As long as there is grip, and even some places where there ain’t, the Z71 4x4 will get the family there
THE Chevy Trailblazer was first introduced to South Africa in 2012, and General Motors have just given this seven-seater aptly named 4x4 SUV a major makeover to level the playing fields in its competition with the recently introduced Toyota Fortuner, for which there is still a waiting list at many dealers.
Just push to play
The latest Trailblazer comes in two specs — the top-end LTZ spec with forward collision alert, lane departure warning and rear cross traffic alert, as well as side blind zone alert.
Across the range, all models retain the usual ABS, seven air bags and Isofix seat anchors, but the LTZ spec also has hill-descent assist, stability assist and trailer-sway control.
Pairing phones with GM’s Sync system is a breeze, especially compared to the German cars out there, and the Trailblazer now sports all the buttons the modular infotainment system offers. Once linked, the apps on your smartphone can display on the seven-inch touch screen, which dominates the new dashboard.
Under the hood
The 2,8-litre engine of the LTZ Z71 top-line derivative we drove offers 144 kWs and an impressive 500 Nm of torque. All Trailblazer models now come with a six-speed auto box, underlining the general trend in the SUV market to providing car-like comfort for the driver, while the sedan market contracts all over the world. On a trip to the Anglo-Boer War battle sites around Ladysmith, our resident historian Simon Haw found the auto box a bit slushy for his petrolhead tastes, but as we were to find out, the auto shifter works just fine on the rough. We especially liked how the box blips to gear down automatically. There is also a 2,5-litre turbo diesel, and a new 2,5-litre LT with a new Duramax engine putting out 132 kWs and 440 Nm of torque.
A word on towing
The towing capacity of the Trailblazer is now around three tons, and once again we want to remind people who tow that they either needed to have had a code eight licence before 2000 (which was when all code eight licences were converted to EB licences), or they must convert their B licence for normal cars like the Trailblazer to an EB licencein order to legally tow a trailer that weighs more than 750 kg fully loaded. The towing tests are hard to pass, and the high standard is very good, for towing is a tricky business best not done only by amateurs on holidays.
When it needs to stop, four channel ABS disk brakes with electronic brake force distribution will stops the Trailblazer without fuss.
On a slippery slope
The SUV retains its limited slip differential, but a new limited braking function allows drivers to maintain reasonable speeds on roadless, downhill tracks, in which this car specialises. In the 4x4 version, it is easy to switch from 4x2 to 4x4 on the fly, using a knob below the gear lever, but to go to four low, the vehicle has to stop and neutral needs to be engaged for a few seconds.
After the storms that lashed Pietermaritzburg last week, Wheels editor Alwyn Viljoen just had to demonstrate the Trailblazer’s abilities on mud. First we picked a steep but welltrodden track made slippery with wet mud. The Trailblazer rode to the top in 4x2 mode. Viljoen was impressed: “In my old Cruiser, this is where I would have to get out to lock the front-wheel hubs,” Viljoen said.
We then engaged 4x4 and inched up a grassy slope still drenched in run-off water. The car just blazed a trail through the fresh growth of Tagetes minuta (khakibos, don’t you know!).
“Mmh, very impressive,” said Viljoen, “but you know, if we don’t get stuck, we are not really trying hard enough.” (Which is where I quietly crossed myself.) But hard as he tried to get the Trailblazer stuck, the big SUV just shouldered on, even inching its way out of a deep axle bender that had a forestry truck trapped.
The final verdict? “As long as the wheels have grip, this car has enough grunt to go anywhere,” Viljoen said.
The car also has electronic power steering, which detects when the driver is using extra driving effort and adds torque in the same direction to ease driver fatigue.
Remote vehicle start gets the motor running from the outside, using the key fob, allowing the climate control and demister to start working before you get in.
And last but not least, at R623 200 for the Trailblazer Z71 4x4, only the SsangYong Rexton charges less per Newton metre, which arguably makes the 2,8 TDCi Trailblazer the best value proposition SUV in SA.
Among the big SUVs, the seven-seater Chevrolet Trailblazer Z71 4x4 offers the most torque for the least money in SA, and with 500 Nm, it has all the grunt needed to crawl up very slippery slopes even from parked positions, as a slightly worried Luke Viviers-Viljoen was relieved to learn after this photo was taken.
Duster dusted off Renault has added a lot of value to the four Duster models without changing the prices, which start at R239 900 for the 1,6 Expression 4x2 77 kW petrol and top out at R304 900 for the Duster 1,5 dCi Dynamique 4x4 80 kW diesel. Tweaks include auto locking drive-away doors, black alloys, new front headlamps and rear tail lights, and on Dynamique models, a rear camera.