Per­fectly named

As long as there is grip, and even some places where there ain’t, the Z71 4x4 will get the fam­ily there

The Witness - Wheels - - MOTORING - BRIAN BASSETT

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.

Bonus ex­tras

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.

PHOTO: AL­WYN VILJOEN

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.

PHOTO: QUICKPIC

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.

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