2004 Chevrolet TrailBlazer Review
Smooth and civilized, but ready to blaze trails.
TrailBlazer's styling helped blaze the trail for the latest Chevy Truck design. It's an aggressive look with bold headlamps and a split grille. The horizontal bar that splits the grille, headlamps and turn signals is chromed on the LS, body-colored on the LT. The front bumper features a large opening with two vertical slats, and the optional foglights are mounted down low. The front end of the TrailBlazer makes it look like a scaled-down Suburban or Silverado.
Overall, TrailBlazer looks sturdy and neat, with confident lines that express utility. The pillars and window lines are graceful, while big fender flares are visually bold. At the rear is a convenient step in the center of the bumper. The stacked round taillights look lumpy and googly eyed.
The track (the distance between the left and right tires) is the widest in the class, 2.2 inches wider than the Explorer in front and nearly an inch wider in rear. The seven-seat TrailBlazer EXT is 16 inches longer in wheelbase than the standard five-seat TrailBlazer.
People either like the relatively cushy seats in GM trucks or they don't. We found a noticeable lack of side bolstering and don't feel the front seats do justice to the TrailBlazer's nice ride, allowing the occupants to feel a side-to-side jouncing that doesn't exist in the similar GMC Envoy, which shares the same chassis and suspension but has better seats.
The seats come in cloth fabric or rich-feeling leather. Seat adjustments are manual in LS. Eight-way power operation with memory (including outside mirror adjustment) and seat heaters are available on fully optioned LT models. Chevrolet says the TrailBlazer's front bucket seats are designed to accommodate heights ranging from 4 feet 10 inches to 6 feet 2 inches. New for 2004 are optional adjustable pedals ($150), allowing shorter drivers to move the brake and accelerator pedals up to three inches closer for better positioning and comfort without having to move to close to the airbag-equipped steering wheel. It's a great feature and is popular among women.
Standard-wheelbase TrailBlazers seat five passengers, while TrailBlazer EXTs seat seven. The main advantage of the EXT is that third row. Second-row space is nearly identical between TrailBlazer and TrailBlazer EXT. Both offer more room in the second row than the Ford Explorer. (TrailBlazer provides 37.0 inches of leg room and 58.2 inches of hip room, versus the Ford's 35.9 and 54.2 inches.)
The Explorer, however, offers a bit more third-row room than the TrailBlazer EXT. (Head, hip, and leg room in the Explorer's third row measure 39.0, 45.3, and 34.8 inches, respectively. The corresponding numbers for the TrailBlazer EXT are 38.5, 45.9, and 31.2.) TrailBlazer EXT is 2.6 inches wider than Explorer, which accounts for the additional hip room. But clearly, the Explorer's independent rear suspension, and resulting low floor, allowed Ford to pack more leg and head room into a significantly shorter wheelbase.
A monochrome instrument panel is new for 2004. The instrumentation is complete and clean. A big tachometer is on the left, speedometer in center, and on the right are smaller gauges for water, battery, gas and oil. The optional four-spoke, leather-wrapped steering wheel has eight buttons, for climate, sound, cruise control and a driver information center in eight languages. Heating and air conditioning can be controlled separately by the driver and front-seat passenger. EXT models add separate climate controls for rear-seat passengers as well. Interior lights abound, including reading lights.
The center console includes an open storage bin, an enclosed compartment and two cupholders forward of the gear lever (plus two more for the rear passengers). There are pockets in the front doors and behind the front seats, though none in the rear doors. Standard behind the rear seat is a small hidden compartment under the floor, while optional features include a cargo net, scrolling tonneau cover and power outlet. An overhead console standard on the LT includes a sunglasses holder, plus Travelnote digital recorder.
Available sound systems include radio/CD, radio/CD/cassette, six-disc in-dash CD, or six-speaker 275-watt Bose system. We found the Bose system offered outstanding sound quality and adjustment versatility. All the systems include RDS (Radio Data Systems) technology, allowing the listener to search for stations by type, display information including song and artist information, and provide traffic and weather updates. Also available is a rear-seat DVD entertainment system ($1295), with a seven-inch flip-down screen and wireless headphones. For 2004, TrailBlazer offers XM Satellite Radio and Navigation Radio. XM Satellite Radio ($325) is available on all TrailBlazers in the continental U.S., and provides 100 coast-to-coast, digital-quality channels of original music, news, sports and talk. The basic subscription costs $10 a month. Navigation Radio available on the LT ($1845-$1995) incorporates a dash-mounted GPS system.
OnStar includes GPS navigation, hands-free cellphone communication and a free first year of safety and security service (automatic crash and theft reporting, as well as remote unlocking if you lock yourself out). Mind-boggling possibilities include everything from having your e-mail read to you by a computerized voice (Virtual Advisor) to getting directions to the nearest ATM.
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