The Chevrolet Trailblazer is one of those vehicles that just blends in. They haven’t made one for five years, but they are still everywhere. Take a minute the next time you are driving somewhere and count how many you see. You can include the standard model, the EXT model with third row seating, the horribly ugly XUV model, and even the different variants from Buick, Oldsmobile, Isuzu, Saab, and GMC. GM literally couldn’t stop with this thing – they pumped one out every minute it seems. When you are counting these SUVs though, you probably won’t see what we have in the garage today.
We had the opportunity to drive the Trailblazer SS. When this model was thought up, Chevrolet had an SS model for almost every vehicle in their lineup. Some of them were great representations and well deserving of the famous SS badge. Others just got some body components tacked on and didn’t run much better than the normal models. The Trailblazer SS is a different animal altogether. The SUV wars as we like to refer to them are very interesting. You have models from Jeep, Porsche, BMW, and Land Rover coming strong and carving up the tracks and highways. When this battle was underway, GM decided to go with their bread and butter. They were going to use their solid SUV made right here in Ohio. The Trailblazer SS was their answer.
The SS treatment done to the Trailblazer almost makes you wish they did this to all of them from the start. The roof rack, side steps, flat black plastic trim, body cladding, excess chrome, ugly wheels, and coffee can muffler have all been thrown out. Chevrolet added 20” chrome wheels, a smooth front/rear fascia, and a more aggressive front grille with black mesh and cold air inlets. When you park next to a regular model today, the original looks dated and the SS still looks relevant. You really wonder why GM doesn’t take what they know about styling and apply it everywhere, all the time. The Trailblazer was never an ugly vehicle, but the plastic trim they put all over them is starting to fade and show age. The SS has none of that, which makes it look clean.
From the factory, the Trailblazer SS was rated at 395hp and 400ft-lbs of torque. This comes from the C6 Corvette LS2 V8 installed under the hood. One of the major drivetrain options on the SS is the choice of rear wheel drive or all-wheel drive. When you ordered the vehicle, you had to pick. The standard trailblazer 4WD selector switch in the dash was replaced with a “Trailblazer SS” plastic plug. The rear wheel setup has proven to handle more aftermarket power and be more reliable over the years, but for people like us that need some winter traction, the all-wheel drive is required. With that being said, the full time AWD setup has a Torsen T-3 differential which in normal use sends 65% of the torque to the rear wheels. The transmission, by today’s standards is somewhat behind the times. Having only four speeds, the 4L70e model has been beefed up a bit to handle the power, but you will find it hunting for gears when you mat the throttle. The SS was given 4.10 gears too, which gives you super strong low end acceleration.
In all honesty, when the TBSS was coming down the pipe, I figured this is where Chevrolet would have stopped. Big engine and less chrome – call it a day. Thankfully they decided to make this SUV better all around and keep going. The suspension is completely tuned and modified. The springs, Bilstein shocks, bushings, and steering have actually all been tuned at the Nurburgring in Germany. This really shows when taking curvy off ramps, quick lane changes or when powering around a corner. We did not track test the Trailblazer, because it just doesn’t seem like a place an SUV should go…but it can. Braking has been improved in all aspects as well. The master cylinder, calipers, rotors, and pads are all upgraded. When you need it to, the SS can pretty much suck your eyeballs out under hard braking. Very impressive for an SUV that weighs almost 5,000lbs.
The interior of the standard Trailblazer was never really that bad. Standard, mid 2000s Chevrolet stuff. GM wasn’t breaking ground and they weren’t falling behind I’d say. The SS interior is basically top of the line for the most part. There was an option for cloth seats, but this particular vehicle has almost every upgraded option. Power everything (Seats, locks, windows, pedals, etc), sunroof, rear audio/climate controls, Home Link buttons, heated mirrors, heated leather/suede seats, driver seat memory, Bose Audio, automatic climate control, Onstar, on-board air, and factory navigation. While driving the SS, you almost feel like you are sitting on a comfy recliner while your right foot has 400hp ready for you at any time. The SS gets stitched logos on the front seats, a snazzy brushed metal shifter, and a couple of SS badges on the dash. The front seats are basic Trailblazer leather seats with suede inserts. Extra bolstering to hold you in through those corners would have been a nice touch, but that didn’t happen.
The factory navigation which I mentioned earlier was not a cheap option. Coming in at almost $2000, checking this box took some guts. When using the system though, you realize that you just wasted $2000. To access your maps and features, it requires a DVD, which then occupies your only disc slot. That means no CDs. Being 2014, CDs are not our usual go to for car audio, seeing as we all have some sort of iDevice or MP3 player. The Trailblazer is not equipped with a USB port or AUX input though. Selecting options on your high end navigation system is a major undertaking. The system is slow to respond and looks very dated, even for 2007. Spending $99 on a Garmin delivers better visuals and faster input times for your destination. If you happen to lose or scratch your disc, the system is unusable. A replacement DVD from GM will run you $199 – a costly mistake. One final negative is an interesting one. If you decide to pay Onstar for turn by turn directions, it will not integrate into this factory navigation unit. Onstar will talk to you in a totally separate voice while showing nothing on the in-dash touchscreen. If you are in the market for one of these vehicles, keep all this in mind while looking.
Driving the Trailblazer is an interesting experience. We referred to it in the title as “The Enterprise” for a reason. If you don’t understand where we are going with this, go update your Netflix Instant Queue with some old Star Trek episodes. The Enterprise is crazy fast and seems to surprise everyone when it needs to. Kirk even has a comfy chair to sit in while traveling at warp. While driving the SS, you get blow your mind quick 0-100 runs that can rival many vehicles on the road and handling that makes you more confident every time you drive. The fact that this is an SUV with four seats and a cargo area is amazing. The Trailblazer honestly has the feeling of driving a nimble, high powered sedan or sports car. If you want to feel like you are driving a Corvette though, then get one of those. This is by no means a replacement for something like that. For somebody who needs the seating and room, this is such a great alternative. A big difference though between the two is a Corvette can actually get decent fuel economy. The Trailblazer doesn’t even come close, averaging 16mpg during our test. This is laughably bad and actually dips way below those figures if you decide to drive like Hikaru Sulu and punch it every chance you get.
Aftermarket & Perceptions
This particular model actually has better fuel economy than the factory model. Some aftermarket parts have been put on in various areas, giving it a minor boost. The rear suspension has been fitted with solid, tubular pieces and urethane bushings. The massive belt driven cooling fan was replaced with electric units so horsepower wasn't robbed. Air entering the engine is smoother thanks to a free flowing intake and the exhaust has been converted to a dual setup out the back which just adds a little bit of growl when you mash the pedal. To put all that together, a PCM tune was done to the engine and transmission management. This SS drives quite a bit better than the original unit from the factory, but you wouldn’t really know what you are getting into just by glancing at it. Most people don’t give this SUV a second look. Public interactions almost never happen unless a real gearhead has spotted you. There is something neat about driving around an understated vehicle with 400+hp on tap. Even at car shows you don't have people looking very closely. The SS has a huge following online and it's fans are keeping the aftermarket parts bin in business.
So what is next for the Trailblazer SS? Nothing. The General shut down the Ohio plant and stopped making them back in 2009. So today when you can still buy a Jeep SRT8, Porsche Cayenne Turbo, BMW X5M and Range Rover – Chevrolet has nothing in their lineup. This is kind of sad because they had a real winner on their hands with this vehicle. The Trailblazer is still made for the overseas market as a totally different vehicle, but who knows if that will ever make it stateside. This is sort of a time capsule vehicle because you may never see this again from General Motors. They are still out there used, but the mileage is going up and it doesn’t look like anybody thought to save one, so a super low mileage SS probably won’t exist in ten years. With that in mind, better enjoy them while you still can…
- It will surprise you, your passengers, and anybody who thinks SUVs are always slow.
- Feels like you are driving a sports car - Most SUV characteristics are gone.
- The looks are clean and simple. The TBSS won't look dated anytime soon.
- Fuel Economy: You almost need a tanker truck pacing you.
- Navigation from the factory is a sad excuse when you look at the new stuff out there.
- If you like people noticing you, this isn't the car. We all know what it is, but if you are looking to turn heads, get a Corvette or Camaro ZL1.