Chevrolet's midsize TrailBlazer sport utility vehicle debuted early in 2002 as a five-passenger vehicle. It was soon joined by an extended-length TrailBlazer EXT with a seven-passenger capacity. Both models offer an optional 5.3-liter V-8, an upgrade from the standard 4.2-liter inline-six-cylinder engine.
Since 2005, a revised V-8 has operated with Displacement on Demand technology, which promises up to 5 percent greater fuel economy. Under certain light-load driving conditions, the number of active engine cylinders decreases from eight to four.
General Motors' StabiliTrak electronic stability system is standard on 2006 models. LT editions get a revised exterior appearance. The standard six-cylinder engine gains 16 horsepower.
Side curtain-type airbags are optional in 2006 models, and an occupant-sensing system for the front passenger seat is also available.
TrailBlazer EXTs come in LS and LT trim levels. A new high-performance SS model is offered only in the regular TrailBlazer's lineup.
The TrailBlazer EXT is 207.8 inches long overall and rides on a 129-inch wheelbase. In contrast, the regular-length TrailBlazer rides a 113-inch wheelbase and measures 191.8 inches long. At 77.1 inches, the EXT stands 2.6 inches taller than the regular TrailBlazer. A sunroof is available.
Ground clearance totals 8.1 inches. Wedge-shaped fender flares help give the TrailBlazer EXT a different appearance than its GM companion, the GMC Envoy XL. Running boards can be installed.
Seating for five people is standard in the regular TrailBlazer, but the seven-passenger TrailBlazer EXT gets a third row with a full footwell and 23.4 cubic feet of space behind the seat. Cargo space reaches 107 cubic feet when all the rear seats are folded. The second-row seat folds and flips forward to permit easier access to the rear.
GM's OnStar communication system is standard. Options include a backseat entertainment system with a DVD player, XM Satellite Radio, power-adjustable pedals, rain-sensing wipers and leather seating surfaces.
Under the Hood
Now rated at 291 hp, the TrailBlazer EXT's 4.2-liter inline-six-cylinder teams with a four-speed-automatic transmission. The optional 5.3-liter V-8, operating with Displacement on Demand technology, produces 300 hp and 330 pounds-feet of torque.
TrailBlazer EXTs are available with either two- or four-wheel drive, and the latter includes a two-speed transfer case. The Autotrac system's Auto 4WD setting transfers power to all four wheels automatically as conditions change.
All-disc antilock brakes are standard. Side curtain-type airbags are optional. Dual-stage front airbags deploy with varying force depending on crash severity.
Ride comfort and performance are EXT strong points, and the standard inline-six-cylinder engine does a credible job. Engine sound barely discernible (except when pushed really hard), and road noise is virtually absent. The V-8 engine provides stronger acceleration, but not by much. GM's automatic transmission shifts promptly and crisply. Despite its truck origin, the expertly cushioned suspension planes the sharp points off nearly any reasonable road surfaces.
The nicely cushioned seats are somewhat firm and have long bottoms but little side bolstering. Interior space is ample up front, but less so in back. Both hard-working TrailBlazers compete competently against the Ford Explorer and other midsize SUVs in passing power, ride comfort and handling prowess.