The first time I laid eyes on the latest Chevrolet Trailblazer, it was onstage in the Bangkok Motor Show last March. As facelifts go, it sported a worthy one, with a sharper-looking front end (with DRL’s), big new alloy wheels, and new rear-end trim that nicely freshened up one of Chevrolet’s bestsellers.

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Wallflower to head-turner

That Trailblazer on display had a custom medium-blue metallic finish that gave me an impression of a very elegant and upmarket vehicle. What it didn’t give me was an idea how the new Trail would look in a shade of red that would seem to be stripped right off a Ferrari’s sheetmetal. 

And then I saw the flagship Z71—in Retina-searing Red. From a wallflower, the Trailblazer is suddenly one of the most head-turning rides I’ve test-driven this year. And I’ve tested a Lotus, a Maserati and a Ferrari in the last few months.  

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Best-in-class engine output—with that monster torque

For 2016, the Euro 4-compliant 2.8L Duramax four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine offers better performance, improved fuel economy and lower emissions. With its Variable Geometry Turbocharger (VGT), the 2.8-liter variants produce best-in-class 200hp and 500Nm of torque. (The entry-level 2.5-liter variant yields 163hp/380Nm.) Transmissions are commendable six-speed manuals or automatics—the latter standard on the two highest models. 

Complementing the improved engine is a retuned suspension and a tougher, more rigid chassis and fully boxed frame, greatly improving riding comfort. True enough, that “Soft-Ride” suspension just about glides over bumps, potholes and broken pavement with a more supple gentleness than most of its midsize rivals.   

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Rugged outside, refined inside

Cruise, audio and phone controls are embedded in its leather-wrapped steering wheel. To ensure the ride is as quiet as it is refined, the Trailblazer benefits from a new wind noise package that was developed with newly redesigned door, window and windshield seals; front door glass that is 10 percent thicker; and a new aerodynamic headlamp design. As a result, the new Trailblazer is eight percent quieter on the road than its predecessor. The Z71 rolls on 18-inch gunmetal-colored wheels that add to the vehicle’s sturdy, good looks.

Inside, the new 2017 Chevrolet Trailblazer boasts a freshly designed dashboard and front console with a modern upmarket feel, enhanced by soft-touch materials and contrast stitching. The theater-style seating allows second- and third-row occupants a better all-around view.  It offers generous interior space with flexible seating configurations to accommodate various cargo-loading requirements.

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Top-notch connectivity

The new Trailblazer is fitted with new technologies that allow driver or passengers to project a simplified version of their smartphone screen onto the car’s touchscreen. The Chevrolet MyLink Infotainment System has a wide, 8-inch touchscreen display, Bluetooth connectivity, and is compatible with multiple smartphone OS, making connections easier wherever you are on the road. Complemented by Siri Eyes Free and voice recognition software, making calls, navigating maps and browsing through music are made easier through verbal commands – ensuring your hands never have to leave the steering wheel.

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Class-leading safety

The Trailblazer comes with a host of active and passive safety features that include Traction Control System (TCS), Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), Panic Brake Assist (PBA), Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD), Electronic Stability Control (ESC), Hill Descent Control (HDC), Hill Start Assist (HAS), Anti-Rolling Protection and Trailer Sway Control. Dual front airbags are likewise standard.

The Z71 variant also comes with other technological and safety features including Forward Collision Alert, Front and Rear Parking Assist, Lane Departure Warning, Side Blind Zone Alert, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, and Tire Pressure Monitoring System. It also features Remote Engine Start that, using the key fob, the engine can be started, allowing the cabin to be cooled sufficiently before the family enters the vehicle.

VERDICT

Sharper looks (and a fantastic new color), strong engines, a comfortable ride, a spacious and well-finished cabin, a suite of useful new creature comforts and amenities, and loads of advanced safety features—and best of all, very attractive prices (P1,378,888, for starters, and P1,509,888 for the mid-range 4×2 2.8 LT)—the new Trailblazer is all set to vault to the top of the midsize SUV race. 

Test: 2017 Chevrolet Trailblazer 4x4 Z71
Design9
Build Quality8.8
Driveability8.8
Performance9
Value for Money9
8.9Overall Score