This might be one of the last times we'll test drive a Philippine-market Chevrolet Trailblazer.
The reason is simple: Chevrolet Thailand and the factory that makes the Trailblazer (and Colorado) are about to be shut down. Together with the closure of Chevrolet's operations in Indonesia, that means General Motors is marking the end of their major manufacturing operations in South East Asia.
And that puts us in a bit of a conundrum. The distributor of Chevrolet in the Philippines, TCCCI, doesn't seem to be all too fazed by it. Whatever that may mean, we don't know for sure. But what we do know is that they put out some special edition models of the Trailblazer before they bid farewell to what has become their best selling model for the last couple of years.
So that brings us to the Chevrolet Trailblazer Phoenix.
Like the mythological bird that rose from its own ashes, the bow-tie brand essentially took an entry-level automatic Trailblazer, gave it some neat upgrades, and called it a day. But are these improvements and special touches enough to actually attract customers, especially since this phoenix is essentially a swansong?
Interestingly enough, this is actually the first time that we got to drive the entry-level automatic. Before we only got to try the top-of-the-line Z71 and the mid-range LTX because those are the models Chevrolet generally activated for test drives. With the base model LT not exactly the most sought-after model, Chevrolet decided to give it a fresher look in order to entice customers.
This Trailblazer gets a sleeker look thanks to the new appearance pack. Instead of the usual bevy of chrome and other pieces of bright-work, the Phoenix comes with a plethora of blacked-out accents. The front bumper gets neat touches of black which provide a bit of contrast against the Summit White paint finish. Meanwhile, the bow-tie badges have been painted matte black for a more serious look. Speaking of matte black, the pillar decals, tailgate garnish, and the tailgate spoiler are also finished in the same color which makes for a dashing look indeed. Chevy also put a rear scuff plate at the back to keep the bumper safe from getting damaged by heavy loads.
But perhaps my favorite upgrades on the Phoenix are the 17-inch alloy wheels, the pinstripe graphics on the lower portion of the doors, and the blacked-out fender flares. While the Phoenix is no 4WD SUV, these extra add-ons do give the Trailblazer a more rough and ready look. Climbing in and out of the Trailblazer Phoenix is also easier thanks to the addition of side step boards.
Overall, I have to say I'm quite impressed with what Chevy did to spruce up the Trailblazer's looks. While some might say they could have done more, I disagree. Sometimes less is more, and Chevrolet was able to pull off the upgrades nicely.
Open the doors and you are immediately greeted by a cabin reminiscent of the Colorado pick-up truck. Chevrolet decided not to change anything for the SUV which might disappoint some. Personally, though, I actually like the fact that they did not bother to alter the interior because it was fine the way it is. From the thick leather steering wheel, the dials for the air-conditioning system, as well as the controls for the infotainment system, everything is where you expect them to be.
Despite being the base model automatic, the LT Phoenix comes with a 7-inch MyLink touchscreen infotainment as standard. With it, features like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are available and allows users to easily use Spotify, Waze, or even Google Maps via the onboard touchscreen. Other in-car connectivity features available include Bluetooth, Aux, as well as USB.
Also worth mentioning on the Phoenix is the addition of media controls on the steering wheel. Originally this feature was not available on both the LT and LTX models. Props to Chevy for actually paying attention to the minor details that will help drivers keep their focus on the road. Did I mention all of the window switches are one-touch automatic up and down as well? I think the Chevrolet Trailblazer is the only SUV in its class to have this available across all variants.
No fancy leather seats here as the Phoenix only comes with fabric upholstery all around. However, I do have to mention that the Trailblazer Phoenix has a center armrest for both the driver/front passenger, as well as for the second-row passengers. The driver's seat is height adjustable which means drivers of short stature can easily find the correct driving position. The steering column, however, is only tilt-adjustable, which could mean drivers with short arms might have some difficulty setting the steering wheel's level of height.
Should you need to charge your phones and gadgets all at the same time, the Trailblazer has you covered with not one, not two, but three 12-volt power sockets. There are two placed below the center dashboard, as well as another one behind the center glove box. And should those seated at the third-row need to charge theirs, there's an additional 12-volt socket behind the left seat.
Like the rest of the Trailblazer range, the Phoenix is powered by a 2.8-liter Duramax turbo-diesel engine. However, it looks like someone misplaced the Chevy engine cover. That's because when I popped the hood, this one has a Holden cover. For those not in the know, the Chevy Trailblazer is also known as the Holden Colorado 7, hence the engine the cover. Something interesting to note is that General Motors also decided to discontinue Holden, but I digress.
The Duramax used to be the most powerful in its class but has been surpassed by the more powerful 2.0-liter EcoBlue Bi-Turbo engine from Ford. Nonetheless, the Duramax engine still has the pep and pull you'd expect from a turbo-diesel engine. Despite its age, the Duramax still cranks out 200 PS and 500 Nm of torque available at the get-go. With peak torque available as early as 2000 rpm, the Trailblazer can easily climb steep inclines, overtake slower vehicles on the highway, and haul all the gear you have.
It's also smooth in power delivery as the six-speed automatic transmission never missed a beat. Whether you're driving around the city, on the highway, or on provincial roads, the Trailblazer's powertrain delivers. For those concerned about its fuel consumption, I'm happy to report that it's still efficient. With an average speed of 90 km/h on the highway, the Trailblazer sipped fuel at around 14.0 – 15.0 km/l. Meanwhile, it was able to return about 8.0 – 9.0 km/l in city driving. Paired with a full 76-liter fuel tank, the Trailblazer can really go the distance.
With the Trailblazer being one of the biggest (and widest) in its class, most probably think it's quite the handful to drive. Thanks to electronic power steering (EPS), it makes driving the seven-seater SUV more manageable. Not only does this make driving in the city and during parking easier, but the EPS is also adaptive as it stiffens up during highway driving. What also surprised me with the EPS is that it has road feedback. Normally, EPS systems are known for delivering a dull (read: numb) driving experience when compared to hydraulic-based systems. Luckily, Chevy made it a point to give the Trailblazer's system better road feel.
Over to ride quality, the Trailblazer offered a decent ride. It's not too jarring that it will be uncomfortable when going on a long road trip on bad roads, but it's not as soft that you'll find yourself wallowing at every turn. However, I did notice that the Trailblazer had a softer ride when seated at the front. When seated at the second- or third-rows, the ride quality is slightly stiffer. Nonetheless, the Trailblazer's riding comfort is just fine.
But if there was one thing I wish Chevrolet improved on the Trailblazer, that would be its Noise, Vibration, and Harshness (NVH) lessening. Noise from the engine easily intrudes into the cabin whether the Trailblazer is at a standstill or on the move. Meanwhile, outside noise from loud motorcycles, jeepneys, and construction equipment can still enter the cabin fairly easily.
At PhP 1,780,888, the Trailblazer Phoenix is quite expensive for what it's offering. Apart from the exterior (and subtle interior) upgrades it received, the Phoenix is still based on the automatic LT variant. For something that is selling at nearly PhP 1.8 million, it lacks several key features that are already standard on some of its competitors. These include automatic climate control, cruise control, leather upholstery, satellite navigation, and power-folding side mirrors.
Aside from some missing in-car features, the Trailblazer Phoenix is also lacking some safety kit. While it has anti-lock brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution and dual front airbags, it does not come with brake assist, hill-start assist, traction control, stability control, tire pressure monitoring system, and rear parking sensors. Of course we expected that given that this is the most affordable automatic model, but it does have a reverse camera for easier parking. Still, when compared to some of its direct competitors, the Trailblazer Phoenix is also under-equipped when it comes to safety.
So while I can praise Chevrolet for making the Trailblazer have a cooler-looking exterior via the Phoenix trim, it's not the most value-packed SUV in the market today. It's twin, the Isuzu mu-X, has a lot more going for it despite having less powerful engines thanks to its abundance of standard kit.
That doesn't make it a bad vehicle, far from it actually. Yes, this is one of the last new versions of the Trailblazer as the General Motors factory in Thailand that makes it has been sold off to GWM, or China's Great Wall Motors. But that also means this is going to be one of the best versions of the Trailblazer, as all the kinks have been worked out after its long production run.
As to what the future holds for Chevrolet in the Philippines, we have yet to get confirmation. Once we do, you'll know too.