposed to improve towing capacity. I have yet to tow, but the cornering of the Xterra has gotten much better. Its no sports car by any stretch, but I no longer have to brake as heavily when entering a turn and it takes a bit more for body roll to be introduced. I would compare the drive to that of a large sedan. The roadmaster will however raise the height - not much - about an inch. But on the Xterra which was already tall to begin with I could no longer park in my work's garage with the aftermarket roof rack on. Its fine in the winter w/o the bike and kayak parts. If anyone wants to know more there are a bunch of reviews out there including this one I wrote: http://www.clubxterra.org/forums/showthread.php?t=22059

  • Mike Audi has been using a3 a4 a5 a6 a7 a8 for a long time and i think it makes sense. But, they are rumored to be changing it all again within a year ir two.
  • Golden2husky Match the tool to the job. This would be ideal for those who have dreadful, traffic filled commutes. I'd certainly go the SE route - wheel sizes are beyond bordering on dumb today and 17s are plenty. Plus the added mileage is a real advantage. I would have been able to commute to work with very little gas usage. The prior Prius' were dreadful to drive - I gave mine back to the fleet guy at work for something else - but this seems like they hit their mark. Now, about that steering wheel and dash design...No mention of the driving aids for improving mileage but I'll assume they are very much like they were in earlier models - which is to say superb. A bit of constructive criticism - on a vehicle like this the reviewer should really get into such systems as mileage is the reason for this car. Just like I would expect to see performance systems such as launch control, etc to be commented on for performance models.
  • Arthur Dailey Rootes Motors actually had a car assembly facility in Scarborough ( a suburb in the east end of Toronto), during the 1950's and early 1960s. It was on the south-west corner of Warden and Eglinton located at 1921 Eglinton Avenue East. The building still exists and you can still see it on Google maps. That part of Scarboro was known as the Golden Mile and also had the Headquarters for VW Canada, and the GM van plant.Also at 2689 Steeles Avenue West in Toronto (the south east corner of Steeles and Petrolia) is what is still shown on Google Maps as 'The Lada Building'. It still has large Lada signs and the Lada logo on the east and west facades of the building. You can see these if you go to the street view. Not sure how much longer they will be there as the building just went up for sale this month. In Canada as well as Ladas and Skodas we also got Dacias. But not Yugos. Canada also got a great many British vehicles until the US-Canada trade pact due to Commonwealth connections. Due to different market demands, Canadians purchased per capita more standards and smaller cars including hatches. Stripped versions, generally small hatchbacks, with manual transmission, windows, door locks and no A/C were known as 'Quebec specials' as our Francophone population had almost European preferences in vehicles. As noted in previous posts, for decades Canadian Pontiacs were actually Chevs with Pontiac bodies and brightwork. This made them comparatively less expensive and therefore Pontiac sold better per capita in Canada than in the USA.
  • Ajla As a single vehicle household with access to an available 120v plug a PHEV works about perfectly. My driving is either under 40 miles or over 275 miles. The annual insurance difference between two car (a $20K ev and $20K ICE) and single car ($40K PHEV) would equal about 8 years of Prius Prime oil changes.
  • Ronin Let's see the actuals first, then we can decide using science.What has been the effect of auto pollution levels since the 70s when pollution control devices were first introduced? Since the 80s when they were increased?How much has auto pollution specifically been reduced since the introduction of hybrid vehicles? Of e-vehicles?We should well be able to measure the benefits by now, by category of engine. We shouldn't have to continue to just guess the benefits. And if we can't specifically and in detail measure the benefits by now, it should make a rational person wonder if there really are any real world benefits.