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New car Review: Chevrolet TrailBlazer EXT 4WD

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SEE ALSO: Chevrolet Buyer's Guide

By Annabelle Frankl

Party planning 101: Drinks, food, music, cups, plates and a huge truck to transport everything in. Without consciously having planned for the TrailBlazer to arrive in the week before my birthday party, I could not have hoped for a better, or more versatile, helper in the run-up to the big night. Little did I know beforehand that we would be hauling dining room tables, chairs, crates of liquid refreshments (well, that bit was on the list!), outdoor heaters, gas tanks, barbecues, sand, turntables and speakers, even using the truck as a ‘stepladder’ for some last minute tree-cutting, all in a bid for an evening of fun. The TrailBlazer swallowed up even the largest items, with rear seats that easily fold down to create a huge, flat stowage area – 100.2 cu ft. Bear in mind this is the EXT, which is 16” longer between the axles than the 5-passenger TrailBlazer, seats 7 in comfort and the 3rd seat comes as standard.

Powered by a meaty

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Vortec 4200 SFI, inline 6, you’re hard pushed to make the truck feel like it’s actually working, even with a good load. (Given that the 4x4 EXT has a trailering capacity of 5,800lbs, we’d have needed a lot more hardware to truly test its pulling power). Producing 270 hp (@ 6000 revs) and 275 lb-ft of torque (@ 3600), charging up the canyons around LA is effortless. The 4-speed automatic, with a central, rather than steering-column-mounted shifter and hand, rather than foot, brake, smoothly delivers the power. Despite the size of the truck (a midsize, really?), maneuverability is no problem and in fact the power rack and pinion steering is lighter than in most sedans, and the turning radius better too.

Sitting atop P245/65R17 on/off road tires and 17” aluminium wheels, potholes are to be laughed at. The ride is extremely smooth, with independent, coil-over-shock, with upper and lower control arms, front suspension and five-link, coil spring rear suspension soaking up any and all road irregularities. If selected, the Autotrac 4-wheel drive system will automatically transfer power between front and rear wheels as soon as any wheel slippage is detected, but for LA’s mean streets, 2hi was fine.

Inside the TrailBlazer is very roomy and well equipped for multi-person travel;

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lots of storage compartments, 7 cup holders – which accommodate bottles too, well done – even 3 power outlets. Front passengers benefit from 8-way power, bucket seats, and the Preferred Equipment group offers leather seating surfaces. Also included in this option ($2,195) are driver convenience package (including message center, auto climate control, steering wheel controls), driver’s seat memory and OSRV mirror, plus turn signal OSRV mirrors, rain sense wipers – of which I was unaware before going through a large puddle when, hey presto, the wipers did their thing – and body colour moldings, handle and grille.

Rear passengers are not neglected either, with ample room, even in the 3rd row,

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and electric venting rear glass helps keep the air flowing. Add to this a large electric sunroof, or power A/C and heat if you prefer, plus super-tinted windows, and the cabin maintains a good temperature no matter how many humans invade the space. And if you’re bored, the front passengers can always tell a story into the travel note recorder and then play it back to you! Yes, forget shopping lists, now you can ‘talk’ notes electronically as you drive.

Safety features include dual stage front airbags, front side-impact airbags, 4-wheel ABS, DRL, plus the OnStar 1 year Safe and Sound plan. As for entertainment, there’s either the AM/FM with CD, or the optional Bose premium system ($495) with 6-CD changer ($395), and auto tone control.

The TrailBlazer gives a reassuringly steady, and powerful, ride and given a tread width of over 62 inches, you can still drive and corner aggressively with little roll or pitch. Estimated MPG is 15/20, city/highway. Whenever a party looms in the future, I know who my plus one will be.

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