Words & Pictures: Kevin C. Limjoco
Now on its model mid-cycle and renewed from its second fairly major refresh, what was once the king of the mid-size SUV’s for a couple years, the Chevrolet Trailblazer, is once again ready to take on both its direct competition and whatever adventure its buyers plan to undertake. Since its launch in 2012, and loosely considered Chevrolet’s 2nd generation Trailblazer for seemingly every other market but North America where the original Trailblazer model has been completely replaced with the Traverse model range, the either Brazil or Thailand built full-ladder frame 7-seater SUV has been a commercially successful model in every market where it is sold. We bought a top-range LTZ model ourselves for our C! Fastfleet in 2014 after it got its significant mechanical updates.
After I tested the (180 bhp /347 lb-ft) 2013 Chevrolet Trailblazer LTZ in Thailand back then, I already proclaimed that it was the very best in its class, besting at the time the (163bhp / 253 lb-ft) Toyota Fortuner 3.0V 4-speed AT, (156 bhp /280 lb-ft) Ford Everest 3.0 Limited 5-speed AT, (144 bhp / 217 lb-ft) Isuzu Alterra 3.0 4-Speed AT, and (174 bhp / 258 lb-ft) Mitsubishi Montero Sport GTV 5-Speed AT. The Trailblazer wasn’t just more powerful and more fuel efficient, it also had the most spacious interior with the most standard equipment, was the quickest, fastest, best handling, best braking, and was the most capable off-road as well. But all in very marginal degrees of advantage.
Before I fully committed to purchasing a unit for our C! Fastfleet, I had sat down with the engineers in Thailand to review my concerns which ranged from complaints about the lethargy of the shift patterns of the 6-speed automatic, to not having HID headlights, not having a standard reverse camera, and a few more minor items. With the looming specter of the all-new Ford Ranger due at the end of 2014 which was the harbinger for the all-new Everest that followed, I also emphasized that the chassis could easily handle more power. There was nothing we could do about the overall design which was arguably not the Trailblazer’s best feature, though I personally liked it. A few months later, an updated version appeared centered around a heavily reworked Duramax engine with 11% more power, 6% more torque, and 4.3% better fuel economy. That update alone sealed the deal; I simply could not wait for the new Ford.
The new 2nd generation Duramax engine uses a higher pressure (up to 29,000 PSI) common-rail system, a new liquid-cooled variable geometry turbo for extended duty and better cooling, a larger intercooler (EGR), a new electrical gas recirculation valve to reduce emissions, a new lighter composite intake manifold, a lighter redesigned head and cylinder block also for better extensive cooling, an upgraded balancer shaft that reduces noise, vibration and harshness while enhancing refinement, and a new ECU featuring newly-developed software by General Motors engineers for quicker response and added accuracy to keep the engine operating optimally. The 6-speed Active Select automatic transmission was also recalibrated to handle the new power for better liveliness and improved dynamic performance. The new Trailblazer’s suspension and braking systems have also been newly retuned to appropriately match the additional power and the higher speeds that it can now achieve.
Other improvements included a new Information display in the instrument cluster that now shows an Eco Index page that provides feedback to the driver on driving behavior to improve fuel economy guided by a leaf graphic when you’re driving smoothly and efficiently, and a 7-inch color touchscreen infotainment system called MyLink that powered the 8 speakers (the invisible 2 speakers are embedded inside the ceiling) featuring video when still, outside temperature, date/time, vehicle settings, full smartphone, digital audio, Bluetooth and USB connectivity. So, I finally committed to a fully loaded Auburn Brown 2014 Trailblazer LTZ with all the mentioned updates and paid extra to include the optional reverse camera and navigation.
There had been a few more minor equipment updates since then until this heavily updated 2017 Z71 model that now shares a closer exterior design tether to its North American brethren thanks to its completely new face that got a revised dual-port grill and wraparound headlights with integrated LED daytime running lights (we had to buy a factory LED accessory to accomplish the same effect before which was very buggy and unrefined), redesigned front bumper with larger and more effective built-in fog lights (our old unit uses very poor illumination small projectors) and front parking sensors, subtle changes to the rear bumper, painted mirrors, new design (model 7) gunmetal 18” x 7.5” alloys, new side-door protectors, Z71 monikers, and hood appliqué. Our Summit White test with Jet Black interior leather (Z71 stitching on the front headrests) unit came with over 3,000 kilometers of heavy duty yet it immediately drove and felt better than our C! Fastfleet model though I have just three blaring issues which I will discuss a bit later. The new Trailblazer is still the only other vehicle in its class along with the Ford Everest with genuine 800 mm water-wading capability.
The interior got equally big upgrades; with a slight door trim redesign with new Chevrolet branding, a completely new and more tasteful multi-texture dashboard with new vents, considerably better instrument cluster with a crisper multi-information center display, the new 8-inch infotainment system now features My Link 2 that also supports Android Auto and Apple CarPlay along with its standard multi-connectivity. The audio quality of the new 7-speaker system decimates the old 8-speaker system too! Other interior updates include automatic rain-sensing wipers, electro-chromatic rearview mirror, a standard reverse camera with guidelines, remote engine startup, remote-controlled power windows, updated automatic climate control and power adjustable driver’s seat along with new switchgear that include the additional driver-aids like blind spot warning, lane departure warning and front collision warning on top of the long list of standard equipment from last year’s model.
Now for my gripes: A) The new window system lowers the glass by over an inch every single time the door is opened which I understand on one hand contributes to easier opening and closing of the doors since interior pressure is reduced in the process, however the same operation also allows voluminous rain, noise, and dirt to enter very freely into the cabin. B) The new halogen headlights aesthetically look nice and are more aerodynamic but they lost the low-beam projectors so it is a step back both ways in a time now when the competition has either Bi-Xenon (HID) or Bi-LED projectors that not only look and perform better but also produce much less heat and require less energy. C) Despite the considerably better feel, functionality, and energy saving with the new electric powered steering system (EPS), a slightly retuned engine that accommodates Bio-fuel and is Euro-4 compliant, new door, window, and windshield seals, a 10% thicker windshield, and Chevy’s claim of an 8% quieter cabin compared to before, the Duramax engine is still too loud and noisy especially since the competition have more than risen to the occasion.
The 2017 Chevrolet Trailblazer Z71 is definitely better than the model it replaces as a whole, and it is still a very commodious and full featured SUV. With its increased retail price, it will truly come down to what each buyer requires and likes and what they are willing to compromise with, because at this point all the mid-size SUV’s in its class are all very good vehicles that will ultimately also be selected in accordance to brand loyalty, after-sales service, price, and warranties.
Specification – 2017 Chevrolet Trailblazer Z71
Engine: Inline-4, 2776 cc, dohc 16V, CRDi Intercooled VGT Turbodiesel, 6-speed AT
Max power: 200 bhp @ 3800 rpm
Max torque: 369 lb ft @ 2000 rpm
0-100 km/h (0-62mph): 9.6 sec.
Top Speed: 202 km/h (126 mph)
Fuel Mileage: 15 kms. /Liter overall so far
Price as tested: PhP 1,881,888.00
+Still has the strongest engine in its class, look a lot better, new electric steering is excellent and more refined, spacious, good road compliance, real-world versatility and usability.
-Automatic window-drop function opens too excessively, still weak night illumination, engine still too unnecessarily loud, no standard navigation.
C! RATING 9.5/10