One thing that is difficult to do is testing a car’s abilities thoroughly in a varied sequence of driving activities. This is where the recent Chevrolet TrailBlazer Adventure came in quite handy.
You see, Chevrolet wanted to introduce the media to the (admittedly) mildly updated TrailBlazer in a way that would allow us a more lifestyle-orientated look at the product, while also giving us a chance to test the vehicle off-road, on gravel, in city driving and of course, on the open road. The journey from General Motors' headquarter's in Woodmead, Johannesburg to the Magoebaskloof region of Limpopo would be a scenic one, with the TrailBlazers and their drivers covering around 700km in one day.
With the likes of the Toyota Fortuner and Ford Everest to catch up to, the TrailBlazer needs to be capable, desirable and ultimately, a practical choice. To improve what has always been a middle-of-the-road product, Chevrolet has gone ahead and refined the ride quality of the TrailBlazer. Equipped with a new Electronic Power Steering (EPS) system, the driving sensation was made a lot smoother with the additions of Active Pull and Smooth Road Shake
It was my first opportunity to drive the Z71 after having already sampled the LTZ version previously. If you are like me and were wondering what the Z71 is, well from what I could tell, it is an LTZ with black wheels, black door handles and mirrors, a few stickers and the ‘Z71’ logo throughout the cabin.
The Z71 treatment will set you back an extra R10 200 over the regular LTZ, so you had better like decals and black accents to warrant that. Our vehicle was finished in a striking red paintjob which was offset by the black accents, leaving many to affectionately name it the ‘Kalahari Ferrari’.
Other changes noted was an updated front-end with new upper and lower grille, reshaped headlamps and a mildly tweaked front bumper along with LED daytime running lights. Perhaps the most striking change is the interior where a new MyLink 2.0 multimedia interface resides along with a new instrument cluster.
The updated system changes the entire interior of the car, lifting it from an also-ran to something that looks at least, segment leading for a large 4x4-capable SUV. The updated system now features improved graphics, appeared far more user-friendly and included niceties such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. There are also five points inside the car where electronic devices can be charged.
My one complaint about the interior would have to be the seats; I felt that they were simply too hard after an extended trip, a sentiment shared by my driving partners.
Our test units were all fitted with the 2.8-litre Duramax turbodiesel motor which has 144kW/ 500Nm on tap and mated to a six-speed automatic gearbox. I have to say, with a kerb weight of 2 163kg thanks to a body-on-frame set-up and selectable four-wheel drive, the TrailBlazer didn’t seem too peppy during overtaking and low speed acceleration.
It was hauling four people, their luggage and its own weight though, which is what I’d expect it to excel at being a seven-seat family SUV. Also factor in that the braked trailer towing capacity is 2 965kg.
Another issue is carrying too many people and the associated space constrains. There is only 205-litres of boot space with all three seating rows upright. This would necessitate the use of a trailer, adding more weight and straining the motor further. With just two rows up, space becomes cavernous at 1 229-litres, while a massive 1 830-litres is available for luggage with just the front seats upright.
Chevrolet claims a combined fuel consumption figure of 9.5-litres/100km, however during our trip, that figure was closer to 11.0-litres/100km. There is a 76-litre fuel tank though which provides respectable range.
On the plus side, there are a lot of creature comforts that make the TrailBlazer more appealing. One that we used often during the hot few days spent in Limpopo was the remote start, which allows you to start the car without being inside; it will keep the doors locked and activate the climate control to your preferred settings.
Other features I found useful were the Blind Spot Alert system, and in the off-road scenarios, the Hill Start Assist and Hill Descent Control Systems. In terms of ability, the TrailBlazer is quite comfortable taking on a rough off-road course. My one word of advice would be to remove the side steps before attempting serious obstacles as ours took a beating.
I also witnessed the Forward Collision Alert, Lane Departure Warning, Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Tyre Pressure Monitoring systems doing their thing over the course of the weekend. All of these systems are nice-to-haves in a vehicle that will be used for families, ensuring safety at all times.
Service plan and warranty
The TrailBlazer range comes with a five-year/120 000 km warranty and a five-year and 90 000 km service plan.
TrailBlazer 2.5 Duramax LT: R 471 000
TrailBlazer 2.5 Durmax LT AT: R489 100
TrailBlazer 2.8 Duramax LTZ AT: R 562 800
TrailBlazer 2.8 Duramax LTZ 4x4 AT: R624 300
TrailBlazer 2.8 Duramax Z71 4x4 AT: R634 500