WHERE ONCE THERE WAS THE HOLDEN COLORADO 7, NOW THERE IS THE HOLDEN TRAILBLAZER.
At its first model update, the seven-seat heavy duty 4x4 SUV scores a new look and better technology. It also adopts the same moniker it wears in overseas markets.
And, as we know, the Trailblazer is getting company in the Holden SUV family next year – the Toyota Kluger sized Acadia (a Holden version of the GMC Acadia) will arrive with either 2.5-litre four-cylinder or 3.6-litre V6 petrol engines, front-drive or all-wheel-drive and there is a new mid-size SUV on the way as well.
Bottom line is: Holden is keen to plug any gaps in its product line-up post local manufacturing and SUVs are where the sales action is.
Vehicle Style: Large SUV
Price: $52,490 (plus on-road charges)
Engine/trans: 147kW/500Nm 2.8-litre, four-cylinder turbo-diesel | 6-sp automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 8.6l/100kms | Tested: 11.3l/100kms
While the headlines go to Holden Trailblazer’s new look (notably a much better front-end with direct cues to the Chevrolet trucks), a focus on greater refinement and better handling - lead by Holden’s local engineering team - delivers an enhanced experience for driver and passengers.
No change to the key attributes... that would be off-road ability and a three-tonne towing capacity. In fact just a quick scan of the available factory extras confirms the intent of the Holden Trailblazer: a genuine dealer-fit (and airbag compatible) bullbar, ditto for the towbar and an air-intake snorkel tell the tale.
TMR scored a week behind the wheel of the range-topping Holden Trailblazer LTZ which, at $52,490 (plus on-road charges), has most rivals looking a tad pricey.
Over the entry-level Trailblazer LT, the LTZ adds some glamour like leather seats (fronts electrically adjustable and heated) and climate-control air-conditioning (including vents for the third seating row) plus impressive tech highlighted by forward collision alert, rear cross-traffic alert and lane departure warning.
- Standard features: Leather seats (fronts heated and electric adjustment for the driver), chrome highlights, automatic wipers, keyless entry
- Infotainment: Seven speaker audio with 8.0-inch colour touchscreen including satellite navigation, iPod, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration
- Cargo Capacity: 205-litres with all seats in-place, 554-litres wit the third row folded, 1043-litres with all seats folded flat.
For what is essentially a mid-life update, Holden didn’t hold back with the interior of the Trailblazer - a stylish new dashboard is normally reserved for an all-new model but there it is and looking much-improved over the Colorado 7.
It’s all very symmetrical with the eight-inch colour touchscreen for audio and navigation easy to reach and - as usual with Holden - simple to use.
The materials and construction are certainly much better than in the Colorado 7 but we’re flabbergasted the largish steering wheel - with no reach adjustment - didn’t get some attention. It has you always driving in a 'compromise' position, which can get wearing on a long drive.
Seat comfort and interior space both get green ‘ticks’. However - like rivals - those wishing to sit in the third row need agility and short legs (although Trailblazer is better than many with extra ‘cutouts’ for some extra foot-space).
The seats fold forward easily though to assist access, and fold away as easily (with headrests that tuck away), and the shaping in the second row is on par with others in the sector - not great, but not uncomfortable, and offering good vision out.
Witht he third row in place, cargo space is limited - 205 litres is perhaps enough for the weekly shop - but, when folded, open up 554 litres, ample for the family clobber.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine/transmission: 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel | six-speed automatic
- Power/torque: 147kW/500Nm
- Suspension: Independent double wishbone (front)/five-link (rear)
- Steering: Motor driven electric power assisted rack and pinion
- Brakes: Four-wheel discs
- Towing Capacity: 3.0-tonnes (braked)
In Melbourne they’ve labeled it ‘Sprinter’ - should be Spring but it’s more like Winter. For the TMR youngsters Spring means softball - but the ‘Sprinter’ meant our Holden Trailblazer LTZ very quickly looked like someone had ridden a motocross bike through the cargo area.
And that’s exactly the way Holden expects Trailblazers will be treated.
Many off-roaders and trailer-towers will tell you the proven ladder-frame chassis which underpins the Holden Trailblazer (and its sibling the Colorado pickup) is still a better bet than modern monocoque architecture (the latter lighter and thus easier on fuel consumption).
But, make no mistake, the suspension work for the Trailblazer done by Holden’s engineers is what allows us to close the book on the previous Colorado 7. They fitted new mounts, changed the shock absorber tune, recalibrated the electric power steering and fitted a faster rack (now 3.29 turns lock-to-lock) - even Bridgestone came to the party with a new Dueler tyre.
On the refinement front the list includes a new torque converter for the transmission, extra insulation and thicker glass.
So, around town, Trailblazer owners will enjoy a level of ‘hush’ with which Colorado 7 owners will not be familiar. Although on startup on those cold ‘Sprinter’ mornings the 2.8-litre turbo-diesel was still... well, ‘diesel-ey’...
But, head a few minutes down the road, and Holden’s Trailblazer settles to become commendably quiet with little mechanical or tyre noise and just a smidge of wind-noise when you got up to 100km/h and beyond.
In city traffic the Holden Trailblazer has copious bottom-end torque to keep pace with pesky fast-accelerating passenger cars and when it comes time to park, plenty of steering lock and the reversing camera make for quick and easy work.
Away from the big smoke and up into the mountains we like the improved steering response and there is certainly a lot of grip from the 18-inch rubber. On rougher surfaces, we felt the ride can become a tad harsh and certainly body roll is noticeable at the limit.
We recently had a quick steer of an LT model Holden Trailblazer and can confirm the 17-inch wheel/tyre package deliveres a more compliant ride over harsh bumps and road imperfections.
We only managed some ‘light duty’ off-road work (settings selected by a centre-console rotary dial) but in 4H the Holden Trailblazer has plenty of wheel-travel to soak-up the ruts and cutaways Sprinter’s deluges had left on our favourite tracks.
ANCAP Rating: 5-Stars
Safety Features: Seven airbags, blind-spot monitoring, lane departure warning, rear cross-traffic alert
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three year/100,000kms
Servicing: Nine months/15,000kms (whichever comes first). Capped-price servicing starts at $349.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
Here’s where you will get an impression of the great value of the Holden Trailblazer.
We’re massive fans of the Isuzu MU-X (new EU5 engine arriving soon) but you’ll need $54,000 (plus on-road costs) for the LS-T AWD. Yes it can tow Tasmania back to the mainland, it’s as tough as a coalminer and not lacking in features, but the Trailblazer has the jump on pricing.
Ford's Everest is excellent, enjoys the payback of Aussie engineering from the very first bolt and washer to extensive outback testing but it starts at $54,990 (plus) and stretches to $76,705 (plus) for the range-topping Titanium grade.
And the third member of the ‘Thailand Trio’ is the Toyota Fortuner. Like the others it can wrangle just about any outback trail but its starting sticker is $47,990 (plus) and you’ll take a $61,990 (plus) hit on the bank balance for the top-of-the-totem-pole Crusader automatic.
Lastly (but not 'leastly') is the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport. The styling may challenge, but there is a composed and well-sorted car under those bulgy flanks, and it's a comparative bargain at $48,500 plus on-roads for the mid-spec seven-seat GLS.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
In a recent conversation, some of our colleagues criticised the Holden Trailblazer because (they said) it’s still a bit rough around the edges. “D’oh”... that’s the whole point of this vehicle (and the Ford Everest and Toyota Fortuner).
These 'ladder frame' heavy-duty 4x4s are for the rough-and tumble, the family with toddlers, kids who play muddy sports, the horse ‘floaty’ types, the fishing family, and the caravan cruisers. And don’t forget the tradies.
Fact is, like the Colorado 7 before it, Holden has the Trailblazer absolutely ‘fit-for-purpose’.
And, in comparison with the previous generation, there’s no denying the improvements are spot-on - and here we’ll nominate the improved refinement and handling as our technical favourites.
We also like the American truck front-end from a styling perspective (but not such fans of the unchanged rear styling).
Sure, in an ideal world we’d like a smaller diameter steering wheel with reach adjustment and for Holden’s suspension engineers to take swing at a softer suspension calibration for the LTZ with its 18-inch wheels.
But, as things stand, at this price, the Holden Trailblazer LTZ is a handy proposition - for those whose lifestyle and/or lifestage pendulum swings towards practical rather than plush.
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