The midsize diesel SUV segment has never been this insanely competitive. What originally used to be a three-way fight between the Ford Everest, the Mitsubishi Montero Sport and the Toyota Fortuner has now expanded to include the Isuzu Mu-X and the Chevrolet Trailblazer, the latter having just been loaned to me over the long Halloween weekend.
I won’t set out to establish the Trailblazer’s place in my hierarchy of preferences in this segment. I will, however, point out the merits of this vehicle as a stand-alone model—it has many in spades—and the specific purpose I believe it serves.
First, let me explain the appearance of the unit lent to me. The color you see here is officially called—I kid you not—“Pull Me Over Red.” To be fair, the paint job does grab your attention from a mile away. As in you walk into the parking lot and you won’t need to activate your remote alarm to locate your car in case you’re having another senior moment. Its color will locate you, trust me.
Then there are those hood decals à la Camaro, with a “Z71” sticker complementing them. The code refers to the top-of-the-line variant in the 2017 face-lifted range. Z71 off-road packages have long been offered by Chevrolet in the US market, and have been available in such models as the Suburban and the Silverado. The alphanumeric code is also stitched in the front-seat headrests so you won’t forget you paid a premium for this variant.
The cosmetic gimmick is a hit-and-miss affair. It doesn’t work for me, and removing it would be the first thing I’d do if I bought this SUV. I’m not one for screaming my car’s spec sheet. And since we’re on the topic, the Z71 variant gets you these following extras: 18-inch gunmetal alloy wheels, LED headlamps with daytime running lights, power-folding side mirrors with turn signals, automatic rain sensor, backing-up camera, jet-black interior panels and moldings, power driver seat, jet-black leather seat material, illumination for the overhead console, automatic climate control, 8-inch touchscreen display for the MyLink system (which is compatible with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto), seven speakers, electrochromic rear-view mirror, front and rear park assist, and remote engine start.
You’re probably thinking: “Didn’t you say Z71 is an off-road package? None of the extra features you just rattled off can help you in an off-road situation.”
Wait, the list isn’t done. Let me continue: traction control, hill start assist, hill descent control, trailer sway control, brake assist, and electronic stability control. There’s more: forward collision alert, lane-departure warning, blind-spot alert, and rear cross-traffic alert. A standard feature you will certainly appreciate when you’re rolling in the mud is the rotary knob for 4WD activation.
This externally revised Trailblazer has the same engine specs—a 2.8-liter Duramax turbodiesel rated at 200hp and 500Nm—although Chevrolet claims to have improved its fuel economy and emissions. I wasn’t able to test for that claim, but I can attest to the massive power delivery of this motor. On paper, the Trailblazer engine remains to be the most robust mill in its class (still slightly mightier than the Everest), and your right foot will definitely feel it.
I like the look and feel of the cockpit. It gives off a classy and well-crafted vibe. I approve of the layout for the instrument cluster, as well as that for the center console (featuring piano keys for controlling several electronic driving aids). Overall, it’s a visually appealing interior.
Pickup-based underpinnings and a 253mm ground clearance result in a somewhat jarring ride sensation, especially when the cabin is near-empty. Chevrolet attempts to mitigate this with what it dubs a “soft ride” suspension system that consists of rear coils.
The rubber floor mats then remind you that this is okay—that the Trailblazer isn’t designed to provide car-like riding comfort. This SUV exists for adventure, to accompany you while you have fun and get dirty. I particularly like the easy, one-touch process of folding the second- and third-row seatbacks into the floor to create an expansive cargo space the size of Donald Trump’s ego. I used this to transport my mountain bike, whose front 27.5-inch wheel I didn’t have to take off. The Trailblazer swallowed my bicycle whole. Who needs expensive bike racks when you have this SUV?
On my way to UP Diliman to join my riding buddies, I was able to enjoy all the cheap music on my iPhone (Sheena Easton, anyone?) because the MyLink system let me sync my iOS device seamlessly to the entertainment setup via Bluetooth.
At nearly P1.9 million, the Trailblazer 4×4 Z71 is a good value proposition, considering all the toys that come with it. In a segment that’s as crowded as this, it’s the little thoughtful extras that deserve serious consideration from the buyers. Let the other brands position their SUVs as elegant and luxurious transporters. The Trailblazer Z71 is my bet if you want to have a good time. You’ll be hard pressed to find a more willing playmate than this.