Chevrolet Trailblazer Opens Up New Vistas For Chevrolet In Buoyant SUV Market
- Trailblazer expands popular SUV D-segment representation for Chevrolet
- Based on Chevrolet’s latest body-on-frame medium size vehicle architecture
- Body on frame concept provides for rugged construction and enhanced off-road capabilities
- Bold design offers style and refinement in both on- and off-road applications
- True seven-seat interior with intelligent fold flat configuration
- Latest generation petrol and diesel engines provide outstanding performance, refinement, and efficiency
Chevrolet, the creator of the SUV with the introduction of the Suburban back in 1935, has drawn on its huge store of knowledge, experience and heritage in the global SUV market in its creation of the all-new Trailblazer. True to the ground-breaking concept of that very first Suburban of 77 years ago, the Chevrolet Trailblazer is an innovative, value-for-money family SUV that offers dynamic styling, enhanced driving and ride refinement and a high level of on-and off-road competency together with a latest generation powerful and efficient drive train options.
The Chevrolet Trailblazer is an all-new nameplate within the global Chevrolet product range. In keeping with this it offers an exciting new approach to the brand’s representation in the popular D-segment of the SUV market as a design based on the latest Chevrolet body-on-frame architecture.
General Motors charged its Brazilian subsidiary, GM do Brasil, with the task of developing its new vehicle architecture for this application.
As a true global product offering destined for markets in Africa, the Pacific Rim, the Middle East, South America, and Eastern Europe, the Trailblazer was developed in consultation with global group of designers, stylists and engineers. This group was tasked with bringing together varying market requirements in a consummate package that offers style, function, performance, image and refinement.
Designed to challenge the established best products in the segment, the Chevrolet Trailblazer has been designed, engineered, executed, and validated to cater for a market segment that demands a vehicle with rugged sophistication. At the heart of this is the requirement for a vehicle that caters for a cross functional lifestyle and is equally at home in the city or the bush with the capability of handling the most challenging of road conditions with confidence. This comes together in the Trailblazer with exceptional performance, economy, and towing ability.
Rugged but sophisticated styling
“Rugged and sophisticated were the key words in the design brief for the Trailblazer,” says Dagoberto Tribia, Design Director for GM do Brasil. “The Trailblazer had to be upscale in its style, function, and dynamics.
“The Trailblazer had to appear agile and athletic. It had to be powerful but nimble in an urban environment but also superbly capable in an off-road rock-climbing role. This had to be backed up by a high level of refinement, comfort and safety for the occupants.”
The product that developed out of this brief has an athletic, agile stance, combined with clean styling lines and surface treatments for a bold but sophisticated exterior that visually reflects Chevrolet DNA in its proportions, posture, and powerful image.
The Trailblazer draws attention with its unmistakeable Chevrolet dual-port grille and its three-dimensional honeycomb mesh backing. This keynote Chevrolet frontal treatment is complimented by a dramatic power-dome hood offset by high-mounted headlamp clusters. Together these elements provide a strong face for the vehicle. Tasteful chrome embellishments in the grille surround, door handles, mirror covers, and lamp clusters provide an air of sophistication.
A spear-like embossed styling line runs from wheel to wheel along the lower side of the Trailblazer to assist in breaking up the expansive surface area of the side of the vehicle and accentuates the athletic ‘body-in, wheels-out’ styling. Wrap around glass at the rear of the vehicle masks the area of the ‘C’ pillars, an area that would normally be dominated by body colour sheet metal. This wraparound glass treatment blends the side on view with the squared off rear of the vehicle for a clean sophisticated look that adds volume to the upper rear portion of the vehicle silhouette.
The Trailblazer has an overall length of 4 878mm, a width of 1 902mm and a height of 1 848mm, dimensions that provide the framework for a spacious interior with seating for seven adults. The wheelbase of 2 845mm and front/rear track of 1 570/1 588mm respectively provide for excellent handling and sure-footed stability on- or off-road.
When the going gets rough there is little that will faze the Trailblazer with its ground clearance of 267mm (with 18” wheels) and high approach and departure angles – 31 degrees at the front and 26 degrees at the rear courtesy of short front and rear body overhangs.
With its generous proportions the Trailblazer has the presence of a full-size SUV that belies its mid-size classification. This is accentuated by the clever use of styling lines, angles and visual design elements rather than moulded inserts and claddings for a clean, uncluttered look. The overall impression is one of clean sophistication without any hint of the Trailblazer being ‘over-bodied’.
Rugged but sophisticated feel
The Trailblazer design and styling team has successfully carried the theme of ‘rugged but sophisticated’ through to the interior of the vehicle. Class leading exterior dimensions have been put to good use in creating a spacious interior with flexible seating for seven adults that can be easily tailored to varying passenger/load-carrying requirements. Load space ranges from 205 litres with all seats upright, to a massive 1 830 litres with seats folded flat.
The seven passenger seating configuration, with all seats suitable for adults even on long journeys, offers intuitive three-row tumble and / or fold flat versatility with best-in-class third row seat space. The second row of seats has a 60/40 split with a single latch, forward tumble, fold-flat mechanism. Back rests can be reclined by up to six degrees for added passenger comfort. An integrated folding armrest with dual cup-holders is provided for the second row of seats.
The third row of seats is split 50/50 with the two seats separated by a storage console. These seats also have a fold flat capability that is easily activated by simply pulling on an easy-access strap in an intuitive action.
Conscious of passenger comfort and the need for all passengers to fully experience their surroundings, both inside and outside of the vehicle, the Trailblazer interior design team adopted a ‘theatre-style’ seating arrangement for the second and third rows of seats. This is achieved by raising the seat height in these two rows without compromising head room to provide better all-round vision for occupants without any tendency towards claustrophobia that can be experienced in some SUV’s, particularly in the rearmost seating positions.
The interior design draws heavily on Chevrolet styling DNA with its keynote dual cockpit design. The flowing instrument panel incorporates continuous lines that run gracefully through the front doors to create a ‘floating wing’ effect that emphasises the wrap around nature of the cockpit. This treatment also emphasises the spaciousness of the interior with the Trailblazer boasting front shoulder room, headroom and seat height that is at the top of its class.
Aside from being visually appealing, the wraparound cockpit treatment provides the opportunity to optimise ergonomics with the driver positioned optimally for the task at hand. All major controls are placed at strategic and intuitive locations within easy reach of the driver. Steering wheel mounted controls for a number of functions enhance ease of operation without the need to take one’s hands off the steering wheel.
Contrasting trim is used with leather coverings in premium specification models and high quality cloth for lower specification levels. Dual grained surfaces used on the instrument panel impart a quality feel. The interior ambience is topped off at night, or in low light, by Chevrolet’s signature ‘ice-blue’ LED backlight illumination that provides high definition for the various displays, controls, and instrument cluster.
Conscious of the Trailblazer’s role as a long distance touring vehicle with a potential bias towards rural adventure motoring the interior design team provided an abundance of storage space within the vehicle. Some 32 individual compartments of varying size are located throughout the interior. Prime amongst these is a covered centre storage bin and a large dual glovebox. Another unique storage area is one large enough to accommodate a jumbo-sized golf bag, this one placed horizontally on the side of the luggage area to free up space for regular luggage.
Other useful amenities include auxiliary 12 volt power points and both USB and Bluetooth connectivity through an infotainment system with premium sound quality. A separate HVAC (Heat, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) control is mounted in the roof of the rear compartment to provide rear seat passengers with separate control over their own ventilation flow.
Power to match
With the requirement for rugged sophistication satisfied a further pre-requisite for the Trailblazer to ensure that it met the highest of performance projections was a range of latest technology engines capable of providing the power, torque and economy expected of a class leading vehicle.
Depending on regional market requirements the Chevrolet Trailblazer is offered with a choice of 2,5 litre or 2,8 litre Duramax diesel engines or a 3,6 litre V6 petrol 24-valve engine with dual overhead camshafts and full four-cam phasing (variable valve-timing) for optimised engine performance and economy.
The 2,5 litre Duramax diesel engine produces maximum power of 110 kW with peak torque of 350 Nm while the 2,8 litre Duramax engine delivers 132 kW with 470 Nm of torque when mated to the six speed automatic transmission and 440 Nm of torque when coupled to the manual 5-speed transmission. Fuel consumption for the combined cycle has been measured as low as 8,2 l/100km for the 2,5 litre diesel and 8,8 l/100km for the 2,8 litre manual diesel. When supplied with the automatic transmission option fuel consumption for this higher torque model is an estimated 9,8 l/100km for the combined cycle.
Both of these modern diesel engines are four-cylinder in-line engines with double overhead camshafts and an aluminium cylinder head designed to optimise combustion for enhanced power and efficiency with a reduced tendency for engine knock to occur. Both engines are Euro 4 emissions compliant and make use of high-pressure (1600 bar) common rail fuel injection systems with turbo charged and intercooled induction systems. The 2,8 litre Duramax engine is fitted with a variable geometry turbo charger for optimal power and efficiency across a wide engine speed range. A balance shaft, integrated into the oil pump, acts to reduce engine NVH on the 2,8 litre engines.
A feature of both of these latest technology engines is their high specific output together with low emissions. A high efficiency exhaust gas recirculation cooler (EGR) channels unburnt exhaust gas back into the engine for a further burn cycle. The EGR works in tandem with a close-coupled Diesel Oxidation Catalyst (DOC). The DOC is maintenance free for the life of the vehicle and has, unlike most diesel exhaust catalysts, been designed to cope equally well with both low and high sulphur diesel fuels – an important feature when travelling in remote areas where the latest technology low sulphur diesel fuels are not always available.
The 2,5 litre engine option drives via a 5-speed manual transmission and two-wheel drive. The 2,8 litre diesel engine is available with either 5-speed manual transmission or 6-speed automatic transmissions, the latter featuring DSC or Driver Shift Control. There is a choice of either two- or four-wheel drive.
Where four wheel drive is chosen the torque is split between the front and rear wheels by a latest technology electronically actuated 2-speed transfer case. The part time four-wheel drive system offers a choice between two-wheel drive motoring (2H), high ratio four-wheel drive (4H), or low ratio four-wheel drive (4L) for when to going gets really tough. A neutral position is also provided. The mode required is selected via a rotary dial electronic switch mounted on the centre console immediately behind the gear shift lever. The transfer case can be shifted on-the-fly between 2H and 4H modes at speeds up to 100km/h.
For those that prefer petrol power Chevrolet offers the Trailblazer with a latest generation 3,6 litre, four-camshaft V6 engine with full cam phasing for effective variable valve timing to optimise engine performance and operating economy over a wide engine speed range and in varying load conditions.
Employing a full range of up-to-the-minute engine technologies, from advanced casting processes to full four cam phasing of the valve timing, ultra-fast data processing, and torque based engine management, this compact V6 engine delivers an excellent balance between high specific output, high torque delivery over a wide engine speed range, superb fuel economy and low emissions. It achieves this together with low NVH and a package of exclusive durability-enhancing features and very low maintenance requirements.
This engine produces maximum power of 176 kW with peak torque of 329 Nm. It achieves this with remarkable fuel economy, consuming as little 11,9 l/100km in average usage.
The 3,6 litre V6 engine is mated to electronically controlled 6-speed automatic transmission with DSC (Driver Shift Control).
Rugged appeal matched by strength and durability
The advantages of Body-On-Frame architecture over unitary body construction when it comes to rugged SUVs designed to take on the full spectrum of off-road motoring conditions are well documented. Essentially a Body-On-Frame (BOF) architecture provides the vehicle with the inherent toughness associated with a light pick-up whilst providing opportunities for vehicle refinement and enhanced interior space utilisation.
In the case of the Trailblazer the BOF construction extends these advantages by allowing it to have a class leading towing capacity of up to 2950 kg (2,8 litre diesel). This level of towing capacity cannot be achieved on an SUV of monocoque construction in the same class, such as the Chevrolet Captiva.
Each architecture has its specific place amongst SUV buyers but it is generally acknowledged that a BOF vehicle will deliver a better overall off-road capability together with enhanced durability by virtue of the tougher construction of this type of vehicle compared to one of unitary construction. Essentially it’s a case of horses for courses with each offering its own attraction to buyers.
For the Trailblazer Chevrolet has opted for a reinforced, fully boxed frame with inherent stiffness derived from the use of nine cross members. This nine cross-member configuration provides for a high level of torsional rigidity and is tougher and more durable than the more common chassis design using fewer cross members.
The enhanced stiffness contributes to better handling and overall vehicle stability. With less inclination to twist and flex under load, engineers have more scope to fine tune the suspension for optimum ride comfort, handling and off-road capability. The rigid nature of the Trailblazer frame also contributes to reduced NVH transmitted into the passenger area as engineers are able to focus on critical areas rather than be distracted by areas prone to chassis flex.
The sturdy frame of the Trailblazer provides the foundation for the vehicle’s outstanding on- and off-road performance and its exceptional towing capability. By adopting a unique approach to the frame design the engineering team has delivered a vehicle that offers chassis tuning geared to deliver an unexpectedly comfortable ride together with excellent off-road performance and towing capability – a key differentiator in the market place.
Unquestionably robust, the Trailblazer offers a surprising level of comfort and refinement on the road, courtesy of its all-round coil-spring suspension and five-link independent rear suspension system. The incorporation of the advanced five-link system, as opposed to a more common four-link design, allowed the engineering team to refine the ride and handling characteristics with few, if any compromises.
In its simplest form, the five link suspension system of the Trailblazer is what engineers term orthogonal – essentially a system that makes it possible to alter and fine tune one parameter of the suspension at a time without impacting on anything else. This type of system, usually found only on more upmarket SUVs, allows the Trailblazer to negate typical characteristics of conventional BOF architecture SUVs that can impact negatively on overall ride comfort. The Trailblazer provides a best-in-class luxurious ride combined with excellent responsiveness and passenger car-like driving dynamics.
The advantages of the five-link suspension system coupled with coil springs extend to off-road driving. This system is able to flex more than conventional systems providing better articulation where the suspension is better able to keep the wheels in contact with the surface being negotiated, especially where severe angles are encountered, for maximum traction. Stabiliser bars are fitted front and rear to limit body roll and twin tube dampers on all four corners add to suspension damping refinement.
While the refined suspension system of the Trailblazer plays its part in keeping all the wheels in contact with the road in a stable and comfortable fashion, effectively stopping the Trailblazer is another area that received the attention of the engineers. All wheel disc brakes provide excellent retardation that provides that Trailblazer with top class braking performance in its segment. In tests conducted by the engineering team the Trailblazer slowed from 100 km/h to rest in under 50 metres.
A four-channel anti-lock brake system is standard with Dynamic Rear Brake Proportioning incorporated in the system. This ensures that an optimum braking force is applied to both front and rear axles for maximum stability under heavy braking.
Other driver aid systems featured on the Trailblazer include:
- Traction Control System (TCS): Integrated with the all-speed four channel ABS system TCS combines both engine torque inputs and brake control to regulate wheel spin and loss of traction at all driving speeds for maximum driver control regardless of conditions. (not for 2.5 LT model)
- Hydraulic Brake Assist (HBA): This system uses a vacuum booster to increase braking pressure from the master cylinder when the driver applies sudden hard pressure to the brake pedal.
- Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD): Regulates braking pressure front-to-rear to optimise stopping distance and vehicle control under all load conditions.
- Panic Brake Assist (PBA): Senses an emergency braking situation by detecting the rate of brake application and boosts braking power as needed to bring the vehicle to a safe stop. This system potentially reduces stopping distance in an emergency by eliminating any delay caused by not braking hard enough, soon enough.
- Electronic Stability Control (ESC): Assists the driver in maintaining vehicle control in severe conditions of yaw. A sensor detects movement around the vertical axis of the vehicle (yaw) and compares this to inputs from a sensor on the steering system that measures steering angle being applied. Inputs from these sources are used to modulate individual brakes and engine power to assist the driver in staying in control of the vehicle. (not for 2.5 LT model)
- Systems included in the ESC system are: Engine Drag Control – prevents the driven wheels from locking due to the braking effect of the engine when there is a sudden lift off the throttle or a rapid downshift. Cornering Brake Control – activated when the vehicle is braked while cornering, brake pressure is independently varied at each corner to ensure stability. Hydraulic Brake Fade Assist (HBFA) – automatically raises braking pressure to compensate for brake fade under repeated heavy applications of the brakes. Hill Descent Control (HDC) – allows a smooth and controlled hill descent in rough terrain without the driver needing to touch the brake pedal. Hill Start Assist (HSA) – prevents the vehicle from rolling backwards when pulling away on a steep uphill gradient. Engages when a gradient in excess of three percent is detected and acts to hold the vehicle stationery for two seconds after the brake is released to allow time for the throttle to be applied (not for 2.5 LT model) and works inreverse as well.
Safety and security
In addition to the comprehensive range of standard driver aids, the Chevrolet Trailblazer offers comprehensive airbag protection for occupants. Both the LT and LTZ trim levels feature airbag protection for the driver and front passenger as well as curtain side airbag protection for rear seat occupants.
Three-point lap and shoulder seat belts are provided for all seven seats. Adjustable head restraints are provided for all seven seating positions as well.
Anti-theft protection comes in the form of a transponder key ignition system that prevents unauthorised starting of the vehicle. Only the designated key will enable the ignition system. On both LT and LTZ specification levels an unauthorised entry alarm system is provided.
Delivering on the promise
The Chevrolet Trailblazer delivers on its promise of offering Rugged Sophistication in line with customer expectations for this class of vehicle. The package offers power, performance, economy in operation, versatility, refinement, toughness, durability, style, comfort and spaciousness in a well- rounded package. Add to this the unique heritage of the Chevrolet brand and the new Trailblazer presents itself as a top-of-the-class choice in the mid-size SUV market.