2002 Chevrolet TrailBlazer

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2006 Chevrolet TrailBlazer

This 2006 review is representative of model years 2002 to 2009.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 7

Bottom Line:

Sexy new SS adds appeal to Chevrolet's popular midsize SUV.
Pros:
  • Hot new SS version
  • Rugged
  • Roomy
Cons:
  • Stiff SS ride
  • Abrupt automatic transmission shifts with SS
  • Mediocre fuel economy

The addition of a sizzling 395-horsepower SS version with sports car handling is the big news for Chevrolet's 2006 TrailBlazer, which gets a more powerful standard engine and cosmetic upgrades to keep it among the top-selling midsize sport-utility vehicles.

Higher gasoline prices in 2005 hurts sales of larger SUVs such as the TrailBlazer, but Chevy still produced 244,150 TrailBlazers and this vehicle got off to a good start in January 2006, with sales rising substantially to 13,479 units from 10,867 in the same year-earlier month.

The cosmetic changes include revised front and rear styling, and horsepower of the standard 4.2-liter inline 6-cylinder engine jumps to 291 from 275 for the previous model.

An optional 5.3-liter V8 with 300 horsepower has General Motors' Active Fuel Management system, which shuts down four cylinders to save fuel under low-effort conditions such as steady cruising.

The SS version has a Chevrolet-Corvette-derived 6.0-liter 395-horspower V8 and sports-car-style handling with a retuned suspension and new 20-inch aluminum wheels.

An enhanced Quiet Package with an acoustic laminated windshield and additional sound insulation adds to the TrailBlazer's refinement.

Two Lengths
This SUV comes in LS and uplevel LT trim, with an SS package available for both. There are 5-passenger and extended-length 7-passenger versions, although the SS only is offered in 5-passenger form.

The regular TrailBlazer offers rear-wheel drive or 4-wheel drive with low-range gearing for tough off-road driving. The SS has all-wheel drive without such gearing. (Unlike a 4-wheel-drive system, all-wheel drive can't be shifted to rear-wheel drive and thus always shoots power to all wheels.)

The entry rear-wheel-drive TrailBlazer LS starts at $24,280 under GM's new "low-pricing" system and should be fine for many people. The 6-cylinder engine provides strong acceleration, a good amount of comfort, convenience and safety equipment includes air conditioning with dual climate controls, an AM/FM/CD player and the usual power accessories.

Safety Features
Standard safety features include an anti-skid system and roll-stability control. Optional are head-protecting side-curtain airbags for the first and second seating rows.

Many TrailBlazers are bought by traditional American truck owners who don't quite understand the TrailBlazer's BMW-style inline 6-cylinder and thus opt for its 5.3-liter 300-horsepower V8, which offers more torque for such jobs as heavy towing.

Mediocre Fuel Economy
However, despite the cylinder cutoff feature, the V8 only provides an estimated 16-19 mpg in the city with rear-wheel drive and 15 and 18 with 4-wheel drive. The 6-cylinder does a little better, with estimated figures of 16 and 21 with rear-wheel drive and 15 and 21 with 4-wheel drive.

Predictably, with all its power, the thundering SS delivers 15 and 19 with rear-wheel drive and 14 and 17 with all-wheel drive.

The top-line 4-wheel-drive extended-length LT EXT trim level costs $32,055 and adds more equipment and a more luxurious interior.

The $5,270 SS package can be added to the regular-length LS and LT regular trim levels with rear- or all-wheel drive.

Of all TrailBlazers, the SS easily provides the most driving thrills. Its V8 gives it a 0-60 mph time of only 5.6 seconds, which outdoes some far less versatile sports sedans.

Abrupt Shifts
The TrailBlazer has a 4-speed automatic transmission and wasn't able to provide the SS with a more sophisticated 5-speed unit. It thus beefed up the automatic, which is strong but delivers abrupt shifts—especially second-to-third upshifts.

The SS has quicker steering and a suspension tuned at the demanding Nurburgring race track in Germany. It also features beefy 50-series tires on large, 6-spoke polished 20-inch alloy wheels and higher performance brakes with a progressive brake pedal action for impressive stops.

Handling of my test SS was sharp, but its quick power steering was rather heavy, although not objectionably so. The turning radius was tight for easy maneuvering.

Firm SS Suspension
The TrailBlazer's base suspension provides a good ride but isn't as well-controlled as the firmer SS suspension. On the other hand, the SS suspension occasionally caused a jerky ride and side-to-side head "toss" on some rough roads.

Cosmetic SS touches include a leather-wrapped steering wheel, performance front seats and unique interior and exterior trim.

The TrailBlazer SS has a 1-inch height reduction, but still is high enough to call for above average effort to get in and out.

Roomy
The SS has front bucket seats that are more supportive than those found on regular TrailBlazers. But, as with all TrailBlazers, there's plenty of room in the front and rear seat areas.

Sliding and tilting second-row seats make it fairly easy to reach the third-row seat, which comfortably handles two adults.

Gauges can be quickly read and climate controls are commendably large, although set rather low for drivers with short arms. Also, the console-mounted gearshift partially blocks the front cupholders near the dashboard when the transmission is in drive mode.

Large Cargo Area
The large cargo area has a low, wide opening and the second-row seat easily flips and folds entirely forward, providing an impressively large cargo area.

The solid TrailBlazer is the most affordable of GM's truck-type midsize sport-utility vehicles. The SS package is fairly costly, but is a bargain—considering what it adds to the standard version. It provides the best of two worlds—the utilitarian benefits of a truck and much of a sports sedan's driving kicks.

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BB01 - 8/20/2014 11:26:50 PM