Vehicle Overview
Despite the emergence of this all-new midsize sport utility vehicle early in 2002, Chevrolet has kept the smaller, prior-generation Blazer in its lineup. Rather than a V-6 or V-8 engine, the TrailBlazer holds a 275-horsepower, 4.2-liter, all-aluminum inline-six-cylinder.

The TrailBlazer debuted as a five-passenger vehicle. Chevrolet soon added an extended-length TrailBlazer EXT model that features a seven-passenger capacity and an available 5.3-liter V-8 engine. Both come in LS and LT trim levels. A North Face Edition targets outdoors enthusiasts with such extras as lower accent-colored body cladding, running lamps, a liftgate luggage rack, headlight washers, duffel bags and a blanket.

Adjustable brake and accelerator pedals are optional on 2004 models. A monochromatic instrument panel and a last-door locking feature are installed. A new series of radios incorporates XM Satellite Radio and Navigation Radio operation.

Exterior
The regular-length five-passenger TrailBlazer rides a 113-inch wheelbase and measures 191.8 inches long overall. The seven-occupant TrailBlazer EXT is 207.8 inches long overall and comes equipped on a 129-inch wheelbase. The EXT stands 2.6 inches taller than the regular TrailBlazer. Ground clearance totals 8 inches. Wedge-shaped fender flares help give the TrailBlazer a different appearance than its GM companions, the GMC Envoy and Oldsmobile Bravada.

Interior
Seating for five people is standard in the regular TrailBlazer. GM’s OnStar communication system is standard in all models except the LS, and a backseat entertainment system with a DVD player is optional. Cargo capacity is 80.1 cubic feet with the rear seat folded down.

The seven-passenger TrailBlazer EXT gets a third seat with a full footwell and 23.4 cubic feet of space behind the seat. Cargo space reaches 107 cubic feet when all of the rear seats are folded. The second-row seat folds and flips forward to permit easier access to the rear.

Under the Hood
A standard 275-hp, 4.2-liter inline-six-cylinder engine teams with a four-speed-automatic transmission. A 290-hp, 5.3-liter V-8 is available in the EXT only. TrailBlazers are available with either two-wheel drive 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.

Safety
All-disc antilock brakes and seat-mounted side-impact airbags are standard. Dual-stage front airbags deploy with varying force.

Driving Impressions
Performance is a strong point. When tromping on the gas, few drivers are likely to realize that the source of power is an inline-six-cylinder engine 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 engine in the EXT, but it’s not a dramatic difference.

On smooth surfaces, the four-wheel-drive TrailBlazer rides similar to a car. Its handling is a bit on the slow side, but the driver benefits from a satisfying steering feel.

Interior space is ample in both the front and rear, and passengers occupy seats that 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.

 
Reported by Jim Flammang  for cars.com;
Posted on 8/27/03