Perfectly named

2016-11-16 06:01
PHOTO: Alwyn Viljoen Among the big SUVs, the seven-seater Chevrolet Trailblazer Z71 4x4 offers the most torque for the least money in SA, and with 500 Nm, it has all the grunt needed to crawl up very slippery slopes even from parked positions, as a slightly worried Luke Viviers-Viljoen (above) was relieved to learn after this photo was taken.

PHOTO: Alwyn Viljoen Among the big SUVs, the seven-seater Chevrolet Trailblazer Z71 4x4 offers the most torque for the least money in SA, and with 500 Nm, it has all the grunt needed to crawl up very slippery slopes even from parked positions, as a slightly worried Luke Viviers-Viljoen (above) was relieved to learn after this photo was taken.

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THE Chevy Trailblazer was first introduced to South Africa in 2012, and General Motors have just given this seven-seater aptly named 4x4 SUV a major makeover to level the playing fields in its competition with the recently introduced Toyota Fortuner, for which there is still a waiting list at many dealers.

The latest Trailblazer comes in two specs — the top-end LTZ spec with forward collision alert, lane departure warning and rear cross traffic alert, as well as side blind zone alert.

Across the range, all models retain the usual ABS, seven air bags and Isofix seat anchors, but the LTZ spec also has hill-descent assist, stability assist and trailer-sway control.

Pairing phones with GM’s Sync system is a breeze, especially compared to the German cars out there, and the Trailblazer now sports all the buttons the modular infotainment system offers. Once linked, the apps on your smartphone can display on the seven-inch touch screen, which dominates the new dashboard.

Under the hood

The 2,8-litre engine of the LTZ Z71 top-line derivative we drove offers 144 kWs and an impressive 500 Nm of torque. All Trailblazer models now come with a six-speed auto box, underlining the general trend in the SUV market to providing car-like comfort for the driver, while the sedan market contracts all over the world. On a trip to the Anglo-Boer War battle sites around Ladysmith, our resident historian Simon Haw found the auto box a bit slushy for his petrolhead tastes, but as we were to find out, the auto shifter works just fine on the rough. We especially liked how the box blips to gear down automatically. There is also a 2,5-litre turbo diesel, and a new 2,5-litre LT with a new Duramax engine putting out 132 kWs and 440 Nm of torque.

On a slippery slope

The SUV retains its limited slip differential, but a new limited braking function allows drivers to maintain reasonable speeds on roadless, downhill tracks, in which this car specialises. In the 4x4 version, it is easy to switch from 4x2 to 4x4 on the fly, using a knob below the gear lever, but to go to four low, the vehicle has to stop and neutral needs to be engaged for a few seconds.

After the storms that lashed Pietermaritzburg recently, motoring editor Alwyn Viljoen just had to demonstrate the Trailblazer’s abilities on mud. First we picked a steep but well-trodden track made slippery with wet mud. The Trailblazer rode to the top in 4x2 mode.

We then engaged 4x4 and inched up a grassy slope still drenched in run-off water. The car just blazed a trail through the fresh growth of Tagetes minuta (khakibos, don’t you know!).

“Mmh, very impressive,” said Viljoen, “but you know, if we don’t get stuck, we are not really trying hard enough.” (Which is where I quietly crossed myself.)

But hard as he tried to get the Trailblazer stuck, the big SUV just shouldered on, even inching its way out of a deep axle bender that had a forestry truck trapped.

The final verdict? “As long as the wheels have grip, this car has enough grunt to go anywhere,” Viljoen said.

Bonus extras

The car also has electronic power steering, which detects when the driver is using extra driving effort and adds torque in the same direction to ease driver fatigue.

Remote vehicle start gets the motor running from the outside, using the key fob, allowing the climate control and demister to start working before you get in.

And last but not least, at R623 200 for the Trailblazer Z71 4x4, only the SsangYong Rexton charges less per Newton metre, which arguably makes the 2,8 TDCi Trailblazer the best value proposition SUV in SA.

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