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A new name means a new chance. Do you think Andrew G ever could have taken Osher’s job on The Bachelor?
It’s as much a tactic to separate the SUV wagon from the pick-up it shares its running gear with, as it is a chance to give the rugged 4x4 a new chance at success.
And you know what, it might just work as the Trailblazer is a big improvement.
The 2017 Holden Trailblazer maintains its position in the market as a body-on-frame seven-seat SUV and at first glance looks like a simple facelift of the C7 wagon. There are two models in the range, the LT and top-spec LTZ.
Pricing starts from $47,990 for the LT and $52,490 for the LTZ. You can read our full pricing and specification details here.
From the outside, the update brings the new headlamps, with integrated LED running lights in both models, and the new grille and bonnet as seen on the recently launched 2016 Colorado pick-up. There are new wheel designs on the LTZ (including a full-size spare), but that is the limit of the exterior changes.
The new look results in a slightly shallower approach angle of 28-degrees (down from 30-degrees), but the departure angle improves from 22 to 25-degrees. Ramp over angle is 28-degrees with the LT offering 213mm of ground clearance to the LTZ’s 218mm.
The Trailblazer isn’t a design stunner from any angle but the new nose is a definite improvement. It’s a shame that the rear sees only a new badge; we would have liked to have seen some new tail lamps at the very least.
Those familiar with the Colorado 7 will be disappointed to hear that the tailgate is still a heavy, non-powered lump that needs to be slammed with vigour every time you close it.
You can select from six colours with metallics, which do suit the car, attracting a $550 premium.
On the inside, the changes are much more obvious.
A whole new dashboard design, which features much more pleasant materials, takes centre stage. It looks and feels like an American product now, not a huge claim to fame in its own right but a big step forward from the hollow plastics of the old car.
In the middle of the dash, the screen and air conditioning controls change depending on which model you are driving.
In the LT, a seven-inch touch screen, with support for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay as well as Bluetooth phone and audio, sits atop some basic controls and a trio of rotary dials for the air-con system.
The LTZ scores an eight-inch unit that also supports mobile-phone projection as well as supporting a native navigation system of its own. You get a more advanced button interface below, then a digital, dual-zone climate control panel that is a welcome departure from the old neon boom-box unit in the Colorado 7.
There are rubber coated dials, a nice feel to the buttons and great clarity from both screens. Neither system is world beating, but they both perform well and the navigation maps in the LTZ are clearer than what you find in the Isuzu MU-X.
Apple CarPlay isn’t a perfect platform, and we had a few glitches with the system in an LTZ model, but we’ve seen similar issues in other cars hinting that the problem is on the Apple side of the tree.
Many trim elements around the cabin have also been improved, but there are some familiar areas, which now stand out for feeling a bit cheap. Most noticeable is the Holden steering wheel which, while nicely leather-wrapped, isn’t very attractive and lets the side down a bit.
In front of the wheel though is a new instrument cluster with a larger LCD information display which can be controlled by the buttons and rotary switch on the right-hand stalk.
A big step forward in convenience tech is the inclusion of automatic headlamps and rain sensing wipers (in the LTZ only) as well as a host of the latest driver assistance technology.
The LTZ gets a pre-collision detection system, lane departure and blind spot warning as well as a driver’s knee airbag (total of seven now) and the off-road and towing assistance systems the C7 had. While these are the ‘warning’ rather than ‘action’ level systems, it’s a very worthy inclusion in this segment. There's a rear-view camera in both grades along with rear cross-traffic alert in the LTZ.
Handy for off-road driving is a tyre-pressure monitoring system, and both grades retain the on-the-fly switchable four-wheel drive system as seen in the older Colorado. Yes there is low-range, and no there is still rear no differential lock. You don’t really need it though.
Behind the front seats though, very little has changed.
There is good room for both middle and third row passengers, and you get a pair of roof-mounted vents for each section, but with all seven seats up the boot is a small 235 litres so the Trailblazer works best as a five-seater with an ‘occasional use’ seven. Full cargo volume (all sets folded) is 1830 litres.
The seats are comfortable and the leather in the LTZ has been improved in both colour and texture, but everything else is the same as what was found in Colorado 7. That means a 12-volt outlet between the front seats and another in the boot, and ISOFIX points on each outside seat in the middle-row.
Under the bonnet, the 2.8-litre Duramax turbo-diesel is unchanged and still offers 147kW (200hp) and 500Nm of torque. It works well, with the torque band peaking between 2000 and 2200rpm, and allows the car to easily deal with a trailer given the 3000kg tow rating.
The car cruises at about 1500rpm so you do experience a bit of lag before things kick in above 2000, so be mindful of this when planning to overtake.
The six-speed automatic gearbox is also largely unchanged and standard on both grades. You can tip across from drive to a manual-shift mode which is handy in rough terrain or when towing.
Cabin noise was already pretty good from when the Colorado received sound deadening for the 2015 model update, with just a dull drone from the diesel providing ambience, but there have been refinements here with Trailblazer and we found tyre noise almost negligible on most surfaces, impressive given the light-truck format Bridgestone Dueler HT rubber. There is wind noise from the large mirrors and top of the windscreen though.
Vibration has been greatly reduced thanks to the inclusion of a centrifugal pendulum absorber (CPA) within the gearbox. The CPA essentially settles vibration in the driveline and allows the torque converter to work more efficiently.
In a real world sense, the car vibrates less under load. It’s that simple. Accelerate and the car gathers speed well, but it doesn't shake rattle and roll through the process. It's a much more pleasant experience.
The ride too has been improved thanks to a new damper setting, and the car is now much better behaved. It still wiggles about over corrugations and mid-corner bumps thanks to the off-road suspension and high center of gravity, but gone are the more extreme rebound jitters we used to experience.
It feels settled over poorly surfaced and unsealed roads, and takes a lot of the harshness out of bigger potholes and bumps.
Steering also has been fettled with the addition of an electric rack making the Trailblazer feel lighter around town with fewer turns lock-to-lock (down from 3.4 to 3.3 turns). It’s an easy car to drive and much friendlier when making a u-turn or parking manoeuvre in town.
You get a more relaxed drive on touring stages and the car feels inherently lighter as a result.
Trailblazer is still a big, chunky truck though, so you’ll err to push understeer at higher speeds on tarmac or when dealing with soft and sandy terrain. You hear clunks and whirrs from the traction and hill descent system, and there is a rugged simplicity to the way it tackles rougher tracks. It's an honest machine, not trying to be a 'lifestyle' truck or luxury competitor.
It is a very easy tourer, best described as capable and confident more than class-leading. It’s very much at home on the freeway but deals with A and B roads without issue.
The 2017 Holden Trailblazer isn’t a world changing new model, but it is a huge leap forward from the car that it replaces. An above average update for what was an unapologetically average car. Holden has dealt with the major issues the C7 had, around touch points, safety and convenience features and overall refinement, and the new car is a much better proposition for it.
Trailblazer works for its intended audience of Australian families who love towing, camping, and touring, and brings a lot more value to the table than ever before.
Will these revisions and the new name result in sales success? Only time will tell, but we’re impressed with what Holden has been able to do to transform the Trailblazer, so it should be in with a shot!
Click on the Photos tab for more images by James Ward and Tom Fraser.