Brac­ing for a big SUV bat­tle

AL­WYN VILJOEN finds two things to like a lot in the Trail­blazer, but are they enough?

The Witness - Wheels - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

Stor­ing stuff

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

PHOTO: AL­WYN VILJOEN

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.

PHOTO: RIETHA VIVIERS

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.

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