General Motors aims to set a new path with its latest sport utility vehicle, the Chevrolet TrailBlazer, now available in Thailand and slated to hit the Indonesian market soon.
Those who have driven a Chevrolet in the past decade might remember a similarly named SUV, the Blazer, but rest assured that the new model is not a remake of its predecessor. And it’s certainly not a regular car for the masses.
Successful, adventurous drivers seem to be the target for the TrailBlazer, a full-sized seven-seater based somewhat on the Chevrolet Colorado’s double-cabin pickup truck design.
Before the new model comes to the archipelago, the US automaker invited me to Thailand to see it firsthand and take it out for a spin. I was first struck by the car’s size — about 4.9 meters long and 1.9 meters wide, allowing for plenty of space inside. A ground clearance of 0.27 meters also makes the TrailBlazer sky high and very safe for off-road use.
The headlights and tail lights on the upgraded trim model, or LT model, give the car a rugged look, while the high-end trim model, or LTZ, comes with projector headlights and LED tail lights for a more macho and modern style. The TrailBlazer features a double-grill hood and comes in a range of colors, including “summit white,” “black sapphire” and “sizzle red.”
The car feels spacious on the inside. The dashboard seems logical, though the speedometer and tachometer are a bit small for a car this size. The climate control feature is easy to use, but the automatic air-conditioning feature is only available with the LTZ model. You’ll also find more than 30 compartments and two large glove compartments for storage.
I took the car out for a drive through Bangkok, which in some ways is similar to driving in Jakarta. Despite its huge dimensions, the TrailBlazer was agile enough to wind through the small and congested streets, though I noticed some other drivers seemed intimidated by its sheer presence on the road.
Like most American cars, the TrailBlazer offers soft suspension and a solid design. As I drove on a route of highways and twisted roads, including some with bad potholes, I never tired; the suspension was clearly created for comfort, ironing out every pothole or irregularity in the road for a smooth drive.
The soft setup does compensate with a large body roll, which might not be fun if you’re used to European handling. But if you’ve never experienced American touring comfort, I would say this is the best large SUV, offering far more comfort than its competition.
And what kind of engine powers it along? The TrailBlazer comes with a four-cylinder Duramax turbo-diesel engine, either 2.5 liters or 2.8 liters, and it has the most power and torsion in its class. This engine is the best-selling engine in Thailand, though it may seem sluggish for those unaccustomed to a laid-back driving style. Still, once you push down on the gas pedal, it can really rev like crazy.
With about 180 horsepower, the 2.8-liter engine gets maximum torque of about 470 newton meters thanks to the variable geometry turbocharger and a six-speed automatic transmission (in manual, it can get only 440 newton meters). The 2.5-liter engine boasts a maximum power output of 150 horsepower and torque of 350 newton meters, and for the Indonesian market, it will probably be the favorite.
To test out the TrailBlazer’s off-road flair, I took it to Farm Chokchai, which spans more than 1,600 hectares. I tried two features, hill descent control and hill start assist, which are standard on the LTZ to assist on steep off-road descents and keep the car steady while stopped on inclines. Both performed well.
The car offers electronic stability control, an anti-lock braking system with electronic brake-force distribution, hydraulic brake assist, traction control, dynamic rear brake proportioning, panic brake assist, engine drag control and dual airbags.
I was also amazed that the TrailBlazer, which is 2,000 kilograms, had enough torque to tow 3,000 kilograms behind it without any problem.
The four-wheel drive also performed well, and while not the best for off-road driving, it fared adequately enough.
One flaw, however, was that its selector was not very bright during the day, so it was difficult to see whether I had selected 2 High, 4 High or 4 Low. I would have preferred a brighter LED light or integration with a multi-information display.
The TrailBlazer is definitely a car that can haul people, looks cool and drives well off the road, and I’ll be interested to see how it copes in Jakarta’s traffic when it enters Indonesia in a few months, most likely in August or September.
The TrailBlazer is expected to sell in Indonesia for between Rp 400 million and Rp 500 million ($43,000 and $53,000), similar to the price of the Toyota Fortuner or the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport.
After finishing my test drive through Bangkok’s chaotic streets and the off-road fields, I ended my trip in Thailand at the Kirimaya Spa near Khao Yai National Park. It was a perfect ending, because after the hardship of outdoor activities, any trailblazer needs some time to relax with an evening of solitude.