Text: Anton Andres / Photos: Anton Andres | posted January 14, 2016 12:34
Soldiering on in the face of new competition
By now, Chevrolet's pickup platform vehicle (PPV) should be a familiar sight on Philippine roads. First launched in 2012, the Trailblazer was the new kid on the block, with its competitors such as the Toyota Fortuner, Mitsubishi Montero Sport and Ford Everest being in the market for a few years.
This time, Chevrolet finds itself on the backfoot with the Ford Everest kicking off the PPV wars last year while Toyota and Mitsubishi will be releasing their new models this year. Chevrolet did not take the news sitting down and has upgraded the Trailblazer late last year. We tested the 4x2 model last year and we were pretty happy about it. This time around, we drive the top-spec 4x4 LTZ. Does the heavy Chevy still have what it takes to take on the young guns? Read on.
It's pretty much the same story for the 2016 Trailblazer's exterior. Separating the LTZ from the LTX are chrome surrounds in the fog light housing, unique 18 inch alloy wheels, a tailgate spoiler and a pair of roof rails. It's hard to believe that this PPV will be entering its fourth year in production this year, a testament to its timeless styling. It is still imposing after all these years, especially from the front with its big, bold Chevrolet logo looming in rear view mirrors.
The interior feels untouched at first glance and, for me at least, is where the Trailblazer is starting to show its age. Forget soft touch materials, it's all hard wearing plastics in here from the dashboard to the door cards. Then again, PPVs regularly see high miles and, as hard as the plastics may be, the interior can (and most likely, will) hold up well for more years to come. That aside, the tan interior looks great, making the already spacious interior feel even more commodious. While we're on the subject of commodious interiors, the Trailblazer can haul a lot thanks to its large cargo area. Folding down the third row is a one-step affair and opens up the wide floor. Folding the second row is just as easy and allows even longer items to be loaded.
One thing Chevrolet did change is the infotainment system and I'm glad to report that it is a pretty neat piece of kit. The Trailblazer gets Chevrolet's MyLink system, a touchscreen that allows access to music, playlists and convenience options. It's easy to use with the menu displayed in large fonts and processing speeds are quick as well. First time users won't find themselves fumbling over MyLink, making it one of the best infotainment systems I've come across. The LTZ also gets a rear-view mirror mounted dashcam as standard.
Power is provided by Italian engine builder VM Motori. With 2.8 liters, 16 valves, common rail technology and a variable geometry turbo, it follows a long line of GM diesels badged Duramax. Compared to the initial engine of the Trailblazer, the updated model now puts out 200 PS (up by 20 PS) and a class-leading 500 Nm of torque (up by 30 Nm), putting it on top of the PPV class in terms of power output.
Behind the wheel of the Trailblazer, it feels wider than the car's dimensions suggest. The relatively flat clamshell hood adds to that illusion but once you get used to it, the Trailblazer is a relatively easy car to shuffle around town. However, the Trailblazer isn't exactly friendly for the vertically challenged folk. Standing at a mighty 5'4”, it took me a while to find a comfortable driving position as the Trailblazer lacks steering wheel adjustment for reach. My taller colleagues on the other hand had no issues finding their sweet spot. For those complaining that modern cars lack steering feel, the Trailblazer offers it in spades. Although some may find the steering a touch on the heavy side, I find it refreshing as there's more communication between the driver and the front wheels.
The Trailblazer also delivers in the comfort department and not once did I get a numb lower back while stuck in heavy traffic. It handled EDSA's pock marked roads with ease and speed bumps were dealt with aplomb. Dusty roads were also no problem in the Trailblazer with the suspension hard at work to keep body motions in check. The seats were bolstered just right too, making the Trailblazer a comfortable, long-distance mile muncher, be it on the highway or on rougher paths.
Speaking of mile munching, the 20 horsepower and 30 Nm torque bump gives the Trailblazer an impressive amount of pull which is great for overtaking or getting to cruising speed with ease. Although the engine is on the gruff side, it can still pack a punch. Perhaps a little more noise isolation would make the Trailblazer more hushed but it is worth mentioning that other ambient noises, such as tire roar and wind rush, do not make their way into the cabin.
As for economy, the punchy Duramax is economical for a large displacement diesel. Thanks to its six speed automatic, the Trailblazer averaged 7.9 kilometers per liter in the city with an average speed of just 16.6 km/h (heavy traffic). On the highway, it returned 11.5 kilometers per liter with an average speed of 93 km/h. Using the cruise control, the figure drops to 11.2 kilometers per liter. Not bad considering it was carrying the extra weight of the four wheel drive system.
At PhP 1,748,000, the 2016 Trailblazer undercuts its rivals when comparing spec per spec. At this price point, most would be offering 4x2 models with lesser engines whereas the Chevrolet comes standard with four wheel drive and the top spec engine. Granted, the interior and engine refinement are not its strongest points, but it does play the value for money card quite well.
Are these updates enough for the Trailblazer to hold its own among the class of 2016? For those who want the most out of their hard earned paychecks, Chevrolet's best-seller is still a compelling package.