Everyone’s driving a Fortuner these days - whether it’s old or new, the Toyota badge never goes out of style. According to NAAMSA, 1172 Fortuners were sold in October, while Chevrolet had to be satisfied with the sale of 140 Trailblazers. But what if you don’t feel like driving the same car as everyone else?
Chevrolet recently gave their trusty Trailblazer a new lease on life, adding some important and sought-after safety equipment and convenience features, as well as updating its cabin and enhancing its face for 2017.
Recently I had the Trailblazer 2.8D LTZ 4 x 2 AT (R 552 800) at my disposal. The LTZ-variants are kitted out nicely, beaten only by the flagship Z71 4x4 AT (at R 623 200) in terms of fashionable finishes.
Here's what I found…
Does the new Trailblazer look much different from the previous?
The front end looks stronger and more striking – it has a decidedly VW-look to it, with some added chrome that serves its handsome grille well. Daytime running lamps immediately update the SUV’s image, so the Trailblazer looks more stylish and determined.
What’s the interior like?
There’s quite an improvement in ergonomics, and it all feels more modern, upmarket and fresh. The dashboard layout reminds me of the Ford Everest – apart from the similar horizontal lines with air vents placed in the same positions, it’s also quite rugged, but refined.
The biggest plus point for me as a mom, is the leather interior which is now standard on every Trailblazer in the line-up. When you bite into your sandwich and that dollop of mayo hits the seat, you need only give it a wipe.
The LTZ-derivatives are fully equipped with the new MyLink 2 Infotainment system, with fully integrated navigation and voice activation. As far as in-car satnav systems go, the navigation lady understood me rather well in the Trailblazer, and spoke with a South African English accent – such a nice change from the British bird in the Land Rover and Google Maps’ Yankee lady.
The MyLink2 system is one of the more user-friendly ones on the market too – more so than some of the pricier German brands.
The less expensive Trailblazers come equipped with the MyLink touch screen system, which only has a few less features, but is still fully capable of audio streaming, smartphone screen mirroring (Android or Apple) and Bluetooth, to name but a few features.
More luxury, comfort & safety features
Because the Trailblazer is such a large and clumsy vehicle to maneuver about, GM has given it ‘eyes’ in the back of its head – the LTZ derivatives and upwards get delightfully paranoid parking sensors (front and rear), as well as a rear-view camera. In a car this size, you almost cannot do without this.
The good news is that even the entry-level models have rear parking sensors. LTZ-variants and upwards also receive Rear-Cross Traffic Alert, preventing you from reversing into a by-passing car.
Should you find yourself on the highway, and dangerously close to the car in front, the Trailblazer will warn you of the potential crash risk with plenty of loud beeping (a high resolution camera continuously scans for crash risks ahead). Then there’s the very handy Side Blind Zone Alert, and Lane Departure Warning. Both will warn you against leaving your lane if it’s unsafe to do so.
All Trailblazers are equipped with 7 airbags (including a knee-bag for the driver) as well as ABS with EBD and brake assist, front and rear fog-lamps, side impact protection bars, and seatbelt warnings in the front and rear – very useful when a little one decides to emancipate themselves from the ‘restraints’ while you’re driving.
There’s a reason why the Trailblazer gets a 5-star EuroNCAP rating. (Trailer Sway Assist is also standard on the LTZ, as well as traction and stability control.)
A full list of specifications is available on the Chevrolet site.
Seven seats for seven pairs of bottoms?
Space up front is plenty, and so is legroom & headroom in the second row. The easily accessible third row is a little cramped, so for the grandkids it should be fine, but the longer-legged kids may start to complain after a while.
Bear in mind, that with all three rows of seats up, there is not much of a boot. If a large family goes on holiday, a trailer will probably need to be towed (the 2.8-litre variants can pull a braked trailer of up to 2965 kg). There is ample boot space when the third row is completely folded flat.
Driving the Trailblazer
Despite its size, the Trailblazer isn’t difficult to drive, thanks to all those sensors and cameras. For a body-on-frame vehicle, its ride quality is good and the cabin isn’t noisy. Doing a three-point turn was surprisingly easy – the ‘Blazer’s turning circle isn’t as large as you’d imagine and the all-new electronic steering assists you nicely. Out on the open road, there’s not even a whisper of vibration on the steering wheel.
The 2.8-litre Duramax turbodiesel engine is relatively frugal, considering the weight it has to lug around. Chevrolet’s combined consumption figure is set at 9.5 litres per 100 km, yet we managed to get a decent 10.6 litres per 100 km after multiple trips. It’s no fireball, reaching a 100 km/h in 10.4 seconds.
But it’s in the rougher stuff where the Trailblazer will shine – the engine offers 144 kW and a meaty 500 Nm of torque. The 4x2-variant does not have a diff-lock, but for tricky situations there’s Hill Descent Control as well as Hill Start Assist as standard.
I have to admit that the Fortuner feels less clumsy to drive, but the Trailblazer is better equipped – I also prefer its infotainment system over the Toyota’s, which can be a bit finicky. I would have liked more USB ports – both cars only have one. Manufacturers don’t realize that USB ports are preferable to 12V power sockets. When every person in the car has a phone or tablet that needs to be charged, one USB port doesn’t cut the mustard.
Will I pick a Trailblazer over a Fortuner?
This is difficult. I’d choose the Trailblazer because I like to be different, but the sought-after Fortuner will undoubtedly have better resale value. The rearmost seat configuration in the Fortuner also leaves more boot space when you have a full ‘house’, but when those seats are stowed, it obstructs your view, and then there’s that fiddly infotainment system…
The point is, both cars have their virtues. In the end, you and your partner’s everyday needs will govern which of these will fit your lifestyle the best. Then, there’s always the Ford Everest, of which a 2.2-litre derivative is launching very shortly…
Facts & Figures
Price: R 552 800
Engine: 2.8-litre, four-cylinder, turbodiesel
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Power: 144 kW
Torque: 500 Nm
0 – 100 km/h: 10.4 seconds
Top speed: 180 km/h
Tyres: 265 / 60 /R18
Ground clearance: 221 mm
Luggage volume: 205 – 1229 – 1830 litres
Realistic fuel consumption: 10.6 litres / 100 km
Warranty: 5-year / 90 000 km
Service Plan: 5-year / 90 000 km
Ané Theron started her career in motoring journalism at Rapport, and moved over to City Press after a few years, before settling into a full time career at AutoTraderSA.
She’s at her happiest driving along twisty coastal roads, or crawling across rugged terrain in a beefy 4 x 4, or driving through the desolate Karoo. And taking photos along the way, of course.
She lives in picturesque Hermanus which is the perfect place from where to do all of the activities above.