2017 HOLDEN TRAILBLAZER LTZ

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Holden made a fair bit of fuss about the new Trailblazer when the model made its appearance on these shores late last year. Far from just being an update of the Colorado 7, the seven-seater was touted as the perfect companion for a family who loved adventure, a heady mix of space, comfort, off-road prowess and on-road manners.

Sceptics dismissed the marketing script as just that, nothing more than a ploy to dress up a name change as something much grander than it was. That is hardly surprising given the long list of vehicles that fail to live up to their promise, but the Trailblazer has been quick to prove that it is indeed an improvement on its predecessor, with changes that are, well, more than name deep.

EXTERIOR DESIGN
Big, chunky ute-based utes are generally not whip around head turners and the Trailblazer is no different. New headlamps with integrated LED running lights and a modernised grille and bonnet first seen in the updated Colorado ute are the most noticeable exterior changes. The design is more about rugged capability than sweeping flowing lines with dramatic finesse but it works for the Trailblazer.

PRACTICALITY AND SPACE
It is on the inside that the biggest departure from the Colorado 7 is to be seen with a new dashboard design that features better quality soft-touch materials and well-placed buttons and dials.

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Our LTZ-spec test car boasted an eight-inch colour touchscreen as the face of an infotainment system which now offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto sitting proudly next to a new streamlined instrument cluster with a larger LCD information display. While they work well, and let’s face it, more than a small improvement on what came before, they still seem a bit small for a vehicle of this size and are easily lost in the dark dash.

The front seats are comfortable despite their slightly flattish look and lodgings for passengers in the second and third rows are not without their highlights either.

Head and legroom back there is more than passable except for the tallest of passengers and a 60:40 tumble forward second pew makes access to the third row doable for adults, not pretty mind you, but possible.

There is good useable storage in the door bins and a few conveniently placed hidey holes to carry all those necessities families seem to need these days but the boot is just 235-litres, a touch on the small side, with all seven seats in use.

The Trailblazer comes well equipped with the features we now expect as given. Aside from a good infotainment system, reverse camera and sensors, it also has electrically adjustable front seats, climate control vents across all three rows, rain-sensing wipers, and auto headlights.

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A powered tailgate would also be nice given the weight and height of the boot lid.

There’s a raft of safety gear to justify a five-star ANCAP rating. The latter includes seven airbags, lane departure control and blind spot monitoring as well as rear cross traffic alert but no autonomous emergency braking.

UNDER THE BONNET
There is no change to the spec of the 2.8-litre turbo-diesel engine but when you have a unit that produces a class-leading 500Nm and 147kW, more than enough to honour a 3000kg braked towing rating, there is hardly a need for change.

Refinement to the engine and six-speed automatic gearbox has resulted in a quieter, more fuel-efficient performance and a smoother, more accomplished ride.

HOW DOES IT DRIVE?
The Trailblazer may strut and growl like a truck but it certainly doesn’t handle like one. The new electric steering dulls the feeling of the wheel in your hand but it helps to navigate around tight city confines, roundabouts and parking spaces.

The seven-seater is easy to drive, the raised seating position offering excellent visibility and the powerful engine urging it along even when packed to the rafters.

There is a bit of lag before the peak pulling power kicks in around 2000 rpm which is easy enough to live with but important to keep in mind when attempting sudden overtaking or merging manoeuvres. It settles down nicely at speed though.

Trailblazer is untroubled by most road irregularities and will deliver an honest, mostly comfortable drive provided of course you are not overzealous around corners or expecting quick changes of direction.

Off road, the Trailblazer with its on-the-fly 4WD system, behaves much in the same way as the Colorado 7, capable and assured without being amazing. It will hold its own on secondary roads and will be great at recreational 4WD use but may struggle on the road never travelled.

The Trailblazer is more efficient than the vehicle it replaces, thanks to improved fuel mapping and changes to the transmission and steering. The official combine-cycle figures dropped from 9.2L/100km to 8.2L/100km with our real-world figures around the 10.4L/100km which is good enough for a trooper of this size.

WARRANTY
Warranty is three years/100,000km with a lifetime capped-price servicing program (9 months/15,000km) and 12 months roadside assist.

VERDICT
Ute-based SUVs are often a niche offering and Holden’s best will face tough competition from the Ford Everest, Toyota Fortuner, Isuzu MU-X and Mitsubishi Pajero Sport. However, the Trailblazer is a marked improvement on the Colorado 7 and an example of how change can be more than a marketing ploy. An improved cabin, more refined ride and versatility make it a real value-for-money proposition.

AT A GLANCE
2017 Holden Trailblazer LTZ pricing and specifications: Price: $52,490 (plus on-road costs) Engine: 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel Output: 147kW/500Nm Transmission: Six-speed automatic Fuel: 8.6L/100km (ADR Combined) CO2: 228g/km (ADR Combined) Safety Rating: Five-star ANCAP

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