First drive in Holden’s fresh Trail­blazer.

Fru­gal seven-seat Holden Trail­blazer launches its at­tack.

4 x 4 Australia - - Contents -

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.

IN­TE­RIOR

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.

ON-ROAD

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.

OFF-ROAD

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.

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