In Summary
  • Any downsides to buying it?
  • Yes, I can think of one. You will look like you are driving a county government staff car.

The 2017 Chevrolet Trailblazer

 

What is it?

This is the second time I’m driving a facelifted General Motors (GM)product through dry and somewhat dusty environments in the space of a month.

 

No, silly, what is the 2017 Chevrolet Trailblazer?

This is yet another response from General Motors to a question that was answered a while back by Japan’s finest, and Ford. It is a rugged, seven-seat SUV complete with selectable 4WD and chunky tyres, which means it is a car that not only ferries families, but can also be used with considerable peace of mind in the clag.

 

So that means it is essentially a DMAX longroof, a là Everest/Pajero Sport/Fortuner; or what exactly are you saying?

Yes, and no. Yes, because that is what this wagon is intended to be in concept. Its placement in the market lies right in the firing line of the aforementioned vehicles, which are, as stated, 7-seat covered versions of their respective double-cab pickup stablemates.

However, while the Everest, Pajero Sport, Fortuner — and Nissan Pathfinder — are obviously related to their truck versions, the Trailblazer is not immediately recognisable as a covered DMAX. And it actually isn’t. The similarities go only as far as using torquey turbodiesel engines and having a body-on-frame construction are concerned.

 

The creep sheet

Engine: A 2.8 litre diesel turbo with intercooler that is  good for 192hp and 500Nm. Oddly enough, this is a Euro 2 standard engine, which means you should have no qualms about fuelling it with the so-called local diesel, which is allegedly mud. If you do, expect consumption figures of about 12km/l. There is a petrol engine available elsewhere in the world but GM East Africa will not sell it here, so there really is no point in going into that.

Transmission: 6-speed automatic with manual override called Active Select. Again, there is a more manly manual transmission available elsewhere but in the interest of softness, that option has been intentionally overlooked for this market. The autobox comes with something called a Centrifugal Pendulum Absorber  (CPA), which reduces noise and vibrations, particularly during shifts. The CPA is located within the transmission and basically acts as a very heavy flywheel to damp shift shocks and transmission vibrations, but unlike a heavy flywheel, this one does not compromise the engine’s ability to gain and lose revs.

The 4WD transfer case (high and low range, 2WD and 4WD, all selectable) allows for shift-on-the-fly ability from 2 High to 4 High  at speeds as high as 120km/h, which is mightily impressive.

Steering: It is now gets electric power assistance rather than hydraulic. I was on the verge of throwing a wobbly castigating the new system which has been reputed to suffer from lack of feel in the past but then again, this is an off-road vehicle.

Steering “feel” mostly consists of getting your thumbs dislocated if you hold the wheel wrong when driving over rocks. Electric power steering is your friend. If you are understeering and can’t feel the instance the front tyres lose traction like you do in sports cars, then perhaps you should slow down.

Oh, and that EPAS makes for finger-light tiller-twirling at parking speeds while being reassuringly direct out on the open road. For an SUV, that steering is pretty sharp and accurate with it.

More fancy stuff: Push-to-start is the new must-have accessory on any pretender to whichever automotive throne they are pretending. You’ll find it here too, just like you will in the new DMAX. The party piece is that you can now scare everybody on Halloween  by hiding behind a tree and starting the car remotely, in which case they will think of ghosts.

Here is a less ghostly suggestion, though, GM. My car has a timer and it works excellently. Why not fit one as standard to the heavily boosted diesel engine? Extending the engine run time by pressing the lock button twice and then pressing and holding the start button sounds convoluted and like something one is likely to forget. A turbo timer is automatic and self-regulating, depending on the settings; why not just do away with the button-prodding (how long should I hold the start button? How fast should the double-tap on the lock button be for the car to know that I am actually extending the engine run time and not being an indecisive, butter-fingered, manly Trailblazer driver?)

Keeping you upright: In the light of recent discoveries and as a probable follow-up to questions about rollover safety, the Trailblazer is now armed with a raft of electronic driver aids. There is the forward collision alert (FCA)) that lets you know when you are about to flatten whatever is in front of you. It starts with a beep, followed by a warning light in the instrument cluster that goes from green to yellow depending on proximity (measured using a windscreen-mounted camera and an algorithm that uses your current speed to determine how fast you are going to crash). If that distance can be covered in about two-and-a-half seconds, you get to see a head-up display: a bright red light flashes on the bottom right corner of the windscreen. The first time you see it you will undoubtedly think you are hallucinating, and you will ask “What on earth was that?” 2.4 seconds before having your accident.

The accident is preventable by the use of ABS and electronic brake force distribution (EBD). These are now backed up by panic break assist (PBA), which works by calculating how fast you move your foot from the throttle to the brake and how hard you stomp the brake. Once the odds are that you are coming to a panicky halt, full braking efficiency will be applied. You will not be having that accident after all.

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