Not Your Father’s Chevy Trailblazer

October 15th, 2020 by

A new Chevrolet Trailblazer has not been produced for the US market since 2008. Those last models rolled off the assembly line more than a decade ago. The First-Generation Trailblazer was replaced by the Traverse, which started production in 2007. I did not think I would ever see the Trailblazer name again, but I was wrong. About two years ago I started hearing some rumblings about the Trailblazer name being brought back for a new crossover. Where would it go? I had just seen the launch of the new Blazer and was curious about where a new crossover would fit in the Chevrolet lineup. At this point, Chevrolet already had the Trax, the Equinox, the Blazer, the Traverse, the Tahoe, and the Suburban. It would not be until April of 2019 at the Shanghai International Auto Show that I would see what the new Trailblazer would look like. It debuted in China and looked nothing like the old Trailblazer.

When the covers came off this new model I was intrigued. Full disclosure: I am not one of those fellas who gets bent out of shape when a new type of car receives an old car’s name. A lot of people do. Sometimes names need to progress. Without progress, we would all still be driving For Model T’s. No one wants to drive a Ford. My initial concern with the Trailblazer was that it looked like it was the same size as the Trax. Then GM said it was going to have a 3 Cylinder Engine. My concerns grew. I had recently driven a Ford EcoSport with a 3 Cylinder engine and it only ranked slightly higher than walking in my book. I needed to see this thing in person to make a better judgment.

In February of this year, just weeks before the lockdown, I got to see the new Trailblazer in person. I attended the 2020 Pittsburgh International Auto Show in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I will not say that it was love at first sight, but it was lust. The Chevrolet team was set up just inside the main entrance of the 2nd floor. The Chevrolet booth was massive. It was crowded, but everyone was paying attention to this car called the C8 Corvette. I had the Trailblazer all to myself. It was magical. The version Chevrolet bought was the one you see in all the ads. It was the Zeus Bronze Metallic ACTIV Trailblazer with the Summit White top. It was stunning. The design was the first thing I noticed when this vehicle was unveiled. I liked it a lot. But when I saw that metallic pain in person under those stage lights, the affinity I felt for this new crossover increased tenfold.

Just as I approached the car a Chevy rep started showing it to an older couple. I did not want to be rude, so I gave them some space. While they were checking out the driver’s seat, I walked over to the cargo hatch. I grabbed the handle and it started to open by itself. There is no way this has a power liftgate. I was wrong. I was stunned by this feature because so few vehicles in this class have a power liftgate option. If the liftgate was this impressive, the rest of the vehicle must be great. The older couple left, and I finally got to sit in the Trailblazer. “That’s odd.” I thought to myself. “I actually fit in this vehicle…well.” I happen to be 6 foot 4, and I have not turned down many meals in my life. You could say that I am a man of stature. Not only did I fit, but I also had to move the seat up. Everything about this CUV was telling me that the Trailblazer was punching above its weight…except that 3-cylinder engine. I needed to drive this thing to see if was underpowered. Sadly, the Pittsburgh Auto Show does not allow test drives. I would have to wait until we had one on our lot to see what it felt like on the road.

A few weeks after the show, the global pandemic hit the United States. It would be a while before we would get a new Trailblazer. When one finally arrived, I was excited. However, it was sold nearly a day after it arrived. I did not have time to drive it. I was bummed because the one we had ordered was exactly like the one from the Auto Show.

 

Earlier this week we received two new Trailblazers. One was an FWD LS Model and the other came in the LT trim. It too was front-wheel drive. I really wanted the RS or the ACTIV, but this LT would have to do because I really did not want to wait anymore. Plus, it was Midnight Blue Metallic with Black Wheels. It caught my eye. This LT came with the 1.3-liter engine and the nine-speed automatic transmission. The LS had the 1.2 liter and the CVT. To truly appreciate the Trailblazer, I needed to drive the high-volume engine. The 1.3 engine has 155 horsepower and 174-pound feet of torque. This is where things get interesting. The Trax has a bigger engine, and one more cylinder than the Trailblazer, but the Trailblazer has 17 more horsepower. (in the 1.3 Turbo.) I still had my doubts. As I turned the Trailblazer on, I could not help but wonder if it would return the favor.

Last night I slapped my dealer plate on the little CUV and headed out for a wild night. Within moments of my drive, I was impressed by the pep this little engine had to offer. From a dead start, the Trailblazer quickly accelerated. It did not feel overworked at all. As I approached the highway I needed to see if it would respond when I applied a moderate amount of throttle. It climbed the entrance ramp with ease. More impressive than the engine is the Trailblazer’s optional 9 Speed Automatic transmission. It shifted seamlessly and helped propel the CUV forward in a robust manner.

The Trailblazer was incredibly comfortable on the way home. I live in a rural part of Parkersburg, WV. The roads have been destroyed by logging trucks and water transport vehicles. The Trailblazer’s ride impresses too. I own a crossover that is about the same size, and the ride I encounter every day is far harsher. Ride quality is often overlooked in this segment, so it is nice to see that the Chevrolet engineers did not ignore this aspect of the vehicle. I also fund the safety and tech features to be rather useful. The blind-spot monitoring system was needed on a few lane changes. The Apple CarPlay feature was extremely handy. It took no time for me to connect my iPhone 11. The sound quality was great too.

Though I only spent one wild night with this little CUV, I can honestly say it is one of the best in its class. It is far superior to the Ford EcoSport in every way. It looks much better than the Honda HRV, and the Nissan Rogue Sport. It is more comfortable than the Kia Seltos and the Hyundai Tucson.

This is not your father’s Trailblazer, and that is one of the most refreshing aspects of this vehicle. Stop by McClinton Chevrolet to take this for a drive.

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