Today's vehicles are getting more high-tech and getting more packed with all kinds of features. Things like automated cruise control, 360-degree monitors, and lane keep assist systems are just to name a few. Vehicles have been made to do and be more, pushing the automobile to change as a means of getting from A to B to an intelligent, mobile connectivity suite.
Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with that; we quite like it when cars are packed with some good, useful features. But there are times when simpler could really be better.
Take this Chevrolet Trailblazer, for example. We got to test it last year in its highest trim (Z71) and were mightily impressed with what it had. It came with safety features like collision mitigation, blind spot monitoring, traction and stability control, and brake assist as standard. All well and good, but what if buyers want something a little less complicated, and at a price that's more affordable?
Enter the Trailblazer LTX. Serving as the mid-range offering in the Trailblazer line up, it has slightly less equipment but comes with all the necessary features one would need (or want) in a seven-seater PPV.
Let's start with the most obvious change on the Trailblazer LTX: the face. Sleek new headlights as well as a revised dual-port grill now grace the front fascia of the refreshed SUV. It no longer borrows its design from the now-discontinued Spin. Not that there was anything wrong with the MPV's design, but at least the Trailblazer (and the Colorado) now have a more roguish and more aggressive appearance than before.
Those with keen eyes will notice something different with the front bumper as the LTX gets a two-tone bumper overrider. At first, I wasn't sure of its looks as the overrider somehow affected the lines of the SUV, but if you ever find yourself on rough terrain, they may provide a bit of added protection for the Trailblazer.
If the front end received noticeable changes, the rear pretty much remains the same as the pre-facelift version. While it still looks good, I wished Chevrolet made a bit more effort in changing up its design. The LTX does come with several new extras like a tailgate-mounted spoiler and the rear bumper scuff plate. The former gives the LTX a sportier appearance while the latter protects the bumper when loading cargo at the back. Other changes include running boards on the side for easier ingress and egress from the vehicle.
The LTX does not get the huge 18-inch gun metal black alloy wheels from the Z71, but it still rolls on large 17-inch aluminum alloy wheels. The smaller wheels may not be as stylish but they still look the part on the Trailblazer.
The Trailblazer gets the similar interior design like the Colorado. While not exactly the prettiest of cabins, it blends both form and function very well. Everything inside is where you expect them to be; the physical buttons for the infotainment system, the dials for the air-conditioning system, and the controls for the headlights, power windows and side mirrors. Hard plastic is used extensively although that is to be expected on a ute that will see every day use (or abuse).
Despite the plastic on the dash and interior panels, the seats are finished in leather, as are the inserts on the doors and steering wheel on this LTX. I particularly like the red contrast stitching as it gives off a sporty vibe against the dark gray cabin. Both front seats offer plenty of side, shoulder and lumbar support which is great for long drives. The steering wheel is only tilt adjustable but at least the driver's seat benefits from 3-way adjustability.
Legroom, headroom and shoulder-room on the second row are generous, the seats can be reclined for more comfort. Space at the third row leaves something to be desired; since the middle row seats are fixed (they cannot be slid forward or backward). This makes seating at the very back best left for kids or for short adults. As for luggage space, there is some room for duffel bags and backpacks with a fully occupied cabin. Fold down the third row and balikbayan boxes and suitcases can be accommodated. Fold the second row and one can even carry longer loads like surfboards, small pieces of furniture and the like.
In-car infotainment is provided by Chevy's latest MyLink system which comes with AM/FM radio, Bluetooth, USB, Aux, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The display itself is easy on the eyes while the touchscreen system is easy to manipulate. It even comes with SIRI Eyes Free which acts as the car's voice control for when you have an iPhone connected. Need to charge your gadgets or phones? The Trailblazer comes with three 12V power sockets; two at the center console and one at the back located behind the center glove box. Just make sure you have a USB car charger at the ready.
Under the hood is a potent 2.8-liter Duramax turbo-diesel that pushes out 200 PS and 500 Nm of torque. It is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission and comes with manual gear select. With those kind of figures, the Trailblazer's powerplant packs some serious pulling power.
Power from the four-cylinder turbo-diesel is not lacking. With peak torque easily accessible at 2000 rpm, the Trailblazer made short work of steep inclines. Overtaking other cars on the highway also proved to be a cinch for the Trailblazer thanks to the engine's healthy output. It does lose some steam at higher revs but that is to be expected from a turbo-diesel engine.
Despite having the most powerful engine in the PPV segment, the Trailblazer felt refined and smooth still. I was expecting the engine to be quite rough but was I glad it turned out different. Unlike the Colorado which had a livelier drive (because it weighed less with an empty bed), the Trailblazer felt more relaxed. Drive it sensibly and the Trailblazer makes for a nice cruiser as it keeps the revs and engine noise to a minimum. Without the weight penalty of a 4x4 system, the Trailblazer also felt lighter to drive as well.
As far as fuel economy is concerned, the Trailblazer did not disappoint. Cruising around town, the Trailblazer is capable of averaging between 8.0 – 9.0 km/l. Out on the highway, expect the seven-seater to sip diesel at around 14.0 – 14.5 km/l. Paired with a 76 liter fuel tank and the Trailblazer can cover lots of ground before needing a refill.
Ride quality, on the other hand, was pretty good. It's not too soft that it wants to wallow every time you take a corner at speed, nor is it too stiff that every bump on the road means your spine will get jolted. It also rolls on thick 255/65/R17 Bridgestone Dueler tires that delivered a relatively pliant ride.
Normally, vehicles of this size have heavy steering. But the 2018 Trailblazer veers away from that as this has a finely weighted feel. Unlike its predecessor which came with hydraulic power assist, this facelift version now comes with electronic power assist. This meant that the Trailblazer was light to maneuver during parking or city driving. It only becomes heavier when driving at significant speeds. There was also plenty of feedback coming from the wheel which surprised me as most electric power steering systems (EPS) feel dull.
Speaking of handling, I was also impressed by the Trailblazer's more adept road-holding capability. Sure it's still a tall and hefty SUV, but compared to the pre-updated version (which frankly felt like a truck through and through), this one felt easier to maneuver around roads. It's safe to say Chevy did their homework right when they tweaked the Trailblazer's suspension for its latest refresh. Did I mention the 2018 Trailblazer also comes with a tight turning radius? On an SUV like this, it's a nice thing to have especially when taking U-turns or squeezing into alleyways.
However, not all is great on the Trailblazer. While it does come with powerful brakes, I wished the brake pedal had a little less play. In terms of features and amenities, the mid-range LTX could have come with a bit more equipment, the other mid-range offerings from other brands already have automatic climate control, cruise control, power folding side mirrors, steering wheel-mounted audio controls and even navigation.
On the flipside, the LTX is the only variant in the Trailblazer line up to have a dashcam fitted as standard. Like the Colorado LTX we tested before, the dashcam system is integrated on the rear-view mirror. The dashcam's video display is then routed to a 4.3-inch display housed within the mirror itself. Beyond that, the monitor also acts as the reverse camera's display for ease of use. It pays to have peace of mind and Chevy did just that for this particular Trailblazer.
In terms of safety, the LTX gets anti-lock brakes (ABS) with electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD), rear parking sensors and dual SRS airbags for the driver and front passenger. What's missing? It does not have electronic stability control (ESC) or brake assist (BA). I can forgive the Trailblazer for not having hill-start assist (HSA), but not having ESC on a top-heavy SUV can be a concern.
With the new excise tax in full effect, the Trailblazer LTX now has a sticker price of Php 1,805,888. Compared to last year, the LTX's price has gone up by Php 187,000. Considering that this is only a mid-range variant, the drastic price increase somewhat hurt the LTX's value proposition. For Php 193,000 more, one can opt for the top-spec Z71 that comes with all the bells and whistles, as well as 4WD.
However, one can say that the additional features found on the Z71 are extras that one can live without. True, but the mere fact that the lower-spec models come with less safety features / amenities might deter some prospective buyers. If the LTX had a bit more equipment, it might have justified the increase in price.
All in all, the Trailblazer LTX is a well-built SUV that can take on the daily city grind or long roadtrips. It has enough features to keep the occupants safe and entertained but one can find more affordable alternatives. This includes its own platform sibling, the Isuzu mu-X. What it lacks in overall packaging, it makes up for with best-in-class powertrain, as well as rugged credentials.