Introduced in 2002, Chevrolet's TrailBlazer sport utility vehicle was intended to be a midsize replacement for the company's compact Blazer. Rather than a V-6 or V-8, the TrailBlazer draws power from a 4.2-liter all-aluminum inline-six-cylinder engine. An extended-length TrailBlazer EXT that offers seven-passenger capacity and an optional 5.3-liter V-8 joined the original five-passenger model. Both come in LS and LT trim levels. The TrailBlazer EXT is listed separately in cars.com's Research section.
A high-performance SS model joins the TrailBlazer group for 2006; it features a 395-horsepower, 6.0-liter V-8; a sport-tuned suspension; a lowered ride height; and 20-inch flangeless wheels. Available with rear- or four-wheel drive, Chevrolet says the Trailblazer SS can accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 5.7 seconds.
StabiliTrak is standard on all 2006 TrailBlazer models, and the LT edition gets a revised exterior. The 5.3-liter V-8 adopts Displacement on Demand technology as a fuel-saving measure, and the 4.2-liter engine gains 16 hp.
An occupant-sensing system for the front passenger seat was added for 2005, and an MP3-capable CD player became available for the LS model.
The regular TrailBlazer stands 74.5 inches tall, rides a 113-inch wheelbase and measures 191.8 inches long overall. Ground clearance totals 7.8 inches. Wedge-shaped fender flares help give the TrailBlazer a different appearance than its General Motors companions, the GMC Envoy and Buick Rainier. Running boards are available.
Seating for five people is standard in the TrailBlazer. The seats were revised and augmented by new chrome interior accents for 2005. A backseat entertainment system with a DVD player and leather seating surfaces are optional. GM's OnStar communication system is standard. Cargo capacity is 80.1 cubic feet with the rear seat folded down; otherwise, it totals 41 cubic feet.
A monochromatic instrument panel is installed. Adjustable pedals, XM Satellite Radio and rain-sensing wipers are available. SS models feature a signature instrument panel, a tachometer and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.
Under the Hood
A 4.2-liter inline-six-cylinder engine, boosted from 275 to 291 hp for 2006, teams with a four-speed-automatic transmission. The optional 5.3-liter V-8 generates 300 hp, and the new TrailBlazer SS holds a 6.0-liter V-8 that pumps out 395 hp and 400 pounds-feet of torque. TrailBlazers are available with 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, and side curtain-type airbags are optional. Dual-stage front airbags deploy with varying force depending on crash severity.
Performance is a strong point. When tromping on the gas, few TrailBlazer drivers are likely to realize the source of power is an inline-six-cylinder rather than a V-8. Not only is engine sound barely discernible (except when pushed really hard), but road noise is also virtually absent. Acceleration is undeniably stronger with the V-8, but it's not a dramatic difference.
On smooth surfaces, the four-wheel-drive TrailBlazer's ride is comparable to a car's. Its handling is a bit on the slow side, but the driver benefits from a satisfying steering feel.
Interior space is ample, and the seats are somewhat firm. The hard-working TrailBlazer competes enthusiastically against the Ford Explorer and other midsize rivals in passing power, ride comfort and handling prowess.