Bracing for a big SUV battle
ALWYN VILJOEN finds two things to like a lot in the Trailblazer, but are they enough?
A BATTLE looms among the big sport utes, with the 2016 models of the Toyota Fortuner and the Ford Everest ready to take on Chevrolet’s Trailblazer, while the latest Disco Sport is, by all accounts, all the car you will ever need.
To remind ourselves of our likes and dislikes in this capable ute, we drove the Trailblazer again.
From a safety point of view, the biggest likes in the Trailblazer are how they do not show among the stolen vehicles in Mozambique and Zambia, and how quickly this big ute stops.
“Go check it out,” challenged one happy owner who does the daily commute from Albert Falls Dam to Pietermaritzburg in his automatic TB.
I did, on dirt, and the advanced four-wheel disc brake system gave me that “desirable and classleading sense of superior security”, as advertised on the web, thanks to eight advanced active safety systems.
Only R200 buys lots more power
Another impressive feature is the 2,8 diesel burner. Chev sells the Trailblazer with a choice of two engines, a 2,5-litre Duramax diesel engine (120 kW/380 Nm) and my favourite, the buttersmooth 2,8-litre Duramax diesel, which makes 144 kW and 500 Nm torque from 2 000 rpm.
A variable turbo and intercooler boost torque from low revs while the Active Select six-speed auto box makes the most of each Newton.
I, however, used the six-speed manual, for which the power is limited to 440 Nm, and managed to stall several take-offs before getting to revs just right.
On the N3 to Gauteng and back, the big ute drank an average of 11,6 l/ 100 km.
This Trailblazer lists for R556 700, which is just a R200 note more than what Toyota wants for the Fortuner 4,0 V6 4x4 (175 kW/376 Nm).
In this price range, Land Rover wants R10k less for its Discovery Sport SD4 S, but the Disco makes 110 kW and 400 Nm, so the Chev wins.
Flow of power
Our third like is the big Chev’s 4x4 ability.
When stuck, a 4x2’s torque flows to the uselessly spinning wheel. Electronic Stability Programmes (ESP) in modern all-wheel drive cars momentarily brake this spinning wheel, forcing the torque to the non-spinning wheels.
To activate the Trailblazer’s ESP you need to put foot, which allows the computer to do its calculations and send the torque zig-zagging between the wheels. This can take from three to seven seconds to activate, but when the ESP ensures all the wheels get power, the Trailblazer goes anywhere on its 230 mm road clearance.
On steep slopes, Hill-start Assist Control and Downhill Brake Control keep things under control.
Going down a steep hill on a dirt track is as easy as twiddling the knob to 4-Low, pressing the automatic downhill brake button and then occasionally steering.
This frees up fingers to fiddle around with the MyLink and audio-visual touchscreen. In my first serious 4x4 excursion in the Trailblazer I could not get my Sony Experia beyond the “linked, but not connected” stage. In another model the cellphone and Mylink were instant BFFs. Go figure.
Our only dislike in the Trailblazer is the space to stash stuff. From the front air-ducts to the third row of seats, the Trailblazer offers 11 cup holders, (12 if you ditch the can-sized ashtray), a secure tray below the steering wheel, a tray with a lid on top of the dashboard, a large central armrest and two door pockets.
You’d think this should be enough, but you’d be wrong.
Both sun and engine heat up that top tray, making it handy to keep pies warm, but not safe for anything made from plastic.
The long secure tray under the steering wheel allows keys and wallets to slide around, making for awkward fumbling at each toll gate.
The door pockets require opening before you can access them, and under that big central console’s lid, a tiny hollow is made smaller by the plug points mounted in there.
Superficial as this may seem, nooks and crannies for phones, bottles, pies and keys are what swing the deal on the closely matched SUV front.
In the new Everest, which launches today, Ford may just show the capable Chev a thing or two about cabin ergonomics. Watch this space.
Price and competitors
Chevrolet Trailblazer 2,8D 4x4 LTZ, (144 kW/440 Nm)............................................R556 700
Toyota Fortuner 4,0 V6 4x4, (175 kW/376 Nm)............................................R556 500
Land Rover Discovery Sport SD4 S, (110 kW/400 Nm) ...........................................R545 901
Ford Everest 3,2 TDCi (143 kW/470 Nm).......... TBC
4x4-ability: You can balance the Trailblazer with two wheels in the air on an axle bender, take the photo, get back in and then just idle over the humps.
With dashboards getting very hot on an average South Africa day, the tray on top of the console is good only to keep pies warm.