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2017 Holden Trailblazer – Car Review – Big and Chunky

2017 Holden Trailblazer – Car Review – Big and Chunky

The Holden Trailblazer is a bit unusual in the large SUV market, being developed alongside the Colorado ute and Isuzu MU-X, and largely based on the same platform. So it’s basically a truck with a big body on top, in a similar vein to the Toyota Fortuner or the Ford Everest. This is quite a departure from most modern SUVs and we were keen to find out what it was like to live with


The Range


There are just two models of Trailblazer, the $58,990 LT, and the LTZ. At the time of writing, the highest spec LTZ is on offer for $2000 less than the lower spec LT. Its normal price is $62,990.

Both specs have the 2.8-litre Duramax turbo diesel engine delivering 147kW of power and 500Nm of torque. This drives all four wheels via a 6-speed automatic transmission, though the car is primarily rear-wheel drive. A sump guard and mechanical limited slip diff are standard, as is Shift-on-the-Fly 4WD, Holden MyLink infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, 5-link live axle rear suspension 17″ alloys, Auto lights, Side steps, 7 airbags. 6-speaker audio.

The LTZ adds Forward Collision Alert, Lane Departure Warning, Blind Spot Alert, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, 18” wheels, tyre pressure monitor, LED tail lights, remote start, heated folding mirrors, auto wipers, auto dimming mirror, parking sensors front and rear, satnav, bigger infotainment screen, heated seats, electrically adjustable driver’s seat, leather seat trims, climate control. Quite a lot more kit!

Colours available are all silver, grey, black, silvery blue, except for the one bright colour – Absolute Red which you see here on our review car.

First Impressions

From a distance the Trailblazer looks a mid-sized SUV, but when you get close up it becomes apparent just how big and tall it is. It’s huge! Park it near a Colorado and it’s clear that they are close relatives. I wouldn’t say it’s exactly pretty but it’s not bad looking. The rear ¾ view is a bit tall and awkward. But overall its proportions are good and it gives a tough, rugged impression.

The Inside

If you’ve been in a Colorado the Trailblazer’s dash will be a familiar sight. It’s a pretty straightforward layout, with a good-sized central touch screen and nice chunky buttons and knobs. There are physical controls for the climate control and stereo, with more detailed functions and settings operated from the screen.

The steering wheel is leather trimmed, chunky and pleasant to hold. It has thumb controls to operate the stereo, phone and cruise control which are all easy to access and use. There’s a large rev counter and speedo with analogue fuel and temperature gauges and a digital screen at the bottom. The digital screen can be configured to various displays, including a digital speedo.

The leather-trimmed seats are comfortable, with enough side support. The driver’s seat is electrically adjustable and easy to get into the right position. Surprisingly the wheel only adjusts up and down where most vehicles these days adjust in and out as well. Saying that, I had no problem getting a good driving position.

The rear seats are comfortable too, not quite as well padded as the fronts but they’d be no issue on a long journey. They have a clever folding system where the back flips forward then the whole seat flips up against the fronts. This makes a much bigger space to allow adults to get into the third row and is much easier to operate than some other seven seaters. The third row seats are big enough for adults, with enough leg room. All of this passenger space means there’s not a massive space left for luggage – 235 litres with all seats up.

The second and third rows all fold completely flat, making a huge flat area for luggage and a pretty cavernous 1830 litres of cargo space. It’s even long and flat enough to use as a sleeping/camping area if you feel like it. A load cover is included in the boot if you want to fold the third row and use the area as a large, covered boot.

The air conditioning in the Trailblazer is excellent. In fact it was a little too cold on occasion and I had to fiddle with the settings to get it how I wanted. Maybe this extra power is so it can feed the aircraft-style roof vents for the second and third rows.

There are plenty of cubbies and cup holders around the car, and power sockets front and rear, though the door bottle pockets weren’t quite big enough for the bottles I tried.

The Drive

It’s a bit of a climb up into the Trailblazer, this is a big car! If the side steps weren’t there my seven year-old daughter would have struggled to make it into the back. Once you’re in, that size gives you an advantage over most other vehicles, with a commanding driving position and great visibility. You’re level with trucks, and can look over the roof of cars and some SUVs.

Bluetooth pairing with my phone went smoothly – always part of a good first impression – and the six-speaker stereo sounded decent. Turn the key – yep you have to do that, no start button in this car – and the 2.8l Duramax diesel growls into life. The engine is pretty smooth but still noticeably a diesel. Until you get used to it, if can feel a bit laggy when setting off from a standstill but once you’re moving, it really moves. The full 500Nm of torque is available from 2000rpm, and that means the Trailblazer is surprisingly quick for such a big truck. This can actually be a source of frustration sometimes as despite being a huge red thing with shiny chrome on the front, it often seemed to be invisible to other drivers at roundabouts when they pulled out in front of me, causing me to brake. I guess they assumed I would be accelerating slower and they had more time. Fortunately the brakes are excellent. They can feel a bit spongy at first but once they’re pressed a bit more firmly they stop the car well and give you confidence.

The steering is quite slow – taking more turns than a lot of cars to get from lock to lock. But it’s nice and light, and certainly accurate enough. I imagine there are advantages to this when driving off-road but it gives the Trailblazer a very truck-like feel to drive on the road.

So in short, it drives like a truck, as you would expect given that it’s built on the same platform as a truck. That’s not to say it’s bad though. I returned a Skoda Octavia RS the same day I picked up the Trailblazer, and as you’d expect they drive very differently. To be honest I wasn’t that keen on the Trailblazer at first, but it really grew on me as the week went on, and I got used to enjoying the truck-like driving feel. By the end of the week I really liked it. The six-speed automatic transmission is excellent, complementing the engine perfectly. It seems to be very well tuned to select the gear you want, shifting down as you pull out of a roundabout, for example. When it senses you’re cruising down a hill it automatically shifts down to give some engine braking. Clever stuff. A good transmission really makes or breaks a car’s driving experience.

On the motorway the ride is quite hard to describe, kinda floaty, kinda firm. At speed the slow steering can be a bit vague, meaning you end up making little corrections. The cruise control works well, showing the set speed on the display, and it’s easy to operate and set to the speed you want. Radar cruise would be nice to have.

There’s a fair bit of wind and tyre noise when you’re cruising at 100, but it’s not that noticeable at lower speeds.

I really wanted to take the Trailblazer off-road and test its 600mm wading depth but didn’t have the opportunity. I did take it around some bumpy fields when taking photos, and it felt extremely confident, like it could take on any terrain. I remember the same feeling with the Colorado 4×4.

The Competition

Brand / ModelEnginePowerFuel L/100kmSeatsBoot Space LitresTowing CapacityPrice Highest to Lowest
Ford Everest Trend3.2l 5 cylinder turbo diesel143Nm/470kW8.574503000kg$75,990
Toyota Fortuner GXL2.8l 4 cylinder turbo diesel130kW/420Nm8.672002800kg$65,990
Isuzu MU-X3.0l 4 cylinder turbo diesel130kW/430Nm7.972353000kg$65,990
Holden Trailblazer LTZ2.8l 4 cylinder turbo diesel147kW/500Nm9.472353000kg$62,990

The pros and cons

 

ProsCons
  • Lots of passenger space
  • Great transmission
  • Commanding driving position
  • Feels confident on any terrain
  • Great value
  • Loads of luggage space when using five seats
  • Not very refined, drives like a truck
  • Road noise
  • Slow steering
  • Not much luggage space when using all seven seats

What we think

Want a large seven-seat SUV which feels like it can go anywhere? Enjoy the sensation of driving a truck, and the commanding driving position? Don’t want to give up on comfort? Don’t have a lot of luggage? Then this could be the car for you!

I enjoyed the Trailblazer, it’s well-priced for the size and features, has a chunky, utilitarian feel, goes really well for its size, and has a great transmission.

Rating – Chevron rating 4 out of 5

Vehicle TypeLarge 7 seat SUV
Starting Price$62,990  plus on-road costs (current promotional price)
Tested Price$56,990 plus on-road costs (special offer price)
Engine2.8L double overhead cam 4-cylinder common rail injection Duramax Diesel with 4 valves per cylinder
Transmission6-speed automatic
0 – 100 kphN/A
Kerb Weight2203kg
Length x Width x Height4887 x 1902 x 1846mm
Cargo Capacity235 Litres seats up

1830 Litres seats folded

Fuel Tank76 litres
Spare WheelFull sized spare
Fuel Efficiency Advertised Spec – Combined – 9.4L / 100km

Real World Test – Combined –  9.2L / 100km

ANCAP Safety Ratings5 stars
Warranty3 year/100,000km warranty

3 year/100,000km servicing

3 year roadside assistance

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