It blazes a fail trail
Holden’s truck-turned-sevenseater is well-priced and roomy — just don’t go looking for comfort or design flair
HOLDEN’S Trailblazer sevenseater is a mildly updated, remonikered Colorado7 wagon. It provides, according to the PR spiel, a “refined and comfortable driving experience”.
It is “such a versatile car,” says Holden engineer Rob Trubiani, that it can be used “for anything from weekday grocery runs to weekend 4x4 driving adventures”.
Indeed it can, but we’re confused about the Trailblazer. See, in the PR pitch for the Colorado ute, Holden calls that vehicle a “truck.”
In design, engineering and equipment, the Trailblazer is 95 per cent Colorado. Last time I looked, cars and trucks were two very different animals. So what exactly do we have here?
As with the Colorado ute update, the Trailblazer gets a tougher, more-chiselled snout, LED running lights and trowelled-on chrome. The top-spec LTZ, which we’re in today, adds LED tail-lights. It’s priced at $52,490.
Upfront in the cabin, it’s all Colorado Z71, including the antichic, industrial-look dash, MyLink infotainment, eightinch colour touchscreen and leather-faced, heated front seats.
So similar pluses and minuses apply. The driving position, for example, is cramped and uncomfortable for taller people because there’s no reach adjustment for the steering wheel, while getting in and out also requires you to squeeze your legs beneath the wheel. Shorter people will have to use the side steps to climb in.
The driver’s seat is a plank, with no lateral support whatsoever. Its leather facings look more like plastic than the plastic that surrounds them.
I’ve tested three Holdens recently and each has had problems with MyLink. It won’t connect reliably with an iPod via the USB socket, frequently stopping between tracks, freezing and, in the Trailblazer, partially overlaying audio menus on top of each other, creating haywire on the screen — the fix is to reboot from the Settings menu.
Our car had other issues. Holding the lock button on the remote automatically closed the windows. Except the driver’s side rear window. Sometimes.
The front windows automatically open a few centimetres when you open the door, supposedly to alleviate cabin pressure when you close the door again. Then they close. Sometimes.
Forward collision alert can think you’re about to whack the car in front when you’re nowhere near it. Or when it’s not even in your lane. Sometimes.
If I had bought this car, I’d be more than a little unhappy with all these gremlins and wishing for a Toyota Fortuner or Mitsubishi Pajero Sport instead.
Trailblazer’s comfortable middle bench has ample legroom. The cabin is narrow so it’s a tad squeezy for three.
Split 60-40, the seats tumble forward with no effort required for easy access to the two rear seats, which on shorter trips are tolerable, as opposed to most back stalls which are torture.
Aircon roof vents are provided for rows two and three plus belt reminders for all seats.
With both rows folded flat, you have almost two metres between the front seats and the tailgate. In five-seater mode, space is still generous but the floor is high, which compromises overall volume and makes it difficult to lift heavy objects into the cargo bay.
The Trailblazer drives like a truck in the traffic, where the 2.8-litre turbo diesel wafts along at 1500rpm-2000rpm, returning single-figure fuel numbers if you’re gentle on the accelerator and 11-12L/100km if you’re not. It’s got enormous bottom end and lower mid-range grunt; acceleration is leisurely, though, rather than brisk.
A 2.2-tonne wagon with a truck engine and indirect steering is by nature ponderous in cut and thrust stuff and when manoeuvring around car parks. Coils replace the Colorado’s leaf springs at the rear, which in theory improves compliance, but low speed ride is still lumpy.
ON THE ROAD
Smooth and quiet in cruise mode, the 2.8 delivers strong rolling acceleration and is a great engine for towing. Expect 7-8L/100km on the highway.
Tall, heavy, one tonner-based 4WD wagons don’t handle, steer or stop like cars. On a winding road, none of them will see which way a Camry went. The Trailblazer is typical of the breed and caution is required.
It can get a little loose on choppy bitumen and in tight corners, where the Bridgestone Duelers start squealing and sliding early. Despite discs replacing Colorado’s drums at the rear, our test Trailblazer’s brakes felt considerably weaker overall. The ride is reasonably comfortable, though hardly plush, at highway speeds.
The bitumen-treaded Duelers are less than grippy on dirt, too, prompting frequent, effective intervention from the stability control. Low-range 4WD has crawler gearing in first and second, plus hill start assist and descent control, so the Trailblazer is a handy mountaineer. No locking rear diff is fitted, wading depth is a shallow 600mm and underbody protection is minimal.
The Trailblazer is sharply priced and roomy and the torque-rich 2.8 can pull a road train. However, it’s also unrefined, uncomfortable and devoid of design flair, with an interior more like that in a $20,000 car and, on the evidence of the test car — sorry, truck — considerable potential for problems you don’t need and shouldn’t have to put up with.