2002 Chevrolet TrailBlazer

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2002 Chevrolet TrailBlazer

By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 8

Bottom Line:

All-new model is highly competitive.
Pros:
  • Very comfortable
  • Roomy
  • Strong engine
  • Decent handling
  • Soft ride
Cons:
  • No third seat
  • Rather vague steering
  • Narrow rear door openings

The 2002 Chevrolet TrailBlazer sport-utility vehicle isn't as innovative as some expected it would be. For instance, where's the third-row seat and independent rear suspension offered by the rival, redone 2002 Ford Explorer?

Nevertheless, the TrailBlazer is very competitive with its powerful BMW-style engine, roominess and soft, user-friendly feel. It has the same 4-door design, size, powertrain and body-on-frame platform as General Motors' new 2002 Oldsmobile Bravada and GMC Envoy, which have higher base prices than the $25,155 - $33,730 TrailBlazer.

Unique Look
But 70 percent of body panels are unique to the ruggedly handsome TrailBlazer, including the front fenders, grille, hood, rear doors and rear quarter panels. Curiously, the taillights look as if they are from a 1960s Aston Martin.

The TrailBlazer comes in LS, LT and top-line LTZ trim levels and has lots of standard equipment. It offers rear-wheel drive with available traction control and a 4-wheel-drive system that can be left engaged on dry roads. That system has low-range gearing for off-road driving, where the TrailBlazer's rigid construction comes in handy.

Old Car Substitutes?
Some argue that all midsize sport-utility vehicles are just substitutes for the old, big, powerful American V8 sedans and station wagons that disappeared long ago. Indeed, the 4-door TrailBlazer is somewhat reminiscent of such models, offering plenty of power, room and comfort—and the marginal fuel economy expected from a big, heavy, powerful vehicle.

Chevrolet said the TrailBlazer doesn't replace the Chevy Blazer V6, which has a 1995 design. Rather, the harder-edged Blazer is offered as a lower-cost alternative to the TrailBlazer. It will be offered at least as a 2002 model, although it feels pretty old when compared to the new model. The harder-edged Blazer is adapted from a pickup truck, while the TrailBlazer was developed as a sport ute.

Larger Than Blazer
The TrailBlazer gives Chevy a sport ute that is far more competitive with modern sport utilities. Compared to the Blazer, it is 8.3 inches longer at 191.6 inches, 6.9 inches wider and noticeably higher.

The new model's wheelbase is six inches longer at 113 inches for a smoother ride, but it has a tighter turning circle. That's partly because the TrailBlazer's narrower inline (not V-shaped) 6-cylinder engine makes room for the front wheels to turn more.

Taking a Chance
Chevy is taking a chance by not giving the TrailBlazer a V8 because many buyers of larger domestic sport utes expect such an engine. The new model's 4.2-liter engine is designed to provide V8 performance and 6-cylinder fuel economy.

But you don't get the explosive bang of a powerful V8 when you floor the throttle because power builds in a linear fashion. Fuel economy is only an estimated 15-16 mpg in the city and 21 on highways. After all, the TrailBlazer weighs 4,442 pounds with rear-drive and 4,628 pounds with 4-wheel drive.

Plenty Fast
However, the TrailBlazer is plenty fast and can tow 6,200 to 6,400 pounds. The engine has plenty of torque at lower speeds and loafs at 2100 rpm at 70 mph. It's rated at 270 horsepower, for best-in-class bragging rights.

The engine is reminiscent of a BMW inline six because it's a light, high-revving motor with dual overhead camshafts (a first in a GM truck), four valves per cylinder and variable valve timing. It works with a 4-speed automatic transmission that upshifts deftly but is a bit slow to downshift during passing maneuvers because it wasn't meant to work with such a high-rev motor.

Cushy Ride
Despite its rigid rear axle, the TrailBlazer provides a softer ride than the new Explorer. In fact, it's downright cushy—thanks to such things as a stout chassis and a decent rear suspension. The slow-ratio steering is a bit vague and the brake pedal is mushy. But stopping distances are decent and there is a standard anti-lock brake system (ABS).

A low floor makes it fairly easy to get in and out, although the running boards aren't for large shoes. Occupants sit high and there is good room for four tall adults in the quiet, nicely designed interior. The front seats should provide more side support, and rear door openings are too narrow. However, doors open wide and have easily grasped handles.

Those who want a third-row seat must wait for the planned stretched version—a serious omission for 2002.

Large Cargo Area
The cargo area is large and becomes quite impressive with an 80-plus cubic foot rating when the rear seatbacks are flipped forward. But the hatch has a flip-up glass area with a high sill that makes it hard to load larger items. And the large, somewhat cumbersome hatch has a rather high opening.

Despite faults, the TrailBlazer has lots going for it—besides Chevrolet's venerable nameplate and huge dealer network.

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BB06 - 9/20/2014 1:40:17 AM