I rented a 2007 Chevy Trailblazer to drive Amanda’s parents around in as we did a big tour of New England in the fall, so I had plenty of time to get aquainted with this vehicle – on both highways and tight city streets.
And I can say, unoquivically, that it sucks.
Having said that, I can’t help but notice… this behemoth of an SUV is everywhere. We stayed at a hotel in Waltham, MA – and the two nights we were there, there were not one, but two other Trailblazers – ironically, they were all the same color!!
The unusual popularity of this SUV confuses me. When I say it sucks, I mean it sucks – and for several very good reasons:
- The steering is loose and disconnected,
- There is far too little rear legroom for such a large vehicle,
- Acceleration comes on in “surges” instead of smoothly,
- Very tipsy (although to be fair, you’d have to expect this),
- Confusing/difficult control stalk (especially the cruise control),
- No limited slip differential makes for limited off-road capability,
- Surprisingly little ground clearance for such a big SUV,
- Jittery steering at highway speed.
Let me elaborate:
The Steering: I know it’s a big SUV, and perhaps I’m spoiled, but it is somewhat frightening in such a big vehicle to be unable to get much feedback from the steering. Half the time it’s like driving in a video game – there’s little to no feedback, making it difficult to steer with confidence.
However – and this is one of the few good points of this SUV – this thing has an excelent turning radius. For this reason, it is surprisingly easy to park.
Rear Legroom: one of the reasons we rented this thing was because we were going on a long trip with 4 people – we wanted rear legroom, plus room for luggage. Surprisingly, most rental places actually charged less for an SUV as opposed to a full-sized car, so we opted for the SUV, thinking that it must have more room – it’s bigger, right?
Well, wrong. The rear legroom in this thing is awful. Even with the front passenger seat all the way forward, there is surprisingly little room back there for the legs of rear passengers. Although there was plenty of room for luggage, it seems to me like a little bit more room could’ve been sacrificed to the passengers. (Perhaps this is why Chevy came out with an “extended” Trailblazer model?)
Surging Acceleration: It’s only got a straight 6 engine, but there’s a fair amount of “oomph” there. The only problem is that it comes on in big “surges” rather than smoothly across the entire rev range. The touchy gas pedal makes city driving – especially accelerating gently from a stop – somewhat challenging.
Tipsy: Well, what large SUV isn’t tipsy? But still, when you combine the surgy acceleration with the disconnected steering and a top-heavy SUV, that’s a recipie for disaster.
Control Stalk: Now, I know Chevy likes to put every single control function on this one stalk, but perhaps some concessions could be made? I eventually figured out the cruise control, but I was on the verge of reading the manual to make sure I had it right.
No Limited Slip Differential: Now perhaps some models DO come with a limited slip diff; I don’t know for sure. But the model we had didn’t. And although we never needed it (being confined to on-road driving pretty much the entire trip), it does kind of seem silly to have a big SUV with a fancy control nob for switching between 2 wheel drive, 4 wheel drive (automatic), 4 wheel drive (high), and 4 wheel drive (low) – but then neglect to have a limited slip diff.
The upscale SS models have an AWD system – I think Chevy should’ve just made that standard for all models across the range.
And don’t get me started on that control nob – I’m still not quite sure what the difference between 2 wheel drive and 4 wheel drive (automatic) really is – or why you’d want to switch between them, ever. (If you know, feel free to chime up in the comments.)
Not Much Ground Clearance: The Trailblazer has 7.8 inches of ground clearance. My little Outlander has 8.3 inches. Which one is billed as more of an off-road vehicle?
Jittery steering at speed: Let’s face it, when you’re in a huge vehicle like this, especially an American-made vehicle, you sort of expect it to handle the big highways with ease – just “floating” along, crusing easily and steering with one finger (errr, I mean, both hands firmly on the wheel!). But, with the Trailblazer’s disconnected steering, instead you get a rather “jittery” feeling at speed that doesn’t inspire much confidence. In fact, it can be nerve-wracking at times – especially in a crosswind.
So there you have it – damning evidence of the suckiness of the Trailblazer, collected in over a solid week of driving.
So… why do I still see so many of these things on the road? I just don’t get it…