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

Herald Sun - Motoring - - ROAD TEST - BILL McKIN­NON bill.mckin­non@news.com.au

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?

DE­SIGN

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.

AROUND TOWN

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.

VER­DICT

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.

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