By on November 22, 2019

At the Los Angeles Auto Show this week, Chevrolet announced the rebirth of the Trailblazer (note the spelling) for the 2021 model year. However, unlike its predecessor, it’s now a compact, three-cylinder CUV. The comments got a bit heated, pitting the GMT 360 version against its contemporary competition.

So let’s settle this. It’s time for a Buy/Drive/Burn in 2005.

Jeep Grand Cherokee

Jeep’s Grand Cherokee was brand new for model year 2005, as the midsize offering entered its third generation (WK). For its first year in North America, Grand Cherokee was available in Laredo, Limited, and Overland trims. Today’s selection is a mid-level Limited. Niceties like dual power seats, leather upholstery, and a CD changer were upgrades over the base Laredo. Standard on Limited was the 4.7-liter Power-Tech V8, which sent 235 horsepower through a five-speed automatic. The Grand Cherokee lived on in WK guise through 2010.

Ford Explorer

2005 found the Ford Explorer in the final model year of its third generation. For 2005, Explorer was available in XLS, XLT, Eddie Bauer, and Limited trims. We’ll opt for the Eddie Bauer today, which came standard with power seats, climate control, wood trim, and two-tone leather that mirrored the paint scheme on the exterior. Powering the Eddie Bauer was Ford’s Modular 4.6-liter V8, which routed 238 horsepower through the five-speed automatic.

Chevrolet TrailBlazer

TrailBlazer was introduced to GM customers in 1999 as the upscale trim of the ubiquitous Blazer (there was also an Envoy package for the Jimmy). The name came into its own as an all-new model for the 2002 model year. In 2005, customers could access three trims of TrailBlazer: LS, LT, and LTZ. Today’s pick is an LT, which upped the ante over LS with leather seats all around, powered buckets up front, optional Bose stereo, OnStar, and a power moonroof. Navigation was an option which almost nobody bought. For 2005, the 5.3-liter V8 was upgraded to the revised LH6 version. Featuring active fuel management, it produced 300 horsepower which made their way to the road via the four-speed automatic. TrailBlazer lived through 2009 before its replacement by the Traverse.

Three SUVs you saw daily between 2005 and 2013 (probably). Which one’s worth a Buy?

[Images: GM, Ford, Jeep]

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71 Comments on “Buy/Drive/Burn: American Family-hauling SUVs in 2005...”


  • avatar
    saturnotaku

    Ugh. Burn ’em all.

    • 0 avatar

      ‘Yup.

      They all had their good points. The 5.3 in the TrailBlazer plus my Chevy inclinations would lead me in that direction…but there was some wonky engineering going on, unique to that platform. Just pony up the extra $$ and buy the Tahoe.

      Explorer. QUANTUM leap forward from the flipover-prone first gen, but an absolute NO WAY without the V8. The timing cassettes (YOU READ THAT CORRECTLY) – two in the front, one in the rear – make the 4.0 V6 a dealbreaker. That’s why so many of these are in the boneyard today that otherwise would be running.

      Jeep. Nice driving, well appointed…but after a few years, those DaimlerChrysler wiring issues develop, making it a HARD pass!

      In the end, dumpster fire, all of ’em.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Agreed. I have friends who own each of them, and all three are utter garbage, with special dishonorable mention for the Trailblazer. His is the Saab version, so it drives a little better, but it is at the “what will crap out this month?” stage of GM life.

      But if I had to pick, buy the Jeep (make mine a diesel), drive the Trollblazer, burn the Frod.

    • 0 avatar
      SSJeep

      None of these are good choices. But based on what I see on the road today, there are still some Trailblazers soldiering on 14 years later, and there are still Grand Cherokees of the same vintage, albeit less of them. By now, the 2005 Ford Explorers have all rusted to sh1t. I swear the later 3rd generation Explorers would rust if you looked at them the wrong way.

      My choice – buy the GC if Hemi was an option (but burn the 4.7), drive the Trailbazer if the 5.3 is present (even though I hate the GMT trucks), burn the Explorer – but plan on the Explorer fenders and rocker panels rusting out before it can be put to flame.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Actually had 2 vehicle with these nameplates, although around the turn of the century models rather than 2005 editions.
    Buy: The Jeep. It has some prestige/cachet. Was a ‘decent’ enough driver. Although ours in traditional Chrysler fashion ‘ate’ a transmission, replaced under warranty. There is always someone willing to buy your used Jeep.
    Burn: The Explorer. I found the drivers seat/front passenger area so cramped that I had to open the door to put on/take off the seatbelt with a coat on. Thus my experience with the Explorer was fairly short-lived as I moved it quickly for something else.
    Drive: The Trailblazer. Because it is the only one left?

    • 0 avatar
      Dan

      “Actually had 2 vehicle with these nameplates, although around the turn of the century models rather than 2005 editions.”

      The 2000 Jeep was the WJ and, in between eating parts in traditional Chrysler fashion, they were really nice. The WK was a bean counted POS.

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    The Buy is easy as around that time that is what I did, or at least one from the same family the top of the line Mountaineer Premier. It is still with us and is still earning its keep, though not as much as it did when the kids still lived at home.

    The harder one is the drive as I’ve driven versions of both the others and have no interest in the common ones. Now if we can choose the Trailvette, I mean Trailblazer SS then yeah I’d drive that.

    Either way the Grand Cherokee burns.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Buy Explorer: I liked the V8s in the Explorer better, this would be even easier if it were a end of 5.0 V8 production Explorer model.

    Drive TrailBlazer – Because if I don’t own it I don’t have to deal with AFM issues as the miles rack up. The Atlas I6 was a better choice for long term ownership.

    Burn Grand Cherokee – the 4.7 V8 was a fuel sucking pig for the amount of power it put out. I’d rather own a pristine M-body 5th Ave.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I’m fairly certain there was no 5.0 in Gen 2 or Gen 3 Exploder, but perhaps Gen 1.

      also

      M-body! Lean burn FTW… or convert to FI… :)

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        Yes but the Explorer comment still stands. The 4.6 V8 was fairly 3800 like in the durability department. (Before anyone flames about spark plugs that was a 5.4 V8 issue largely.)

        Our Thanksgiving is always with my sister-in-law but my BIL’s father always attends. I’ll see if he’s still rocking a end of production Diplomat SE. The thing is like a time capsule the way he takes care of it.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          I agree. Someone at the golf club I frequent drives a not-well-preserved Dippy which I always find hilarious when I see it. I’m not sure if its an employee or not but I have seen it semi-frequently in the past two years.

      • 0 avatar
        eng_alvarado90

        The 5.0 was only available on 2nd gen Explorers from 97-01. The 3rd gens were only powered by 4.0 and 4.6 engines

    • 0 avatar
      TheDutchGun

      That grand Cherokee motor really was terrible on fuel economy. My parents had a 2006 Laredo with the 4.7. awful.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        C&D has pretty consistently picked up V8 4×4 Grand Cherokees as part of their long term fleet. Until the current 5.7 V8 and 8-speed auto the V8 models were usually get around 13 mpg as an average in C&D usage.

    • 0 avatar
      Mike Beranek

      I used to own a 1988 Fifth Av that was pretty pristine because dad didn’t drive it much in his final years. Sold it in 1995 for 4 grand.

      • 0 avatar
        ToddAtlasF1

        How much was a Fifth Avenue in 1988? $18,500? That’s serious depreciation for a seven year old, low mileage car. On the other hand, my father bought a 1985 Dodge Lancer ES Turbo for about $13K. It replaced the 1971 car he was driving, so my parents are serious keepers. It needed a head gasket at 17K miles. Then it needed one at 24K miles. He tried to trade it in 1988 when it came back from the dealer, the 5/50 warranty having a $500 or $800 deductible per repair and not being as important as getting to work. The import dealer offered him $5K with 24K miles. He should have taken the deal, but instead he gave the car to my sister. It never saw 30,000 miles, but it did come back to haunt my parents many years later when the mechanic tasked with head gasket number three abandoned the car at his house that was claimed by a bank and New York traced the car to my folks in Virginia.

        • 0 avatar
          PrincipalDan

          M-body Diplomat/5th Ave/(rare) Gran Fury were 318 V8 or Slant 6 powered.

          The one in the extend family is blue on blue on blue (paint/vinyl top/velour interior). Still wearing whitewalls and looks as if it has been garage kept its whole life.

          If you get to Thanksgiving early and only see the Diplomat and my BILs late 90s early 00 F350 Super Duty sitting there you think you’ve slipped through a timewarp.

  • avatar
    pale ghost

    Burn the Trailblazer. Last GM or domestic car I bought after hearing the service advisor refer to it as the Trailsh!tter behind my back during one of its many many visits for repairs.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      My dad has this generation Trailblazer – it is literally the biggest POS ever. Eclipsing even my wife’s high school Cavalier. In the first 2 years of its life it was in shop 14 times, 4 of which required a flatbed tow due to electrical or transmission problems that render it DOA. The interior is garbage, it is very definition of GM “playskool”, there are gaps big enough to lose a #2 pencil in. The paint is paper thin, the engine makes noise but has no power, the transmission shifts are slow and mushy. The suspension creaks as it wallows and pitches in turns like old sailboat with zero feedback from the comically overboosted steering. I really can’t stress enough just how terrible this vehicle is in every measurable way. Its so bad that my father drove around with the title in the glove box because if it broke down one more time he was trading it in on the spot. The only reason it still around is because he is incredible cheap and needed it to tow his boat.

      The ironic part is back in 2002 I bought a Dodge Dakota (same 4.7l as the Jeep) that has been FLAWLESS over the same number of years and mileage. Dad offered to give me the Blazer (for free) last year when I mentioned some rust on my Dakota and I told him not no but hell no!

      For what I remember of the Explorer’s back then I wouldn’t take one of them either. However I would rather walk then be subject to the Trailblazer!

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    I heard something strange over the summer that the early WK with the V6 is damn near indestructible, I wanna say MY05 to 09 or 10. Not sure if its true, but this man was an Advance Auto manager and drove one up to camp with 310 on the clock and I would never have guessed such high miles from the condition.

    Buy: Exploder with the 4.6, 4.0 is a def burn.
    Drive: Jeep WK
    Burn: GMT360

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Burn ’em all and buy a minivan instead.

  • avatar
    Hummer

    Burn GC, least reliable POS on the road.
    Drive the Trailblazer
    Buy the Trailblazer SS

    • 0 avatar

      Not available in 05.

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      I couldn’t fully post before, however my brother had an 08.. 09? Grand Cherokee and it was a piece, it blew the first 3.7l at about 85-90k miles, the next engine lasted 2k!!! Miles and the 3rd engine made it to trade in. Electrical issues out the arse, I think 3 out of 4 interior door open handles broke, and when I say broke I mean the entire door panel broke. It blew a strut out around 80k, I think the front end had some noisy issue I have no idea what that turned out to be. It couldn’t be lifted or leveled due to the very poor suspension design. It was a pile. I want to say fuel economy on the 3.7L for him averaged 14.4MPG

  • avatar
    ajla

    Buy: The motherf*cking Trailblazer. GMT360 for life. I should just buy an Envoy and an X-type and be happy.

    Drive: the Jeep. It’ll be the 2nd best off road.

    Burn the Explorer. I do not like the 3rd gens.

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      I would take the trailblazer 7 days a week for off-roading, must better architecture than the Jeep.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Ajla, you really hate your bank account don’t you?

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        What’s the Envoy’s auction numbers looking like?

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          Which MY?

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            2006

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I checked there is no XUV in MY06, bummer.

            MY06 GMC ENVOY 4WD 6C 4D SUV SLE

            11/14/19 $1,600 188,117 2.3 6G/A Green Lease Southeast Darlington
            11/13/19 $750 175,776 – – 6G/A Gray Regular Northeast Pittsburgh
            11/12/19 $1,200 185,871 – – 6G/A Silver Regular Southeast Statesville
            11/8/19 $3,200 124,552 – – 6G/- – Blue Regular Southwest Dallas-Fort Worth
            11/7/19 $700 150,356 1.6 6G/A Gray Lease Northeast New York
            11/6/19 $500 164,721 1.3 6G/A Gray Lease Midwest Kansas City
            10/31/19 $1,150 158,235 – – 6G/A Black Regular Midwest Detroit
            10/30/19 $900 191,663 – – 6G/A Silver Regular Southeast Lakeland
            10/24/19 $1,300 201,098 – – 6G/A Gray Regular Midwest Chicago
            10/24/19 $2,400 149,313 – – 6G/A Gray Regular Midwest Northstar Minnesota
            10/23/19 $4,000 113,715 3.3 6G/A Silver Regular Midwest Milwaukee

            MY06 GMC ENVOY 4WD 6C 4D SUV SLT

            11/20/19 $1,300 149,379 – – 6G/A Gray Regular Midwest Minneapolis
            11/11/19 $2,050 121,571 – – 6G/A Black Regular Northeast Keystone Pennsylvania
            10/31/19 $1,500 135,575 2.8 6G/A Black Regular Southeast Darlington
            10/31/19 $1,200 199,078 – – 6G/A Burgundy Regular Midwest Chicago
            10/24/19 $1,400 233,086 – – 6G/A Gray Regular Midwest Chicago
            10/22/19 $1,800 138,551 – – 6G/A Black Regular Midwest St Louis
            10/22/19 $700 173,800 – – 6G/A Silver Regular Northeast Baltimore-Washington

            MY06 GMC ENVOY 4WD V8 4D SUV DENALI

            11/20/19 $4,100 130,945 – – 8G/A White Regular Midwest Minneapolis
            11/19/19 $1,500 147,655 – – 8G/A Black Regular Southeast Central Florida
            10/31/19 $2,800 75,388 – – 8G/A Black Regular Southeast Orlando
            10/30/19 $4,000 128,902 3.8 8G/A Black Regular West Coast Seattle
            10/24/19 $750 199,776 – – 8G/A Red Regular Northeast Albany
            10/23/19 $1,700 162,316 – – 8G/A White Regular Midwest Minneapolis

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            Thanks. A few good options on CL. I’ll have to check it out over the next two weeks.

  • avatar
    ToddAtlasF1

    2005 was pretty close to peak car in terms of durability, but none of these were good long-term bets. The Jeep’s engines are legendarily fragile. Those Explorers left the road at a feverish rate, although possibly more quickly with the two-ended cam-drive 4.0 V6. The Trollblazer was the one that looked great in its introductory coverage, and then they turned out to be built like VWs.

    I’d drive the Jeep, as Jeep really had a gift for chassis design and tuning before they became rebaged Mitsubishis, Mercedes, and Fiats. I’d buy the Ford, as I could sell it to someone else for more than I would ever pay for it. I’d burn the Trailblazer, although I’d feel badly about the emissions from the recycled plastic they were fashioned of.

  • avatar
    Ryan

    I was in the market for a new vehicle in 2005. I Test drove the Jeep and Ford but only sat in the Trailblazer. At their price point, I was surprised how cheap and drab the Trailblazers interior looked and felt. I didn’t end up buying any of the above mentioned. If these where my only choices…

    Buy the Ford
    Drive the Jeep
    Burn the Chevrolet

  • avatar
    jack4x

    For how popular (and expensive) they were when new, it’s remarkable how few of these Explorers or Grand Cherokees I see on the roads today.

    The Trailblazer and its siblings by contrast seem to have inherited the Cavalier/Grand Am tradition of just enduring, no matter how ratty the condition.

  • avatar
    jimmy2x

    Wouldn’t want any of them. Would take a 4Runner. Likely still going strong.

  • avatar
    PM300

    This was about the time I got my license and have first hand experience with the explorer and trailblazer. My mom had a 2003 Grand Cherokee before the switched to this body style and I remember hating the sea of plastic inside and that crappy 3.7L that replaced the 4.0 I-6. Unless it had the Hemi, I’m burning the Jeep first.

    Buy the Explorer, they drove nice at the time. My mom and aunt both had them and refinement wise they were a million miles ahead of my other Aunt’s 02 and 05 trailblazers.

    Drive the Trailblazer. The 4.2 was quick at the time but she had 2 as leases and both always had problems. Never cared for how it drove either.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    Buy the Jeep. Not a bad vehicle – but too small inside for me.

    Burn the Ford. If memory serves, this is when the Explorer was the best-selling but not close to being the best. Shrugs – people are sheep.

    Drive the Chevy to a place where you can swap it for a fullsize GM SUV of the same vintage. GM has always done a halfway job on their midsize SUV’s – because they would like you to buy the real one. Related story follows:

    1990 – went to my first Detroit Auto Show – stopped by the Chevrolet exhibit.
    Chevy representative, with big smile: “Who do *you* work for, young man?” (I had come from work and apparently looked pretty spiffy in my suit and Burberry overcoat.)
    Me: “GM”
    Him: Smile droops, more guarded now – “Where?”
    Me: “Central Office”
    Him: Demeanor changes to full-out angry – about to come across the desk at me – finger in my face – “YOU’RE the guys who won’t let us have 4 doors on the Blazer, and Ford [pointing to their exhibit] is kicking our butts!!!”
    Me: Mumbling and wandering off.

    Later I got the whole story – the 4-door Blazer was proposed more than once (all the way to the top), and more than once was shot down (from the top) because they didn’t want to take sales from Suburban. Years later I saw a copy of the appropriation request (multiple vehicle programs) with a line through the 4-door Blazer item and “No” written in Roger Smith’s handwriting.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    Since you chose the V8 versions of all three:

    Buy Explorer
    Drive Grand Cherokee (preferably off-road)
    Burn Trailblazer

    The answer with the sixes would have been different, because of engine reliability:

    Buy Grand Cherokee
    Drive Trailblazer (just for a shot of grey plastic nostalgia)
    Burn Explorer

    I say all this in spite of the fact that I still have a scar on my left index finger that came from the hatch of a rental ’05 Explorer that I used in 2005 to move into my apartment near Boston.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Smart man.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Yup this is certainly a case where the engine is key. The sad thing about the Explorer’s 6 is that it didn’t even get significantly better MPG. I’m quite happy I went with the V8 as I was very happy with the 4.6s in my Panthers and very skeptical about the timing chain arrangement on the 4.0, and that of course did turn out to be a serious problem.

  • avatar
    Dan

    Some of the most cheerful vehicles of all time. The final fruit of the incredible boom times of the happy 90s, just in time for America’s introduction to the religion of peace, the rise of China, and a gas crisis on top of that.

    Buy: Ford. A mostly good enough car with a great vibe. The middle market American car of the middle market American suburb.

    Drive; Chevy. Fat times GM throwing heaps of money without understanding either what or why. See the all new DOHC 6000 rpm motor that had no other applications and was completely redundant to the 5300 V8 they already had. On top of that they then spent further money on a significant redesign for 2006. The biggest thing wrong with these was the Tahoe.

    Burn: Jeep. The newest entry and it showed, as hollow as the HELOC economy. Impressively chintzy in all of the ways that the WJ wasn’t. Hemi was a plus. Probably the only plus.

  • avatar
    MoparRocker74

    Buy: Grand Cherokee, provided it’s got the Hemi and low range 4wd. It’s the only one that’s got a prayer off road and if that’s not important, why not just get a minivan? 4.7 is just so-so, v6….BWAHAHA!!!!!!

    Drive: Trailblazer. DEFINITELY drive the SS, but I’m even curious how that Atlas motor drives.

    Burn the Explorer twice. I’ve had the misfortune of driving an ex g/f’s 2wd V6 version. Grossly underpowered pile of hot garbage. My experience with the 4.6 in a few other vehicles was underwhelming at best.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    Buy: Explorer-The 4.6 and the improved independent rear suspension make it a nice livable SUV.

    Drive: Jeep Grand Cherokee WK- It has the Hemi but its design is a bit cut rate particularly the interior furnishings compared to the previous very good WJ and CJ and much better WK2.

    Burn: Trailblazer or most any GMT360 though the Atlas power train is quite good.

    Honorable mention: Mercury Mountaineer.

  • avatar
    geo

    Explorer: Drive

    I once test-drove a 2005 Explorer with the 4.6 and it seemed surprisingly underpowered, though the vehicle seemed comfortable, and it handled well. The salesman told me how this generation always came in to his lot with low miles and were “all wore out”.

    Trailblazer: Buy
    These were well-regarded when they were released, and were actually pretty good vehicles. I still see these everywhere around here, and the owners seem happy with them. Rugged, easy to fix, nice to drive, perfect for the Alberta winters. I currently drive a 9-7x 5.3i and it’s pretty decent to own. I’ve had to replace the rear air suspension with coils, and fix the steering wheel position sensor (which was causing the traction control light to go on). I was able to do these myself, cheaply. The 5.3 was a bit lower on power than I expected — but it’s a pretty heavy vehicle. I’ve also added an AWD toggle switch to the dashboard, wiring it into the fusebox under the hood.

    Jeep: Burn
    Unreliable fuel pig, from what I understand. A friend whined to me that “it’s not fair” that he maintained his Grand Cherokee so well and then had to do so many repairs on it. Plus, the engine is a Chrysler that ends in “7”, which is supposed to be a red flag, according to some mechanics.

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      “ I’ve also added an AWD toggle switch to the dashboard, wiring it into the fusebox under the hood.”

      Explain.

      • 0 avatar
        geo

        The Saab model, unlike the Trailblazer, has no way to switch to rwd-only. Apparent some people consider full-time awd to be “luxurious” (look, I never have to look at or use that treacherous switch on the dash, the car decides for me!)

        Sometimes rwd-only is preferable. I don’t always like feeling it kick in, occasionally even on dry pavement.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      As a former and still sometimes a mechanic, most mechanics are idiots. The 5.7L is great and the 4.7L OK if you don’t overheat it.

      We won’t talk about the 2.x

      • 0 avatar
        ToddAtlasF1

        Great may be overstating the decent qualities of the 32-plug 5.7L. I’m not a mechanic, but I’ve managed some great ones. The 3.7 and 4.7 liter Mopars are not okay. If you need proof, go on car-parts.com and try finding a decent used one. Fifty of those GCs and Dakotas are salvaged for dead engines for every one that gets wrecked. It is the opposite of Toyota, where junkyards sell good Prius engines for little more than scrap metal prices.

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          Yeah that .7 thing was a thing back when there were still 2.7 2.7 and 4.7’s on the road. The 5.7 isn’t in the same league of terrible, but google Hemi tick or Hemi cam failure.

          • 0 avatar
            ToddAtlasF1

            That’s my view of the 5.7 Hemi. It is a perfectly average engine. It has sold in big numbers and there are a number of known issues, but having one does not mean you are definitely going to experience those issues. I’d rank it with the sludging Toyotas. If you maintained them well, you probably never had any clue that there were problems while getting hundreds of thousands of miles of service. If you are lackadaisical about service or unlucky, they can be very unpleasant. The Hemis still aren’t much fun to own at dealer parts and labor rates, unless you traded in a Triton. Those are awful.

  • avatar
    eng_alvarado90

    Buy: Explorer. The 4.6 V8 is solid and I believe this gen has aged the better among these. On top of that, if I had the need for a BOF SUV it better have 3 rows and the Explorer had that (still does today).

    Drive: the TrailBlazer. And that’s only because it’s got the V8. It must be fun.

    Burn: Grand Cherokee. If this only had the HEMI instead of the 4.7, it would switch places with the TrailBlazer because overall I liked the design and quality better on the Jeep.

  • avatar
    eng_alvarado90

    Buy: Explorer. The 4.6 V8 is solid and I believe this gen has aged the better among these. On top of that, if I had the need for a BOF SUV it better have 3 rows and the Explorer had that (still does today).

    Drive: the TrailBlazer. And that’s only because it’s got the V8. It must be fun.

    Burn: Grand Cherokee. If this only had the HEMI instead of the 4.7, it would switch places with the TrailBlazer because overall I liked the design and quality better on the Jeep.

  • avatar

    BUY/DRIVE: TrailBlazer
    BURN: JGC/Explorer

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    Having very limited experience with these

    Buy: Ford. Most liveable. Decent room.
    Drive: Jeep. I drove a Dakota I think a few times with that engine. Was fun. Rest of car horribly cheap DaimlerChrysler stuff.
    Burn: TrailBlazer. My god the nadir of pre-bankruptcy GM. Decent bones but cheapened in every conceivable way to the point it was just a terrible car.

    Two interesting asides: today I see by far the most TrailBlazers. I guess they have kept running while the others haven’t?

    These came out just before that huge oil price spike. Man if you were willing to buy one in 2007 or 08 or whatever it was, DEALS WERE TO BE HAD. Uncle had a minivan he used to tow a small sailboat. Gas went parabolic and he bought one of these V8 Explorers for an absolute steal. I can’t remember what he paid but not many miles and so cheap I couldn’t believe it. He said towed much more relaxed than the van, and he got a good price for his van (because everyone wanted out of these gas guzzlers), got this, drove it I think 2 years, gas prices came way down, sold it for a good chunk more than he paid for it…and got a good deal on a new minivan. But the Explorer he had was surprisingly nice ran We’ll got the job done minimal problems for him. Another guy I knew had the Mountaineer and I think I remember hearing that wheel bearings were a problem with these.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Well, I’ll play along but – yuck.

    Buy: Jeep because – Jeep

    Drive: Chevy – only because the LT in our exercise comes with the 300HP V8 engine under the hood

    Burn: Explorer – ONLY because in this exercise it was the last model year of the generation, making it the most dated of the three choices (ya GMT360 was dated but I go back to – it was a GM V8 under the hood and 300 HP)

    West coast gasoline was ticking $5 a gallon in 2005 so in reality, I wouldn’t have considered any of these vehicles then (and dumped my Chevy Avalanche that same year for a more economically vehicle)

  • avatar
    danio3834

    I won’t let you handicap the best engine offering here.

    Buy: Grand Cherokee because 5.7 Hemi.

    Drive: TB because LS based 5.3.

    Burn: Exploder because 4.6

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    No experience with the third gen Explorer. My ’97 Mountaineer with the 5.0, however, was very reliable for the 5 years I owned it. Besides tires n brakes only had to have a new cable for the hood release and a rear transmission seal replaced. I’m not a big fan of the 4.6L in the Marquis – power-wise – so I can’t imagine it is any better in the Explorer. Nonetheless I’ll have to with a buy.

    For wood trailer hauling I have some experience with the Trailblazer. Not a nice interior to spend time in but it was rugged for Michigan woods adventures – it could go anywhere we wanted it to go for loading up freshly cut logs and return us back to the washed out road. Good for country living. So Drive?

    No experience with Jeep products except for a brief stint behind a plain, but fairly new 1996-ish 4.0L Cherokee. It wandered over the road quite a bit and took constant correction to keep it on course. I’ll go for a burn even with limited info.

  • avatar
    AVT

    Buy: Chevy trailblazer. We own an ext model with the I6 engine. 230k miles on it. It burns some oil but it still works. The interior isnt fantastic but in terms of running costs, it’s dirt cheap. She goes off road fairly well at the cabin and tows the boat and enclosed trailer pretty well as long as you can accept 12mpg. The v8 would have been better provided you deactivated active fuel management system (apparently according to the manuals, if the vehicle was left in 4wd auto mode,afm was disabled)
    drive the jeep. While I was not a big fan of the electric issues they experienced, there on road manners were solid. It’s I’m not entirely sold on the engine but I’d still take it over the 5.7 because the amount of money saved on fuel while driving would pay for its own repairs. The 3.7 engine was a nightmare. 4wd system on these were fairly robust. my buddy got to the cabin for snowmobiling with me more than once in some fairly crazy conditions. They cann get through some deep snow even on dirt roads. Better than our trailblazer could.
    Burn the ford: ironically this is actually the bad version of a good vehicle. I think the platform itself is okay (provided you didn’t tow much, they burned through tranmissions with either engine if you did) but the 4.6 was a nightmare in this SUV. The engine was underpowered and drank gas if you get into it. Not as bad as the 4.0 but fundamentally, Ford really should have put the 5.4 instead in this vehicle. The ride was nice but the rear ends don’t hold up. Sag after some use and they get really bad if you tow. All this being said, I think the interior in these was better than the other two. And if I had to fill it full of people each day, it would go straight to my first pick.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    I was generally a Ford guy at the time so I probably would have picked the Explorer to buy, the Jeep to drive, and the Chevy to burn.

    To my eyes the Ford had the cleanest design with Jeep close behind. The Chevy looked bulbous and ungainly. Also, at the time I was driving a well-used 1993 Aerostar with the 4 litre, so in my mind that meant the engine could go the distance (ignorant speculation is likely with my memory of what my thoughts might have been). I’d have never countenanced the thought of a V8 because of the mistaken notion that they would have been greater pigs than their V6 counterparts.

    15 years later I’d probably have to give the nod to the Tuberculosis since I do tend to see more in my area than the other two. I can’t recall the last time I saw that generation Explorer or Grand Cherokee (these fly mostly under my radar anyway).

  • avatar
    Car Ramrod

    Man, these suck-diddly-uck, Flanders.

    Burn the GMT360 so I don’t have to look at the dash from hell and park the bland Explorer close by with its cracked liftgate facing in. Then drive the Grand Cerberus onto the top of that melting pile of feces and leave it there.

  • avatar
    NoID

    For all the WK hate on here, check out the residuals on the SRT version. On a whim I went internet shopping for one, and 5 minutes on AutoTrader made it clear that it was NOT an option.

  • avatar
    gtem

    Buy: Explorer because it as the 4.6. Likely a reliable truck overall, maybe a set of front control arms, a few other odds and ends and it will roll up on 200k.

    Drive: Jeep, to trash it offroad. It’s total trash otherwise IMO.

    Burn: Trailblazer. Something went amiss between the final T-10 S10 Blazers and these. I actually really like the T-10s more and more these days, not sure if it’s pure nostalgia or what. My friend’s dad, a regional manger at AppleBees had a later year (’02ish?) LT as a company vehicle, I thought it was fabulously luxurious with its leather seats, soft ride, and overhead compass/thermometer console. Time has proven the 4 doors to be remarkably well rust-proofed and generally reliable (4.3L, 4L60E).

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