by Jim Kerr
Following last Fall’s introduction of General Motors’ line-up of heavy-duty trucks with their new V8 gas and diesel engines, GM introduced three new mid-sized SUV’s each equipped with a brand new inline 6-cylinder engine. The three new SUV’s, the Chevrolet TrailBlazer, GMC Envoy, and the Oldsmobile Bravada, share a common platform and powertrain but each has a definite style and personality of its own.
Over 70% of the exterior body panels are different between the Chevy, GMC and Olds SUVs, so each model appeals to a different type of driver. The Chevy TrailBlazer comes in three trim levels: LS, LT, and LTZ, and I had the opportunity to test both the LS and LT models. With a base price of $38,170 for the 4-wheel drive LS ($34,600 for the 2-wheel drive models), the TrailBlazer fills a gap both in price and size between the existing Blazer and the full sized Tahoe.
It’s not hard to recognise the TrailBlazer as a member of the Chevy truck line-up. The bright band of trim running across the grill and lamps says Chevrolet without even seeing the emblem in the middle. The styling of the TrailBlazer is strong yet familiar. Fender flares, large wheel openings, aggressive bumper styling, and blacked out window trim make the TrailBlazer look as powerful as it is.
Under the hood sits the all-new Vortec 4200 inline 6-cylinder engine. This double overhead camshaft engine offers the performance of a V8 with the economy of a 6-cylinder. At 270 hp, the 6-cylinder has 30 to 35 more horses that competitive V8’s! Over 90% of the Vortec’s 275 lb-ft of torque is available from 1600 rpm to 5600 rpm. Step on the gas too hard and the rear tires start to spin. Shift the transfer case knob to Auto or 4wd-Hi, and the truck pulls strong right off the line. Towing capacity is rated up to 6400 lbs.
Power is important, but so is durability. Of the more than 800 test engines built, twenty-four Vortec 4200’s were tested on the dynamometer and all of them met the 150,000-mile target. Five of the engines were kept on the dyno running at wide-open throttle until they hit 300,000 miles – a test of astounding durability. They were all still running well!
Inline 6 cylinder engines are naturally balanced, and the Vortec 4200 runs extremely smooth and quiet all the way to its 6200 rpm redline. It idles so quiet, that during development, many testers tried to start an already running engine. The engine computer has now been programmed to prevent starter engagement when the engine is running.
According to Tom Sutter, Assistant Chief Engineer for the Vortec 4200 Inline 6-cylinder engine, “This engine stands out in three areas – smoothness, power with even torque delivery and better fuel efficiency.” After driving one, I have to agree.
Inside, the cloth seats of the LS model or the optional leather-trimmed buckets of the LT model were comfortable and roomy. So are the back seats. The first thing I noticed was the increased shoulder room (nearly 18 cm wider than the Blazer). Visibility is good in all directions, and the controls are well placed. Only the optional steering wheel controls for the drivers information centre were difficult to understand because of their universal ISO symbols.
A neat and useful feature on all TrailBlazer models is the “Travelnote” digital recorder. Three buttons on the overhead console let you record, playback or erase messages. With up to 4 minutes of recording time, the Travelnote is perfect for those “to do” lists or for noting phone numbers or addresses as you drive.
A full list of power equipment comes standard on the TrailBlazer, including dual zone A/C. Options include a sunroof, rear A/C, and running boards. Onstar comes standard on LT and LTZ models.
Beneath the TrailBlazer is a full-length hydroformed frame with coil spring suspension. I found the suspension was a good compromise between firm and stable handling and a smooth and comfortable ride. Rough broken pavement was noticeable, but the TrailBlazer traversed even big bumps and dips without any concerns.
Lots of features, extra interior room in a smaller SUV package, and a world class 6-cylinder engine are strong points for the Chevy TrailBlazer. I liked the engine performance so much, it would be my reason for checking one out.
Technical Data: 2002 Chevrolet Trailblazer 4X4
|Price as tested||$40,775|
|Type||4-door, 5 passenger mid-size SUV|
|Layout||longitudinal front engine/4WD|
|Engine||4.2 L DOHC Inline 6|
|Horsepower||270 @ 6000 rpm|
|Torque||275 lb. ft. @ 3600 rpm|
|Transmission||Four speed automatic, automatic transfer case|
|Curb weight||2015 kg (4442 lb.)|
|Wheelbase||2869 mm (113.0 in.)|
|Length||4871 mm (191.8 in.)|
|Width||1894 mm (74.6 in.)|
|Height||1826 mm (71.9 in.)|
|Cargo capacity||1162 litres (41 cu. ft.) seats up|
|2269 litres (80.0 cu. ft.) seats down|
|Fuel consumption||City: 15.5 L/100 km (18.2 mpg)|
|Hwy: 10.2 L/100 km (27.7 mpg)|
|Warranty||3 yrs/60,000 km|