First drive in Holden’s fresh Trailblazer.
Frugal seven-seat Holden Trailblazer launches its attack.
IT WOULD be easy to dismiss the update to Holden’s Colorado-ute-based SUV as largely superficial – except that would be underselling the substantial changes beneath the skin of a car now known as the Trailblazer. The basic body is unchanged from the Colorado 7, of which it is a major update, although a new bonnet, front bumper, headlights and grille do create a more aggressive character.
Value is a key part of the equation with the Trailblazer. While obvious competitors include the Ford Everest, Toyota Fortuner and Mitsubishi Pajero Sport, Holden lists the size and pricing of the Isuzu MU-X as closer to the newcomer and, therefore, its most direct rival.
Pricing for the seven-seater starts at $47,990 for the LT, which gets 17-inch alloy wheels, a reversing camera, seven-inch touchscreen, a digital radio, and Apple Carplay/android Auto connectivity. All come with a six-speed auto.
The step up to the LTZ is $4500, and for that you get leather trim, an electric driver’s seat, rain-sensing wipers, larger 18-inch alloys and the bigger eight-inch touchscreen.
DRIVELINE AND CHASSIS
IT’S below the surface where Holden has made the biggest changes. The 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel makes the same 147kw and 500Nm; although, it’s now cleaner, having had a diesel particulate filter added to meet the Euro 5 emissions standards that apply from November.
There’s no shortage of muscle, especially torque – and it’s a lot easier to tap into courtesy of a new torque converter that reduces vibration and locks up sooner. That direct link to the engine accentuates the performance with a lovely effortlessness to low-rev performance. Cruising on a freeway is all torque, with a
relaxed 1700rpm engine speed at 110km/h.
Peak power is also decent, but the reality is you’ll rarely need it. The decisive transmission shifts almost bang on at 3600rpm when you’re flat out, so you won’t often hit that peak.
Fuel use, too, has dropped, down from an official claim of 9.2L/100km to 8.6L/100km.
GETTING in and out initiates an automatic opening of one window to reduce air pressure when closing the doors. It’s all about making it easier to shut the doors, but off-roaders may not appreciate the dust or mud streak it leaves if they’ve been getting down and dirty. It’s fair to say not everyone will be a fan of this feature; it would be great if it could be disabled through the main vehicle settings.
Elsewhere, it’s all change for the dash of the Trailblazer, which brings a newfound cohesiveness over the Colorado 7’s mishmash. It’s dominated by the touchscreen, which is surrounded by nicely integrated buttons, all with a logical flow to their positioning.
Even the seven-inch screen in the LT seems large and easy to navigate, with Apple Carplay and Android Auto as part of the deal. The digital radio is a bonus when you’re in larger cities, unlocking dozens of extra channels.
The LTZ looks classier, thanks to the leather and larger touchscreen, which better fills the hole. It’s a shame, though, that the seats don’t have much in the way of under-thigh and lateral support, especially given the adventurous nature of the car. However, while they’re not uncomfortable, no reach adjustment for the steering compromises the driving position.
The middle row is also fixed, so can’t slide fore and aft as in many 4x4s. But there’s decent leg room and enough breadth for three people.
The boot’s floor is quite high because of the shelf concealing the retractable luggage cover. Like all seven-seaters there’s not much usable luggage space if it’s a full house and all the seats are in play.
ARGUABLY the biggest changes are how the Trailblazer goes about its driving business. Put that down to the new shocks and revised steering. Gone is the hydraulic steering set-up; in its place is a new electric assistance system. The ratio, too, has been shortened, so it feels sharper, without being so aggressive as to upset the high-riding chassis. Steering feels respectably light at low speeds, while settling into decent feedback on longer, country road sweepers. Importantly, too, it’s more predictable. There’s good body control for what is a big truck, and the new Bridgestone Dueler tyres deliver decent cornering grip, adding to the reassurance. There’s still some rocking-androlling if you push on, but the Trailblazer is surprisingly well-behaved. Pitch into a corner and the body will lean, but changing direction can be something of an effort at speed. Brakes, too, have more initial bite, courtesy of a larger brake booster. But it’s the refinement that has had the biggest kick in the right direction, thanks to everything from the new torque converter and engine/transmission mounts to reduced wind noise and revised suspension. It’s no luxury car, but the Trailblazer is better set up for touring than any Holden off-roader in years.
NOTHING has changed with the key hardware for the Trailblazer, compared with the Colorado 7. That means a part-time, dual-range 4WD system. Refinement of the traction control software is said to improve its responses, but our initial drive on a Holden-arranged drive loop involved nothing more challenging than occasionally rough gravel tracks, all done in 2WD. There’s also downhill assist control, which is set by adjusting the speed with throttle and brake pedals, and then leaving the electronics to maintain that speed.
The Trailblazer can wade through 600mm of water and has up to 218mm of ground clearance; the 17-inch tyres on the LT model are 5mm lower, something that marginally impacts the generous approach and departure angles. The tyre pressure monitoring system of the LTZ is a handy addition for those regularly driving on gravel.
As with the Colorado there is a maze of accessories available, including bullbars, additional underbody protection, all-terrain tyres and a snorkel.
The tow capacity is 3000kg, matching class leaders, and you get the impression the engine won’t hesitate lugging that sort of load. The roof rails are rated at 100kg – handy for those wanting additional carrying capability.
While we haven’t tested the Trailblazer’s offroad mettle, we’re not expecting it to be wildly different to the Colorado 7 it replaces, which translates to good.
That being the case, the new nameplate brings fresh attention to detail and impressive value in a segment with some impressive competitors. For buyers it means Holden is now a more serious challenger in the seven-seat 4x4 space.
Cosmetic changes make for a more aggressive look, but the big changes are under the skin.
Gone is the Colorado 7’s jumbled dashboard, replaced with a model of clean and logical elegance.
Inside and out, the Trailblazer mates cohesive design with practicality.