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New Car/Review

Chevrolet Trailblazer

SEE ALSO: Chevrolet Buyer's Guide


By Tom Hagin


Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 32,670
Price As Tested                                    $ 33,376
Engine Type               OHV 12-valve 4.3 Liter V6 w/SMFI*
Engine Size                                 262 cid/4300 cc
Horsepower                                   190 @ 4400 RPM
Torque (lb-ft)                               250 @ 2800 RPM
Wheelbase/Width/Length                  107.0"/67.8"/183.3"
Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
Curb Weight                                     4073 pounds
Fuel Capacity                                  18.0 gallons
Tires  (F/R)                          P235/75R15 all-season
Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
Drive Train                   Front-engine/four-wheel-drive
Vehicle Type                       Five-passenger/five-door
Domestic Content                                 80 percent
Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                               N/A


EPA Economy, miles per gallon
city/highway/average                            16/20/17          
0-60 MPH                                       11.5 seconds
Maximum payload                                 1301 pounds
Maximum towing capacity                         5000 pounds
* Sequential multi-point fuel injection                    

With mammoth sport utility vehicles grabbing headlines good and bad, it's the compact SUV that dominates the market. A strong economy has fueled a strong demand for upscale versions of this popular vehicle. The Chevy Blazer has always been in the thick of the sales race and new this year is a top-line Trailblazer version.

OUTSIDE -The Blazer line hasn't undergone many alterations since its major restyle four years ago, but that sleek redesign, with its sloping hood and rounded grille, was significant enough to successfully bring it into the 21st century. This new Trailblazer looks pretty much like the rest of the Blazer line, but the addition of body-color bumpers, rocker moldings, fascias and rub strips give it a monochromatic theme. Special, gold-accented alloy wheels are unique to the Trailblazer trim level. A new, larger outside mirror makes it easier to see traffic behind, and both can be optionally heated for quick defrosting in cold climates. A rugged roof rack comes standard??????.

INSIDE -It's easy to find a comfortable driving position. Some of our testers complained of tight toe room in the front passenger seat, due mainly to a large lump that's part of the floor. Four adults fit easily inside, and while three seat belts are provided for the rear seat, three across back there is tight. Its split, folding rear seat opens up over 74 cubic feet of cargo space when folded flat, while 66.9 cubic feet are available otherwise. Large, easy-to-use knobs and switches are all within simple reach, and a variety of stereo systems culminates with a Bose-brand AM/FM/cassette with a console-mounted six-disc CD changer. Unique Trailblazer interior trim includes two-tone leather upholstery and door trim, special floor mats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. All Blazer models come well-equipped with air conditioning, a security system and an AM/FM stereo, Trailblazer models add an eight-way power driver's seat with memory, HomeLink electronic transmitter, remote keyless entry and an auto-dimming inside rear view mirror.

ON THE ROAD -Trailblazer uses the same 4.3 liter Vortec V6 engine as many of the company's light trucks. It's a rugged, powerful engine, with 190 horsepower and 250 pound-feet of torque. With traditional, pushrod-type actuation of the valve train, this engine doesn't show the technological wizardry so prevalent in many of today's SUVs, but it's a simple design and built to last. It gives Trailblazer the ability to produce quick starts off-line and plenty of power for passing.It also provides mighty towing capabilities of 5500 pounds for the 4X4 version, but only with an optional(???) tow package. A beefy four-speed automatic transmission is the only gearbox offered, and it's been upgraded slightly for 1999. Four-wheel drive actuation on our test rig was handled by a part-time system that can be shifted on-the-fly, but cannot be used on dry pavement. New this year, however, is what GM calls its Autotrac option. This is a system that will automatically engage 4WD when the vehicle's electronic controls detect wheelspin.

BEHIND THE WHEEL -Trailblazer is built on a ladder-type full-frame chassis, with strong box-sections. To this is mounted the body, suspension, drivetrain and steering system. The front suspension is independent, supported by torsion bars and located by a stabilizer bar. The rear axle is solid, with two-stage leaf springs that progressively stiffen as interior weight is added. Our tester came with GM's Z85 Touring suspension, which is slightly stiffer than the standard setup, mainly due to high-pressure gas shocks and stiffer spring rates. Variable-assist power recirculating ball steering assists around-town parking and gives better road feel at highway speeds. All Blazer models have four-wheel disc brakes, with a standard anti-lock braking system.

SAFETY -Dual dashboard airbags, ABS and side-impact door beams are standard.

OPTIONS -Electric sunroof: $750; locking rear axle: $270; steering wheel radio controls: $125; stereo upgrade: $100; underbody skid plates: $210; destination charge: $525.