Vehicle Overview
Chevrolet's midsize TrailBlazer sport utility vehicle debuted early in 2002 as a five-passenger vehicle. A seven-passenger, extended-length TrailBlazer EXT joined the lineup later, but was discontinued after 2006. Changes for 2008 are few, but include newly standard side curtain airbags and changes to option packages. The midsize TrailBlazer SUV competes with the Ford Explorer, Toyota 4Runner and Jeep Grand Cherokee.

The 2008 TrailBlazer offers a standard 4.2-liter inline-six-cylinder engine and an optional 5.3-liter V-8. The latter engine includes General Motors' Active Fuel Management technology (formerly called Displacement on Demand), which deactivates four cylinders under light loads, such as highway cruising.

TrailBlazers come in LT and SS trim levels. A high-performance SS model packs a sport-tuned suspension and a 6.0-liter V-8 from Chevrolet's Corvette sports car.

The TrailBlazer is closely related to the Buick Rainier, GMC Envoy and Saab 9-7X.


Exterior
The TrailBlazer rides a 113-inch wheelbase and measures 191.8 inches long. The headlights, grille and other elements share similarities with Chevrolet's larger Tahoe and Suburban. Seventeen-inch wheels are standard, while 18-inch wheels are available. The SS has 20-inch wheels. Three new colors are available, including Dark Cherry Metallic, Black Granite Metallic and Desert Brown Metallic.

Ground clearance is 7.8 inches. The TrailBlazer SS rides an inch lower than other TrailBlazers, but ground clearance remains the same. Other changes for the TrailBlazer SS include stiffer suspension springs, bigger brakes and a larger front stabilizer bar.


Interior
A plastic-heavy dashboard incorporates a four-spoke steering wheel and large instrument gauges. Two-row seating is standard, and the backseat folds for additional storage. With the rear seat down, maximum cargo volume measures 80 cubic feet.

XM Satellite Radio is now standard on all models, as is GM's OnStar communication system. Options include a backseat entertainment system with a DVD player, power-adjustable pedals and leather seating surfaces.


Under the Hood
Rated at 285 horsepower and 276 pounds-feet of torque, the TrailBlazer's 4.2-liter inline-six-cylinder teams with a four-speed automatic transmission. The optional 5.3-liter V-8, operating with Active Fuel Management, produces 300 hp and 321 pounds-feet of torque. It also works with a four-speed automatic.

The TrailBlazer SS holds a 6.0-liter V-8 sourced from the Corvette. It's rated at 390 hp and 395 pounds-feet of torque, and it runs through a heavy-duty four-speed automatic.

Rear- or four-wheel drive is available. When properly equipped, the TrailBlazer can tow up to 6,800 pounds.


Safety
All-disc antilock brakes are standard, as is an electronic stability system. Side curtain airbags are now standard on all models. Dual-stage front airbags deploy with varying force depending on crash severity.

Driving Impressions
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.