Caught in cross­fire

Herald Sun - Motoring - - SHORTCUT -

VALUE

It’s a well-spec­i­fied ve­hi­cle with av­er­age in­te­rior trim and it is strug­gling to gain trac­tion against its com­peti­tors. The top-tier Trail­blazer LTZ un­der­cuts base ver­sions of the Toy­ota Prado, the large SUV seg­ment leader, but is in turn dearer than the Isuzu MU-X and Mit­subishi Pa­jero Sport. Holden’s three-year/ 100,000km war­ranty ap­plies and the Trail­blazer needs ser­vic­ing every nine months or 15,000km. Each ser­vice is capped at $349, equat­ing to $1396 over three years.

COM­FORT

Leather trim, heated front seats, tyre pres­sure mon­i­tor and eight-inch touch­screen with An­droid/Ap­ple smart­phone con­nec­tiv­ity are stan­dard. The steer­ing wheel doesn’t ad­just for reach, which may com­pro­mise tai­lor­ing the ideal driv­ing po­si­tion. Lack­ing suf­fi­cient pad­ding or bol­ster­ing, the front, mid­dle and rear seats aren’t close to class-lead­ing — but sec­ond row space is, with plenty of shoul­der, leg and head­room. As in most seven-seaters, the third row is the do­main of kids or teens.

SAFETY

The Trail­blazer earned five stars from ANCAP, though in the frontal off­set crash test the driver’s chest pro­tec­tion was mar­ginal. Lane de­par­ture and blind spot warn­ings, rear cross traf­fic alert and for­ward col­li­sion alert are stan­dard on the LTZ and there are seven airbags, with the cur­tain bags ex­tend­ing to the third row.

DRIV­ING

The Trail­blazer leads the way in en­gine per­for­mance and trans­mis­sion cal­i­bra­tion and never feels stressed. It does sound loud, though, de­spite lo­cal work to sup­press noise. The sus­pen­sion is well adapted for on-road han­dling but is a touch too firm over con­sec­u­tive off-road ruts, lead­ing to a jit­tery rear end on sur­faces where softer-sprung SUVs feel more com­posed. The 3000kg tow­ing ca­pac­ity is class av­er­age.

AL­TER­NA­TIVES

The pick of the seven-seat SUV bunch in terms of value, yet un­der­rated. It comes with the re­as­sur­ance of au­ton­o­mous emer­gency brak­ing.

Ford’s base model just un­der­cuts the top-spec Trail­blazer. It’s bet­ter built and the cabin feels classier but misses out on many of fea­tures that are stan­dard in the Holden.

The Prado dom­i­nates this seg­ment — Toy­ota sold more last month than the Trail­blazer has done all year — but the en­try model is still $4000 more. More re­fined, more ex­pen­sive.

VER­DICT

The Trail­blazer is caught in no-man’s land and is com­ing un­der heavy fire from the likes of the MU-X and Pa­jero Sport, no-frills al­ter­na­tives with a bet­ter war­ranty. It also lacks the in­te­rior fit and fin­ish to chal­lenge the likes of the Prado and Jeep Grand Chero­kee. It must rely on the rorty en­gine to at­tract those seek­ing a solid work­horse or tow ve­hi­cle.

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