Is the new Trailblazer - now armed with a tad more luxury, more style, and more tech - a significant enough step beyond the familiar Colorado 7? Holden certainly believes so, and is rightly trying to distance the SUV a little more from the Colorado pick-up upon which it’s based.
The new and more fashionable name does set the tone for what to expect, though, and certainly makes a better first impression than simply designating it by the number of seats it had/has. We were used to it, but the Ford Everest works better without it being called the Ranger 7, and the same applies to Mitsubishi calling their own entrant the Pajero Sport instead of the Triton 7, or the Fortuner instead of the Toyota HiLux 7.
But there’s no getting around how familiar the Trailblazer looks as a package. Taken in a more considered manner, though, the changes do make the 7-seater SUV a more compelling all-rounder, but is it enough to worry the class leaders while concurrently prove its independent relevance next to a Colorado that’s also seen some through improvements?
“At close to five metres long and two metres wide, the Trailblazer carries its bulk in pleasing proportion, not allowing size or decoration dominate as in some of the larger sports utility vehicles.” - CarsGuide
Just like the Colorado, the Trailblazer benefits from the all-round facelift that Holden (via Chevrolet) treated it to. A new, more sophisticated front end design, daytime running lights, and new wheels are the headlines. It may not seem extensive, but the real-world differences in perception are substantive and worthy of note.
Choose the higher LTZ variant over the base LT and there’s a genuine sense that this is a more expensive car than the price tag and underpinnings lead on, though you may have to keep a rather open mind for this to take effect. From the outside, it’s the larger 18-inch wheels that do it the most favours, giving flair to what is otherwise a rather familiar - and predictable - design.
Engine and Drivetrain
The 2.8 still needs more revs than some competitor engines to give its best, but it does this without fuss and with plenty of reward.” - 4x4 Australia
Again, like the ute it’s based on, just one engine sits under the Trailblazer’s bonnet. Fortunately, the 147kW 2.8-litre four-cylinder Duramax turbodiesel isn’t left wanting in any particular department. It’s got strong and linear torque delivery (peaking at 500Nm) from early in the rev range and, despite being so similar to the engine that powered the pre-facelifted Colorado 7, is perceived as a smoother performer to drivers and passengers thanks to the vibrational dampening measures it applied.
On paper, it might not be as gutsy as the 3.2-litre 5-pot in the Ranger Wildtrak, but in practice there’s little to split hairs with in the regard to how it goes about its business on road or dirt. It works well with the 6-speed automatic transmission too, which has evidently had its calibrations combed. The shifts themselves aren’t fast by any measure, but they assured executed enough and well timed from behind the wheel to not invoke any manual shifts by sliding the lever over to the left once in D. Another plus is that it’s slightly more frugal with its fuel than the unit in its predecessor, claiming to sip as little as 8.2-litres/100km on a combine cycle.
“For what is essentially a mid-life update, Holden didn’t hold back with the interior of the Trailblazer.” - The Motor Report
This is a big car with a lot of interior room, make no mistake. And it’s about as practical as you’ll ever need it to be, which is kind of the point with an SUV like this. The seats are comfortable but not all that supportive - which it can get away with - and thankfully there are air conditioning vents even for passengers in the third row (LTZ only).
The extra attention given to the interior pays off despite it looking quite similar to before; the squidgy material arranged around the cabin’s various touch points make it feel like a more upmarket vehicle than the version it replaces, even in base LT form with the cloth seats. Can it be better? Of course it can. Is it on par with the Fortuner and Everest’s interior? Not quite, but you can definitely overlook the differences if you don’t specifically go searching for things to nitpick.
GM set out to bring the cabin quality a few notches up in order to make the Colorado and its SUV sub-spawn competitive with class leaders, and it’s safe to say that they’ve achieved that goal. Given the cost, time and platform constraints, the choices and compromises that have lead to these improvements indicate a manufacturer has a clear and considered stack of priorities.
The leather appointed seats in the LTZ are par for the course at this tier, though we’d argue that in terms of raw comfort the cloths are actually the better choice, though they’re not as laterally supportive as would have been preferred. Nonetheless, the smooth matte black material does lend a more expensive air to the proceedings, but we do lament the lack of choice in colour. After a while, and in less than sunny days, the dark tone of interior can get a little drab as opposed to the dual-tone off-white or tan leather options given to the Trailblazer in other markets.
Behind The Wheel
“Holden’s engineers have added electric power steering, which is light at parking speeds but weights up to preserve stability as speeds rise, and have tuned the suspension specifically for Australian roads.” - WhichCar
Because there’s more going on here than a body swap between it and the updated 2016 Colorado ute, the claims that the Trailblazer is indeed a more civilised machine in most situations isn’t an empty one. The usual rumbles that might otherwise upset the rear passengers particularly are dampened, helped by the improved cabin noise insulation to make for a more easy going cruiser.
Things can get a little bumpy for the third row occupants, though, which is fair enough and not unlike the other vehicles in this space. Keep a steady pace and a wary brow over uneven roads and the Trailblazer can handle the occasional full people mover duties in commendable comfort, that 5-link live axle rear suspension working as advertised.
On the road, the alterations made to the Colorado 7’s steering and suspension setup have dulled much of any sensitivity it had that could’ve been interpreted as ‘dynamic’. However, the electric steering does make negotiating rough terrain much easier. As well as being uniformly lighter, it’s a slightly quicker rack as well, requiring a touch less turns to reach the desired angle. This builds up the already well regarded off-road competence of the Colorado 7, and we dare say that its feels more at home while roughing it than the Ford or Toyota. That said, it’s a shame there’s no reach adjustment for the wheel itself.
The advantages this translates to with regard to on-road poise is negligible, unfortunately, and throwing the Trailblazer around a bend leads to a vague and disconcerting sense of risk. Shift your awareness away from the steering, though, and some confidence may be regained as the SUV does cope with body roll surprisingly well, and the on-the-fly all-wheel drive often does help you out of corners once it senses you’ve summoned the Duramax’s class-leading peak torque.
Safety and Technology
“Apple CarPlay isn’t a perfect platform, and we had a few glitches with the system in an LTZ model, but we’ve seen similar issues in other cars…” - CarAdvice
Since the Trailblazer is structurally identical to the Colorado, it was no surprise that it got the same 5-star ANCAP rating as its ute sibling, taking a 13.89/16 for the Frontal Offset Test and a 16/16 in the side impact test. There’s a total of 7 airbags inside, including side-protecting curtain inflators for all 3 passenger rows.
If you can’t live with the latest in safety tech, the more expensive LTZ spec is definitely the one to get. While it doesn’t receive the increasingly common autonomous emergency braking, features such as forward collision alert, lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring, and a rear cross traffic alert becomes especially handy in something this substantial.
In terms of the features that you’ll actually interact with, it really centres around the touchscreen infotainment system that’s in every Trailblazer, of course with support for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. While the difference in the LT’s 7-inch panel seems marginal compared to the LTZ’s 8-inch unit on paper, poking at a smaller target on the move can get frustrating if your aim isn’t well-judged.
Much like the Colorado, the revisions made to this SUV derivative are deeply felt. Although listing all the changes, big and small, will result in an exhaustive compilation, they can fortunately be quickly simplified. In nearly every area, the ‘new’ Trailblazer closes the gap to class leaders.
There is still a separation, mind you, and narrowing that will require GM to dig deep in their subsequent effort in earnest. An all-new model isn’t due for another few years, but with an entrant that now looks as good as it should have, while offering better comfort, tech, driving ease, and safety, you’ll won’t regret jumping in now.
Which Car - 4/5 - “The Holden Trailblazer is an SUV-style wagon that is excellent for serious off-road driving and very good at towing. It seats seven, feels relaxed on the highway, and is strong on safety. The Trailblazer is a thoroughly revised and improved version of the Colorado 7, which it replaces, and is based on the Holden Colorado 4WD ute.”
4x4 Australia - “There’s no doubt the Trailblazer is a far better vehicle than the Colorado 7, thanks to what has been a thorough from-the-ground-up revision. Most notably, it’s far more refined than before yet still delivers on performance, both of which combine to produce what is now an engaging on-road drive.”
Motoring.com.au - 75/100 - “The Trailblazer is a big leap ahead. Though – and if I was bothered by the Colorado’s lack of refinement and the slap-it-together cabin – you need to look hard to find any of that in the Holden Trailblazer […] Value for money is a big attraction that could see the Holden wielding a bit more muscle as market fortunes shift and 2017 rolls on.
CarsGuide - 3.5/5 - “To say the Trailblazer is a little rough around the edges could be taking criticism too far but the big SUV is held back by the dated driveline in a market with some seriously smooth operators, albeit at a premium price.”
CarAdvice - 7.5/10 - “The 2017 Holden Trailblazer isn’t a world changing new model, but it is a huge leap forward from the car that it replaces. An above average update for what was an unapologetically average car. Holden has dealt with the major issues the C7 had, around touch points, safety and convenience features and overall refinement, and the new car is a much better proposition for it.”
The Motor Report - 4/5 - “…in comparison with the previous generation, there’s no denying the improvements are spot-on - and here we’ll nominate the improved refinement and handling as our technical favourites […] as things stand, at this price, the Holden Trailblazer LTZ is a handy proposition - for those whose lifestyle and/or lifestage pendulum swings towards practical rather than plush.
Motoring Guru - 6.8/10 - “If you and the family like to get away from it all then this one is worth a look. It’s a bit rough and ready, lacking the sophistication of the more traditional names - but at the same time it’s not too pricey and doesn’t mind getting its feet dirty.”